No, Democrats Should Not Abandon The South

Bayou Sara, Louisiana. Original artwork by Manny Schewitz.

Bayou Sara, Louisiana. Original artwork by Manny Schewitz.

In an opinion piece recently published over at The Daily Beast, Michael Tomasky wrote that Democrats should “dump Dixie” after the defeat of Senator Mary Landrieu here in Louisiana.

In case you have not been paying attention, now that Mary Landrieu is gone, there’s only one Democratic senator from the Deep South, and that’s Bill Nelson of Florida.

Just a year ago, people (myself included) were excited about the possibility of Wendy Davis potentially winning the governor’s race in Texas. With Texas going blue, that would potentially create a domino effect that would cascade to even the deepest of red states – or so we had hoped.

Now with the defeat of Mary Landrieu, some folks like Michael Tomasky believe that Democrats should write off the South as a total loss and concentrate on more ideological purity; at least that’s what I’m taking away from his statement:

At the congressional level, and from there on down, the Democrats should just forget about the place. They should make no effort, except under extraordinary circumstances, to field competitive candidates. The national committees shouldn’t spend a red cent down there. This means every Senate seat will be Republican, and 80 percent of the House seats will be, too. The Democrats will retain their hold on the majority-black districts, and they’ll occasionally be competitive in a small number of other districts in cities and college towns. But they’re not going win Southern seats (I include here with some sadness my native West Virginia, which was not a Southern state when I was growing up but culturally is one now). And they shouldn’t try. (Source)

In my opinion, this is a stupid and elitist way of backing away from a fight just because things got a little bit hard and the party couldn’t bring out voters in 2010 or 2014. It’s fair to point to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as the catalyst for the move of conservative Democrats to the Republican Party, but simply saying the South is racist and should be written off is misguided and arrogant. The sad thing is that Michael Tomasky isn’t the only one who feels this way. I see many liberals and Democrats regularly make comments about how pretty much everyone down here is an ignorant, cousin-marrying, gun-toting, racist redneck and that it would be better just to let the South secede. It’s easy to sit at your coffee shop in San Francisco, New York or Seattle and write dismissive articles scoffing at the ignorance of people who aren’t lucky or financially able enough to live in your bastion of liberalism. Want to try something hard? Try living in the Bible Belt and being a LGBT person, an atheist or just someone who doesn’t vote for Republicans and is capable of critical thinking. Try being a union member in a “right to work” state and working for a living, all while watching Republicans strip away workers’ rights with little to no opposition from Democrats who seem reluctant to do anything more than send out fundraising emails.

And now liberals and Democrats want to turn tail and just go back to defending their comfortable home turf, leaving the rest of us behind enemy lines to fend for ourselves? I don’t think so – not if I have anything to say about it. I don’t know about you, but the next time I get another one of those solicitation emails from the DNCC or, I’m going to happily remind them that since they didn’t bother fighting for Democrats down south, I’m not going to bother sending them my hard-earned money. After all, if you aren’t willing to fight on my behalf, in my district, in my state, then why should I bother helping, or voting for you?

Just recently we were talking about Republicans fading into obscurity and only representing small, rural pockets of the United States. Yet Democrats are abandoning Howard Dean’s 50 state strategy and are considering only representing easily won areas of the country? That sounds a lot like conceding defeat to me, and I don’t believe in surrendering just because times got a little bit tough. No wonder Democrats are having a hard time getting voters to turn out.


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