Friday, December 01, 2006


This dude, Thomas Shaller, who's written an important new book ("Whistling Past Dixie: How Democrats Can Win Without the South"), was featured on C-SPAN's "Washington Journal" a week ago Wednesday, and he was a fascinating guy to listen to ... especially coming just days after the election and the Democrats' complete sweep of our own Watauga County, which, last time we checked, IS in the South, even if it's in that part of the South where the ground's uneven. (The C-SPAN website lists the Shaller program as still available -- in fact, as one of its "most viewed" recent programs -- but I've been unable to get it to play on my machine. Oh well.)

Shaller's main point (and you'll forgive me if I get overly academic here, in keeping with Shaller's profession as an academic political scientist) is "F**k the South. It's racist, backward, and basically uninterested in the full fruits of democracy."

Or, as summarized by Rick Perlstein in the New Republic, "The South is likely to become more Republican in the decades ahead," and Democrats can make and keep the Republicans a mere regional party, and the best shot at a Democratic majority "in the immediate term is to consolidate electoral control over the Northeast and Pacific Coast blue states, expand the party's Midwestern margins, and cultivate the new-growth areas of the interior West."

The South is getting more bigoted, more backward, more "conservative" if "conservative" means willfully ignorant, according to Shaller, and that's a message I'm not particularly eager to hear, coming off the biggest Democratic win locally since the 1st decade of the 20th century. Nobody I know wants to hear that. Like, "Psst! The place where you live basically doesn't matter in the greater scheme of American democracy. In fact, the commonweal would be better off without it."

Yet, what if Professor Shaller is right (as Perlstein vociferously argues in the New Republic column linked above ... free registration required)? What if Hillary Clinton can afford to lose the entire South in 2008 and still win the presidency? "For the first time since 1953, the party that dominates the South is the minority party in Congress," Perlstein notes, as though that settles EVERYTHING about the future: "The South is simply irrelevant now for the future political direction of the nation."

I can't accept that. Although I thought Shaller was a bright fellow and well worth listening to, I don't want him to be right. I don't want the local victories of 2006 to be written off
finally as "how the Democrats lost the South (and good riddance)." I don't want Rahm Emanuel empowered. I want Howard Dean empowered.

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