Harold Ford & the South, Big Tent & 50 State Strategy
by Jerome Armstrong, Tue Nov 14, 2006 at 09:29:09 AM EST
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.