Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Liberals in the South: Don't Write Us Off

Should the Democratic Party fight to regain the South or write it off?

Probably shouldn't ask a Kentuckian right now, given that we're still nursing hurt feelings over being the one and only state in the nation without a Barack Obama campaign headquarters.

But Thomas Schaller and Bob Moser are debating the proposition in Salon, and it's hard to find two more opposite views of Democratic politics in the South.

(More after the jump.)

Schaller, of course, is the author of "Whistling Past Dixie: How Democrats Can Win Without The South", the book that advised the national Democratic Party to abandon southern red states to the wingnut freakazoids and concentrate on wooing the purple West.

Moser makes precisely the opposite case in his book, "Blue Dixie: Awakening the South's Democratic Majority", arguing that Democrats can't win national elections without the South.

Schaller is a patronising jerk, with his "that rarest of all birds, the white southern liberal!" condescension. Just among my limited acquaintance in my small rural county, there are at least a dozen white southern liberals - and half of them are middle-aged men. No, that wasn't enough to carry our county for Obama (though he did take several precincts), but we aren't museum specimens for northerners to gawk at, either.

As Molly Ivins often wrote, there's nothing in this world tougher than a Southern liberal. We've fought the bullies and their dead-wrong politics our entire lives, and can out-debate any Bible-Belt wingnut while simultaneously drinking a clutch of DLC pundits under the table.

But Moser isn't much better, implying that southerners have to be bribed into the Democratic column with economic goodies, rather than persuaded by force of argument. He also puts a little too much faith in demographic change and underestimates how vicious the freakazoid wingnuts are going to get as they see their power slipping away.

Here's the truth every Southern liberal knows, and the point that Schaller, Moser and every other hand-wringing Democratic pundit is missing: the politics that will win back the South is the same politics that will win and keep the East, North, West and Middle:

Democrats that stand tall on their hind legs and proud for real American values: the rule of law, equal opportunity, good jobs at good pay, public education, health and safety at home and at work, peace and prosperity.

It's the only thing that works. It's the only thing that ever has.

Cross-posted at Blue in the Bluegrass.