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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Whistling Past Dixie Revisited

In this month’s edition of the Forum, a free online political science journal, D. Jason Berggren, a doctoral candidate at Florida International University and a lecturer at the University of Georgia, delivers a fiery review of Thomas Schaller’s Whistling Past Dixie, which outlines a “non-Southern strategy” for the Democratic Party. Schaller has previously written on the same subject for TDS. And our managing editor, Ed Kilgore, has conducted a friendly but pointed joust with Schaller at Salon.
Berggren’s 26-page jeremiad is notable not only for its extraordinary length, and its emotion, but for its slant. Unlike Kilgore, he rarely if ever disputes Schaller’s empircal claims about the irrelevance of the South to future Democratic victories. Instead, he focuses obsessively on the long line of progressive observers who have preceded Schaller in criticizing southern culture and arguing that Democrats should actively campaign against the region’s values. In other words, he basically calls Schaller a bigot, and implicitly ties the Maryland professor’s argument to the anti-southern sectionalism that in southern eyes helped touch off the Civil War.
Schaller’s response to the review, in the same publication, not only repeats his (largely unrefuted) arguments about the 2006 Democratic coalition, but hotly denies any anti-southern animus, suggesting that his book only talks about “southern conservatives” as the enemy.
But here’s the irony of the debate Schaller touched off and Berggren continued with such heat: will it matter in 2008?
For the vast majority of Americans, a presidential standard-bearer defines his or her party. Unless Jeri Thompson is a much better campaign manager than she appears to be at the moment, the GOP will likely go into 2008 under the banner of Rudy Giuliani or Mitt Romney, neither of whom come off as even remotely Southern. With either of them at the helm, the Republican Party might be losing it’s very public Southern twang for quite a while.

One comment on “Whistling Past Dixie Revisited

  1. Albert Whited on

    Jeri Thompson’s ineptitude notwistanding, a Fred Thompson run could be especially damaging for Giuliani in particular. This, I think, because of the moneyed focus of Romney on IA and NH–and therefore, the odds on favorite in both–and the early positioning of SC and FL.
    Giuliani’s early leads in those southern states may well be due to two factors: first, the lack of a GOP candidate from the South, and second, a mythology about Giuliani’s heroic leadership on 9/11. The latter is well debunked by Steve Rendell in FAIR Extra! (http://www.fair.org/index.php?page=3117). And, a Thompson entry would fill the former void with a staunchly conservative “good ol’ boy” of mythic proportions.
    Despite his standing in national polls, Giuliani may well find himself on the outside looking in when the sun rises on not-so-Super Wednesday, suffering losses in IA, NH, SC and FL. So, maybe Dems should hope Thompson jumps into the fray–talk him up, as did the GOP noise machine John Kerry.
    Clearly, the country has no stomach for another far-right wing neocon Prez of Thompson’s ilk. He’d draw lots fewer centrist swing voters to his tally than would the more socially moderate and mythologized Giuliani, paeans to whom the MSM is so fond of singing.

    Reply

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