It goes without saying that the Republican Party is largely a regional Southern Party, although you'll see pockets of GOP support in the Mountain West and some successful GOP candidates in regions of the Midwest and even New England. But we should never make the mistake of thinking that the South is all "red states," or that we should give up on the South.
Al Gore showed us why there's reason to hope on Saturday, when he returned from Ted Kennedy's funeral to introduce Bill Clinton and speak at the Tennessee Democratic Party's Jackson Day event last week. Here's video of Gore's remembrance of Ted Kennedy:
More after the jump...
As you'll see in the video, Gore brought a group of over 3,000 dinner guests to their feet in thunderous applause. These are mostly Southerners - many from rural communities - many "Blue Dogs". Most of the attendees had spent $150 a ticket to attend. Some were members of the Finance Council, who had donated $1,000 apiece to attend a closed-door reception earlier in the day.
What we miss in all the talk about the Southern regional nature of the Republican Party is that there is still strong Southern support for the Democratic Party. We have a 5-4 majority of Democrats in Congress and a Democratic governor. (And while Gov. Phil Bredesen is hardly a radical, he is someone who has a lifelong connection to the Democratic Party and who understands the need for good government and effective leadership.)
Gore made two simple points: We have a moral obligation to provide care for the least of these, and it makes good business sense for us to manage our economy effectively.
That'll preach - even in Tennessee.
Republicans in Tennessee have tried to play the Reagan game for too long now. As my state representative, Mike Turner, said earlier this year, "Republicans run for office complaining about how corrupt and ineffective the government is, and then they get into office and prove it." The GOP strategy is simple - get members of our democracy to forget that we are the government, and make government into some scary "THEY". (Then give big handouts to your corporate donors to make sure that you can buy more votes and fool more people.)
We might be rednecks, but we're not stupid. Tennesseans don't want to be talked down to, and they don't want to be taken for granted. But our state still leans blue - and we want courageous leadership, not centrist waffling.
Bill Clinton said it even more clearly during his address on Saturday - we shouldn't worry too much about deficits in the short term, because the Republicans are the ones who drove the bus into the ditch, and we need to spend some energy and capital in order to get the bus out. Then, once the economy is running strong again, we can worry about fiscal discipline.
Here's a transcript of Gore talking about Ted Kennedy's legacy and the need to pass comprehensive healthcare reform:
Earlier today- some of you probably saw the coverage of it on television - Bill Clinton and I were in Boston at the funeral service for Ted Kennedy. He was, by far, the most effective member of the United States Senate that I served with – and many say, the most effective member of the United States Senate in the last century. We miss him, and we honor his memory.
And let me tell you, that church was filled up with Republicans as well as Democrats, even though he was known as a ... well, I started to say partisan ... he held to his values and he fought for what he thought was right but he did it in a way that reached across the party lines. And we have to do that to get things done.
But let me tell you one thing that really impressed me about the service today. They had a passage that had been written by Senator Kennedy about his religious faith. And he said that the center of his Christian faith was the Gospel of Matthew. And many of you know the famous passage that begins in chapter 25 where Jesus says to the gathering that, “You gave me food when I was hungry. You gave me water when I was thirsty. And when I was sick, you cared for me.” And they said, “Lord, Master, when did we do these things?” And he said, “When you did these things for the least among us, you did it for me.”
And let me tell you, we hear a lot of talk about liberal and conservative, and left and right, but let me tell you – ladies and gentlemen, when there are tens of millions of people – IN OUR COUNTRY – who cannot afford or get access to healthcare, WE HAVE A MORAL DUTY TO PASS HEALTHCARE REFORM. And we need to pass it this year.
Build support for it!
Give these members of Congress the support they need to vote right on it!
Let’s give President Barack Obama the victory that our country needs!