There is a spirited debate of sorts going on in the pages of The Nation over Tom Schaller's book, "Whistling Past Dixie". Bob Moser wrote "A New Southern Strategy", an article in November 27th issue. It's subscription only but I'll summarize the current debate:
Thomas Schaller's recent book, Whistling Past Dixie, brought together years' worth of poll-tested memoranda in calling for the Democratic Party to kiss off the nation's largest region.
On November 7 the South--a k a Jesusland--showed how wrong that conclusion was. If the Senate lands in Democratic hands, it will be thanks in large part to Claire McCaskill's triumph in Missouri and to Jim Webb's prevailing in the recount in Virginia over the man who was once conservatives' great hope for the White House in 2008. It will not be thanks to the candidate who ran the sort of Southern campaign the sages called "perfect"--Harold Ford Jr. in Tennessee
This week in the letters page, Jay Walljasper, whose opinion I would ordinarily respect, writes "knowingly" in response:
For years the Democratic Leadership Council and other conservatives have warned Democrats that they must water down their progressive ideas if they want to win in the South. That has meant dampening the enthusiasm of many working-class, minority and progressive voters elsewhere, whose indifference has hurt the party more than conservative Southern Democrats have helped it.
This idiot savant approach to "Southern" politics (whatever that really is) is infuriating. It is condescending and based on a fictionalized image of the south frozen in time, the snow filled streets of Minneapolis from where Walljasper writes and Rahm Emanuel's mind.
Bob Moser writes in response:
As I will argue at length in these pages in a future issue, Walljasper's notion of a uniformly conservative South where Democrats can't compete without watering down their "progressive ideas" is simply false. His suggestion that Democrats in 2008 should "say that the Republicans are becoming a regional party"--i.e., a Southern party--as a campaign tactic is a disturbing echo of Tom Schaller's argument, in Whistling Past Dixie, that Democrats should not only steer clear of the South in 2008 but should run against the South as a way of whipping up resentment against conservative Republicanism. Morally and strategically, such a "non-Southern strategy" would be a disaster.
And whatever Walljasper thinks, a party that demonizes the South will not have a prayer of picking off Southern "border states" like Virginia, Arkansas or Louisiana--or Kansas, for that matter.
The people of the "South" (whatever that is) have been starved of a positive progressive agenda for years with mealy-mouth national Democratic policies that have abandonded them to hordes of nay-saying conservatives. Don't blow off the "South" (whatever that is) like so much African genocide. Do something about it. Talk and act like progressive Democrats. We'll do the rest.