“The Last Southern Democrat”

Without question, it must really suck to be Mary Landrieu right now, and I can only imagine the angst being experienced by her staff and campaign operatives as they work insane hours on the road to unemployment. But in truth, her political demise was pretty predictable given the various forces driving Louisiana into reliable red-state status, from a declining African-American population to an unwholesome dependence on the fossil fuel industry.

What must be unendurable to Team Landrieu, though, is to spend time they don’t have dealing with journalists who want to preserve her campaign in amber as, to use Molly Ball’s unfortunate phrase, “The Last Southern Democrat.” Coming up with that all-too-typical descriptor means, of course (a) excluding at least two states of the former Confederacy, Virginia and Florida, from “the South;” (b) ignoring non-state-wide Democratic elected officials, particularly those, like Tennessee’s Steve Cohen, who don’t fit the “moderate-to-conservative” stereotype; (c) ignoring people of color (a distressingly familiar and evil habit of those who seem to assume “southern” means “white southern”); and (d) assuming the latest political trends came down on stone tablets from Mount Sinai.

This last item is annoying to those of us who have been hearing of the imminent demise of southern Democrats for damn near a half-century. Maybe it’s finally happening now–again, if you limit your view to white voters and statewide contests and some idea of the “real South”–but maybe there are forces operating under the surface that will make the apotheosis of the Dixiecrats-turned-GOPers a short-lived phenomenon. In the mean time, let’s please have less Gone With the Wind nostalgia about the good old days when 90% of southern black folks dutifully supported whatever kind of Democrat 40% of southern white folks could be convinced to vote for.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.