Sunday, June 12, 2005Congressman Glen Browder (via EDM) is telling Democrats that they need to stop analyzing the problem of the South and come up with concrete strategies for dealing with our persistent weakness there. Then he proceeds to do precisely what he is criticizing: discuss the nature of the Southern problem for pages (and pages) without giving us anything new. The only specific advice he does give is to look to the example of politicians like Brian Schweitzer, who has crafted a rural-friendly brand of liberalism. This after he has been emphasizing the uniqueness of Southern politics, and how solutions developed elsewhere are inappropriate to Dixie. Oh well.
Browder does cogently describe the basic strategies for dealing with the Republican Solid South: pretend there's no problem (i.e. it's not that distinct from other rural regions), ignore it to focus on the West, try to grow the liberal base there, and pursue moderates. Browder embraces the last strategy, without really saying how.
What I fail to appreciate is why we can't pursue all of them simultaneously. First, I doubt that we are going to win over the arch-conservative white Southerners, but we may be able to win over those moderates with the same small town, rural strategy that would work in the West. Second, we should surely cultivate liberal infrastructure and candidates - it gives us a bigger base to work with. Third, we shouldn't obsess about the South when there are golden opportunities to win votes in the West. The South is important, but we can't be obsessed with it.
What we should do is build up Democratic institutions everywhere - since they are weakest in the South at present, there would be slightly more emphasis in that region. This approach should be complimented with a New Liberal message directed at moderate, populist voters in more rural regions. That message would probably pay bigger dividends in the West, but it would also likely limit our losses among Southern moderates. Speaking to the white working class is a Democratic imperative everywhere. Southern exceptionalism might mean that we get less out of that region, but it would surely improve our overall position.
So we focus on those Southern voters who are similar to voters we are targetting elsewhere, while fostering a broader liberal base in the region and picking riper fruit. What's so hard about this? Surely we can walk and chew gum at the same time.