Leonardo"s Notebook by Mattheus Mei

I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.

Monday, January 07, 2008

The revenge of the Dixiecrats

*Outside the Statehouse in Columbia is a statue to one of South Carolina’s most infamous politicians – Strom Thurmond. On the base of the statue an attempt was made to correct the number of children the late Senator sired, it’s ruddy to say the least, and an insult really to the woman who, sadly, was his ‘worst kept secret’.

I mention this to allude to the very difficult task that faces the Democratic Party in the months ahead. In a previous post I’ve come out in favour of Barak Obama as my party’s candidate for President. And as I stated it wasn’t with out much soul searching and thinking, a part of which – I must admit I was concerned of the electability of an African-American. In regards to Iowa the pundits have said how incredible it is in a state which is over 96% white that a person of colour should get such overwhelming support is a sign times are changing and that perhaps now is the time America would have her first Minority President in the person of Mr. Obama. Yet beneath this have been whispers. Many have challenged, openly in different language and for different reasons the margin say between Mr. Obama and Mr. Edwards – ‘Well there was confusion about polling places’ etc, etc. Early on Mr. Biden was chided for making comments about Mr. Obama and cleanliness. Recently Mrs. Clinton has had to reprimand and dismiss some staffers for comments about Mr. Obama’s religion. That was of course in Iowa and not within the borders of the old confederacy.

Within these borders those events are interpreted differently and with very little spin even no spin they become more than just unfortunate gaffes. Don’t believe me, ask the ever shrinking minority of white democrats in South Carolina – you’d be surprised to find anyone over the age of 40 who identifies themselves as a democrat who will vote for Mr. Obama. I recently traveled to one of South Carolina’s more entrenched democratic districts – District 5 home of John Spratt. In this district, especially in certain parts the word Republican is anathema and a guarantee not to be elected – on any level. Yet, there the support for a candidate is drawn along not party lines but racial lines. Before Mrs. Clinton ever dreamed of firing her aides if you asked a white democrat who they were going to vote for they would say Mr. Edwards. When asked why not Mr. Obama they would say it was because he was a Muslim. If you worked through that veneer they would say it was because he was raised Muslim. After continuing to talk to the person and standing firm on correcting misconceptions it begins to become clear what really bothers them is Mr. Obama’s race.

These blue-dog democrats, as they’re sometimes called (if they're southern they're descendents of Mr. Thurmond's Dixcrat Party), won’t vote for Mr. Obama in the primary, and if – as the pundits and others are predicting, Mr. Obama has a solid victory in New Hampshire it will rally the African American’s around his banner which will definitely tip the South Carolina in his favor. As reported in Politico:

“It’s still possible to win or take a close second in New Hampshire, but if the turnout even begins to mirror what happened in Iowa, all bets are off,” said a Clinton adviser, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The adviser added that the campaign has come to accept another reality of the early process, which is that African-American voters are convinced that Obama is viable and are shifting rapidly in his direction. “We’re going to lose South Carolina,” he said.

This of course would be a boon for Obama, and would tip many other states within Dixie who also have sizable African American communities towards the Obama Camp and might even follow up in other states with sizeable minority majorities still loyal to the Democratic Party.

So where’s the problem? Well sadly – although I won’t hold out hope against it, it doesn’t matter if Mr. Obama gathers momentum in the primaries and wins the nomination - the “Southern Block” in the general election will glow Red with electoral votes for the Republican party. The problem at that time will be those same blue-dog democrats who will vote against the party for the Republican because of that nagging ideology that persists in the backs of their minds, sure a few may actually break and ‘tow the party line’ but I wouldn’t be surprised to see a spike in the popular votes within Dixie for the opposition. But still that’s not the concern dejour. My concern is for those pesky swing states, specifically those along the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers.

A little over 140 years ago they were considered border states with the Union’s angry slaveholding stepchild to the South – the Confederacy. Those borders are ideologically pourous and it’s no wonder when James Carville, aka the Ragin’ Cajun, says of Pennsylvania:

“You’ve got Philadelphia at one end of the state, Pittsburgh at the other end, and Alabama in the middle.”

And it’s said by many that there are more Rednecks in Southern Ohio than some Southern locales. Even now the Dayton Daily News sees Obama not winning against McCain or Huckabee, who are considered now so early in the season as the golden contenders in this new frontier of politicking, in either Ohio or even the ‘Yankee enclave’ known as Florida.

Huckabee (R) and Obama (D)
Huckabee: 43 percent
Obama: 43 percent
Undecided: 14 percent
McCain (R) and Obama (D)
McCain: 45 percent
Obama: 42 percent
Undecided: 14 percent

But I’m not trying to be a prophet of Doom. If anything the sheer numbers of people that came out at the Iowa caucus for Obama and those being reported in the days since waiting in line to see the man who could be our next President gives one hope. As Politico reported:

In Iowa, Clinton aides have said she drew levels of support that might have been enough to win in an ordinary year, but she was swamped in the stunning turnout produced by Obama’s popularity among young voters.

If this mass showing translates beyond just showing up at primaries to the general election it could balance out with those blue dogs that will end up jumping ship or perhaps the better phrase is revealing their true colours. It’s something I trust Mr. Obama and his staffers as well as members of the DNC and other power brokers within the Party have already taken into consideration.
*First picture is from the South Carolina State House Website
Second Picture is from Free Time's
The Map is from Wikipedia and is free to be used.

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