WS>>The Democrats' Southern strategy

carl william spitzer iv cwsiv_2nd at JUNO.COM
Mon Mar 29 17:24:18 MST 2004


              Georgia  Sen. Zell Miller shocked his fellow  Demo-
     crats  when  he came out swinging at  the  party's  would-be
     standard-bearers  for  the 2004 presidential  contest.  Last
     week, he said he couldn't trust any of the Democratic candi-
     dates  in the race and suggested that the country  would  be
     imperiled if any one of them somehow found his way into  the
     White  House.  Over  the weekend, a few  of  the  Democratic
     candidates  reminded the Southern part of the  country  that
     they are not interested in their votes.

              Political  pandemonium erupted when former  Vermont
     Gov.  Howard Dean stated, "I still want to be the  candidate
     for  guys  with Confederate flags in their  pickup  trucks."
     Perhaps  not  the best choice of words, but  his  point  was
     clear  enough: Mr. Dean thinks his support for capital  pun-
     ishment and gun-ownership rights will make him appealing  to
     conservative  Southern voters despite his liberal  positions
     on  most other issues. Other Democratic candidates took  aim
     and  fired immediately. "If I said I wanted to be  the  can-
     didate for people that ride around with helmets and  swasti-
     kas, I would be asked to leave," said the Rev. Al  Sharpton.
     "I would rather be the candidate of the NAACP than the NRA,"
     said  Massachusetts  Sen.  John Kerry.  Missouri  Rep.  Dick
     Gephardt  claimed  that Mr. Dean was pandering  to  elements
     "who disagree with us on bedrock values like civil rights."

              It didn't occur to any of the Democratic candidates
     that their attacks on Mr. Dean came at the expense of paint-
     ing  all Southerners as racists. Mr. Miller  maintains  that
     most national Democrats do not understand the South and make
     campaign  strategies based on the notion that  the  Southern
     vote  "can go to hell." As he told Tim Russert on "Meet  the
     Press"  two days ago: "The South right now, if you took  its
     economy, it would be the third largest in the world, next to
     the  United States as a whole and next to Japan.  Fifty-five
     hundred  African-Americans  right  now hold  office  in  the
     South . . . This is not the South that Howard Dean thinks it
     is. Sure, we drive pickups, but on the back of those pickups
     you  see  a lot of American flags. It's the  most  patriotic
     region in the country."

              Elections  are being held in Mississippi  and  Ken-
     tucky  today,  and more will take place  in  Louisiana  next
     week.  All  three are historically  Democratic  states,  but
     their  electorates are leaning toward picking up  Republican
     governors  ? a signal that Democrats are not in  touch  with
     many  traditional constituencies. In Saturday's  Des  Moines
     Register, Howard Dean suggested, "We can't beat George  Bush
     unless we appeal to a broad cross-section of Democrats." His
     Democratic competitors seem to disagree.

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