Democrats and the South

DEMOCRATS AND THE SOUTH….Should Democrats try to reclaim the South, or should they just give up on the whole region and try to build an electoral majority elsewhere? I bounce back and forth on this. Most of the time I think that of course we need to contest the South: it’s just too big to cede without a fight. But then I begin to think about abortion. And gay rights. And separation of church and state. And racial equality. And labor rights.

And I just give up. Given the way the majority of southerners think about this stuff, how can we win regularly in the South without completely selling our souls?

I don’t know. But one of the many pissing matches provoked by the YearlyKos convention earlier this month turns out to be on exactly this subject. Tom Schaller, who has a book coming out later this year called Whistling Past Dixie: How Democrats Can Win Without the South, was on a panel with famous Southern consultant/rabble rouser Dave ?Mudcat? Saunders and found himself the lone voice arguing, unsurprisingly, that Democrats can win without the South:

Saunders? very livelihood requires him to peddle fictions like the notion that rural, white, Christian, noncollege-educated, married male voters are the key to Democratic resurgence in a country where women, suburban-exurbanites, seculars, college graduates, the unmarried, and minorities become a larger share of the electorate with each passing cycle. Democrat Mark Warner?s victory in the 2001 Virginia governor?s race is most often cited as evidence of the rural strategy?s effectiveness, but a closer look reveals a different story.

Basically, Schaller argues that Warner (and, in 2005, Tim Kaine) won in Virginia by increasing their appeal among moderate suburbanites, not rural conservatives:

It is this model writ large ? winning outside the rural areas and then taking a record of smart, progressive policies to rural voters for their inspection ? which ratifies the strategy of Democrats first building a non-southern majority, governing confidently and successfully, and then appealing to the South, the nation?s most rural, poor, and conservative region.

As for me, I still don’t know. I guess I’ll wait for the book. And Mudcat’s response.