Harold Ford & the South, Big Tent & 50 State Strategy

Matt's post below lays out an argument that Harold Ford was a middle-of-the-pack candidate by using John Kerry's '04 margin of defeat/victory for sake of comparison between the '06 US Senate Democratic newly-elected victors. I'm going to segue with this post into a wider southern issue that stems from one of Matt's last points, but first Ford.

It seems odd that Ford is singled out for failure, having lost, while winding up in the middle of the pack with Stoller's measure, among remarkable campaigns that the Senate candidates waged and won. Gary Kilbride, using a much more reflective measure, found Ford at the top of the heap.

That is, by utilyzing the relationship between the state's liberal/conservative margin as indicated in the 2006 senate exit polls, in measure to the candidate's margin of victory or defeat:

   * Tennessee 14-45; Ford -3 = +28
    * Minnesota 25-30; Klobuchar +20 = +25
    * Ohio 20-32; Brown +12 = +24
    * Vermont 31-21: Sanders +33 = +23
    * Pennsylvania 25-29: Casey +18 = +22
    * Missouri 20-37: McCaskill +3 = +20
    * Montana 19-34: Tester +1 = +16
    * Virginia 21-35: Webb +1 = +15
    * Maryland 26-25; Cardin +10 = +9
    * New Jersey 26-24; Menendez +8 = +6
    * Rhode Island 25-19: Whitehouse +6 = EVEN

By this measure, which is more reflective of the '06 ideological landscape, it demonstrates how well the Democrat Ford did considering the overwhelming liberal deficit in Tennessee. One of the points here is that you can typically use statistics to make whatever argument you'd like, as long as you've got the premises straight that you'd like to make.

Stoller's argument ends with a point that might charitably be called a caveat: Maybe there's something I don't get about how special the South is. And that serves as a segue into talking about Tom Schaller's book, "Whistling Past Dixie". It's a point to which a southerner might reply as "typical yankee shit". It's a rather remarkable book though, using statistics to make the case that Democrats can win a majority without the south. And that's probably true, but it's Schaller's first recomendation on "The Path to a National Democratic Majority", that Democrats define the south in the most denigrate ways, to run against the south for an enduring majority, that is morally and strategically wrong.

The obvious correlation here, to which Schaller's himself draws the comparison, is what the Republicans have done to northeastern liberals. And now, Schaller argues, it's time to turn the tables and do to the south for the conservatives, what they have against liberals in the northeast on the national debate.

In contrast, what makes the 50 state strategy so important and strong, is that it changes the paradigm that the Republicans have created in the last 4 decades. For Democrats to try and turn the table on them, using the same method, leaves me lacking. There's no reason to denigrate the south.

As Schaller writes, the Republicans make it a point that it's liberals in the northeast, not the northeast, that they are attacking (just as Bush & Rove point out that its not Democrats' patriotism that they are attacking when they make treasonist-like accusations against Democrats). Obviously, that is a Big Lie, and Shaller would acknowlege the distinction is cya rather than substantive.

Ford ran a terrific campaign, especially if you are a Big Tent Democrat that wants to win in the south. But beyond Ford, we have a strong base of African-Americans & a growing base of Latinos in the south, and pockets of progressives, and they are already combining forces in places in the south to win at the city and county level.

I lived in the south, in rural Arkansas near Tennessee for six years in my 20's, and I recall from the instances I was confronted by racism how it shocked my SoCal worldview. We can hope it goes away, and work toward that goal through education, but we can't ignore it in the meantime. We still have work to do in the south (and everywhere) to get rid of racism, and frankly, and it's the Democratic Party's work to do. The national Democratic Party has an historical obligation to win the battle of ideas in the south, and to opt out of that, or to run against it, would constitute a moral failure.

The Democratic Party that's come to a majority is bigger than the past. Both by embracing a Big Tent Democratic philosophy of ideological viewpoints, and by recognizing that it's a stronger national party through the 50 state strategy that runs everywhere.

Tags: harold ford, Tom Schaller (all tags)

Comments

49 Comments

Thanks Jerome for this post.

I needed some balance.

by Spencer Overton 2006-11-14 09:37AM | 0 recs
Re:

well said.

There no reason to write off any part of the country - 50 state strategies have to be exactly that: 50 states.

by azizhp 2006-11-14 09:43AM | 0 recs
Not so fast...

I'm actually kind of surprised to find Jerome moving toward a moral argument here, given what a good strategist he is.  These are two different lines of thought.  I think the argument for not targeting the South at the present time is that, despite the efforts of progressives in the South, we're not likely to win there soon.  Why not target the states where we do?

That said, the moral argument is compelling, except for one flaw.  If contesting the South means that we have to trim our sails on our values in order to win votes, it's really not worth it.  When we move inexorably toward a more conservative Democratic Caucus because we feel we have to accomodate more Bubbas (and no, I'm not arguing that we did that this past Tuesday, unlike the MSM), we run the risk of not having enough votes in Congress for the values that make us a worthwhile party.  

Case in point--there was a lot of excitement in the blogosphere about Brad Carson's Senate campaign in 2004.  But Carson was vehemently opposed to strong environmental protection and bashed EPA on his congressional website.  If we need a Senate seat so desperately that we're willing to lose on issues as vital as the environment, what is it we really stand for?

As it stands now, I'd be in favor of putting forth a strong set of populist, progressive values and asking the South to join the rest of the country in supporting us.  But if it means we become the wishy-washy party on civil rights, the environment, freedom of speech and civil liberties just to win the support of 45% of white males, it's not worth it.  There are other ways to a majority.

by rayspace 2006-11-14 09:50AM | 0 recs
Re: Not so fast...

I was arguing rather pointedly against the number one rec --that we run against a conservative south-- and shooting down the lie that you can separate the two-- certainly the loss of the NE by Republicans ought to serve as validation.

I made the point clearly that the moral was related to the historical, for the Democratic Party and it's relation to African-Americans in the south. If not, consider this that point.

I am not invoking what strategy it takes to win in the south, and I would even argue that winning is a by-product of doing the right thing. Look at Larry Kissell, for example. Though he didn't win, he came within hundreds, and ran the people-powered campaign.

by Jerome Armstrong 2006-11-14 10:00AM | 0 recs
Re: Not so fast...

We certainly do have a moral and an historical obligation to African-Americans in the South to contest elections there, but in terms of our values as a party, we have to remember that it is Southern values that got us into Iraq and ladled us with this deficit.  The "These Colors Don't Run" mentality, of supporting military adventurism at any turn or risk being labelled anti-soldier, is part and parcel of what helped Bush to successfully sell the war in 2002-03.

And the idea that "my money is mine" contributes to the idea that all tax cuts are good, despite the fact that most people in the South (of any race) didn't benefit from them.  

Finally, let me add that the fact that we can't have meaningful handgun control in this country because the good ol' boys in the South can't figure out the difference between a gun used in an urban drive-by and their hunting rifle never fails to irk me.  

If we can put go together a majority in Southern states by patching together African-Americans, the emerging Latino population and whatever white progressives are there, without sacrificing our values, we should vigorously contest each one of them.  But at present, winning the South means winning something like 45% of the white male vote, and that is not a vote that comes to us without sacrificing a lot of what draws the rest of us to the Democratic Party.

by rayspace 2006-11-14 10:24AM | 0 recs
Re: Not so fast...

Finally, let me add that the fact that we can't have meaningful handgun control in this country because the good ol' boys in the South can't figure out the difference between a gun used in an urban drive-by and their hunting rifle never fails to irk me.

This is backwards. We can't have meaningful gun control because the well-financed gun lobby has convinced the good ol' boys in the south that the proponent of gun control won't be either able to or interested in telling the different between a gun used in an urban drive-by and their hunting rifle.

They have successfully sold a thin edge of the wedge argument on gun control.

by BruceMcF 2006-11-14 10:49AM | 0 recs
Re: Not so fast...

The south is lost for some time, but the west is ripe, until people start yelling that they know more about guns than the people who love them.

by Bob Brigham 2006-11-14 10:54AM | 0 recs
Re: Not so fast...

I think on guns the national party should just leave it up to individual candidates.  It seems to me that party platforms really don't mean that much to regular people anymore.  If we want gun control we need to do what the repubs do--call it something different and if anyone opposes it, call them lovers of crime.

by burroughs 2006-11-14 11:15AM | 0 recs
On the Southern Bloc

Stating that the South is lost does leave the temptation for dichotomy ... The South is either won or lost en bloc.

Now, I do think there is more than a bit to the Nine Nations of North America thesis, and in terms of 50 statewide winner take all contests to elect the President, Democrats are behind the eight ball across much of Dixie.

However, at the Congressional level, it is possible to pursue a strategy of ensuring that the Republicans take the smallest possible advantage out of Dixie, in both the Senate and House.  

After all, as shown on the House Distric Results Maps, and especially this one, which shows the statewide swing in Congressional vote, filtering out uncontested races, every state was more blue in 2006, except for Vermont, West Virginia, Georgia and Louisiana.

And that includes Missisippi, Tennessee, North and South Carolina and Florida.

Whatever it is about the culture of Dixie and New England that has them rubbing each other the wrong way, it doesn't result in a disconnect between most of Dixie and a nationwide swing.

So while we build a strategy that allows for victory without a Solid Democratic South, we should not abandon the effort to build Southern progressive populists on the ground, in Florida, North Carolina and Virginia on the Atlantic Coast, Kentucky, Southern Indiana and Southern Illinois along the Ohio River, Southeastern Missouri, Western Tennessee and Arkansas along the Missisippi.

And if we can throw in a sweat equity property owners reconstruction assistance package in Louisiana, that wouldn't hurt either.

by BruceMcF 2006-11-14 12:29PM | 0 recs
Re: Not so fast...

Bruce has it right. Check out how Mudcat Saunders wins races with Democrats in the South. He and Steve Jarding managed the winning campaigns of Mark Warner and Jim Webb in Virginia, not by sacrificing Democratic values, but by realizing that there isn't any great chasm between Southern and Northern values to begin with.  My favorite line from Mudcat: "Look at Pennsylvania. It's Pittsburgh in the west, Philadelphia in the east and it's Alabama in the middle."

The fact is that when the GOP sold American jobs for cheap labor in foreign countries, it wasn't just auto plants and steel mills in the rust belt. It was textile mills in North Carolina, too.  Exactly what Democratic value do you have to sacrifice to make that case to a voter?

When Mississippi is 40 percent black, and continues to send white male Republicans to Congress, do you think vote suppression might be going on there?  Will we ever know the answer if we never even bother to campaign there, or recruit candidates?  I'll ask again, what Democratic value would we be selling out to try to register and GOTV among the black population in Mississippi?

Jesus is another issue that we have given up, when we shouldn't. There are, and always have been, liberal Christian churches, and the people that attend them will vote for a Democrat who opposes an unjust war, who supports universal healthcare, who votes for tax fairness just as reliably as a secular progressive will.  This isn't something I have to prove.  A third of people who consider themselves devout Christians voted for Democrats in this past election for just such reasons.  That's no coincidence.  About a third of all Christian churches consider themselves liberal (Episcopalians, Methodists, Quakers, etc.)

Those are just a couple of examples, but let me get back to Bruce's point. THe GOP has owned the gun issue because we conceded it instead of fighting and making it ours. Gun control is only a north vs. south issue if you want to believe that nobody in the north hunts. In fact, it's the exact opposite. At least 750,000 hunters - roughly 1/6th the population of Kentucky or Tennessee - go into the Michigan woods during firearms deer season (look it up if you don't believe me), more than any other state.

We can seize back the gun issue, first by reframing it, not as a north vs. south issue, but a rural vs. urban issue.  Then you can speak honestly when you try to convince the rural, or even suburban, law-abiding gun owner that you're not going to take away the gun he legitimately needs for vermin control, hunting, sport shooting or home protection by NOT nationalizing the issue, and instead making it a county-rights decision. You can write a bill at the federal level that allows zoned counties, incorporated cities or whatever municipal form you choose to enact their own strict gun controls where urban gun crime is an issue, and the best solution is to take guns off the streets.  That kind of a bill may not get full support in the South, but it will at least neutralize the issue instead of making it a deal-breaker that sends rural folk running to the GOP.

by gas28man 2006-11-14 07:48PM | 0 recs
Re: Not so fast...

I just thought up another great example. The reason the Mountain West is emerging as the Democrats' top growth region is in part because our candidates have found common ground between the environmentalists the huntin' and fishin' folk.  The GOP's corporate interests are snatching public hunting land into the private sector for mining, timber and other exploitation.  If you can convince a rural guy who likes to fish that the reason all his trout are gone is because environmental deregulation has polluted the stream, then a tree-hugging liberal becomes his best ally.  I'll ask it again, what Democratic value do you have to sell out to get a guy like that in Kentucky or Tennessee to vote Democratic?

by gas28man 2006-11-14 08:01PM | 0 recs
Re: Not so fast...

And this is where the importance of developing grassroots organizations in place to recruit good local candidates comes in.

One thing that strikes me from the Nine Nations of North America map is that the signature "areas to attack" for the radical right ... the libral Nutheast Coast and San Francisco Values ... are the areas that are furthest from Dixie (well, the Southwest is close) ... New England and the Coastal Pacific Northwest.

And a driving force in the "purpling" of VA and NC are come-here's in Northern VA and the Research Triangle.

When you have that kind of situation in a state, the most progressive winning position in the state is not going to be imposed from afar, its going to be hammered out on the ground.

The job of the national progressive netroots, then, is to first provide a forum for the local grassroots to get out the word on what is happening on the ground, and then bring in support for candidates that can add an authentic local voice from that area to the national debate.

Now, that is where the netroots seemed to have contributed substantially this election cycle. However, it should be noted that there is likely to be a follow on impact over time of those successes, where the knowledge that an additional source of support may be available to someone who builds a strong grassroots campaign is a factor in people deciding to launch that kind of campaign in the first place.

by BruceMcF 2006-11-15 04:58AM | 0 recs
Appropos of Kissell...

In Whose Freedom, George Lakoff makes a very strong argument that progressive populism needs to be rooted in giving people a variety of progressive ways to define their identities, not just economic populism (which, after all, tends to wax and wane over time, often waning much faster when things improve only modestly than it takes to wax when things are going bad).

The importance of candidates like Kissell is that they serve as embodiments, as living role models of what it can look like to be a progressive from within their particular regional tradition (which, btw, is not "The South" but a much more particular sub-region).  Lakoff talks about things like identification with the land and identification with their jobs as examples of ways in which progressive populist identities can be built.  But the best way to translate these abstract possibilities into reality is via concrete examples of individuals who embody that sort of identification.

Tester's a great example of this for Montana.  It will take longer to develop in the South, but it can be done in exactly the same fashion there as well.  We've already started as we should--with more local races, House races before Senate races, and Border state Senate races before Deep South Senate races.  But that's the way it should be done.

by Paul Rosenberg 2006-11-14 10:34AM | 0 recs
Your phrase People Powered

Intrigues me, people powered was not what Ford did, when he couldn't run on issues that were important to the District that had elected him to the House. He had to sway and bend. Whose vote should he have had, did he deseve it just because he is African-American. OR are we as voters to say, it's ok we love him because of the fact that he is African-American and we need one in the Senate, or are we suppose to look at what he stands for on issues.

You can't have it both ways. I don't care if he is purple the race game shouldn't be played in either direction. He should stand on the issues and what he is about. I am sorry if the rest of the country thinks that its about electing another race rather then what the person is about, and what issues are important to the voter at the time. IF you persist with this path, I am afraid it only encourages it rather than helping. Do you really think that TN is full of dumbbells that can't see past color? Maybe there are a few and it played some percent, but so did the positions taken on the issues.

How did he ever get elected to the House for almost 10 years?   How did he and his dad hold the House of Representative's seat for over 30 years?  There is a white vote in that - do you think TN-09 is just African American?

by dk2 2006-11-14 11:08AM | 0 recs
Re: Not so fast...

It's as if Schaller's essay is some sort of Rorschach ink blot test in which people can't wait to comment, but don't even understand what he's saying, so they INVENT arguments that he never made and then pontificate against them.

Schaller is not saying that Democrats should "ignore" the South. He's pointing out that Democrats shouldn't compromise their principles in order to appeal to southerners. Republicans certainly don't compromise at all to appeal to the rest of the country. And we're the majority.

The reason Democrats have been reluctant to create this identity (as opposed to 30 talking points) is that whatever they decide to stand for will alienate somebody.

Mostly, somebody in the south. And the media whores reflect their corporate bias against any progressive idea by whipping us with "southern conservatives won't like it."

Here's where Schaller's thesis is important. We need to give people in the north and west and midwest more of a reason to identify themselves as Democrats. Democrats need to govern in a way that rewards their constituencies -- not in the small way of "here's something for you, and here's something for you" retail politics. But, Democrats need to do something big that says "we're taking the nation in a different direction and here's how!"

Fortunately, Nancy Pelosi clearly understands this and is going to make increasing the minimum wage a priority. That's a first step. There are many others to take. Make prescription drugs available from Canada and screw Big-Pharma if they don't like it! That would be step 2.

Democrats need to create AN IDENTITY. And that identity cannot be mealy-mouthed compromise with the right wing. It must be a bold statement of progressive values: pro-environment, pro-women's rights, pro- using government to fund affordable health care.

In short, the Government CAN do things to make people's lives easier. The government ISN'T the enemy. We don't need SMALLER government, we need smarter government that works for people and not just corporations.

by Cugel 2006-12-18 06:20PM | 0 recs
Re: The South

Look at the campaign that Ford had to run in order to be even competitive down in TN? Is the point of the book (as you say) to argue that we shouldn't run down South, or, is it more accurate to say that the point of the book is to have a post Southern strategy for the Democrats?

Unlike your brief visit to the South, I grew up there. I've had these conversations with Southerners, and non Southerners a like. The rest of the country does not need to be stuck in the mindset of Southern conservatism, and that's where I see the real issues of strategy breaking with the past.

In a post Southern strategy, one is not giving up on the 50 state strategy or the South, but one is not having to depend on races such as the one that Harold Ford had to run for whatever reason Harold Ford had to run it either. There is a big difference between saying that the South is one among equal versus what has presently been the situation for 150 years now: the South playing the role of kingmaker of which party is dominant in national politics.

The result of this dominance has been a cultural conservatism that has continued to include racism (in the form that I imagine Ford had to address), but also in newer variants such as homophobia which he did not. It allows the South to define what conservatism is, and is not, versus other  forms of conservatism such as those out West which may actually help move the pendulum further to the left (by talking cultural conservatism off the table).

I think you intend to argue one thing- that the South shouldn't be ignored- but you actually are giving aid and comfort to another idea- that the South should be dominant. The extent to which the South can be moved to a progressive bent is the extent to which it is part of the 50 state idea. In other words, building for the future (running candidates, supplying state coordinators etc) is the best one can expect of the South, but depending on it for present electoral success or cowtowing to its regional conservatism shouldn't be because it hurts us elsewhere over the long term of not being dependent on the South.

It's the dependence that we need to break, not our connections to the South.

by bruh21 2006-11-14 09:51AM | 0 recs
Re: The South

Do we try to deal with the situation or fix the problem?

Considering that this keeps failing even in the short-term -- while being self-defeating in the long-term -- maybe we should stop worrying about the next election and focus on being in position to win a few cycles down the road with a good Democrat.

by Bob Brigham 2006-11-14 10:19AM | 0 recs
Re: The South

We have to fix problem, but to fix it you would have to be able to ask questions like "Why exactly is it that Ford had to speak out against the NJ decision when Ford lives in TN, and is running for office in TN?" The answer is that the Southern version of conservatism doesn't just want to tell TN citizens what to do, it wants to tell everyone nationally too, and when you question that mentality as being a nanny state Big government social conservatism, the reaction is that the South is being presecuted or that we need the South. So long as both are operative narratives, it will be hard to win anything down South in the sustainable long term because it asks nothing of the Southern states, but more of the same.

by bruh21 2006-11-14 10:28AM | 0 recs
short term and long term failure

A liberal/conservative margin is meaningless if it isn't pro-rated with independents. If I wanted to inflate Ford, I would start by talking about how few self-identifying liberals are in TN. That is what is reflected in this poll. Even worse, there will probably be fewer in the future thanks to Ford.

Some losses are good losses because the ball is moved down the field. Not so here, it was just a loss.

And the DC crowd buying into the DLC approach of focusing on TN was wrong-headed, in retrospect the early attention would have been better invested in AZ (where it would have helped in the long term also).

by Bob Brigham 2006-11-14 10:04AM | 0 recs
I partially agree with you

I posted the ideological net last night. I just got home to see it had been subsequently mentioned.

As Jerome indicated, it is merely one statistical measure. I've used it for nearly a decade. It is hardly something I scrambled for to boost Harold Ford. I keep dozens of statistical categories via Excel and that is merely one of them. As I said in my post, I was damn near asleep when I saw Matt's post and decided to stick the numbers since they were relevant to the argument.

You are correct the independents are also a factor. Some states differ in terms of how the liberal/conservative net relates to vote percentage, or Democratic base number. Tennessee does not stand out to either extreme in that measure, based on the numbers I've gathered since '96.

But it's absurd to conclude there will be fewer liberals in Tennessee due to Harold Ford. In 2004 it was 15-46 in the exit polling, this year 14-45. The state has been trending red. Just look at the partisan index.

It's equallty nonsense to ignore the percentage of self-identified liberals or conservatives when deciding on the nominee. Frankly, I've seen that tendency on many progressive sites. You can't run a progressive in a state with 14 or 15% self-identified liberals. Not if the idea is to win this year. From my memory, that was the case in Tennessee 2006.

by Gary Kilbride 2006-11-14 08:14PM | 0 recs
The measurement is worthless

Conservative self identifiers outnumber liberals 40-25%, though the country is split 50-50 on democrats and republicans. A LARGE percentage of democratic voters simply don't regard themselves as "liberal" because the word has an image problem. Case in point, Kerry's 48-51 loss would be a +23 on your scale, where he gets 48% of the vote in a nation where only 25% consider themselves liberal. get it? This is a relatively useless measure.

by AaronE 2006-11-14 10:15AM | 0 recs
Re: The measurement is worthless

I do agree, though, that its useful for ranking democrats against each other in how well they did or did not beat the spread.

by AaronE 2006-11-14 10:17AM | 0 recs
Re: The measurement is worthless

No, it is worthless there too. The earlier post had a far better metric.

The liberal number should only matter in judging how well a candidate moved that number from previous elections -- in which case Ford is also exposed as a long-term disaster as well as a loss.

by Bob Brigham 2006-11-14 10:21AM | 0 recs
You are mixing the numbers and botching the margin

I referred specifically to the exit poll for the numbers. That's a same-day reference from the mouths of the voters, the ones who are creating the vote margins in the specific race. In 2004 that was 21-34 liberal/conservative, not 25-40. And Kerry's 3 point margin of defeat would therefore equate to +16 nationally, not +23, at least in the framework I used in my previous post.

I also chart the method you are using, raw percentage in relation to liberal percentage. Kerry would be +27 in '04 nationally, compared to +34 for Ford in Tennessee. Kerry in Tennessee '04 was +28, since the liberal percentage was 15% and Kerry received 43%.

Don't equate zero as the base number. I saw a comment from Matt within this thread saying Kerry would have been a fantastic candidate in Tennessee by the same measure. That is bunk. Obviously since the nation has significantly more conservatives than liberals the Democrat will almost always receive a huge +, in this type of reference.

Kerry in Tennessee 2004 lost by 14 points with a -31 ideological net. That is hardly fantastic, +17.  It is middle of the road nationally but in the South it is pure reject level for a Democrat.

Don't evaluate numbers with guesswork, and minus a long term point of reference. I'm not saying this is an ideal gauge but it's useful. Matt's post used a single year in a presidential cycle, without application of the partisan index or many other variables. Such as whether the state was even contested in presidential terms. Kerry might have actually done somewhat better in Tennessee in '04 if the state had been prioritized. But that is also true to other states like Montana. Hell, a state like Montana has proven it rejects Democrats in unusual number on a presidential scale but will vote for Democrats at statewide level including senate.

by Gary Kilbride 2006-11-14 08:39PM | 0 recs
Not Denigrating But Isolating The GOP In The South

I agree 100% that it's both morally wrong and strategically mistaken to mirror the GOP's regional warfare mindset & strategy by striking back at the South.  In fact, the main problem with American politics is that we've never done something comparable to South Africa's reconciliation process.  That's what's enabled the GOP elite to play upon and cultivate white resentment as a basis for political power lo these many years.

However, at the same time, it's quite obvious that the GOP's extremism is hurting it most in the Northeast, followed by the Midwest, then the West.  Making specific efforts in these regions is a strategy that's much more likely to have immediate payoffs than focusing primarily on the South.  Furthermore our recent success in Missouri and Virginia points to better pickings in the Border States vs. the Deep South.

All this suggests to me a strategy that hinges on isolating the GOP regionally, and doing so in a way that splits their Southern base, between those who are happy wallowing in their provincialism, vs. those who are proud of their heritage, but prouder still of being Americans, and having a future as well as a past.  It should be recognized that Gingrich presented himself as an embodiment of the "New South"--precisely the second part of this split--which is precisely what we should aim to take away from the GOP.  We do it by stressing opportunity-developing initiatives, such as stem cell research, as well as the simple political reality that as we become more dominant in the rest of the country, voting Republican simply cuts them off from opportunity and advancement.

We don't need to threaten them.  In fact, we shouldn't.  We should be leading the way to restore New Orleans, for example.  But we should also make it clear that we see the way forward in terms of broad, up-from-the-bottom Democratic initiatives, not narrow, crony capitalist "trickle-down-if-your-lucky" GOP initiatives.  Broadband for all has a role in this, for example, just as rural electrification and the TVA did during the heyday of the New Deal.

by Paul Rosenberg 2006-11-14 10:20AM | 0 recs
Re: Not Denigrating But Isolating The GOP In The S
We should be leading the way to restore New Orleans, for example.  But we should also make it clear that we see the way forward in terms of broad, up-from-the-bottom Democratic initiatives, not narrow, crony capitalist "trickle-down-if-your-lucky" GOP initiatives.  Broadband for all has a role in this, for example, just as rural electrification and the TVA did during the heyday of the New Deal.

Isn't bringing broadband (and the jobs that come along with it) to parts of VA other than NoVA a reason why Mark Warner is popular in all of VA?
by Newsie8200 2006-11-14 07:15PM | 0 recs
My two bits...

My father's side of the family is your typical "ambitious redneck" track...immigration to North Carolina in the 1750s, a big chunk of us in western North Carolina by the American Revolution, then some of us moving to the Smokies in Tennessee, then a jump over to southern Illinois just as the Old Northwestern Territory became the various state territories of the Lower Midwest, then another jump to the steel mills of Gary in the late 1920's and early 1930s, and finally the speading out of that portion of the family across the country as the steel mills began to die out.

I still have relatives in the South, and I tend to buy into bruh21's argument.  Don't ignore the South, don't denigrate them, but build and be patient, because it's going to be a long slog before the fruits of such labors come to pass.

You have to realize that, while Northern Virginia became bluer, reinforced by folks working one way or another via the DC job cluster, a lot of Midwestern whites, starting in the mid-1970s, moved to the south and southwest, partially in response to job losses, but also due to crumbling cities in the Lower Midwest and Northeast and blaming the situation they were running away from on inefficient local government, race, or some combination of both.  Georgia's turning red is in effect a result of a second wave of this nature, because there are a lot of jobs there nowadays, and it just so happens that whites are the dominant groups coming in (though Hispanics are definitely on the path towards becoming a force there in due course). This is an area that is getting its values reinforced by disaffected whites in California nowadays as much as by African-Americans from the Midwest and Hispanics both from Florida and via immigration.

I only buy into blogswarm's argument that Arizona's Senate race needed resources that went to Tennessee and Ford only if you can convince me that Pederson's race was complimented by an effective grassroots campaign, and to the best of my knowledge, it wasn't.  However, had it been, given the exodus of Californians over the last decade to Arizona, then I would have bought into it.

Left-wing populism will sell in the South and Southwest, but it will take time and patience.  And that means not looking to the South as our all-in-one savior towards winning national elections, which DLC'ers and such (and not, usually, anyone on this site) tend to emphasize.  (And I consider Florida it's own little world, for what it's worth, and not exactly part of the South.)

That's the dependence I worry about.  And that won't help us.  But allocating resources to winning at the local and county level will eventually give us what we need to make gains in the South at larger levels over time.

by palamedes 2006-11-14 10:28AM | 0 recs
Re: My two bits...

bingo- winning in the South is a long term project that will take a decade or two to solidify, and can not consistenly happen merely by which candidate runs. It's also about the narrative, and that narrative has been going for a long time: that the rest of the country needs us to win or lose elections. As long as the political discourse remains that way, there is no incentive to change.

by bruh21 2006-11-14 10:34AM | 0 recs
stupid football analogy

We had the ball and a helluva lot of yards to get a first down. DC picked Ford who didn't punt to give better field position, couldn't pass because he was a DLC'er, so ran the ball and lost yards.

Maybe we should have punted this year, but with great special teams to ensure we gained position.

Instead, the only good thing that happened either short or long term was that Ford is no longer in the House.

by Bob Brigham 2006-11-14 10:44AM | 0 recs
Re: stupid football analogy

You need to tailor that analogy. Its not that he ran and got tackled behind the line of scrimmage, its that his running plays (right off tackle, I'd expect) did not get a first down, and he gave up the ball with good field position.

by BruceMcF 2006-11-14 10:54AM | 0 recs
Re: My two bits...

As to the field campaign component, DC funding comes with strings attached and you have to play Schumer's game. Schumer did invest early (his summer '05 media buy in Montana was brilliant) and hopefully in the future that early investment will be in creating a scalable model for field/fundraising so that the campaigns can pay for the late media themselves (with their own people).

But even early media in Arizona could have helped in the long-run because of the weird way that all but one district extend out from Phoenix.

by Bob Brigham 2006-11-14 10:52AM | 0 recs
What about the Southwest and the Mountain states

I don't think the entire south can be treated the same way. But I see the party with more potential in the southwest and mountain states if we start incorporating some of the better libertarian ideas and communicating the environmental message in a way that resonates more with people in that area.

I live in GA. Georgia is a lost cause in the next four years. The only way we can win Georgia is through personality politics where some charismatic Democrat can win over the independents here.  Even the northerners who move down here seem to vote republican in big numbers.

I do think FL can be easily salvaged if we increase turnout among Democratic friendly demographics.

by Pravin 2006-11-14 10:33AM | 0 recs
Each Southern state is different.

NC, TN, AR, LA have strong state parties.

AL, MS have Democratic legislatures

FL and VA are red at the state level, but purple at the national.

The Democrats are in free-fall in GA.

The Democrats are in almost dead in SC.

by wayward 2006-11-14 02:27PM | 0 recs
Re: Each Southern state is different.

Thanks for elaborating on my point that not all of the south is the same even if they have a lot of common. But I restricted myself to GA and FL since that is all I know about. Good to get some info on the other states.

by Pravin 2006-11-14 03:24PM | 0 recs
Re: Harold Ford & the South

Please note -- those other Dem Senate candidates won; Ford lost. Why? Because, as Schaller argues, white supremacy is deeply embedded in Southern identity. That isn't going to work in the brown America we will have in 2050, regardless of ANYTHING either party decides to do.

Dems should ride the demographic wave to victory for a generation by prioritizing whatever policies and postures will bring those arriving browner voters into the existing coalition. We can forget the South til it comes around to modernity. We certainly can't let it set the agenda for a time which is passing it by.

No, don't abandon Dems stranded in the South -- but we can't try to help them survive at the expense of our majority which is what letting the South set the agenda amounts to.

by janinsanfran 2006-11-14 10:40AM | 0 recs
Re: Harold Ford & the

I didn't argue that we should abandon the South.  I'm not just picking on Ford.  And using ideology as a benchmark is ridiculous; by your measure John Kerry was a fantastic candidate for Tennessee, which we know he wasn't.

by Matt Stoller 2006-11-14 10:51AM | 0 recs
Re: Harold Ford & the

Good to hear that you disagree with Schaller too. You didn't just pick out Ford? The comparison of John Kerry is equally absurd for many reasons pointed out in the comments, including that you skip over NV and AZ to make your argument salient; the point of which was to show that you can make statistics argue for a point that you think is given.

by Jerome Armstrong 2006-11-14 11:22AM | 0 recs
Re: Harold Ford

The problem with writing things off is that nothing good comes from it.  But I would say running people like Ford is writing the south off.

Ford was obviously a cynical politician who would do anything for a vote and he lost.  Webb wasn't and he won.

Speaking as someone who has never voted for a democrat that won(I live in SC) I have to say that the problem is a lack of opitmism.

by sterra 2006-11-14 11:04AM | 0 recs
Re: Denigrate

Interesting choice of words, that. Denigrate means to paint someone or something as black (meaning negative), and thus comes from the same root as nigger, which of course associates black (skin in this case) with a negative value.

Two points I'd like to make:

First, the racism which we associate with the South, and which lost the South for the Democrats as Johnson predicted when the Democrats made themselves the party of equality, is clearly not confined to the South. To one extent or another we are all racists. For just one example, people belonging to oppressed groups often have "internalized oppression" as a result of which they think they are not as good as their oppressors. Racism is only one aspect of the Conservative world-view that people should stay in their place, since society works best that way. Although there is a core of truth to this, and it has wide acceptance in many strata of our society, as a way of running a society it is a failed ideology. In Bush and the Conservatives (neo- and otherwise) in the Administration, Congress, and the Judiciary, the Conservatives got far closer to getting everything they wanted than they ever have in our country. It was such an obvious, colossal failure that it was obvious to many "swing voters", i.e. people whose philosophy is some semi-formed mix of liberal and conservative, and also even to a smaller, but significant number of conservatives. To be sure, a significant part of the vote was against the incumbants rather than for the candidates, and many of the democratic candidates had some conservative views, but it was clearly a movement towards the left. If, as so many pundits are saying, it was a movement towards the center, we would see many of the candidates on the left being defeated by more centrist candidates, and we didn't see much of this.

Now, the liberal point of view, which is probably the dominant one in this country, is also the main alternative to the conservative one. (For simplicity I am painting these as twe views, while of course each is a complex constellation of different views which have many elements in common). The word liberal has been so effectively painted black by the conservative movement, that many of those voters would be horrified to be told they voted for a more liberal candidate, but that's what they did. It is precisely the conservatives who have the most to gain by moving over to more liberal views. Conservatism is not good for anyone. Those very few at the top of the social ladder may get some short-term gains, but that's about it. If in fact there are more conservatives in the south, then they are the ones who would have the most to gain.

And this brings me to my second point. In looking at the full-page chart in the New York Times showing the extent of swings in each district, I was struck by the fact that the largest swings were in the most Republican districts, many of which were in the South. The South is where the Dems picked up their biggest victories in popular opinion, in terms of increase in Democratic votes, even though few of the Democrats won in those districts. Ford is in no way an isolated case. Although most of the Democratic candidates, like Ford, ended up losing, they picked up more votes over the 2006 election than the blue places in red district after red district.

Now, I don't know how we turn this into a true electoral advantage. But a start would be to encourage some of the reforms which those living on the coasts have long had and which the South has largely lacked. Again, I don't know what they all are. Rights for gays, pregnant girls, and immigrants might be what Northeasterners think is needed, but things like better schools and health care and media reform would be less controversial and have a greater long-term effect. It is not an accident that colleges are a prime target for conservatives. As Stephen Colbert says, truth has a well-known liberal bias, and colleges encourage people to think for themselves, a liberal value. Heck, I bet even raising the minimum wage could have a long-term effect on people's viewpoints. Unfortunately all this will take time, but we need to get started with whatever we can do in the next two years.

by Hong Kong Chevy 2006-11-14 11:22AM | 0 recs
Re: Denigrate

the problem with your post is that you assume candidates haven't emphasized that, and yet, the most important issue that Ford could bring up on his campaign trail among other social conservative issues was what was happening in NJ- if what you said mattered, why wouldn't the locals focus on that? Maybe because you offer a solution t hat doesn't fix the real problem- down south social conservatism trumps all other considerations. these elements are present elsewhere, but there is more of a balancing act in favor of the other considerations (with the exception of AAs down south that is).

by bruh21 2006-11-14 12:19PM | 0 recs
Maybe if Harold made himself 100%white

Since Ford's supporters think Ford's conduct was essential(I agree to some extent but not to the degree Ford went), I propose why not compromise on another ideal and promote WHITE candidates in TN so they wont fall prety to the dirty ad put out by the repubs.

Oh no? Not acceptable? Why not? I thought some of the pragmatists feel winning is the only thing.

Now, you can understand how we feel about excessive compromise versus reasonable compromise.

by Pravin 2006-11-14 11:44AM | 0 recs
Re: Maybe if Harold made himself 100%white

I made that same response to Armstrong who preaches pragmatism regarding the South, but then ignores it when it comes to race.

by bruh21 2006-11-14 12:13PM | 0 recs
The black/white issue is more of a theory

Granted, it has common sense and apparent examples behind it.

But it's not even close to being in the same pragmatic realm as nominating a moderate instead of a progressive in the South.

All things being equal you would prefer a white candidate statewide in the South. I don't think anyone is denying that.

But this was hardly equal. Ford was an exceptional candidate. Somehow it hasn't been mentioned we lost by 10 points in an open senate race in 2002, Clements vs. Alexander. Granted, that was a pro-GOP year and this one pro-Democratic, but I'd love to wager Harold Ford could have run much closer than 10 points versus Alexander, even in an '02-type climate.

by Gary Kilbride 2006-11-14 09:04PM | 0 recs
Re: Maybe if Harold made himself 100%white

Maybe if Harold wasn't the scion of one of the craziest, most corrupt families in politics...

by milkbone 2006-11-14 03:11PM | 0 recs
Cold Hard Reality

I read Schaller's book and in it he says something that I think relates to what many of the conversations above.  He claims that if anyone can explain why 2 sets of people, who shop at the same stores, kids go to the same schools, work in the same area, go to the same evangelical churches(even though their denomination is different), but vote so completely different where one group votes 90% democrat and the other votes 80% republican, without using race as an explanation, he would through out his entire premise of a non-southern strategy.

I think a 50 state strategy is about infrastructure such as calling lists, volunteers, organizers.
I think the non-southern strategy is about message.  Why we're progressives, why we're liberals.  A post southern strategy means that we do not compromise our message.  It doesn't mean that we can't invest in the South for some occasional surprise pickups or to concentrate on state legislators.

As for morality, well, we can't do anything for poor people (black or white) if we don't have a majority in congress.  Why would we wait 30 years for the South to come around, instead of consolidating in the North, Midwest, and expanding in the Mountain and South West where our message will not be interfered with by race.  

For the first time since the New Deal, the majority party in Congress is not the majority party in the South.  That is VERY significant.

by maddogg 2006-11-14 12:33PM | 0 recs
You are right

This is from an Interview by Bill Scher


2. Whistling Past Dixie lays out a strategy to win without the South in the short-term, but it also argues that Democrats should work to win back the South by 2028. Howard Dean argues that we can't win in places where we don't "show up," and is rebuilding the party infrastructure to enhance its presence in all 50 states. Are your strategies at all in conflict?

TS: Nope, because Dean is right. What Dean is calling for is a minimum investment in each state so that Democrats there don't have to reinvent the wheel every two or four years.

As one of the few scholars in the country who has actually worked on a field campaign (and thus understands how poorly ideas and contacts and voting data get transferred from one cycle to the next), I know that Dean's approach is actually quite efficient.

So that means [Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chair] Rahm Emanuel is wrong? Nope. Dean is doing electoral defense, and you defend at a minimum level everywhere. But offense requires targeting, and that means not spending capriciously in places where, during the late stages of an election, you can't win.

If Ike had invaded Europe in 1944 by spreading our Allied troops evenly across the French coast, the Germans might have repelled the invasion. So, Emanuel is right, too: Concentrate resources at points of weakness.

It's great to have staff in every state, and to encourage local Democrats to do the best they can on a local level. And it never hurts to recruit the best possible candidates in every seat at every level.

But when it comes down to crunch time, you target resources where they will matter most. Politics is economics, and we're not trying to build a "unanimity party," but a majority party. And that means figuring out how to get to 51% before aiming for 61% or 71% and, in my view, targeting Arizona or even Alaska before thinking about Alabama.

We need to follow 50 state strategy, but without catering our message for the Southern Conservative Voter. The Republicans have been catering their message for the Southern Conservative since Nixon and now they have become a Regional Southern Party.  Do we want to make the same mistake?

by HCLiberal 2006-11-14 08:40PM | 0 recs
Re: Presidential Elections vs. Everything Else

We should fight for every seat in every election at every level anywhere in the US and we obviously shouldn't abandon the South.  But, when it comes to Presidential elections, I hope the idea that we need someone that will "run well in the South" is completely dead.  Based on shifts away from Republicans and towards Democrats in other areas of the country, a Democratic candidate can loose most states in the South and still win the Presidential election.  If Kerry had won Ohio, he would have won the Presidency with Maryland as his only Southern victory.  The same would have been true for Gore, if he had won New Hampshire.  

The last President to win election without winning one Southern state was Republican Benjamin Harrison in 1888. Although Democrat Grover Cleveland won the popular vote, he lost the electoral college.  

by gunnar 2006-11-14 04:57PM | 0 recs
Let the South catch up to us!

Hermanos, the South is way Red, and still racist, as evidenced by the "turn" when the RNC ran that sleazy ad with the white puta winking at Harold Ford.  Spend some small money there, building, sure -- especially among non-Cubano Latinos, who should be part of the Dems natural constituency.  Target competitive CDs.  As for the rest -- let the economy lag, let Katrinaitis sink in even more so than it has, let the GOP get its weak candidate from the crackers.  Let the South catch up to us, man, when it gets wise.

by diego277 2006-11-14 09:34PM | 0 recs
This dog can hunt

Listen, don't forget that the war of ideas borders the world of ethics and ideals and this post here is entirely right.

The south doesn't deserve to be mis-led. No american does. Whether or not ford was a social conservative he'd have done a darn better job than the republican.

Please lets not forget that there is a huge congressional scandal brewing for the GOP

http://www.cnn.com/2006/POLITICS/11/15/l obbyist.probe.ap/index.html

This article above outlines a bit of what Abramoff was up to. The Dept. of Justice things Abramoff is the key to a huge scandal.

If the Democrats clean house and finish the job, we can be guaranteed

someone once told me the art of politics is to know what people want, and to know what they will settle for

Americans threw the bastards out! They will only settle for a clean house!!

Ford did ok.

by heyAnita 2006-11-15 03:17AM | 0 recs

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