In Defense Of The South, the Big Tent, and Democratic Solidarity

I really like Ed Kilgore. I always have, even before I met the guy and had breakfast with him last year. During my four years in the netroots, I have become a firm believer in coalition politics, and that it takes a wide range of people to form a governing majority. I also think that the conservative movement's belief in an all-powerful conservative base presents us with a tremendous opportunity to realign the national political landscape into an Indycrat, progressive-moderate governing consensus. All members of this consensus can get a lot of what they want a lot of the time, and its opposition will be an extremist conservative movement that finds itself with nothing because it believed it could stand alone.

One of the keys to building this coalition is that we work together, and not have the desire to throw each other under the bus for personal benefit. This is a problem I long viewed with the triangulation strategy, but it there is certainly a small, though real, minority element within the progressive movement that would like to see all moderate "DLC" types expelled from the party. A second key to pulling this off is to realize that the conservative movement, while having a higher concentration of adherents in the southern part of the country, is ultimately a diaspora spread throughout the country. Thus, while some regions may be more difficult than others, we don't throw any regions of the country under the bus either. The point is that we are opposing conservative extremism, wherever it may be, not that we are opposing the region with the highest number of conservative extremists. After all, the electoral and ideological difference between states as seemingly red as Alabama and as seemingly blue as Massachusetts are the views of only about 20-25% of the population.

Ed Kilgore is someone who recognizes these needs, and who leaves the bombastic declarations of some school of triangulation Democrats, such as Al From or Jams Carville, on the sidelines. Right now, he has a good piece in Salon that I think level-headedly explains how Democrats should approach the South:
I must begin by noting that Schaller's generally well-constructed case, here and in other venues, is consistently flawed by an overstatement of opposing views. Aside from the occasional Mudcat Saunders, I don't know any Democrats, Southern or otherwise, who think that the South is going to be a majority-Democratic region at the presidential level anytime soon, or that Democrats should obsess about the South at the expense of other opportunities. But there's a whole lot of ground between this alleged Southern strategy and Schaller's run-against-the-South prescription, and that's where I'll take my stand.(...)

Schaller is absolutely right, of course, that Democrats can put together a presidential or House majority without much of anything in the South. The eight large states in the North, West and Midwest that Democratic candidates have carried in each of the last four presidential contests put the party well past the halfway point to the 270 electoral votes needed to win the White House. But those states have actually suffered a net loss of six electoral votes -- and six House seats -- in the past decade, and are likely to lose a few more after the 2010 census. And so long as we have a federalist system and care about control of state governments, and have a Senate in which every state has two seats, conceding small states to the GOP, whether in the South, the Plains or the interior West, will place a huge anchor around the donkey's neck.(...)

Schaller's assumption that successful Southern Democrats have to run on platforms more irreconcilable with progressive values than their counterparts in the interior West is dubious indeed. But the idea that Democrats will do well by attacking Southern culture is just plain dangerous.(...)

In the end, I'm with Howard Dean: In this closely divided national electorate in which red states still outnumber blue states, Democrats should pursue a 50-state strategy with a common progressive message, tolerating some regional differences, and let individual candidates, especially those running for president, target their resources and appeals as opportunities dictate. If that means writing off the South in 2008, fine by me. But please don't prejudge the map based on unreasonable prejudices toward one region, even if it's the one populated by us crazy Crackers. I agree. Consider, for example, how the conservative movement has consistently demonized the Northeast. The result has been a near-total wipeout for Republicans in the regions that will not be reversed anytime soon. Democrats now control 59 of the 74, or 80%, of House seats in New England, New York, New Jersey and eastern Pennsylvania. Almost every Republican in this region who is left in Congress is on the endangered list. Running against a region lost Republicans ten seats in the House in 2006 alone, and those seats are not coming back. This is a situation far worse than Democrats face anywhere in the nation, and I think that having the national Republican Party and the conservative movement demonize the region for years probably did not help the case of local Republican moderates all that much. Whatever short term backlash the conservative movement gained from their portrayal of the region, it has resulted in a major long-term disaster for the Republican Party I can't imagine why Democrats would want to replicate that strategy in regards to the so-called Deep south..

The point is that we work together, don't throw each other under the bus, and that we run against the conservative movement wherever it may reside. We do not run against demographics or regions, as the conservative movement has done for some time in its crusades against immigrants, northeasterners, San Francisco, Hollywood, Massachusetts, homosexuals, Muslims, and whoever else is on their target list at any given moment. Doing that may win you backlash votes in the short term, but over the long-term it builds strong loyalty for your opposition within the demographics you are demonizing. Thus, not only is it bad for the country and immoral, it is terrible political strategy. As recently as 2000, Muslims used to be a pro-Republican voting demographic in America. Also, as recently as 2004, Republicans were making real gains among immigrants and Latinos. However, the conservative movement has now seen to it that those voting groups will be solidly in the Democratic camp for another generation. Smooth move, purveyors of the backlash narrative.

I like Tom Schaller a lot, and think he is quite brilliant. I also think that his book is quite excellent, but for the one caveat: I think we should run against conservatism rather than the South. Further, I think that Ed Kilgore has also consistently shown that moderates and members of the DLC can be valuable members of the Democratic coalition as long as they do not insist on throwing the party's left wing under the bus and portraying liberals in the same strawman terms as conservatives have done for decades (paging LieberDems). In a coalition dependent on overwhelming liberal support, that path can only lead to disaster. However, having people like Ed Kilgore and Tom Schaller on the Democratic side is a great asset to our cause. Throwing away leading progressive and moderate Democratic thinkers just because they are either progressive or moderate, or because they are from a certain region of the country, would be a terrible move and lead to our own demise. Let conservatives continue to demonize every demographic they view as some sort of cultural threat, and let us have a pluralistic mindset and open arms to reap the reward. As long as we respect intra-party democracy, I believe that is one key way progressives and moderates alike can build a new governing consensus in an ever-diversifying nation. And I say this as someone who resides decidedly within the party's left-wing.

Tags: Democrats, Demographics, fifty-state strategy, Ideology (all tags)



Southern Culture

For those of us who haven't gone south much I think we need to learn where "Southern Culture" begins and ends and "Southern Bigotry" begins. That distinction has been so muddied by republicans and demagogues that a lot of us Yankees wouldn't know where to define it.

Note: When I say Southern Bigotry it means the same thing as Midwestern or North Eastern bigotry. A common bigotry with region specific tweaks.

by MNPundit 2006-11-28 09:23AM | 0 recs
Re: Southern Culture

interesting question, asked in a good way. Three things that characterize even most non-bigoted Southerners are a deep sensitivity to history, particularly the Civil War (ie, won't disavow our ancestors), a keen memory of poverty (after The War, even those families which had been or later would be rich were devastated; poverty was a badge of honor), and a limited tolerance for ez advice from non-Southerners on how the region as a whole can improve itself. Gradual change will come from encounters with non-Southerners who look beyond the stereotypes and ask interesting, non-judgmental questions like yours.

by mmiddle 2006-11-28 11:07AM | 0 recs
Re#2: Southern Culture

one other thought on Southern culture generally: C.Vann Woodward observed that one difference between New England and the South was that New England's world view was framed by conscience, and the South's by code. That's not as simple as it sounds - the Puritans' consciences led them in murderous directions at times, and the South's Old-Europe code of honor had some social advantages. But I think it was as valid a generalization as any.

by mmiddle 2006-11-28 11:39AM | 0 recs
GOP had no problem backing Shays, Chafee, Leach...

...because they understand that the ultimate objective is to have your party in control of the chamber. Bush's disastrous presidency finally ended up ousting a lot of their moderates, but they served their purpose for many years. Hell, the Republicans backed Lieberman this time around in a purely strategic move.

In regions of the country where Democrats struggle, it makes sense to run the most progressive candidate who can win there. The D next to the name is what allows us to set a progressive agenda.

by MeanBoneII 2006-11-28 09:30AM | 0 recs
Re: GOP had no problem backing Shays, Chafee,

True, but the corollary to that is that Shays, Chafee, et al were very weak members of their caucus (ideologically speaking, at least), which IMO will make the South a harder nut to crack-- voters here have become accustomed to all the perks of political/cultural dominance in DC, and while the Democratic Party isn't actually all that liberal, Blue Dogs won't be as likely to wield enormous power as a frothing-at-the-mouth wingnut did in a GOP majority.  Resentment at losing such an enormous amount of political power is inevitable, and it will affect efforts to bring the South onto a more progressive path.

by latts 2006-11-28 09:55AM | 0 recs
Re: GOP had no problem backing Shays, Chafee,

Not necessarily.  The Democratic leadership isn't likely to push issues on which the Blue Dogs differ greatly from most Democrats and progressives.  One of the things that hurt the GOP the most in the Northeast was their insistence on such issues on which moderates had to either cast a vote against the leadership or cast a vote that would jeopardize their standing at home.

by Tom 2006-11-28 11:40AM | 0 recs
"F" the South.

If southerners can't be persuaded to stand up for their own interests then they can sink in their self-righteous pit of hatred and moral hypocrisy.

by fafnir 2006-11-28 09:36AM | 0 recs
Re: "F" the South.

Self-righteous?  Hypocrisy?  Sound familiar?

"Southerners" are hardly clones.  We've got members of the Progressive Caucus from the South, and the Democratic party is still quite viable in these states even if it isn't much on the Presidential level.  That's all because healthy portions of the population are staunch supporters of the Democratic agenda.  Why would you want to "F" those people?

Did you even read the article?

by bruorton 2006-11-28 10:31AM | 0 recs
Re: In Defense Of The South, the Big Tent, and ...

I always thought that the South is winnable.  Do we know what things are most important to people in the South?  Is it healthcare?  Are they afraid Dems want to take their guns away?  Are they worried about their jobs and related things?  We need to find out what is important to them and address that.  I haven't lived in the South in over 20 years(when I was very young) so I don't know what is important to them today.  I'll leave this one last remark.  I wonder how much of our problem is one of our own making, and how much of it is driven by outside forces, like the media.  Forty years ago, there were a lot of Dixiecrats.  What would it take to get those people back?  Or was the split inevitable?  What would the media do if the Repubs were reduced to a long term minority?  I don't think they'd like that because they'd have little to comment on.  Just something to think about.

by Calvin Jones and the 13th Apostle 2006-11-28 09:36AM | 0 recs
Re: In Defense Of The South, the Big Tent, and ...

One problem is that we nominate people like Dukakis, Kerry and Hillary Clinton. With leaders like those we cannot win in the South.

by Populism2008 2006-11-28 10:03AM | 0 recs
Re: In Defense Of The South, the Big Tent, and ...

To clarify: we need less French speaking cultural elitists and more John Testers representing our party.

by Populism2008 2006-11-28 10:04AM | 0 recs
Re: In Defense Of The South, the Big Tent, and ...

So we fuck the other 5 regions of the country to cater to the south?

by MNPundit 2006-11-28 10:06AM | 0 recs
Re: In Defense Of The South, the Big Tent, and ...

To continue to grow and expand the Democratic Party has to go to where the population growth is in the future which is the West and South.

by robliberal 2006-11-28 10:10AM | 0 recs
Re: In Defense Of The South, the Big Tent, and ...

No, you nominate someone who is authentic.  They don't have to be from the South.  They just have to respect the culture of other regions, not treat them with disdain.  Kerry could say that he respects folks who watch Nascar and like to hunt, but it wasn't believable.  A guy like Tester does not have that air about him.  He doesn't come from money.  He didn't go to an Ivy League school.  He's not a lawyer or a career politician.  He was just a regular guy who decided to run for office to make the lives of the people in his community better.  It's that quality we should embrace.

by Southern Blue Dog 2006-11-28 10:19AM | 0 recs
Re: In Defense Of The South, the Big Tent, and ...

That is why we did so much better in House and Senate races in all regions this year. We did not go for the tired, worn-out party hacks but found some new people.

by robliberal 2006-11-28 10:22AM | 0 recs
Re: In Defense Of The South, the Big Tent, and ...

That is kinda bullshit:

* Only one Democratic presidential ticket from 1976 on hasn't had a Southerner on it (Mondale/Ferraro 1984).

* Only three of the eight Democratic tickets from 1976 on haven't had a Southerner at the top of the ticket (Mondale/Ferraro 1984; Dukakis/Bentsen 1988; Kerry/Edwards 2004).  

* None of those Democratic tickets have had anyone on them from the Mountain West or the Pacific West.

Seems like the West is getting screwed, not the South.

by jsw 2006-11-28 02:07PM | 0 recs
Re: In Defense Of The South, the Big Tent, and ...

Much of ticket balancing is because of the Electoral College. The last Democrat to win from outside the South was 46 years ago. It is possible to do it but it is not easy to configure an Electoral College victory without some play in the South.

by robliberal 2006-11-28 02:46PM | 0 recs
Re: In Defense Of The South, the Big Tent, and ...

It's not that hard: win the states Kerry won, plus Ohio.  Such a West Coast/Northeast/Great Lakes coalition would give us a thin electoral majority, but we could make it solid by taking some states in the Mountain West -- Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and Montana are probably all potentially flippable, with the right candidate and campaign.  If Evan Bayh were to win the Democratic nomination and run in the general against a Southern Republican, he would probably have Kerry's map plus Indiana and Ohio locked up, for a bare minimum of 283 electoral votes, and have a good chance of flipping some or all of the Western states I mentioned, as well as the purple Midwestern states Iowa and Missouri, the Upper South (Kentucky, West Virginia, and Virginia), and Florida.

by Alex 2006-11-28 03:29PM | 0 recs
Re: In Defense Of The South, the Big Tent, and ...

The obliteration of the Republicans in the Northeast make it much easier to win a presidential election without winning in the South.  If Al Gore had won New Hampshire, which he lost by less that 2%, he would have won the election.  New Hampshire is much more blue today than it was in 2000.    

by gunnar 2006-12-01 04:55PM | 0 recs
I come from the NE

and its true that whenever anyone opens their mouth with a southern accent, the expectation is that stupidity and ignorance will soon result.

Then I moved to the south (real south, south Alabama) and found the nicest people in the world.   Maybe a little small minded still, but truly a place where  - in interpersonal matters - they put the rest of the country to shame.

by chipshot 2006-11-28 09:41AM | 0 recs
Re: In Defense Of The South, the Big Tent, and Dem

because they understand that the ultimate objective is to have your party in control of the chamber. Bush's disastrous presidency finally ended up ousting a lot of their moderates

Like Rick Santorum, you think?  Conrad Burns, maybe? George Allen, perhaps?

There seems to be an ugly assumption that you must compromise principles in order to appeal to regional prejudices.  

If you stand only for gaining power at the expense of fundamental principle, then you become what you did not like in the first place.  

Of all people, a backer of John Edwards should understand that a populist message can work very well in the South without the ugly Republican appeal to the Jim Crow past.

Best,  Terry

by terryhallinan 2006-11-28 09:46AM | 0 recs
Re: In Defense Of The South, the Big Tent, and Dem

In 2004 Kerry did about the same in  MS, AL, TN, KY, WV, VA, NC, SC, and GA as he did in MT, SD, and ND. As we saw in OH and MT this year movement our way is possible. The vote margins in a lot of the South are even a little more favorable than in the West. Finding the right candidates and the right platforms are the key. I think candidates like Jon Tester could do extremely well in states like AL, LA, MS, GA. They are out there we just have to find those people and start building up the pipeline.  

by robliberal 2006-11-28 09:54AM | 0 recs
Re: In Defense Of The South, the Big Tent, and Dem

Big difference between a Dem getting 43% of the vote in Alabama, and getting 43% of the vote in South Dakota.

27% of Alabamans are African-American, and they vote Democratic, almost as a bloc.  Then you need about a third of the white vote to get a majority, and at 43% of the total vote, you're only pulling maybe 22% of the white vote, and most of the ones you've got voting for you are the ones that are culturally more northern - live in cities and like it, and so forth.  So the people whose minds you need to change to get from 43% to 51% are in a demographic that's a real uphill climb: religious suburban/rural southern whites.

Not to say we should give up on them, but we need to recognize that we've got a long-term project ahead of us there, rather than a 2008 opportunity.

South Dakota, OTOH, has far less demographic disparity.  If a Dem wins 43% of the vote there, those 43% are much more like the 57% of the people who voted GOP than is true in Alabama; from winning 43%, you've already got a map to 51%.

By the time we get the electoral votes of Alabama, Mississippi, or South Carolina, we will have already won Indiana (as part of a Midwest sweep), Arizona (along with most of the Rockies), and the Great Plains states from Kansas north.

by RT 2006-11-28 12:25PM | 0 recs
Re: In Defense Of The South, the Big Tent, and Dem

The way I look at it is with with the black voting block that makes it easier in the South than some other regions because you have to attract less GOP voters than you otherwise would. Democrats have been able to put together coalitions to win top spots statewide in AR, LA, and TN and you have other Democrats elected statewide in KY, AL, MS.  The right ticket in 2008 has the possibility to win 1, 2, or 3 states in the South that went to the GOP in 2004.

by robliberal 2006-11-28 01:46PM | 0 recs
Re: In Defense Of The South, the Big Tent, and Dem

It'll be interesting to see how the demographics of the South changes in the next 20 years as the huge group of Northern boomers retires.  

It'd be a good idea for Dems to pay attention.

by jeffs 2006-11-28 09:55AM | 0 recs
Re: In Defense Of The South, the Big Tent, and Dem

The demographics are a big factor. The population will continue to shift to the South. NC, SC, FL, GA, AL, MS will all see more retirees and people moving to the region because of job opportunities. For years FL and GA had something of a monopoly on where people relocate to but NC, SC, AL, MS now are desired destinations as well. Many of the millions of people who will end up here in the future will be coming from blue states.  

by robliberal 2006-11-28 10:07AM | 0 recs
Re: In Defense Of The South, the Big Tent, and Dem

I thought Schaller in book made it clear that Democrats should run against Southern conservatives, not the South as a whole.  What he does argue is that the South shouldn't be seen as the first place Democrats should look to in order to gain seats, given the significantly different demographics in the South (by significant, I mean the "20-25% of the population" that tips the South (in aggregate) to Republicans.  And Schaller does argue that the Democrats should be able to pick up some seats in the South.

What I thought Schaller was arguing against was shaping the national Democratic agenda to accomodate the South above all else.  That is foolish.

I'm not sure there's a lot of disagreement here. Perhaps Kilgore is setting up a bit of a straw man?

by mfeld356 2006-11-28 10:01AM | 0 recs
It's a two-way street

 I agree with Chris and with Ed Kilgore on the importance of coalition-building and working within the party. That's great and I wish we'd all do more of it. But I expect the same kind of respect from the DLCers as well, and I don't often get it. When certain people who call themselves "Democrats" call me a clueless hippie and a traitor because I (correctly) refused to jump on the Bush war bandwagon, when the netroots and other citizen-activists are constantly derided as annoying and irrelevant by certain "Democratic" publications and writers, and when certain high-profile "Democrats" take the occasion of a massive electoral victory to snarl at the DNC Chairman and deny him due credit for our recent successes, it's easy to get cynical.

 But yes, by all means, let's work together. Just remember that the commitment flows both ways.

by Master Jack 2006-11-28 10:05AM | 0 recs
Re: In Defense Of The South, the Big Tent, and Dem

My feeling is that Southerners need candidates that they can relate to, i.e. not Kerry and Hillary and other mealy mouthed cultural elitists. For better or worse they seem to value down-to-earth, macho, practical persons with strong beliefs. There aren't many Democrats fitting this profile, apart from Tester, Schweitzer and some others. We need more populists in our party, and less elitists.

My theory is that only two kinds of persons can become president: down-to-earth types (Bush II) or rockstars (Clinton, Reagan). Thank God we have a rockstar in Barack Obama.

by Populism2008 2006-11-28 10:11AM | 0 recs
Re: In Defense Of The South, the Big Tent, and Dem

The same is true in the West where a candidate like Kerry could not win in MT, ND, SD, etc. Althought it did not work with Ford in TN we could have won there with a different type of candidate. If he decided to do it someone like Gov. Bredesen could likely have won (and he would have a good chance against Alexander in 2008).

by robliberal 2006-11-28 10:15AM | 0 recs
It does co exist

Our Alababa friends used to say we were from Mars.

Then my wife got pregnant and we decided we didn't want to raise a kid on God, country music and NASCAR, so we moved out west.  

Funny thing was, at the same time, one of her graduate students was offered a scholarship to Harvard, but turned it down because she was pregnant and didn't want to raise a kid where people were just rude to each other.   She was right, of course, but I could never explain to her that it wasn't rudeness she was seeing, but just an expediency in lifestyle.  There was just this cultural divide.

by chipshot 2006-11-28 10:13AM | 0 recs
Re: In Defense Of The South, the Big Tent, and Dem

I think that one thing to recognise is that moral issues have far more resonance than economic ones.

IE in the book freakanomics it showed how giving a cash bonus for blood drives lowered the amount of people giving blood.  (It went from a moral issue to a cash issue and they didn't give enough of an incentive to offset that)

Which means that rhetoric should be about morality rather than selfish gain.  No one wants to feel selfish.  They just want to be selfish.

by sterra 2006-11-28 10:14AM | 0 recs
Re: In Defense Of The South, the Big Tent, and Dem

i think the main objection with the "dlc types" is that they are the triangulators. big tent is nice and all, but you don't let the people in that work to undermine the big tent.

by snappy 2006-11-28 10:22AM | 0 recs
Please retire "thrown under the bus"

I swear, this must be the most over-used phrase in the blogosphere ever. It's in at least 80% of DailyKos diary titles these days. People have even gone through the trouble of stretching its meaning so it can be used more often. Can we please, please, please retire it?  Or at least send it on a long vacation? There are a number of alternatives, many of which are more precise, depending on the situation:

  • scapegoat (noun or verb)
  • toss overboard
  • purge
  • write off
  • disown
  • drop the dead weight
  • cut out the dead wood
  • etc.

by fwiffo 2006-11-28 10:26AM | 0 recs
Re: In Defense Of The South, the Big Tent, and Dem

Exactly right. I don't have a huge problem with a Ben Nelson, for example, while the more-liberal-on-domestic-issues Joe Lieberman drives me nuts.

I don't hold a monopoly on truth or the correct path, so I'm willing to concede that my ideas on the proper marginal tax rates for the various income brackets may not be the best ones. But I'll be damned if I'll listen to Al From piss all over the Democratic Party without reacting angrily.

by BriVT 2006-11-28 10:50AM | 0 recs
Re: In Defense Of The South, the Big Tent, and Dem

I really like Ed Kilgore.

DLC | Bio | July 4, 2006
Ed Kilgore
Vice President for Policy, Democratic Leadership Council

Ed Kilgore is Vice President for Policy at the Democratic Leadership Council, and a former Senior Fellow with the Progressive Policy Institute.

He edits The New Dem Dispatch, the DLC's news commentary service; writes New Donkey, a political blog; and is a Senior Editor for Blueprint Magazine. Kilgore is also a frequent guest on radio and television political shows.

Prior to working for the DLC, Kilgore was a federal-state relations liaison for three Governors of Georgia, and served as Communications Director and Legislative Counsel for U.S. Senator Sam Nunn. He directed the Convention Speechwriters Team at the 1992 and 1996 Democratic National Conventions.

So. What's to like?

by Liberal Avenger 2006-11-28 10:50AM | 0 recs
Re: In Defense Of The South, the Big Tent, and Dem

Actually a lot.  He is extremely bright and thoughtful and while I don't always agree with him, Ed Kilgore respects opposing views in the party.  

In order to be a 50 state party, you have to be tolerant of diverse views.  Not every Democrat elected is going to be from NYC or SF or VT and as we saw this year if we agree on the important issues we can disagree on the smaller ones.

I, for one, am not interested in having the Democratic Party become a bunch of left wing dittoheads.  That will not help us establish a permanent progressive majority.

by John Mills 2006-11-28 12:36PM | 0 recs
Re: In Defense Of The South, the Big Tent, and Dem

It's a battle between left wing ditto-heads who believe in the platform of the Democratic Party and centrist ditto-heads who believe in the platform of the GOP. The DLC is the latter.

by Liberal Avenger 2006-12-01 07:22AM | 0 recs
Re: In Defense Of The South, the Big Tent, and Dem

Nice Post, Chris.  It was mature and much needed.  

by ira13ping 2006-11-28 11:58AM | 0 recs
The problem is "Dems who hate Dems"

I didn't have anything against the DLC types, until I realized how many of them were trying to throw practically everyone to their left under the damned bus.

If they weren't trying to marginalize a good chunk of 'their' party, I wouldn't have a problem with them.  I've got nothing against moderates; I used to be one.

It was one thing for Bill Clinton to have a "Sister Souljah" moment.  What he meant by it was that the Democratic Party isn't going to be held hostage to the values of every two-bit fringe group in the party.  And good for him, because that really solved the problem.  The Dems haven't been captive of the far-left fringes anytime since.

But it's almost like that was the DLC's moment of glory, the one that they want to relive over and over again, even though it has no reason anymore.  And since they can't find real Dem fringe groups with any buzz about them, they go after the entire Democratic wing of the Democratic party.

Maybe Ed Kilgore wasn't one of the DLCers who were too busy marginalizing dirty hippie liberal antiwar types to even attempt to do the same to the corporate-fundie alliance that is the GOP.  But by virtue of being a DLC big-shot, he sure hung out with enough of them.  Did he ever criticize their behavior publicly?  Did he ever even criticize them privately??

So pardon me if I'm kinda skeptical about Ed Kilgore.  He may or may not be one of the Good Guys, but he's sure been hanging out with a nasty crowd.  How exactly did he stomach them?  How did he justify what they were doing to his own party?

Ed's got some 'splainin' to do before I consider him a comrade in arms.

by RT 2006-11-28 12:41PM | 0 recs
Re: In Defense Of The South,

Uhm- as someone upstream posts- this is about Southern Cultural Conservatism rather than the South.

I have to ask- because I keep reading posts such as this, that are then lauded as great- who are you arguing against? Who in the main, with any pull is arguing against the South?

I can tell you what I have read. I have read arguments against Ford style races. I have read arguments for running campaigns that aren't just about the South. I call those arguments- anti South ONLY discussions, not anti South. Where the confusion lies for most, when I read these sort of things, is the debate is often South Only being treated as though it is the same as running everywhere.

Ford ran on Gods, gays, and guns. This is, as a practical matter, outside of race, what these discussions are about. Should the Democrats trap itself into becoming GOP lite down South, or should it continue its shift towards a national party that represents the South AND the rest of the country too?

This discussion, even the one above about authenticity feels false. well, in part, someone finally gets it when they say it's not about the person becoming something that they are not, but are respectful of different people's backgrounds. but, that concept is a two way street. You can't have a big tent where in order to include one group we have to push another group out. Which group is doing that? If it's the liberals- show me where they got the power to do that? If it's the DLC- same thing.

by bruh21 2006-11-28 12:43PM | 0 recs
Re: In Defense Of The South, the Big Tent

Great post Chris.  I agree with you on Ed Kilgore.  He is bright, thoughtful and tolerant.  I don't always agree with him but I respect him.

The National Republican party running against the NE has destroyed the once vibrant local R parties in the region.  This is an extremely important point.  A decade ago, in my area the only office the Dems held was Congress.  Today we hold all the local offices on the city, state and federal levels.  It is so bad for the Rs here that last year, in the Bloomberg landslide, a strong R candidate (the D was also a great candidate) could only get in the mid-30s for an open city council and they had held this seat as recently as 1999.  I am not upset about it but I can't believe have devestated the Rs have become on the local level and it is all attributable to the national party.  

by John Mills 2006-11-28 12:49PM | 0 recs
Re: In Defense Of The South, the Big Tent

it's attributable to an extreme national party, not just a national party. if the democrats were endanger of extremism, then the point would make sense. but where is that the case? please specify example of democratic party extremism at the national level.

by bruh21 2006-11-28 01:28PM | 0 recs
Re: In Defense Of The South, the Big Tent

Maybe I wasn't clear.  I was saying the extremism of the national Repub party, not the Dems, was destroying it on a local level in the Northeast.  The Dems have been the beneficiary in my area.

by John Mills 2006-11-28 02:22PM | 0 recs
Re: In Defense Of The South, the Big Tent

I apologize for misunderstanding you. Most of my misunderstand rises out of nature of conversations about the South.

I think they often lack specifics. I took that frustration out on you due to your comments about extremism.

When I first read the idea that Democrats shouldn't focus on the South, my thoughts were "yes, I agree" because I read that to mean that Democrats shouldn't focus solely on conservative Southern white evangelical males. Indeed, the author whom Chris mentions has said as much when comparing the voting patterns of black evangelical Southern voters (who despite being in our column aren't enough to win) and Southern white evangelicals.

Often to me "the South" seems to mean only Southern whites. A diary I wrote recently tried to look at how I feel it hurts African Americans down South to focus on the South as most people seem to mean it. If we have to run a candidate like Harold Ford to win, then we are in trouble because we are locked triangulating with Southern conservatism. Everyone says he ran a great campaign, but I am left wondering at what cost? In the long run, I feel that progressives will be helped down South by not relying on white Southern conservative envangelicals voters.

To add to your point, I believe that in the long run if the rest of the country moves forward, and  as more people see the actual example of progressive sucess (without extremism), then the South will come along if progressives local to the South keep fighting in much the same way that it happened in the NE and is happening else where.

I think Southern cultural conservative instinct is the real issue.  I agree w/ Chris that it's not just local to the South. But, certainly , to keep things honest, we must admit that the numbers are more impactful down the South. 2006 should tell us that much.  We won in states that we did not in the past everywhere else, but the deeper South. Even Virginia, was atypical because of the influence of NoVa.

The question is should we wait for the South? The answer to me has to be no- the real concern must be to have a majority, and overtime build down South too. To wait, is to hurt the progressives down South rather than help them by trying to triangulate a message that will convince the Southern white conservative vote.

I haven't seen anyone argue against this position, but I have seen a lot of arguments change the subject from this to claims of a desire to throw the South under the bus, even when that wasn't the point being made. Indeed, I saw that happen the other day with Kos who suggested the difference is the difference between needing the South as a part of a governing coalition, and wanting it.

by bruh21 2006-11-28 02:56PM | 0 recs
Re: In Defense Of The South, the Big Tent


I should add- that we should want the South as part of any national party, but we shouldn't need the Southern white conservative evangelical voter to do it.  The GOP has inherited the same extremists that separates Republicans from the NE and increasingly other regions.  Right now we are stuck at these positions. So long as that is the case, it will be hard to change. It's not impossible, but realistically, it's going to take time, and pursuing a different strategy than the one which has been used variously by either party in the last century and half.

by bruh21 2006-11-28 03:04PM | 0 recs
Re: In Defense Of The South, the Big Tent

I completely agree that we need to be competitive in the South to be a true national party.  You shouldn't write off any part of the country.  What has happened to the Rs in the NE shows you what happens when you do.

The irony is I think the methods the Repubs have used of late may relegate the South politically to the position it held during post-reconstruction through the early 20th Century.  While most of the country was Repub during that time, the South was solidly Dem.  Today the rest of the country is trending Dem while the South is solidly R.

That is not a good thing but it seems to be where we are right now.  It is going to take time to reverse the trends of the last 30 years but I am glad the Dem party is finally starting to think about a much broader playing field.  I believe we need a clear strategy to bring this region into our coalition and agree it needs to be done w/o cow towing the white Christian evangelicals.  I am not sure what the strategy is but I am very open to ideas from people who understand the region better than me.

by John Mills 2006-11-28 05:16PM | 0 recs
Re: In Defense Of The South, the Big Tent, and Dem

I usually agree with Chris Bowers' brand of practical populism, but this post is a little mysterious to me. Why bother to be Democrats if that means homophobia, sexism, religious intolerance and racism are treated as anything but cultural garbage to be eradicated?

Insofar as these are anybody's values, the democratic project (small d) is get rid of them (the values, not the people.) This should also be the Democratic Party project. In U.S. history, all regions have had their share of anti-democratic passions, but the South has cleaved to  intolerant religiousity and racism more firmly than other regions. We'd be mad to give any houseroom to this stuff.

The object of a Democratic ascendancy should be to create the structural pre-requisites that enable our culturally backward regions to overcome their distorted values. What do I mean? A combination of rigorous enforcment of bans on discrimination against persons who are "different" combined with massive funding to education, healthcare and labor protections. Our job is to make it easier for people to slough off their bigotry and ignorance. We do that not by being tender toward "values" that hold people in bondage, but by enabling people, materially and spiritually, to substitute democratic values.

by janinsanfran 2006-11-28 01:29PM | 0 recs
Re: In Defense Of The South, the Big Tent, and Dem

All of those things are present in all regions of the country not just the South. Democats can win races without appealing to homophobia, sexism, religious intolerance and racism. Tester, McCaskill, Webb, etc. are examples of how you can get past those social issues without giving up basic Democratic values. The only Senate campaign that failed was Ford who tried to appeal to those groups and lost part of the Democratic base in the process.

by robliberal 2006-11-28 01:52PM | 0 recs
Re: In Defense Of The South, the Big Tent, and Dem

Yet the race that it tauted as an amazing race down South is Harold Ford - who ran a virulently anti gay campaign, and tried to out conservative the conservative in many ways. I think if you want to see where people are saying it's not a good idea, and that a progressive majority should be build differently, Harold Ford comes to my mind as a central example.

by bruh21 2006-11-28 02:58PM | 0 recs
Welfare States

I agree that we shouldn't write off the South, as long as we don't compromise our positions on choice, gay rights, and religious tolerance to appeal to Southern bigots.  We need to sell progressive values to the South, not tip-toe around conservative "values" (which are really just prejudices) to avoid offending Southern voters.  However, there's another issue which hasn't been discusses here: the massive annual wealth transfer from the Northern and West Coast states to the South and Great Planes in the form of corporate welfare for the timber, mining, coal, oil, gas, and agriculture industries and pork-barrel military spending.

Most of the red states' "Retro" economies are currently on welfare, at the expense of the mostly blue "Metro" states whose own economies are centered on more profitable high-tech, heavy manufacturing, and service industries.  Our new, non-Southern majority ought to make it a priority to reduce the national deficit by reducing corporate welfare and military pork, even if it does cost us votes in the states that are most dependent on this sort of federal spending.

by Alex 2006-11-28 04:00PM | 0 recs
I also like Ed Kilgore and Tom Vilsalk

the only people I dont like in the DLC are those who diss the netroots as extreme liberal McGovernites like Marshall Wittman (is he a Republican or a Democrat?) Al From and Bruce Reed.

by jasmine 2006-11-28 05:56PM | 0 recs
Re: In Defense Of The South...

I haven't read Schaller's book, but I'm familiar with its basic premise, and one of the most obvious reasons why the Democratic party will never demonize the South the way Republicans have done to the Northeast is simple: the South is one of the poorest regions of the country.  It would be contrary to the most basic tenets of the Democratic party to forget these people, even if many of them don't vote for Democrats.

On a somewhat unrelated note, I like reading this blog and typically share the views of the writers on here, but it's awfully hard to come back time and time again when the comments are full of folks using stereotypical labels such as "white Southern Evangelicals" in an insulting fashion.  How can we expect "religious tolerance" of others when we don't practice it ourselves?  I'm a white Southern Evangelical Christian, and my faith is the best darn reason I can think of to be a Democrat.  Anyone who thinks that Christianity of whatever flavor is antithetical to the Democratic philosophy obviously isn't very familiar with the teachings of Jesus Christ.

Social wedge issues often related to religion have ruled politics here since the Atwater era, but I'm convinced that the effectiveness of the wedge strategy is beginning to have diminishing returns.  Folks down here aren't stupid.  It isn't exactly desirable to live in poverty with dilapidated schools, high school drop-out rates, high domestic violence rates, high unemployment rates, low infant mortality rates, etc.  As soon as we start running authentic candidates who can point out that posting the 10 commandments on the walls of public schools and banning flag burning isn't going to fix these serious problems AND that we've got actual solutions, Democrats will start getting traction down here again.

by Laurin from SC 2006-11-28 06:45PM | 0 recs
Re: In Defense Of The South...

"... How can we expect "religious tolerance" of others when we don't practice it ourselves?  I'm a white Southern Evangelical Christian, and my faith is the best darn reason I can think of to be a Democrat.  Anyone who thinks that Christianity of whatever flavor is antithetical to the Democratic philosophy obviously isn't very familiar with the teachings of Jesus Christ."

While I'm a proud progressive and democrat, I do end up having to explain to many non-religious democrats how I can possibly choose to practice christianity (in my case as a roman catholic) while still being in the  democratic big tent.  I'm convinced jesus would have been a progressive democrat were he living as a human now, and would have endorsed a 50-state strategy as something very empowering to the salt of the earth.  I have no problem reconciling my roman catholic religious views with enough of the core of the democratic agenda to choose it rather than the scorched earth politics of the republican agenda.

I too wish that non-religious democrats wouldn't treat me like I'm a traitor for the other side when I mention that I'm going to mass or to help out with a church function (at which I will often try to preach my progressive values somehow).  While not of the South, I experience the same basic religious intollerance when dealing especially with some progressive groups that take strong single-issue political stands that differ from my religious beliefs.  Amen, I feel your pain, and pray that religious intollerance is a challenge through which our party can work together.

On another note, while our conceptions and experiences of jesus are likely different due to our distance from each other on the tree of american christianity, I'm glad that members of our respective faiths can co-exist in the democratic big tent and work toward a progressive christian agenda that the democratic party has chosen (thank god) to also follow.

by eepa 2006-11-28 10:18PM | 0 recs

Well said, Adam. :)

by Laurin from SC 2006-11-28 06:51PM | 0 recs
Re: In Defense Of The South, the Big Tent, and Dem

Yes I did....starting it with "I really like Ed Kilgore."

That's like taking a dump in your own front yard for all to see.

by Liberal Avenger 2006-12-01 07:26AM | 0 recs
Re: In Defense Of The South, the Big Tent, and Dem

Right on Adam.  For example, the Democrats won 63 House seats in the South in this last election and our majority in the House depends on those 63 seats.  Likewise, the Webb pick-up in Virginia is the difference in the Senate.  But in Presidential politics developing a strategy around winning in the South is an unnecessary distration.  Al Gore was a Southern candidate.  He didn't win one State in the South, except Maryland.  If he had won in New Hampshire, he would have beat Bush.    

by gunnar 2006-12-01 05:02PM | 0 recs


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