Dems: Forget the South

Democratic Party, Republican Party

How much the Democratic Party should even bother with the South has been a favorite topic of progressive conferences going back a few years. Michael Tomasky makes a good point that Dems have more to lose than to gain by trying to appeal to southern voters. “Practically the whole region has rejected nearly everything that’s good about this country and has become just one big nuclear waste site of choleric, and extremely racialized, resentment,” he says.

With Landrieu’s departure, the Democrats will have no more senators from the Deep South, and I say good. Forget about it. Forget about the whole fetid place. Write it off. Let the GOP have it and run it and turn it into Free-Market Jesus Paradise.

For presidential elections the Dems need Florida and Virginia, and maybe North Carolina, but from the congressional level on down Dems shouldn’t waste money on southern races except in extraordinary circumstances, Tomasky says.

Trying to win Southern seats is not worth the ideological cost for Democrats. As Memphis Rep. Steve Cohen recently told my colleague Ben Jacobs, the Democratic Party cannot (and I’d say should not) try to calibrate its positions to placate Southern mores: “It’s come to pass, and really a lot of white Southerners vote on gays and guns and God, and we’re not going to ever be too good on gays and guns and God.” …

… It’s lost. It’s gone. A different country. And maybe someday it really should be. I’ll save that for another column. Until that day comes, the Democratic Party shouldn’t bother trying. If they get no votes from the region, they will in turn owe it nothing, and in time the South, which is the biggest welfare moocher in the world in terms of the largesse it gets from the more advanced and innovative states, will be on its own, which is what Southerners always say they want anyway.

Probably for the best.

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  1. Swami  •  Dec 9, 2014 @3:40 am

    Thomasky sounds like a defeatist crybaby.. blaming the whole southern region for the shortcomings of the democratic political machine. Case in point—This past November in Florida there was a ballot initiative to legalize medical marijuana. State and National polls indicted an above 70% approval rating for the decriminalization of marijuana and the legalization of medical marijuana, and yet when it came down to the ballot box in Florida it was defeated by a 48 to 52% margin.
    So it would seem to me that the problem isn’t in the will of the people, but in the messaging and motivating of the voters. The guns and God issues also fall within the realm of a minority controlling the majority view by having a more disciplined and dedicated base to turn out the vote. It’s the Democrat’s political machine where the failure to win elections occurs.
    This past November the Dems didn’t even field a Senate Candidate in my Congressional district. I had a choice between an Repug and a Libertarian or a NPA who wasn’t on the ballot, so a vote for the NPA was a no vote. I voted for the NPA candidate anyway because I will never vote for a Repug, and a libertarian is just a Repug in disguise. What does it say for the Democratic party when they have troops in the field who have to toss away their vote because headquarters couldn’t supply them with a candidate?

  2. c u n d gulag  •  Dec 9, 2014 @9:25 am

    I liked Howard Dean’s “50 State Strategy.”
    But the problem was that the Red Dog (I don’t call ’em ‘Blue,’ ’cause there ain’t nothin’ ‘Blue’ ’bout ’em!) Democrats who got elected into Congress pretty much voted like Republicans.
    So, what was the point?
    Yeah, sure, they helped on some thing’s – but, too often they forced good progressive legislation to be adjusted to the right, so that it would get their ConservaDem votes.

    I’d be ok with letting the South go completely.
    But, one of the problems is that most of our major military bases are down there – and named after treasonous traitorous Secesh Generals.

    I say, pull the military bases up North – with any nukes that may be down there – and abandon the South.

    Another problem is, the “South” keeps creeping-up North. WI, of all places, could end up as the Mississippi of the Northern states.

    So, the problem isn’t really the South as a region, itself.
    The problem is the white, anti-government, bigoted, overly-Christian, Confederacy-leaning mindset in rural regions.

    As much as I’d like to say, “Fuck ’em! Let ‘The South’ go!!!”, the main problem is that outside of every urban and suburban area in the country in most states, that mentality surrounds the Blue areas. And the people who live there are very similar to the Deep South’s rural folks – just colder, and more warmly dressed.

    Here’s a Red v. Blue map of the 2012 Presidential election results:

    THAT, scares the pee out of me.

    No, as much as I’d love to say, “Let them go!!!,” we can’t.
    The “Them” surround the us.

    The Democratic Party needs to go more populist, and key in on economic issues that affect the middle class.
    A rising middle class tide is the only tide that will lift all boats.

    And sure, people have voted for a long time for Republicans even though it’s against their own best interests, but Democrats can’t focus just on issues on the poor, minorities, women, and gays, and hope to get elected.

    A solid middle class will allow for less social strife, because when you and your family are comfortable and secure, you look around at inequality, and wonder why others can’t have some of the same comfort and security – and that only comes from things being more equal.
    Look at the social changes for the good (or at least, better) after WWII – all because the middle class was growing and more getting more secure.
    The 1960’s are the high point for social change for the better and more equal – except, of course, for the recent advances of Gay people – and everything since then, was a backlash by conservatives and hyper-Christians. Aided and abetted by an ever worsening economy for the middle class.
    And that, was done on purpose, by the conservatives and Republicans.

    Enough of this endless string of word-turds.
    I’ll just finish by saying that we can’t let the South go.
    At least not until the bigoted Confederate Southern mentality is confined to the South.
    Right now, ‘The South,’ is all around our urban areas.
    So, who really had “The 50 State Strategy?”
    It looks like the Republicans did.

    And maybe, by being more progressive, the Democrats can broaden the areas around the Blue urban and suburban areas.

    Until then, to borrow from “Pogo,” ‘We have met the Confederate enemy and it is us.”

    Boy, talk about a jerk talking in circles.
    Time to go!

  3. Bill Bush  •  Dec 9, 2014 @10:07 am

    If the Deomocrats run actual Democrats instead of the likes of Hagan and Landrieu, they can at least claim the moral high ground. It will lure the despicables into even more openly proclaiming their “values” and crowing about their disgusting policies. If a Democrat will not stand up with President Obama, to hell with him. One does not placate pirañas.

  4. Ed  •  Dec 9, 2014 @10:42 am

    The best hope for Democrats to win back Southern seats in Congress is to have a Republican in the White House, something which will happen sooner or later.

  5. Dan  •  Dec 9, 2014 @11:34 am

    I say run real Democrats with democratic ideals in the South, fund them reasonably, and let the chips fall. If the Dems would only quit hiding and actually present their ideas in a realistic fashion, eventually even Americans would get the message. Grid knows the “liberal media” will never present them in an even-handed manner.
    Republicans are insufferably clever. Dumb as rocks, but they sure can get their way. One only hopes there will be intelligent people left to raise the nation out of the ashes they produce.

  6. uncledad  •  Dec 9, 2014 @11:53 am

    I was glad to see Landrieu lose. I would have bet money that had she won she would have had switched parties and caucused with the republicants ala Billy Tauzin. In fact I won’t be suprised to see Manchin and or Donnelly (my senator) do the same. I agree with Tomasky on the south: “It’s lost. It’s gone. A different country. “

  7. grannyeagle  •  Dec 9, 2014 @12:43 pm

    Let the South go? Isn’t that what they wanted to do in the mid-1800s and we wouldn’t let them go? I can just hear ol” Abe rolling over in his grave. I lived in Florida for 8 mos. and in NC for 3 mos., in Indiana for almost 40 years, in California for 17 years and now in WA for the past 8 years. People are the same everywhere. It’s not the region, it’s the mentality. When you meet people in the south, the first question is “What church do you go to?” Although I do admit that was not quite so prominent in FL. What is the reason they are so set in their ways and their ways seem to be the Republican’s ways? I’m not sure but I really do think they feel they are special. Whether it has to do with their history of slavery or religion or something else, I haven’t figured out cause I know everywhere I go, there are people who think like them. And even the poor people in the south supported slavery, simply because as long as there were slaves, they could feel superior.
    I feel like I’m rambling or digressing or something so I will just say (IMHO) it is not the region, the Dems or Repubs, it is the system and both parties are supporting the system and it needs to be changed. But it will not be changed until the consciousness of the people is raised. I think it is happening but it seems like it is taking too long.

  8. Stephen Stralka  •  Dec 9, 2014 @1:51 pm

    I somewhat agree, but there are two different things here. One is the question of the Dems’ prospects in the South, and there I agree there’s no point wasting resources on unwinnable races. But then there’s just basic hostility in statements like “Forget about the whole fetid place.”

    Which is misplaced, I would say, because Tomasky himself touches on the real issue: racialized resentment. This is hardly exclusive to the South, even if it is heavily concentrated there. If you focus on bigotry and xenophobia as the real issues, it makes it a little bit easier to avoid degenerating into tribal warfare.

    Or then again maybe not, because we seem to be at a point now where terms like “bigot” are seen as slurs against white people. I was also interested by Tomasky’s other column about how Landrieu got pilloried for even mentioning that racism exists. We can’t give any ground there, because racialized resentment is a problem that must be addressed. But we don’t need to conflate racialized resentment with the South.

  9. csm  •  Dec 9, 2014 @1:55 pm

    Instead of saying “let it go,” I’d put it another way: they should not make winning the south a priority. Run candidates, but when they do, it should only be for real progressive candidates who will likely lose, but at least may have a chance at pushing the progressive message ball forward; getting it out there, over time. Far too often we put up candidates who think mimicking the right wing candidate is the way to win, but at the end of the day, when given the choice, voters there are going to go with the real thing, rather than the “lite” version.

    The question is, how long will the people there be placated with the gays, guns and God triumvirate of negativity, while wallowing in the conservative hell hole these states have become? By continuing to run progressive candidates, eventually, when the people down there get tired of being last in everything positive, and first in everything negative, just maybe some of these messages will resonate. But it can’t happen if the region is abandoned.

  10. LongHairedWeirdo  •  Dec 9, 2014 @2:21 pm

    In a perfect world, I wouldn’t kiss off the south, but I would change the (expletive) out of tactics. I would draw a strong dividing line.

    “I know how hard it is to find a good job to earn enough to pay for good food for your children. That’s why I’m pushing for an expansion of food stamps to help more working parents make ends meet. Because we need to grow the economy, but to do that, we need to help our children grow strong, healthy bodies! My opponent wants to kill food stamps, because he doesn’t want ‘big government’ helping make sure you put food in your children’s mouths!”

    You’ll lose. But the next candidate can say the same thing, and this time, it’s not some crazy, wild-eyed leftist rant. It’s the same thing we discussed last election.

    I’d also start complaining about the “corporate media celebrating the starvation of America’s children!” But only among those crazy “nut-roots” until it becomes spoken of frequently enough that you can say “I know I’m going to get in *big* trouble talking about this, but hang it all, we need to discuss this push to starve the children of America!”

    What you can’t do is say “I’m almost as good as a Republican” because that’s both self-defeating, and frankly, a bit pathetic. It’s like renting a Lamborghini to go with your off-the-rack suit from K-Mart and your RoleTimex, so you pretend to be a big spender to impress a woman. (“Girl”? Yeah, to impress a girl. If you want to impress a woman, you try to be yourself – your best, most impressive self.)

    The problem is, it’s expensive to run, and you can’t easily ask people to run just to lose. Especially not with as pathetic and spineless a message the Democrats tend to present.

    (I’m sorry. I’m tired, cranky, and very cynical right now.)

  11. truthbetold  •  Dec 9, 2014 @4:23 pm

    The Dem Elite is corporatist neolib, anti-white worker, anti-black worker.
    So what else is new?

  12. uncledad  •  Dec 9, 2014 @4:37 pm
  13. Michael  •  Dec 9, 2014 @6:48 pm

    While it would never happen, it would be funny if Washington just said, ‘You know, you guys were right– we should have allowed you guys to secede– so, from this day forward, you southern states are no longer a part of the Union.’

    –and see how quickly they come running back. Just let me leave Tennessee first!

  14. Doug  •  Dec 9, 2014 @10:51 pm

    Tomasky observes correctly that the South, at least a majority of voter in the region, have adopted a set of political values which democrats can’t come to terms with. His argument, on the premise that there are limited resources in a national election, is that democrats should write off the South. Realistically, can we expect that we can ‘educate’ Southern voters to adopt different values? Or can we adopt different values to field more acceptable candidates? Democrats who oppose all abortion and think global warming is a hoax. Tomasky thinks it’s better to write off the region than to recruit conservative democrats in the region with Southern regional values. I agree.

    The question becomes – if we write off the South, how do we get back a majority in the Congress? Demographics are shifting rapidly and we can win in places where we weren’t competitive before. And we can compete and lose in states where the demographics are shifting in our favor. I agree.

    What Tomasky doesn’t address is that the social issue hot-button topics which mobilize the GOP base aren’t turning out democrats or moderate independents. Economic populism is a step in the right direction but IMO, the elephant in the room as far as voter turnout is concerned, is honest government. Voters like me believe that the democratic machine is sold out to corporate interests. They happen to be different corporate interests than the GOP sold out to.

    If the Democratic Party wants to electrify voters, they should commit to honest government – with specific features that bar retired politicians from taking jobs as lobbyists (democrats do it, too) making PACS honest, promoting a Constitutional Amendment to reverse Citizen United. If the democratic party wants to sweep, they should consider something radical – honest government that represents the people. It won’t happen because the democratic party is just as corrupt as the republican party – we do have some democratic leadership who aren’t sold out and even the sold-out democrats will throw crumbs to the poor, which the GOP is against. But the condition which fuels voter apathy isn’t issues – it’s a lack of principle in either major party.

  15. Z  •  Dec 10, 2014 @1:06 am

    They refuse to fund elections here, but they blithely phone me and try to dun me for cash to fund races in other states. They say to my face — well, ear — that I, too, should consider those races more important than the situation where I live. This is rude and disingenuous of them, to say the least.

    It would be important to present a clear alternative, as was pointed out above.

  16. Doug  •  Dec 10, 2014 @4:16 pm

    OT – and thinking about the torture report..Uncledad – nice link. Thinking about testimony in the report.. many top officials like Powell were in the dark about the full nature of the program. The White House and particularly Chenney not only knew – they were involved in the legal justification and the funding to independent companies and the bribes of foreign officials where the black sites were.

    Which brings me to the argument of GOP purists who deny the right of the president to interpret the laws he’s sworn to uphold. Does that mean that Obama should hold Bush and Chenney responsible for the program of torture they have publicly endorsed and defended and records show they created? Maybe the defenders of enhanced interrogation would approve it if the former president was abducted by the CIA and flown to a foreign site, where, unlike the victims of their program, the former POTUS and VP would stand trial for crimes against humanity, murder, and war crimes. All according to the law Obama is sworn to uphold and in accord with the rules that the former president and VP wrote.

  17. Swami  •  Dec 10, 2014 @7:56 pm

    Don’t even go there, Doug.. They did it all for us. Greater love hath no man then to torture or give a rectal feeding to an innocent man all for the sake of his fellow countrymen. I’m with Bush on this one.. we owe a debt of gratitude of all those patriots who tortured in our name.

  18. Bonnie  •  Dec 10, 2014 @10:12 pm

    Off Topic – Watching Chris Hayes and he just had a former police officer who commented regarding how police forces protect their own. I would like refer every one to a 70s book and movie called, “Serpico”. It shows how if their is a police officer who is not corrupt and wants to stop/fix the corruption within the police force, this officer will be met with efforts from the corrupt officers–which is at every level–to stop him by ostracizing the honest cop at minimum or attempting to kill the honest cop if it becomes necessary. (The movie has one of Al Pacino’s finest performances–which is neither here nor there; I am a movie buff.) All kinds of protocols/procedures which would give us a better picture of what happened were broken to save Darren Wilson. Wilson’s eventual testimony seemed really, really well-rehearsed to me; and, I don’t believe a word he said except that he has no remorse for what he did. It appears to me that nothing has changed in American policing since Serpico–nothing.

  19. paradoctor  •  Dec 11, 2014 @3:09 pm

    I say, follow the Right’s playbook. Keep at it, take risky stands, lose big for principle if need be, and thereby move the Overton Window leftwards.

  20. Swami  •  Dec 11, 2014 @6:52 pm

    Well, I’m all for tossing the South off.. after all ,the women in Texas can always go to some northern liberal state to exercise their reproductive rights. I mean, if they have to travel 200 hundred miles and jump through hoops of discouragement in doing so, they might as well go the extra 500 miles or so to enjoy the rights that are supposed to belong to them.

  21. Monty  •  Dec 13, 2014 @3:56 pm

    I agree with what posters have already said on this thread, notably that Tomasky sounds like a crybaby. While leaving the South to its own devices does have a certain fuck you & wash my hands of it appeal, its not like the “Southern mentality” doesn’t exist everywhere, and it is certainly not the case that the South will just sit back and leave the North alone; if anything, that cancer, not needing to expend any resources at home, will simply metastasize further and faster, expanding ever outwards.

  22. ronspri  •  Dec 14, 2014 @3:24 pm

    I have long considered how we could let them go. I have no real desire to push my values and ethics on them but I also have no desire to be a part of theirs. I want them to have what they want but I don’t want to be a part of it.
    There are a number of issues involved in making it two countries. Certainly things that would need some discussion but I think its worth the discussion. I for one will never ever go with what the rightisas are offering now, not to my dying day.

  23. ronspri  •  Dec 14, 2014 @3:29 pm

    I think at this point I agree with those who are saying to just run the real thing. Conserva dems are a proven failure-there aren’t any left down there- so there is nothing to lose and everything to gain.

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