Monday, December 18, 2006

Whistling Past Dixie

A great post on this subject by digby, which includes this quote:

The very heart of his argument is a taboo notion: that the South votes Republican because the Republicans have perfected their appeal to Southern racism, and that Democrats simply can't (and shouldn't) compete.

But, among scholars, this is hardly news. Schaller builds this conclusion on one of the most impressive papers in recent political science, "Old Times There Are Not Forgotten: Race and Partisan Realignment in the Contemporary South," by Nicholas Valentino and David Sears. Running regressions on a massive data set of ideological opinions, Sears and Valentino demonstrate with precision that, for example, a white Southern man who calls himself a "conservative," controlling for racial attitudes, is no less likely to chance a vote for a Democratic presidential candidate than a Northerner who calls himself a conservative. Likewise, a pro-life or hawkish Southern white man is no less likely--again controlling for racial attitudes--than a pro-life or hawkish Northerner to vote for the Democrat. But, on the other hand, when the relevant identifier is anti-black answers to survey questions (such as whether one agrees "If blacks would only try harder, they could be just as well off as whites," or choosing whether blacks are "lazy" or "hardworking"), an untoward result jumps out: white Southerners are twice as likely than white Northerners to refuse to vote for the Democratic presidential candidate. Schaller's writes: "Despite the best efforts of Republican spinmeisters ... the partisan impact of racial attitudes in the South is stronger today than in the past."
I think what is important to keep in mind here is that while racism exists everywhere, it's more likely to make you a Republican in the South than elsewhere.

I am definitely of the opinion that the Democratic party should not dilute its brand by attempting to appeal to those who for reasons of racism or tribal identity are very difficult to persuade. There's too much to be gained among too many other groups to be sidetracked by the quest for the Confederate battle flag.

Of course, I think the Democratic party should have a presence and fight everywhere. But when figuring out what positions to take nationally, we should not try to chase the "Southern vote" off a rightward cliff. I think the last election showed that the Democrats can form a majority coalition with only limited encroachments into the more liberal areas in this region (e.g. Virginia, Florida). Let the Republicans be the fundie, racist, xenophobic, homophobic party they've spent so much effort and propaganda becoming. All those hot-button "family values" issues they've "turned out the base" with. Good for them. Yes, it won them some elections, but it's demographic doom. Angry white folk aren't breeding fast enough (despite the efforts of these weirdos) to make it work.


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