LOSING THE SOUTH….And then there were none: John Breaux has announced he won’t run for reelection, bringing the number of retiring Senate Democrats to five. This is bad, bad news for us Dems.

America has long been a naturally Republican country, but for a hundred years after the Civil War this was balanced by the fact that the South was solidly Democratic ? but for entirely idiosyncratic reasons, not ideological ones. If the South had voted as Republican as it should have, the Democratic party would have had a small majority perhaps twice in the 20th century and Republicans would have controlled Congress for the other 90 years.

Demographic trends may indeed be moving in the Democrats’ direction, but at the same time the Republicanization of the South is still in progress. If it continues to its natural conclusion, 80-90% of the South will shortly be in Republican hands and Democrats will be locked out of the majority in Congress for a long time.

Like it or not, this means that the Democratic party has to appeal to the South. It’s possible that a Democrat can win the presidency without the South ? Al Gore almost did it ? but Congress is out of reach unless we’re at least competitive there. This is one among several reasons that I support Wesley Clark’s candidacy: I think he can help us win congressional races in the South. Howard Dean may have had the right idea with his pickups and Confederate flag remark, but Clark is the guy who can actually pull it off.

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