Thursday, August 7, 2008

Reversing the Great Reversal in the South

This morning's Wall Street Journal, in "The New Southern Strategy,"reports that for the first time in decades, the Democratic Party stands a good chance of reversing the long-term trend in GOP electoral dominance across the South. The case of Democrat Bobby Bright, running for Congress in the rural 2nd Congressional District of Alabama, provides a glimpse of a potential voting realigment in the region:

Spurred by the souring economy and a newfound willingness to embrace conservative candidates, the Democratic Party is running its most competitive campaign across the South in 40 years, fielding potential winners along a rib of states stretching from Louisiana to Virginia, the heart of the Old Confederacy. Sen. Barack Obama's ability to excite African-American voters in certain Southern races could provide an additional boost, too.

The party's rising prospects point toward a once unthinkable goal: a reversal of the "Great Reversal," the switch in political loyalties in the 1960s that made the South a Republican stronghold for a generation. If the current picture holds, Democrats could use the Southern strength to help craft a workable Senate majority and expand their majority in the House of Representatives. At the very least, it widens the field of competitive seats, forcing Republicans to fight fires in once-reliably solid areas.
Bright's appeal lies is his roots of Southern populism, and his intuition is that the GOP-brand is fatally tarnished in 2008, even in the super-conservative Deep South. Other candidates are actually coopting traditional Republican strengths, for example, in supporting more religion in the public sphere, gun rights, or in promoting pro-military credentials.

But not all is well down Dixie way. It turns out that perhaps the new Democratic appeal will be to exploit racial grievance politics, in an effort to parlay the combination of
black blood-of-martyrs politics and progressive white guilt into a winning strategy that paints moderates as the new Southern Night Riders.

The test case of this new Southern Strategy is Nikki Tinker,
who's campaigning for the Democratic primary in Tennessee’s 9th Congressional District, the former Memphis seat of Harold Ford, Jr.

Tinker is coming under fire for accusing her opponent, Representative Steve Cohen, as a neo-Klansman:

The campaign of Democratic attorney Nikki Tinker is increasingly using issues of race and religion to attack freshman Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), a white Jewish congressman representing a majority-black Memphis district.

Just days after
airing a racially charged ad connecting Cohen with the Ku Klux Klan, the Tinker campaign is up with a new ad not-too-subtly questioning his religious convictions.“

Who is the real Steve Cohen, anyway?” a narrator says as a child is heard praying in the background . “While he’s in our churches clapping his hands and tapping his feet, he’s the only senator who thought our kids shouldn’t be allowed to pray in school. Congressman, sometimes apologies just aren’t enough.”

The apology line appears to be a veiled reference to Cohen’s just-passed legislation in Congress that apologizes to African-Americans for the “fundamental injustice” of slavery and racial segregation."

He’s never voted against prayer in school. It’s an out-and-out lie. This is desperation upon desperation," said Cohen campaign manager Jerry Austin. Cohen planned to hold a press conference Wednesday morning to respond to the new ad.

Cohen already has been the target of an anti-Semitic mailer was distributed earlier this year in the district.
The flier said that "Cohen and the Jews HATE Jesus" and called upon "Black Christians" to support one "Black Christian" and oppose "this opponent of Christ and Christianity."
Here's the flyer:

Attack on Steve Cohen

Meanwhile, liberal interest groups and top netroots blogging outfits are shocked - shocked! - that a Democratic would make such allegations.

What's shocking is that anyone on the Democratic side is actually upset that one of their own in the primary would turn the party's New Southern Strategy on an intra-party opponent.

As the Wall Street Journal story indicates, Democrats look competitive in at least a half dozen congressional districts below the Mason-Dixon Line. In the Senate at least two-GOP held seats in the Old South are toss-ups.

The reversal that we're seeing in Southern congressional elections is that the GOP - which has been slandered as the party of craven racial pandering since Richard Nixon's infamous "Sourthern Strategy" helped create a Solid Republican South - will now be attacked as reborn Klansmen hell-bent on restoring an anti-Semitic racist white man's hegemony across Dixie.

Democrats, benefitting already from GOP voter fatigue, can clinch the deal by raising the spector of Old Nathan Bedford.

The future is here, and it's not pretty.

“Who is the real Steve Cohen, anyway?”

“While he’s in our churches clapping his hands and tapping his feet, he’s the only senator who thought our kids shouldn’t be allowed to pray in school. Congressman, sometimes apologies just aren’t enough.”