The Jaker

Mostly rational politics, with occasional rants about how a few crazy Republicans are ruining the country.

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Tuesday, December 21, 2004
Reflections on "Understanding the South"
One of the best post-election articles/discussions I have come across is this diary on DailyKos entitled Understanding the South. It offers a first-person view of Southern voters, how they come to make their decisions, and what kind of politics appeals to them. It's a fascinating read, and I would categorize it as a must for anyone interested in understanding how to plan effective national political strategies, or running for office in the future (that's you, Steve Ruckman).

There are a number of interesting takeaways from the article, of which I'll highlight two:

1. We should have nominated Dean
The following paragraph illustrates why I was high on Howard Dean from the beginning, and strongly believe he possesses a number of the qualities that we need to look for in future candidates:
More than anything else, Southerners value authenticity. To illustrate this, let me get a bit anecdotal and tell you about my father, whom if you remember is a card carrying, rock-ribbed conservative who listens to Rush Limbaugh nearly every single day. Anybody care to take a wild guess about who he wanted to win this election? To those who guessed George W. Bush, nice try, but no cigar. My father wanted Howard Dean to win. He liked the fact that governor said what he meant and meant what he said. He liked Dean's record with the Vermont budget. And he doesn't like George W. Bush that much, so he was eager to vote for someone else, but only if they met his criteria. Ironically enough, Howard Dean met this criteria. John Kerry, unfortunately, didn't. The 'voted for before I voted against' meme was just too damaging in my father eyes (as well as many others, I would imagine.)

As Democrats, I believe, the first step is that we need to be braver. Howard Dean had all the right opinions, and connected that with the vision to inspire. He's a real person; you listen to him and you understand what he's like. But we (or the people in Iowa) chickened out. We went with the one who looks like a President. Might I remind you: take a look at the current occupant of the White House. And Bill Clinton. And Jimmy Carter. And Ronald Reagan. Guys like Howard Dean get elected these days. If we are brave enough.

2. It can't be just a TV campaign
The South, and other Republican areas, cannot be won by 30-second spots featuring the candidate. What's coming out, from this article and others, is that people just really don't understand what Democratic policies mean. Vision, like Bush's, they can understand. But policy is complicated.
Running a slick national campaign with high-dollar ads can do a little bit, but that strategy alone will never win in the South. It's not that people aren't willing to vote in their economic interests, but many are simply unaware that voting Democrat would be in their economic interest. We must get much more creative and energetic in communicating to the average voter.

So I strongly agree with the recommendation herein that it takes a long, grassroots battle beginning in local chapters and small races, to educate people on what Democrats are trying to do for them. After all, we are the ones that ARE trying to do things for lower-income people. But we can't educate them through soundbites.

posted by CB @ 1:15 PM  
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