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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Huckabee’s Lost Cause

Want to know how desperate Mike Huckabee is to win the South Carolina primary tomorrow? Well, he’s desperate enough to grab the Third Rail of cultural politics, by identifying himself with bitter-end defenders of the public display of the Confederate flag.
As you may have heard, Huck coupled his state’s-rights-oriented position that “outsiders” shouldn’t tell South Carolinians what flag to fly with a colorful suggestion that said “outsiders” should be told to perform an act that he would otherwise deplore as banned by “God’s standards.” And the line now seems to have become part of Huckabee’s SC stump speech.
It’s pretty odd to hear an “outsider” urge Palmetto State voters to go sodomistic on other “outsiders” for allegedly butting into their sovereign right to celebrate the Lost Cause that this very state plunged the nation into in 1861. Presumably he knows that African-Americans in the state have not been “outsiders” since their arrival on slave ships some time ago. And Huckabee may even be aware that some would question the propriety of raising this issue in the midst of the annual commemoration of Martin Luther King’s legacy. But hey, black folks don’t vote in Republican primaries, right?
Other than reminding voters that he’s from a dixified background himself, Huck seems to be appealing to a small group of voters that in Georgia we refer to as “flaggers,” a small and dwindling segment of largely rural white folk for whom the Confederate flag remains a fighting and voting issue (their impotence was exposed in Georgia when they failed to carry through threats to do political damage to Gov. Sonny Perdue, who reneged on a campaign promise to hold a referendum on the subject). His decision to “go there” is all the more puzzling as part of a campaign tour with former Gov. David Beasley, who infuriated flaggers while in office by removing The Flag from public property.
In any event, even if Huck wins the battle of South Carolina, his decision to embrace this hoary symbol of white supremacy could help lose him the war. Already maginalized as the candidate of conservative evangelicals and not much of anyone else, he now bids fair to make himself a southern regional candidate as well, and divisive even in southern conservative ranks. It’s a sure sign of a campaign that can’t see the forest, or even the trees, and is scratching around in the pine straw for some dirt to throw.

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