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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

No Southern Comfort in the Cabinet?

As Steve Benen and others have noted this week, it looks like Barack Obama’s cabinet probably won’t include any appointees from the South. (Depending on your definition of the words “cabinet” and “South,” Energy Czar designate Carol Browner, a native of South Florida, might be an exception, though she hasn’t lived there in 16 years).
Interesting, but of questionable relevance, as evidenced by this quote buried deep in a let’s-manufacture-a-grievance story in Politico today:

Gordon Taylor, a former chief of staff to a southern Democratic member, said some Blue Dog Democrats didn’t even realize the gap in geographic diversity until it was pointed out to them.
“The funny thing is, it hasn’t really been an issue,” Taylor said. “People have been so focused on philosophy and ideology that geography hasn’t really come up.”

Same here, I would say.
But there’s nothing that mysterious about it. As Tom Schaller quoted me in Salon today as observing, some of the more likely Obama appointees from the South (e.g., Sam Nunn, Jim Hunt, Artur Davis, Jim Clyburne, Shirley Franklin) took themselves out of the running for one reason or another. Tim Kaine could have probably gotten a cabinet post, but likely decided that he didn’t want to turn Virginia over to his Republican Lieutenant Governor less than a year before the next gubernatorial election there. Max Cleland’s name came up in connection with VA, but he did that same gig more than thirty years ago, and is reportedly having some health problems. Inez Tenenbaum of SC was on some lists for Education Secretary, but Obama chose, wisely I think, to choose a nominee more involved in the big intra-progressive debates over education reform. And John Edwards would have been a lead-pipe cinch for some major appointment if he hadn’t developed some personal issues earlier this year.
In any event, some southerners, from the above list or others, will eventually join Obama’s cabinet. But as I responded in an email to an inquiring friend earlier today, no, I certainly don’t feel like my southern face has been slapped. The best thing Barack Obama can do to build on his relatively strong showing in the South this year is to quickly get things done, and he’s assembled a team well-equipped to do just that.

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