Dick Meet John

Posted by sepoy on July 06, 2004 · 16 mins read

No. Not Gephardt. John Edwards is the actual pick, not that Murdoch Empire fantasy. I have to applaud the decision to go with Edwards. He connected really well with voters during the primaries. He polled as the "most likeable". He is attractive on camera (trust me that is an issue when debating Cheney's sneer) and he is from the South. While I am very tired of the CW that holds the Democrats cannot win without a Southerner on the ticket, I will say no more. Marlowe needs to weigh in here.
update: I hunted for and found Mr. Marlowe's take on the Southern issue from an iowablog post of Dec, 2003. It is below the fold. I highly recommend you read it.

from iowablog Dec 16, 2003, post by me.
[Me: My obsession with electoral maps continues. Chiefly, because I am trying to sort out whether communities really have such consistent views of the world. Anyways, I forwarded a recent article by Robert Sullivan which divides the electorate into 10 regions across state borders. Very interesting stuff. The upshot was that the Appalachia was up for grabs for 2004. When asked for comment, the Official Appalachian Spokesman Mr. Steve Marlowe had the following to say via email]

The WalMart Strategy by Stephen D. Marlowe

I wish I could claim the title of Whiskey Soaked Spokesperson. But according to my cousins, I do the same things that would alienate voters from Dean. My subscription to the New Yorker is quite circumspect, and they don't understand how I can hate NASCAR and still remain heterosexual. But here goes:

1. I think Sullivan's map is great and his analysis is pretty tight, except for the difference between Big River and Farm Belt. There's no difference at all. A rural Ohioan and someone from Hannibal, Missouri, have quite a lot in common. And, until the seventies, they all voted blue. They are still up for grabs: Clinton nabbed a lot of them, didn't he? What's interesting about this to me is, much like a fault-line map also tracks active seismic and volcanic zones pretty closely, this map works for other analyses as well--its good for tracking religion, sect, dialect, immigration patterns, indigenous music, indigenous literature, marketing, etc. It's a pretty reasonable division of America by major subculture, and if there were ever another constitutional convention, the framers might want to consider this exact breakdown in choosing administrative divisions. It explains why someone from Dearborn can't communicate at all on many subjects with someone from Casper, Wyoming. I think its good work, booyah.

2. As for rustling up the cracker-vote (I reclaim the term)I think there's little chance. Cole seems to be relying on distant memories of Appalachian jingoism, which was at its worst in the early eighties, when the Iran hostage crisis pissed almost every American off, not just those in the mountains. While Nixon's "southern strategy," has worked fairly well among mountain folk, it's not solely because of misinformation or native stupidity, or bias, but because of mountain culture, which as a result of a hundred fifty years of isolation, stresses self-reliance and simplicity. Of course, this is hypocritical: per capita, government-supplemented income is very high in many rural areas. People love myths and ideal values, even when they're shitting on them. Anyhow, among almost every person I know in those areas there is a tremendous sense of alienation about the Democrats. It's more nuanced, and I think I understand it. I could sum it up simply as -isms and -obias, but that's unfair. These folks love Chinese food and the Evarts City Council, in my ancestral home town just swore in the local Super-8 owner, an Indian.

The "Foreign Adventurism" tack is hopeless, per below. The "New York Financier" ploy WOULD work if the proper context were given. But I'm worried that the Democrats have lost their ability to speak from that pulpit, also discussed below. I also, wouldn't go with the whole New York financiers angle--it smacks of the Elders of Zion for some reason, at least to me, and the John Birch Society's unfulfilled apocalyptic promises have dampened enthusiasm for such nonsense. The better villain is Wal-Mart. My cousins don't hate Jews or rich people. They hate their bosses and what they perceive as systemic unfairness. Like most Americans, they think they will eventually get rich if they try hard enough, and if the people in power will stop "leveling the playing field," which they see as grading it against them.

At the start of the last century, Applachia was the site of some of the country's worst labor unrest at a time when the country could've moved left at a rapid pace. I personally have long-dead relatives that got jacked up by hired goons with tire irons during the union drives, which we all know ultimately failed, often with a body count. Make no mistake--this area heard Debs, loved Guthrie, and could've easily gone way left, real quick. That sentiment was tempered through gradual improvements in mining saftey and benefits, an income boon through the criminalization of marijuana (it's Kentucky's biggest industry bar none, and is distributed through bootlegging syndicates and channels), as well as a co-opting of rhetoric by Democrats in local politics. The implicit understanding was that the mine owners were Republicans and the miners were Democrats. There is also priggish Victorian concept of morality, buttressed by homespun religion and a generalized allowance for wanton drinking and screwing: public selves and private selves are recognized and understood. Ostentatiousness and hell raising are allowed within certain parameters, but discretion and, often, repentance, are required; this is common for many rural areas, and is not unique to Appalachia, I don't think. But it informs. Activist stances are viewed with great skepticim and suspicion, and are seen as impolite. Memories of dying for a cause are very real there, and modern political mau-mauing comes off illegitimate, somehow.

The Kennedys understood this very well and made a serious play for this area, while simultaneously going after segregation, which, if conventional wisdom held, should've made them very unpopular. It did not--hagiographic portraits of FDR and JFK hung in many homes. I saw this myself, almost twenty years after RFK got capped. The Kennedys were the epitome of northern bluster, and it didn't harm them much, at least not in the zeitgeist. The nut of it is this: the Democrats of the Kennedy era spoke the language of class, which rang loud in the ears of people living in dirt-floored huts. They also did not condescend--JFK would've never pulled out a bullshit line like Dean's "Confederate Flag" zinger. He would've shared the sentiment, but wasn't under the soundbite pressure which creates such gaffes.

Simple expressions of complicated concepts--"Republicans are for the rich," work well there, not because the people are stupid, but because they appreciate concise symbolic expression. Jesus is Lord. God, Guns & Guts. That sort of thing. Sit on a front porch, and you'll hear those things expounded upon at length and with a measure of sophistication. But there's a premium put on not wasting people's time with gradations and nuances which everyone recognizes are implied anyhow. So, when the Democrats punted in the early seventies, and tried to make a majority party of a hundred interest groups, they were unable to summarize adequately why they deserved the vote of a poor white dude in Hazard County, KY. In fact, the general understanding is that they did not--the economic focus of the Democrats faded in favor of identity politics and a defense of unsustainable Great Society entitlements. This worked well throughout the eighties, but has since 1994, and increasingly with the advent of the Fox News juggernaut, hurt them terribly. America is still almost 40% white male--many of whom feel shit on by popular culture and race-consciousness, rightly or wrongly, and with a few of their wives on board, you can win elections. Roger Ailes and Newt Gingrich understood this.

Thomas Sowell, quite in spite of himself, ran some statistics a few years back. When class is considered instead of race, all tangible advantages of whiteness disappear. Life expectancy, health, income, all of it. The problem it seems, is poverty and the culture of wealth as it relates to access to opportunity. You will find a rich, dull Nepalese at Harvard before you find a poor, bright hillbilly. And if we focus on poverty we must discuss class, and that's our biggest taboo, even worse than necrophilia and bestiality. Unfortunately, Democrats are beholden to cultural issues instead of economics, which allows the Republicans to hound them on gays, abortion and other hot-button stuff in the public square, while concentrating legislatively on economic reform and limits on civil liberties. Left leaning folk can go to Nader. Right leaning folk can go nowhere. The Republicans kiss their base then flog them like pimped bitches. Republicans say: Affirmative action, Gay marriage, Abortion on Demand...and my largely fundamentalist people fold, unable to countenance what they see as the easy way out, or undeserved privilege. It's not racism or homophobia, either. It's this, as yet unanswered question--why should Whitey McStraight give a damn about the Democratic party's civil rights record, or opportunities for women and minorities, when he's selling ginseng to make ends meet and numbing himself with Oxycontin? Meanwhile, those are constitutional issues, not policy issues, and legislators and presidents can do little about them, save constitutional amendment. So Republicans play on cultural straw men while concentrating on economics, while Democrats give lip service toeconomics while defending, at too high a cost, their leftward flank. For simplicity's sake, it just doesn't speak to rural highland voters where they live.

Mountain and rural whites are PUNISHING the democrats for abandoning them. They don't care a hoot about Republicans. The Republicans give them rhetorical succor, bordering on but not explicit in the -isms and -obias, which allows them to express their frustration at what they see as undeserved entitlement of the few without addressing the underlying, often ugly assumptions in the right wing critique. For the angry many that's better than nothing. Bill O'Reilly, very popular in these areas, speak to this. Yes, his views are usually pedestrian, uninformed and often flat-out factually wrong, but he is popular because he's identified loony excesses on the left and calls them by their simplest names. "The ACLU Hates Christmas..." Yes, its more complicated than that, but, then again, it isn't. His latest book is entitled "Who's Looking Out For You?" The "You," are my cousins. When they feel heard by the Democrats again (and that'll take a shift of Southern Strategy proportions, and a reevaluation of the party's core values) they'll drop the Republicans in an instant. They can't wait to not vote Republican. But they need a reason, and they need to feel understood. Not mocked, not called white-trash, not supposed to be racists or gay-baiters, not condescended to.

Here it is: talk straight about what's happening vis a vis globalization, multinational multibillion corps, loss of high wage jobs, inequitable distribution of wealth, Republican support of the WTO, IMF & other soverignty eroding institutions. Tie it all to the Wal-Mart, and that sinking feeling they have about getting paid by the Wal-Mart, then turning around and spending their checks at the same store for overpriced goods, once the local merchants have been run out of business. Talk about the sorry state of Appalachian schools where by law they must send their kids, when Mitch McConnell sends his to Sidwell Friends or Andover or wherever. DON'T tie it to Iraq. They don't begrudge those folks the aid, because an American international presence is a source of pride, as discussed below. Keep it domestic. Stress the similarities between the plights of poor whites and minorities, not the past ill-treatment of specific groups. Most sharecroppers were white, for instance, and mountain whites KNOW this, and their narratives are full of "we've been fucked over," sentiments as much as blacks or hispanics or whomever. They have no patience for hairsplitting misery.

What's more, scots-irish, are generally a violent, patriotic lot. And I say that without judgment. I carry the same genes and a ladelfull of the culture, and have thus beaten and been beaten more than I'd like. They don't feel like they have much, but being American feels a lot like being on a winning team. The Vietnam-style "Fortunate Son" protest strategy won't work, at least not for a while. It will be seen as pseudointellectual europhile posturing. That is until it becomes incontrovertible that the basis of this war was economic, not national security. They're witholding judgment, and will give Bush 43 the benefit of the doubt.

That said, nobody lives in Appalachia. There's a net loss of population every census. Electorally, they're not worth the effort. But this discussion applies to a lot of the "red" states as well, and taken together, over time, with the proper strategy applied, a lot of Sullivan's map might turn blue. That would be significant. In the meantime, a little love to the motherland wouldn't hurt, for chrissakes. Al Gore played to Manhattan, but lost Wyoming and Texas and Tennessee and the Carolinas. Who gives a damn about Florida? He pissed on his homeboys, and in the end they bitch-slapped him.


Marlowe | July 06, 2004

Thanks for the cue, Sepoy. The CW is wrong. As the brutal and merciless Pat Buchanan warns all good, God-fearing right-wingers: "If nominated, Kerry must be conceded Hawaii (4), Maryland (10), Massachusetts (12), Rhode Island (4), New York (31) and D.C. (3), for 64 electoral votes. These five states, plus D.C., will be virtually uncontested. Since 2000, California has been awarded two more electoral votes. Kerry should be favored in the Hispanicizing Golden State (55), as well as Oregon (7) and Washington (11). Al Gore swept the Left Coast. Should Kerry do likewise, this would give him 73 additional electoral votes, bringing his total up to 137. Assume Kerry cedes to Bush all the other Western, Mountain and Plains states all the way to the Missouri River. He can still win. His imperative is this: He must sweep the Rust Belt that has borne the brunt of a 2.8 million manufacturing jobs loss under Bush. If Kerry can win New Jersey (15), Pennsylvania (21), Ohio (20), West Virginia (5), Michigan (17), Illinois (21) and the anti-war Upper Midwest ñ Wisconsin (10), Minnesota (10), Iowa (7) ñ he can put in his bag an additional 126 electoral votes for a total of 263. Kerry is now only seven votes shy of the presidency. Any two out of the three Upper New England states ñ Ben and Jerry's Vermont (3), New Hampshire (4), which Kerry just won, and Maine (4), which Bush's father lost in 1992 and GWB lost in 2000, puts Kerry over the top. Winning Connecticut (8) alone would do it." The key here is the rust belt. They wax and wane, and Kerry's Continental demeanor will be a hard sell among the pot-belly and pabst set. Edwards is reasonably popular in the Midwest, and he puts some of the Southern states back in play as well; specifically, I think, New South states like Georgia, Florida, and the Carolinas. White Georgians are looking for about any reason to show they're not rubes (i.e., slavering Republicans), and black voters generally like to spank Republicans on general principle. Kerry can win this thing without the South, and Edwards is like an insurance policy--he puts the South back in play and can't hurt in the North.

sepoy | July 06, 2004

Astute words, my friend. Lets take this Rust Belt issue. As I remember from 2000, Pennsylvania was one of the, if not the, most visited state by Bush/Cheney. Tom Ridge was a possible VP and his ascension to Homeland Security plays still on that need to carry Penn. Ohio went to Bush as well. I am betting that these states will turn towards Kerry/Edwards - the Dems are polling nicely there. Further, I think that at least Tennesse or a Carolina or, heck, Louisana will land in the Dem camp. The "recovery" is already over if you read that lefty crackpot Krugman in today's NYTimes. That oughta keep the loss of jobs fresh in those midwestern minds and re-enforce that something is way the hell stinky in the Kingdom.