Rebels and Friends
I was at this panel at Kosvegas. It was brutal. There's nothing uglier to me than progressives who can't get along, and it's totally true, people were shouting and I worried for a moment there would be blows.
There are two issues that trouble me. The first is that I agree with Mudcat's assertion that it's ethically and morally incorrect to just pack up and ditch progressives and liberals in the South. I have many liberal Southern friends, and I can't want for them to be condemned for life in some kind of modern Gilead. I really respected Dean for pointing out that poor black lesbians like me have more in common with NASCAR dads than they do with elites like Bush. But it's hard work to make that argument stick, and I not familiar enough with Southern culture and regional politics to say how it should be done.
The second issue is one of resources. Plain and simple, the Democrats have less with which they must do more. The fact that the Republicans basically control most of the media means the Democrats are not just fighting right wing campaigns, but also an +8 year history of pro-Republican propaganda in the form of "news" permeating all aspects of our media. I hear it's even worse in the South, in the sense that the Republican party hardly has to spend any of that slush money to get local papers to support Bush and his policies. So the idea of that the Democrats are just wasting their money on ads in the South resonates with me.
I agree with the idea that the way to turn the South blue again is to start in more urban areas. That's where the growth in population is, that's where the transplant liberals are, that's where the racial hatreds are lesser. Schaller has the numbers to back it up, and as in so many parts of the electorate, it's not really that many percentage points the Democrats have to make up. Proper mobilization of the African-American base plus successful GOTV drives targeting middle class whites in urban areas spells Democratic victory. I think combining such efforts with Dean's 'reach out to the Rebel' strategy could really work. However, it must be Southern Democrats who do this; it was more than clear to me that most Southerners at the panel speaking in favor of Mudcat's position really don't like to be told what to do by nonSouthern strategists.
I was unhappy to be the first person in that room that day to bring up the other big problem we have in the South: religion. I scolded all the panel members for gabbing on without making mention of it once. If the Democrats can't speak in authentic Southern tones and demonstrate respect for the role religion plays in the South, they're lost.
I think a part of what could work includes Democrats taking back the religious communities one church at a time. More Southern Democrats need to stress that the values of Christ make caring for the poor, peace and justice top priorities. I don't see a lot of that happening, and I don't know why. As an atheist, I'm more than happy for that kind of religious speech to be part of the political process. Democrats need to remember that today's conservative movement started in the churches, and that today, many truly Christian people are sick and tired of the hypocrisy and hatefulness of their leaders. I've blogged before on various internal fights in certain churches over issues like gay rights and ordaining women, and there's no reason why we can't take those wedges and drive them in deeper.
We can take back the South politically, and more. I honestly believe there are plenty of Southerners who aren't happy at all with things like how the military is being used up in Iraq, the loss of civil liberties, the loss of middle class jobs, or the corporatization of family farms into factory ones. It's not impossible, it will just take time. Real Democratic leadership will realize that we can walk and chew gum at the same time, and effectively use our resources outside the South to win in 08 and at the same time continue to develop our communities at ground level in the South. I really don't understand why that seems so hard.