Monday, January 26, 2004

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John Kerry, political idiot

Jake Tapper reports for ABC that John Kerry said he doesn't need the South:

Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., is discounting notions that any Democratic candidate would have to appeal to Southern voters in order to win the presidency, calling such thinking a "mistake" during a speech at Dartmouth College.

Kerry's remarks Saturday were so starkly antithetical to how many southern Democrats feel their party should campaign for the presidency, that a former South Carolina state Democratic chairman told ABCNEWS that Sen. Ernest "Fritz" Hollings, D-S.C., who endorsed Kerry last week, perhaps "ought to reconsider his endorsement."

During a town hall meeting on the Dartmouth campus, Kerry noted that former Vice President Al Gore would be president if he'd won any number of other non-Southern states in 2000, including New Hampshire, West Virginia, and Ohio.

"Everybody always makes the mistake of looking South," Kerry said, in response to a question about winning the region. "Al Gore proved he could have been president of the United States without winning one Southern state, including his own."

"I think the fight is all over this country," Kerry said. "Forget about those red and blue states. We're going to change that now, and we're going to go out there and change the face of America."

Simple question: what the hell was John Kerry thinking?

Let's acknowledge at the outset that Kerry is correct on the facts. If Gore had won just one more state, he would have become president.

Politically, however, this is just stupid. As I've argued previously, the best way for Kerry to knock Edwards and Clark out of the race is to win South Carolina. How is this statement going to help that? Even if Kerry gets the nomination, this regional "f#$k you" is going to haunt him regardless of how many mea culpas the Kerry campaign churns out.

There's a more substantive point, however -- does anyone want a president elected without support across regional boundaries? This applies to Bush as well as the Dems. You want a president to be able to say they command support in the Northeast, South, Midwest and West.

UPDATE: Andrew Sullivan asks:

The cultural divide between the South and the rest of the country is getting pretty yawning. Isn't it equally true that the Republicans have given up on most of the Northeast?

Gotta disagree on both counts. On the former, read Daniel Urman's first-person account of going door-to-door in New Hampshire. As for the Republicans and New England, the Republicans hold five out of the twelve possible Senate seats and five out of the six governors seats. Bush won New Hampshire in 2000. It's Democrat-friendly territory, no doubt, but the Republicans still need to do well there.

UPDATE: Tom Maguire reinforces Tapper's point that Kerry has said this before.

posted by Dan on 01.26.04 at 11:12 AM


This is why I still believe that Howard Dean will win the Democrat nomination. John Kerry is a French speaking “elite university” snob. There’s no way in hell that he can survive a long presidential campaign. The former Vermont governor merely needs to calm down and he will easily capture the prize.

Just a short time ago, Instapundit posted the following:


Sen. John Kerry again repeated his mantra that the United States went to war in Iraq with an "illegitimate coalition." Kerry has also used the term "fraudulent" to describe the 34 nations that have sent troops to Iraq, including Great Britain, Australia and Poland. Someone, anyone, please get Kerry on the record of what impact his description of Great Britain, Australia, Poland, et. al., will have on the relationship between the U.S. and these countries should he become president. . . .
Kerry should be forced to be specific about his comments. Kerry wanted France, at the least, Germany and Russia to be part of the coalition. Say that. Of course, it diminishes the impact of the charge (34 nations vs. three), and might cause it to disappear from the stump speech.
But why isn't anyone in the media asking this question?

Beats me. Do they think that the absence of France makes a coalition ‘fraudulent?’”

The general election is President Bush’s to lose. Are there any secret photos of him enjoying sex with barnyard animals? Is he likely to say, “I hate all racial minorities and will put them in chains after my reelection?” Well, if not, he will win another term in office.

posted by: David Thomson on 01.26.04 at 11:12 AM [permalink]

Boy, that's a nifty little blunder, from Edwards' point of view.

Edwards is polling first in South Carolina, but with Kerry on his heels. He (of course) needs to win South Carolina ... and probably some other state like Missouri or Oklahoma.

Kerry stamping himself as a "non-southern" candidate sure helps.

posted by: William Swann on 01.26.04 at 11:12 AM [permalink]

I wonder if Kerry's dismissal of the need for Southern votes provides a window into how he would intend to govern.

posted by: Barry on 01.26.04 at 11:12 AM [permalink]

Not too smart, indeed. Maybe he's trying to lower expectations in advance? The only way I could see him winning South Carolina is if Clark and Edwards split the moderate vote and Dean drops out before then.

posted by: James Joyner on 01.26.04 at 11:12 AM [permalink]

That type of thinking will make it difficult for Kerry to present himself as a "man of the people" and Bush as "for the rich."

posted by: Ben on 01.26.04 at 11:12 AM [permalink]

Definitely an impolitic comment, though correct on the facts, as Dan pointed out. Kind of tough to defend Kerry's blunder here, but consider this: the Republicans have been playing regional games for years, and it obviously hasn't hurt them. In fact, it's helped them enormously. One of the reasons the South is so hard-core Republican these days is that the Republicans have played up the cultural differences with the Northeast and the West Coast. They out and out slam NY as a "liberal echo-chamber" that's cut-off from the rest of America; They blast the "Left Coast" on a regular basis; "New England liberal" is used as an obvious insult, etc., etc.

As a result of this approach, the Republican base in the South and MidWest see themselves as the "real" America and the Republican Party as the only vehicle for their supposedly distinct "culture", and it's won the Republicans control of the government and, more importantly, the agenda, for years.

I'm really not sure how I feel about the Democrats employing a similar strategy in reverse, but I don't think it's an obvious mistake either. They could run the Republicans' own play against them, emphasising the backward, ignorant, religiously zealous, anti-intellectual, anti-modern, and racially charged stereotypes of the South in order to beef up the self-image, and self-importance, of the North and West, and encourage the impression that the Democrats are the ones holding back the tide of the Republican/Southern backward-looking agenda.

One of the Dems' great weaknesses vis-a-vis the Republicans in recent years has been the lack of an solid, unquestioning regional base comparable to the Republican South. It's arguable that this approach could win them that over the medium term.

posted by: Dave on 01.26.04 at 11:12 AM [permalink]

The South has a large black population and a growing hispanic population. Why would a democrat devoted to racial inclusiveness write off the south?

One of the reasons that Southern governors seem to do rather well in recent presidential politics is that these politicians know how to appeal to these groups. I imagine Edwards -- a progressive smoothie if there ever was one -- has these skills. Meanwhile, there have been complaints about Dean and Kerry's lack of appeal to these groups.

Kerry has benefitted from being out of the spotlight for the last few months. Now that gaffe patrol is out there scrutinizing his statements, look for those poll numbers to start to fall. The question is -- who will benefit, Dean or Edwards? The answer may depend on whether Edwards does much in New Hampshire. (Personally, it woould not surprise me if Edwards is relatively gaffe free. Trial lawyers are pretty good at staying on-message, even if the message itself is a little flimsy.)

posted by: appalled moderate on 01.26.04 at 11:12 AM [permalink]

“One of the Dems' great weaknesses vis-a-vis the Republicans in recent years has been the lack of an solid, unquestioning regional base comparable to the Republican South. It's arguable that this approach could win them that over the medium term.”

This strategy is doomed to fail because far too many people living in blue states perceive the Democrats as dangerous on defense and quasi-Socialists who will severely damage our national economy. Southerners also focus on these two most important issues. We don’t allow our alleged “backward, ignorant, religiously zealous, anti-intellectual, anti-modern, and racially” bigoted sentiments get in the way of our common sense. Also, you forgot how drunk we get on moonshine and the numerous times we beat our wives.

posted by: David Thomson on 01.26.04 at 11:12 AM [permalink]

Dave, you mean that hasn't been the Democratic strategy all along?

It strikes me that you have eloquently described exactly why the Democratic party teeters on national irrelevancy.

posted by: mark on 01.26.04 at 11:12 AM [permalink]

“One of the reasons that Southern governors seem to do rather well in recent presidential politics is that these politicians know how to appeal to these (minority) groups.”

I’ll take this one step further. The year is 2004, not 1954! No Republican can be elected in the South without earning a good size percentage of the minority vote. Any politician like David Duke who’s perceived as hostile to minorities is dead meat.

John Edwards? He just doesn’t have it. Edwards is goofing around with populist themes. They will not be sufficient if the economy is basically sound. As I write these comments, the stock market is up another 26.52 points. No, I’m still betting on Howard Dean.

posted by: David Thomson on 01.26.04 at 11:12 AM [permalink]

Would it be unfair to point up that there are many questions about Kerry that have yet to be asked by the mainstreatm press?

Like for example, how vets groups across the cuntry have more or less uniformly turned their backs on him as a traitor? (OK, Bad pun)
Matt Hoy's question is well-placed.

I've gone into some moderate online investigation ito the man's record, and I can tell you despite only scratching the surface, that there's enough there to remove him from his current post, much less that of POTUS.

Trouble is, the press is unwiling to step up to the plate and expose this stuff. As usual, the reasons behind that reluctance is not all that hard to figure out.

posted by: Bithead on 01.26.04 at 11:12 AM [permalink]

“No Republican can be elected in the South without earning a good size percentage of the minority vote.”

Seeing as how whites represent the overwhelming majority of registered voters in most southern states, a Republican can quite easily win with little to no minority support. If you don’t believe me, ask Sonny Perdue or Haley Barbour. Heck, Bush captured a whopping 3% of Mississippi’s black voters in ’00 and still handily won the state.

posted by: td on 01.26.04 at 11:12 AM [permalink]


What Republicans have taken to doing in the South, since the afro-american vote is lost to them, is to woo the Hispanic vote. This vote is not insubstantial here in Georgia, and both Perdue and Saxby Chambliss (the guy who beat Cleland) worked to get it. The goal is not to get 100% of the vote, but to prevent the Democrats from converting the Hispanic community into another voting monolith.

posted by: appalled moderate on 01.26.04 at 11:12 AM [permalink]

“If you don’t believe me, ask Sonny Perdue or Haley Barbour. Heck, Bush captured a whopping 3% of Mississippi’s black voters in ’00 and still handily won the state.”

Mississippi is an anomaly. It’s probably the only Southern state where a politician might get away with mostly ignoring the minority vote. Still, they no longer can be perceived as being openly hostile to minorities.

posted by: David Thomson on 01.26.04 at 11:12 AM [permalink]

Bithead, I don't buy the idea that the supposedly "liberal" media are giving Kerry, or any other Dem, a pass on their background. If anything, it's the other way around. Check out the following:

I've yet to see an impartial analysis of the issue of bias in the media, but I can tell you pretty unequivocally that the impression from the left of center folks (myself included) is that there's actually a conservative bias. There are so many huge vulnerabilities in Bush's past that got little or no play in 2000 and, from all indications, will get little or no play now as well.

As for the responses to my "screw the South" strategy ;), David - I was using the stereotypes of the South as a counter-balance to the stereotypes the Republicans have of Democratic strongholds. We're not all lily-livered, latte-sipping, bisexual, libertine, "poor me", "soak the rich" pansies up here in New England, you know, but that's how the Republicans unashamedly portray us. I'm just wondering whether what's good for the goose might also be good for the gander.

And Mark, there's definitely an emerging strain of the screw the south strategy in Democratic circles, but it isn't what's brought us to the current situation. If anything, it's the ambivalence towards the South and an inability to decide one way or the other that's been hamstringing the Dems.

posted by: Dave on 01.26.04 at 11:12 AM [permalink]

Oh, and David, here's a quote from your initial post on this topic:

"Kerry is a French speaking 'elite university' snob."

That's precisely the anti-intellectual tendency I'm talking about in the Republican Party. That's what they play to, and it works for them every time.

posted by: Dave on 01.26.04 at 11:12 AM [permalink]

Dave, what else can you offer to explain why all those points have not been examined?

Can you imagine such transgressions not being national headlines for anyone BUT a liberal?

posted by: Bithead on 01.26.04 at 11:12 AM [permalink]

“If anything, it's the ambivalence towards the South and an inability to decide one way or the other that's been hamstringing the Dems.”

Nope, the biggest challenge facing the national Democrat Party might be the disgust of Appalled Moderate, Roger L. Simon, Glenn Reynolds, Kelli, and perhaps even Andrew Sullivan. These folks normally wish to vote for the Democrat presidential candidate. Yet, unless Senator Joseph Lieberman wins the nomination---they will be voting for President Bush. They want to find any decent excuse to vote against the current resident living in the white House. These folks are truly suffering existential angst of the worst kind. What can you say to change their minds?

posted by: David Thomson on 01.26.04 at 11:12 AM [permalink]


All I got to say is that somebody ought to put together a collection of such announcements and entitle it: "When Politicians Self-Destruct (On Camera)" Already we got three priceless moments this campaign season. The Dean "Yeagh!" Scream, Clark's Michael Moore moment, and now Kerry's "I don't need the South!" moment. Even if it's electorally possible to win the Presidency without winning the South, any viable Democratic campaign has to make it at least competitive down there. Otherwise you could have zero margin for error and another Florida could tip the election in your opponent's favor. In addition, if the Republicans can take the South for granted, they can pour all their pundintry, crack political troops, and massive campaign warchests into the borderline states. No Democrat could survive that onslaught. No, the Democrats have to at least make the Republicans sweat for it or else all is lost.

posted by: Oldman on 01.26.04 at 11:12 AM [permalink]

“’Kerry is a French speaking 'elite university' snob."

That's precisely the anti-intellectual tendency I'm talking about in the Republican Party. That's what they play to, and it works for them every time.”

Your point is erroneous. I can easily defend my accusation that John Kerry is a French speaking “elite university” snob. Heck, one merely needs to read Mickey Kaus and Andrew Sullivan, graduates of Harvard University. They mostly agree with me. I suspect that they aren’t exactly thrilled with my unrelenting Harvard bashing. Still, they realize that I’m probably more right than wrong.

posted by: David Thomson on 01.26.04 at 11:12 AM [permalink]


I think you have to concede that there is a long line of simple anti-South rhetoric among certain elements of the intelligensia. It probably started as a needed counterweight to Gone With the Wind - type "things was simpler when they were just happy being slaves" nostalgia. But now it just seems habit with Northern boomers that grew up during the Civil Rights Era. And a lot of white Southerners -- including those who would be sympathetic to Edwards' smooth, hypnotic populism -- really resent it. And the GOP has exploited that. The GOP's "enemy", for rhetorical purposes, hasn't generally been a region, but "pointy-headed intellectuals". When DT goes on about Harvard or the other Ivys, he's not slamming people because of where they live, but because of their class and presumed political beliefs. So I think taking a regional pride approach would be a disaster for the Democrats. (And, if I remember correctly, the last party persued a "New England-centric policy was the Federalists before the War of 1812. It didn't work out too well for them.)

The South is more complex politically than you would think if you did not live here. I have lived in Georgia, and I have lived in New Hampshire, and my belief is that Southerners deal better with issues of race than New Englanders, and that a city like Atlanta is far less segregated than, say, Boston. I got far less hostile stares eating with a black guy in a mostly white BBQ joint in Birmingham AL than doing the same thing in a Chinese restaurant in Ellsworth Maine.

If the future of the democratic party is with a multicultural coalition, they need to look South to see how it might be done.

posted by: appalled moderate on 01.26.04 at 11:12 AM [permalink]

It isn't intellectuals that bother most "red state" voters, it's smartasses.

I'm reminded of a quote I read long ago (can't find it on the web right now) from Adlai Stevenson. At a campaign event a supporter shouted out "you have the vote of every thinking man in America!" Stevenson shouted back "Yes, but I need a majority!"

(Besides, Kerry doesn't strike me as smart enough for people to think of him as an intellectual. This is a purely personal reaction, but he just doesn't seem to me to be the sharpest tool in the shed. The "we don't need the South" comment just reinforces my opinion.)

posted by: mark on 01.26.04 at 11:12 AM [permalink]

It actually sounds a bit like Kerry was trying to make the same point as Dan does at the end of the post ("Forget about the Red and Blue States"). Kerry is saying that he doesn't need to cater to the South, he should be a candidate for all of America, and if the South doesn't follow, well he can be President anyway (the Gore analogy).

It is certainly an impolitic statement by Kerry, but I also think it is some welcome straight talk regarding how he can win this election. And maybe if he can win, without the south and interior west it will show some of the people who inhabit this message board that they should not be so confident in their disparaging of a good majority of Americans.

posted by: Rich on 01.26.04 at 11:12 AM [permalink]

I just saw Harold Ford Jr. (Kerry's campaign co-chair) on "Studio B"; he most assuredly said Kerry wasn't writing off the South. Take from that what you will.

Having said that, Kerry might do well to be beaten senseless by a copy of Black and Black's "The Vital South." Al Gore would have been president if he could have won a single Southern state... including Tennessee, where he won several statewide elections previously. If Gore hadn't gone chasing after the Nader vote in late 2000 (and alienating the same people who two years later elected Democrat Phil Bredesen the state's governor in a mild upset), he'd be president today.

posted by: Chris Lawrence on 01.26.04 at 11:12 AM [permalink]

I have not looked at demographics of the south in a long time, but it seems to me the south is in fact more (ahem) "multicultural," given migration and an influx of Hispanics. While Black voters do vote overwhelming democratic, it should not be forgotten that many Blacks **overgeneralization alert** are social conservatives; moreover, Hispanics are also social conservatives with many Hispanics converting to evangelical protestant churches. I think there are some minefields for the democratics in the south--esp same sex marriages and other social issues--the could cut into presumed minority support--and then there is the irrespresible but morally repugnant "Rev" Sharpton' influence. It is entirely possible that the en bloc voting of minorities in the South (and western states) may be fragmented this year.

posted by: RogerA on 01.26.04 at 11:12 AM [permalink]

Washington political culture extracts a price for admitting one's weaknesses.

At least that's what most politicians in Washington believe. The fact is that losing southern states is a problem for Democrats running for the White House, just as losing New York and California is not a good thing for a Republican candidate. The default response, though, for candidates asked about their electoral weaknesses is to deny they exist. That's essentially what Kerry was doing.

Personally I think drawing attention to one's weaknesses is foolish -- I wouldn't expect Wesley Clark to mention that Kosovo was an area of limited importance from the standpoint of American interests when he is bragging on his performance there -- but denying the obvious costs one credibility sooner or later, and credibility is the most valuable asset a politician can have. As for the fallout from this little incident, it could possibly damage Kerry's effort to get nominated, but if he does he would need to win without the South anyway. The only way a Democrat wins any southern states, with the possible exception of Florida, is if Bush collapses, and if that happens Southern electoral votes would be superfluous.

posted by: Zathras on 01.26.04 at 11:12 AM [permalink]

Roger A writes:

I have not looked at demographics of the south in a long time, but it seems to me the south is in fact more (ahem) "multicultural," given migration and an influx of Hispanics. While Black voters do vote overwhelming democratic, it should not be forgotten that many Blacks **overgeneralization alert** are social conservatives; moreover, Hispanics are also social conservatives with many Hispanics converting to evangelical protestant churches

posted by: Bithead on 01.26.04 at 11:12 AM [permalink]

One needs to put Sullivan's comments into context. As a southerner who has read Sullivan for some time, I can say without a doubt he is a typical "D.C/NYC corridor" neo-conservative (as in "new" conservative) who is embarrassed to be in political agreement with the great unwashed southerner. Sullivan's blog posts are littered with anti-southern hissing. After all, most of my fellow sloped headed hillbillies can't even use the word jejune in a sentence. No doubt it causes him great distress when attending parties in the salons of London and New York.

posted by: ken on 01.26.04 at 11:12 AM [permalink]

Arrgh... editor blew up.

BET recently posted a study of what are the most segragated American cities. Look at the reslt, this will bear on the election, I tihnk.,,c1gb4783-5501,00.html

According to BET, they are:

10. Philadelphia
9. Chicago
8. New York City
7. Buffalo-Niagra Falls, N.Y.
6. Cincinnati
5. Newark, N.J.
4. St. Louis
3. Cleveland-Lorain-Elyria, Ohio
2. Detroit
1. Milwaukee-Waukesha, Wis."

Let's note a couple points:

First notice none of them are southern towns.

Second, all of them are Democrat dominated, locally, and in most cases, in terms of their federal level represenattion as well. Buffalo, as an example, has but Schumer and Clinton.

Granted that turning such underlying perceptions into votes is another matter, and I''ll leave the conclusions to you, but it seems to me there are a lot of factors which the Democrats have not added into their calculations, which do not favor the Democrats at all, in both the south and the north.

As an aside, I'd say were I black I'd be insulted that Sharpton was bieng offered as the token black.

posted by: Bithead on 01.26.04 at 11:12 AM [permalink]

Work beckons, but just a quick thought on the developing meme (hey, first time I've used "meme" in a sentence!) that the Dems and/or the North are worse on segregation and racism than the Repubs and the South.

Sure, the "segregation today, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever" approach to race in the South is long gone, but most of the people who had their formative political experiences in that era are still around in the South, and I simply don't believe that they all underwent a true "conversion on the road to Damascus". Most white Southerners that I've met are not out and out racists like in the old days, but there is a very it racial "awareness", that seems to permeate their views on alot of issues. When they talk about welfare, crime, capital punishment etc., you can just hear it in their voices. They're picturing black welfare families and black gang members and that has an impact on their views.

Remember, Nixon's Southern Strategy, so effectively built upon by Reagan, was very deliberately premised on the belief that Southerners resented Northern meddling in issues of race, and it was enormously successful. When Bush spoke at Bob Jones University, everyone knew what signal he was sending. Segregated high school proms, separate yearbooks for black and white students, white-only private schools, etc. are far from gone in the South, and no one really makes a stink about it, but whenever something like that pops up on the national radar, people in the North just can't believe it. Hell, it's been 135 years since the Civil War and 40 years since the Civil Rights Movement, and most white Southerners still can't seem to accept that the Confederate Flag is a racist symbol!

Sorry guys, but I'm just not buying the idea that the South is some sort of multicultural, post-Civil Rights model that the North can learn from.

- Dave

posted by: Dave on 01.26.04 at 11:12 AM [permalink]

Ok, so maybe that wasn't as "quick" a thought as I intended. *grin*

posted by: Dave on 01.26.04 at 11:12 AM [permalink]

What do you mean you hear it in "their voices"? It sounds like you are projecting your biases onto Southerners. That's a typical Yankee attitude.

posted by: Gary on 01.26.04 at 11:12 AM [permalink]

I concede there's no way to prove it, since this is an instinctive pickup, but my radar just goes off when alot of Southern white people talk about race-related things. It's like when two different people tell the same off-color or politically incorrect joke. Can't you just tell there's a difference when the guy telling the joke actually means something by it?

Also, given the very real and identifiable examples of racism in the South, and the looong history of it, I don't think this is exactly a far-fetched assertion either.

posted by: Dave on 01.26.04 at 11:12 AM [permalink]

Dave, as the Yankee-est of Yankees now living in the South let me raise the thought that among Southerners who vote there is rather less resentment of blacks than there is of people like you. Assuming an air of moral superiority -- and all Northern liberals do this -- is a ticket to electoral defeat anywhere. Here in the South there are not all that many people who think that assuming such an air is justified. Make the case that they are wrong if you want to; pretend Southern distrust of Northern Democrats can be overcome with shallow gestures; or avoid the issue completely and try to win the Presidency without Southern votes. Good luck.

posted by: Zathras on 01.26.04 at 11:12 AM [permalink]

But it's so hard not to assume an air of superiority when one is so clearly superior! ;)

Seriously though, I definitely concede your point, Zathras. Northern liberals think they're (ok, we're) morally superior to Southern conservatives, Southerners resent it, and we're just not going to get the votes down there as long as this is the case. However, that ties in perfectly to the point I was making in the first place. The South just isn't going to vote Democratic for the forseeable future, so it's arguably better for the Democrats to just accept that and tailor their strategy accordingly. (Now, they shouldn't go announcing it like Kerry did, I suppose, but that doesn't mean it isn't true.)

The way I see it, there are only four ways forward from here. 1) The Dems blow off the South, the Republicans blow off the Northeast and the West Coast, and we continue with the current regional split. 2) Northern liberals accept that they have no cause to feel all superior. 3) Southern conservatives accept that the yanks actually have a point and do a mea culpa. 4) We all ignore the elephant in the living room and pretend like nothing's going on while we wait for the differences to gradually work themselves out over the next 20 years or so.

Obviously, I think number 3 would be the ideal scenario, but I just as obviously recognize that it's not going to happen. Number 2 is equally implausible, which leaves us with 1 and 2, and I expect we'll get some combination of those over the next few years. A half-assed, morally and intellectually sterile approach that's guaranteed to minimize the amount of healthy introspection and forward-looking progress. You know, politics as usual. :)

posted by: Dave on 01.26.04 at 11:12 AM [permalink]

Having lived in North Texas, Richmond VA, Boston MA , and now Madison, WI, I can tell you that Richmond by far had the easiest race relations, Boston the worst, and Texas and Wisconsin are probably tied for bigots per capita. Make of it what you will, but I find Yankee pretensions to moral superiority on race to be completely at odds with my experience.

posted by: R C Dean on 01.26.04 at 11:12 AM [permalink]


Southerners have HAD to deal with the elephant in the room. (You know -- civil rights movement, segregation, busing, KKK.) This certainly makes them -- in your words -- more race conscious. But it has also made them more mature on the issue.

The North has never been forced to deal with the race thing to the same extent. This allows them both to feel superior and ignore their own tendency just to associate with themselves. I think this accounts for the shuffle between benign neglect and pandering that seems to be inherent in much of the limosine/Hollywood liberal rap.

By the way, I think the South could well vote for Edwards, who speaks a populist langauge that plays well down here. I think any of the other candidates are DoA.

posted by: appalled moderate on 01.26.04 at 11:12 AM [permalink]

I grew up in the south, lived on the east coast for a while, and now live in Ohio.

I think Dave is right. There's a certain "perspective" on race among a lot of white southerners that's kind of borne of a resentment of the whole issue of race -- and it's a resentment towards blacks, and towards those with the "liberal" notion that racism exists and is a significant issue.

It's an ironic perspective, because it is often partially racist in itself, while being resentful or skeptical about race as an issue.

A couple of examples. When I was in high school, there was a black guy in my physics class, and, like a lot of us in there he was taking a lot of other advanced classes. I remember my physics teacher reacting with amazment that there was, yes, a black guy in his class, and that he was doing well. He once told him, in front of the whole class, that he pretty much had it made because he was black and would get all kinds of scholarships and other preferential treatment.

I went to college at one of the most traditional southern schools (Vanderbilt), and one of my best friends used to go on at length about how a lot of blacks were actually better off during slavery. His view was a bit more extreme than others, but there was this general atmosphere of southern rebellion on the race issue, and, I suppose you might say, skepticism on what civil rights had done in the south.

You can of course connect this with political events in various parts of the south. When David Duke ran for governor of Louisiana, I heard an analysis of the vote that said he got 2 out of 3 white votes. Sonny Purdue just beat Roy Barnes in Georgia in part because he promised a referendum on bringing the old flag back. Jesse Helms narrowly beat a black challenger using overtly racial ads.

I would also say that the flip-side of this is true as well. Blacks make up a significant enough part of the population in most of the south so that it's hard to grow up not interacting with each other. One of my best friends in middle school was black, and there was more of a kind of natural everyday interaction between all of us.

That's one thing I noticed after moving to Ohio. A lot of our communities here are really racially monogomous. My stepkids, for example, went to all white schools and lived in all white neighborhoods. There's more of a tendency to believe stereotypes, or stuff you see in the media, because you don't actually know anyone from that race.

So that's kind of the mystery of the south -- more intermingling and sometimes more understanding between races, but also more intense resentment about the whole issue of race and a lingering sense of southern rebellion on civil rights.

posted by: William Swann on 01.26.04 at 11:12 AM [permalink]

Democrats better keep an eye on New York, I got a feeling its going to be much more in play than convential wisdom suggests. Bush scores better with Jewish voters than any republican in recent memory, and the scars of 9/11 havent likely faded in NYC the way they seem to have elsewhere in the blue states. New Yorkers I know still take the attack very personally, instead of viewing it basically as some sort of natural disaster.

posted by: Mark Buehner on 01.26.04 at 11:12 AM [permalink]

Well I heard Mr. Kerry talk about her

Well I heard Ol' John put her down

Well I hope John Kerry will remember

A Southern man don't need him around anyhow.

posted by: Stephen Gordon on 01.26.04 at 11:12 AM [permalink]

RC DEAN writes:

Having lived in North Texas, Richmond VA, Boston MA , and now Madison, WI, I can tell you that Richmond by far had the easiest race relations, Boston the worst, and Texas and Wisconsin are probably tied for bigots per capita. Make of it what you will, but I find Yankee pretensions to moral superiority on race to be completely at odds with my experience.

I would say that's true in my own experience as well. But more importantly, apparently BET comes away with the same impression. And isn't that strange? Here all this time, we've been led to think it was conservatives... the right... who fosters racism.

Now, though, we find, by means of the BET polling, that the worst places for racism are those where the left dominates. I wonder if BET will even admit this is the likely conclusion from the numbers posted. I rather doubt it.

The point of my bringing this up earlier wasn't expressed very well because of some systems issue I was having. (Sorry)

But I wonder, looking at the numbers I posted, and considering the source;

Given that at least the unconscious level, the perception of racism being higher in areas where the left dominates seems prevelant, what happens to the Democrats when that thought occurrs to them as a waking, conscious thought? I suspect the electoral impact will be rather large, and it will not favor the left.

posted by: Bithead on 01.26.04 at 11:12 AM [permalink]

Bithead -- They're not the most racist American cities, they're the most segregated.

And that's not surprising, is it, demographically speaking? The south has more blacks per capita, so, in a post-segregation era, you get more intermingling.

Up here in Ohio we have lots of little rural towns with no blacks. Hence, more segregated, but not necessarily more racist.

I grew up in the south, and I'd say there's more general feelings of distaste toward blacks down there than up here. There are perhaps more stereotypes up here, but more genuine dislike down there.

posted by: William Swann on 01.26.04 at 11:12 AM [permalink]

There are really two Souths - the ones who both understand and appreciate the new realities of race in America and a smaller number of those who wish it were 1954 instead of 2004. The problem is that this is too nuanced for yankees to understand. So, they make up stuff that adheres to the extremists viewpoint while ignoring those things which don't fit their narrow little minds. They hear things "in their voices". They delude thiemselves with visions of moral superiority in their lily-white neighborhoods safe in the supposed security of their black-free zones. But it's all good because they are liberals who feel the pain of their black brothers and sisters, which is pretty impressive given the extent to which they isolate themselves from blacks. Still the really important thing is that you don't hear the racism "in their voices", after they all, they don't have a Southern accent, and that makes them incapable of racism.

posted by: Gary C. on 01.26.04 at 11:12 AM [permalink]

Bill swan writes:

Bithead -- They're not the most racist American cities, they're the most segregated.

Oh, granted. But consider the complaint BET themselves posted in their report. They said, in part:

"Why are we still separating ourselves? Shouldn't we be able to live, work, go to school and church together?"

Clearly, they're operating under the idea that segregation is a product of racism, and that if you get rid of one, you'll have gotten rid of both.

FWIW, I tend to agree with you, for example, that it's not; that segregation may or may not be motivated by racism, per se.

(Chuckle... a presumpton on my part, granted....There are, i think we could agree, many things that are called or attributed to raism, which are really nothing of the sort)

Consider, even BET itself, whose very purpose, in my view, is to both deepen and exploit the cultural differences that have sprung up over the years, based on race. Why call it BLACK entertainment TV? Can you imagine WHITE entertainment TV? Is that racism in one case but not the other?

But the reality of the situation is not really what I was aiming at, here. Politics is only half rooted in reality, I'm afraid. And in any event, I question the methods used to collect the data they sent out with that story. Regardless the issue here is the perception of the respondants.

My question was aimed at the perception, not the reality.


posted by: Bithead on 01.26.04 at 11:12 AM [permalink]

I think William's analysis is probably spot on, but Bithead's numbers (from the BET survey) are revealing as well. If I can step back from arguing a particular side of this for a moment, I'll try to synthesize what I'm gathering from this thread. Here are the important points I see:

1) After nearly two centuries of slavery and another century and a half of bitter and often brutal segregation, the South has confronted the race issue to an astounding degree in just a single generation. The amount of progress since the Civil Rights era is probably far more than anyone at that time could reasonably have expected, and though it only came about because of Northern pressure in the first place, the South still deserves a great deal of credit for the improvements that have occurred.

2) Northerners aren't giving enough credit where credit is due because they still see the South as the pre-Civil Rights mess that it was a generation ago.

3) Southerners, for all their progress in practical terms, still have a long way to go in terms of attitudes, as there's a great deal of lingering resentment and racial antipathy bubbling under the surface.

4) Northerners are kind of the reverse. They don't have the resentment and antipathy to the same degree, but they haven't dealt with the practical manifestations of discrimination to the same degree either, as the BET numbers reveal.

So, in a nutshell, although the [i]feelings[/i] about race in the South are still more raw and resentful than in the North, Southerners have been confronting the issues of race head-on for a generation now, making real progress, whereas the North has preferred to sweep them under the rug. This rather complicated dynamic has led to the North feeling all holier-than-thou without actually doing much about their own problems, and led to the South making substantial improvements without getting much in the way of credit for them.

Sound about right?

posted by: Dave on 01.26.04 at 11:12 AM [permalink]

*grrr...* How do you guys italicize and/or bold-face things here?

posted by: Dave on 01.26.04 at 11:12 AM [permalink]

Dave -- Use greater-than and less-than signs rather than brackets.

posted by: William Swann on 01.26.04 at 11:12 AM [permalink]

Sounds about right, Dave.

Mr. Swann --

I grew up in Ohio suburbia, and let me tell you that your pereception corresponds to mine growing up. There was one black person in my high school. Nobody thought bad things about him, or black folk in general. Nobody really thought about them at all.

But, of course, we all had our view of what "the Ghetto" was like. People with really really big hair and loud radios, and constant muggings and Black Panthers being miltant all over the place. It lends itself to thinking of black folk as some mysterious "other" with one big monlithic attitude towards everything, rather than as individual people.

posted by: appalled moderate on 01.26.04 at 11:12 AM [permalink]

Maybe I missed something, but if Gore proved anything it's that HE could NOT be elected president without at least one So. State. As far as I know, he is not President. Maybe jfk is still holding on to the stolen election meme.

posted by: Hucklebuck on 01.26.04 at 11:12 AM [permalink]

Your summation, Dave, pretty much reflects my point of view.

I think there's an odd kind of duality in much of southern thinking on race. We interact with each other every day in ways that suggest total respect and regard for each other as human beings. But, in terms of attitudes about race, we have this kind of traditional southern rebellion ... a sense of having been attacked or misunderstood. There's a tendency to embrace a kind of anti-PC attitude about the whole thing.

That's why you have some of us going through our everyday lives treating people fairly, but then you might hear in an occasional gathering (where everyone's white) someone using racist language, and the general feel being that it's kind of funny, but not particularly offensive.

When I go visit with family down there, it's rare that anyone would say anything like that. But if the issue of race somehow comes up, you could hear someone use the word "jungle-bunnies" or something like that.

On a similar vein, there was a lot of excitement among southerners I know recently about Zell Miller's comments about southern politics. But I didn't hear anyone comment about Sonny Purdue beating Roy Barnes for the Georgia governorship and the role the confederate flag played in that race. That went pretty much unnoticed.

In other words, it's awesome when southerners set northerers straight about their attitudes about the south, but when a southern politician uses a symbol of the old confederacy, presumably to attract white votes, that's not something that's uncomfortable or even noteworthy.

posted by: William Swann on 01.26.04 at 11:12 AM [permalink]

As someone who voted against Perdue because of the flag thing, I am probably not the best person to comment. The interesting thing, though, was the aftermath. Perdue, yielding to an awful lot of pressure from an awful lot of people, did not go back to the "designed to offend dem Yankees" 1954 flag, which has the confederate battle flag as part of the design, but a compromise that looks a lot like the old pre-1954 thing, that the NAACP seemed OK with, when Zell Miller (then governor) tried to reinstate it back in the mid-90s. There is a vote coming up on the whole mess, but the options do not include the 1954 flag.

(The irony is that it was probably the flag thing, rather than the infamous Cleland morphs to Osama ad that defeated Cleand in 2002.)

As noted above, the South is complicated

posted by: appalled moderate on 01.26.04 at 11:12 AM [permalink]

Well, AM, the flaggers here in Georgia are now complaining that the GOP used them in 2002 and forgot about them once the election was over.

They're right, mostly. Perdue was willing enough to give them what they were asking for -- a referendum on the old flag vs. a new flag. But most of the Republicans who did support that position felt, with some cause, that the flaggers would lose the vote this time. In Georgia, GOP strength has not just been growing because lifelong Georgia Democrats have been turning Republican (out in the rural areas where the flag was a big issue most of the old flag's supporters still register Democratic even if they don't always vote that way) but because of people new to the state who don't care about the flag at all.

What does this say about race relations here? That's an interesting question. The flag issue is all about feelings and symbols; how it is resolved has no real-world impact at all except for the company Georgia buys its flags from. A lot of racial issues here are like that. What makes them difficult for national or at least northern Democrats campaigning in the South, I think, is that black voters support Democrats in higher percentages than any other ethnic or occupational group. As the black community in the United States, now over 30 million people strong, diversifies the one group of issues its leaders can all agree on are related to the issues of the civil rights era -- Confederate flags, discrimination, affirmative action. They therefore emphasize these issues heavily, and national Democrats mimic their language in the same way they stick close to the approved talking points of other major constituency groups. Their other major constituency groups, though, have very specific agendas. Trial lawyers oppose tort reform; labor unions favor legislation making it easier to organize. Even feminists are pretty specific about what they want. You don't have to tie yourself in knots and risk alienating large groups of non-feminists just to get the NARAL crowd to believe you are on their side.

I don't know that appealing to black voters has to be different, but it is. The principles that employers and colleges should give preference to black applicants over white ones or that states flying a flag that hurts black feelings should be boycotted may not have much impact on many people's lives, but they do have emotional impact. The Democrats' problem is that they have emotional impact on both sides, and the one they have picked is the side of the aggrieved minority.

If you doubt the power of non-substantive symbolism in black American politics, consider this: with over 30 million black Americans, including the heads of major corporations and Cabinet departments, prominent scientists, soldiers, professionals of every kind, when it came to running for the Presidency of the United States the best we could do was Al Sharpton and Carol Mosely Braun.

posted by: Zathras on 01.26.04 at 11:12 AM [permalink]

Very interesting. My family down there is in the Pensacola area -- that's where I grew up. I found it interesting that they got all excited about Zell Miller recently -- his defending the south against those northern misconceptions thing. Someone suggested he should be the Democrat running for president.

But then, the other event in Georgia, where they switched governors in a campaign that included the confederate flag issue -- that didn't make so much as a ripple. I mentioned it, and nobody seemed to have noticed.

That's nice that they didn't ultimately go back to the old flag.

posted by: William Swann on 01.26.04 at 11:12 AM [permalink]


Yeah, and when was the last time the Republicans ran a black candidate for the Presidency that was as blatantly unqualified as Sharpton or Braun? There's a lot of talk in Republican circles about Dr. Rice's future, but she differs from Sharpton and Braun in that she is actually credible.

posted by: Sam Barnes on 01.26.04 at 11:12 AM [permalink]

Um, Sam. When was the last time the Republicans RAN a black candidate for the Presidency?

posted by: appalled moderate on 01.26.04 at 11:12 AM [permalink]

Condi Rice for president? Hmmm. I'd like to see the party that gave us John McCain's black love child try that one.

posted by: Josh on 01.26.04 at 11:12 AM [permalink]

no matter what long as bush still reigns on top for his next term i will be so happy. John kerry is the worst possible democratic candidate of allllll time i kid you not. This kid cant run a country...look at his past. Yes he did fight in vietnam honorable and i commend him that. But now lets go a bit deeper. Not many know that several times he commanded his soldiers to shoot .50 caliber machine guns at fleeing vietnamese soldiers. After Vietnam what was the first thing he did. Did he defend his fellow soldiers still fighting in vietnam. No he joined the VVAW (vietnam veterans against the war). Maybe you knew that maybe not. Being 16 and i love politics and i am a conservative republican. i like bush..i like his decision to go to war. Lets do this now.

People say that bush lied to us and said there were WMD in iraq. Now lets see who all said that as well. John kerry in 98 said that, rumsfeld said that, CIA said that, weapons inspectors said that so who knows.. THANK YOU GOOD BYE, class is over cya later :)

posted by: mike mattson on 01.26.04 at 11:12 AM [permalink]

I think Bush should not be president and I do not trust Cheney and Rumsfeld. I don't know about Kerry, but I think i will vote against bush. These people give me a really bad feeling

posted by: online bingo mom on 01.26.04 at 11:12 AM [permalink]

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