Now that the elections are behind us and we have Democratic victory to savor, I'd like to talk about something that's been bugging the hell out of me. I'm seriously not trying to slam anyone in particular here either, I'm just kinda pissed about this "Fuck The South"attitude that persists in more than a few Democratic and liberal political circles. Gee thanks alot there,nice to know it's ok for me to devote my time and energy(and money) to people I can't vote for and when you win,I still can't convince you that not everyone south of the Mason/Dixon is a mouthbreathing redneck dipshit. No,appearently I deserve to be given shit because I live here and it's not your fault. Trust me,if I could afford to move I would,for environmental reasons more than anything else. Republican attitudes towards business and expansion lay the countryside to waste,I hate that. When I bought my home 10 yrs ago I lived in a rural area. Now I live in the suburbs,without having had to move so much as a box. Suburbs are a virus,but I digress. I'd love to live in a blue state that has it's shit together better than Georgia,but I gotta work from where I am,blooming where I'm planted as it were.
Howard Dean's 50 State Strategy is a great plan,it should be fleshed out some more and really firmed up as much as possible. I think once that happens this will become quite a formidable and positive political machine,as long as it does not succomb to big bucks and big egos too much(a little is inevitable,but it can be kept in check). And hopefully at some point,the people with influence in the Party will realize that some political investment in the South does have a payoff,but it will require some patience,some nurturing and some time. There are progressive liberal types here who are starving to help get Dems elected,but we often aren't asked to do anything for our own people,here.
Last summer,at Yearly Kos,there was a panel on the South and it's politics,whether that can shift or not,blah,blah,blah. I never got to see it on C-Span,but I noted that none of the bloggers on the panel lived in the South(If I'm wrong about that I stand corrected,but I don't think I'm wrong). I wonder if any of them have ever visited the South,outside of a blue splotch like the actual city of Atlanta. This is a Problem. If we want to weaken and minimalize Modern Conservativism(hey,they called themselves that first,not me),we're gonna have to convince Southerners that they need to start voting in their own best interests. You ain't gonna do that if you continue to keep southern progressives on the outside looking in. And you certainly won't do it by assuming everyone who lives in the South is an idiot.
I'm not saying there is NO Dem organizing and working going on here,there is,but it's very much a club for"professionals",or so anemic and uninspiring it borders on depressing. It's not too grassrootsy,but it is very "establishment". You don't win hearts and minds with that stuff. Especially of people who have to work for a living.
We had a fairly good Dem running here against an incumbent Repub for the U.S. House,but I never saw one TV commercial,one local TV appearence,a bumpersticker or sign,no literature,flyers or events. Nada. I went to his campaign headquarters to volunteer and no one could make up their minds if they needed my help or not. I hung out there for a few days,did some phone calls,brought in food,etc,but quit,simply becaus I was underwhelmed by the energy being devoted. It was like this was a hobby and a social club or something. It was fucking depressing. And even with all that, he got 30 percent of the vote,investment could have put him over the top by enough of a margin to win. It's not about how much money you spend,it's HOW you spend it that makes for a good campaign. You also have to get people on the ground fired up,excited,and take that to the people,one on one around kitchen tables.
Our Hispanic population is growing by leaps and bounds. With no one reaching out to them who has their best interests at heart, many won't vote,or if they do,they won't go to the polls fully informed. That's a huge untapped amount progressive potential. The Hispanic community also has it's own media,it's own small business community,infrastructures that are perfect for politics and helping to organize.
Women are another part of the population in the South that is virtually ignored by Democrats. We're the ones paying attention to the schools. We do the shopping for our families,we know how much prices effect our bottom lines. Many of us are single mothers (more untapped progressive potential,big time) who have to work more than one job to support our kids. Many of us are white suburban moms who worry about college tuitions that have gone through the roof. Many of us have families in tremendous debt. We wonder if the Occupation of Iraq will take our kids or their friends away from us. We deal with husbands who cheat on us,family crises,aging parents,churches who aren't woman friendly,politics that won't take us seriously.
Red State America is a wierd place to be sure. Megachurches and McMansions co-mingle,there's a Super WalMart every 3 miles and a mall of one kind or another in between. There are multi-million dollar new schools that undereducate and warehouse our kids and no one seems to notice. Shopping is entertainment,SUVs and Big Trucks rule the roads. But alot of people still aren't happy,and they know somethin' ain't right,they just can't put their finger on why or what. I think I have a couple of ideas as to why and what.
First and foremost is a lack of community investment. It's not all that"neighborly" in these parts. Some of that has to do with how developers develop,it's more isolating than communal. Urban sprawl is not all that warm and welcoming. Outside of church,or perhaps kid's sports or the golf course,there's no place to belong. This means there's a huge void that megachurches seized on. Give the people something else that solid,they WILL come.
Second,there's no counter message. No alternative to the southern GOP brand of politics and religion with big bidness all swirled in. What we don't need here is Dems trying to be more like the Repubs,we need a completely different deal. And it can be done without religion taking a front seat. I call it Bread and Butter Politics. Jobs,pensions and retirement,the ability to save and maybe even invest a little,healthcare costs,a fairer and easier to understand tax structure,schools,government corruption,the occupation of Iraq and what that means for the future,better schools,a safe and healthy food supply,you get the idea. These things do matter to families,even suburban ones.
I know lots of families who are struggling and carrying huge debts even with a 6 figure salary. They're one health care crisis or a couple of paychecks away from financial disaster. If you talk to them about economics and the real effects of politics on their own economic future,they'll respond positively.
The GOP machine in Georgia took a blow when Ralph Reed was laughed out of the primaries. It would have been a perfect opening for a solid Dem to come in and make inroads. Instead we got Mark Taylor,who had nothing to offer voters to challenge incumbent governor Sonny Purdue. Taylor got his ass handed to him. I've had more pleasant and exciting root canals than Taylor's campaign. Whoever ran that mess should be run out of poltics and into an exciting career at McDonald's working the deep fryer.
Georgia,for all it's red state pain in the ass-ness, has some stuff going for it that could help create Progressive inroads,such as:
A fairly healthy organic and industrial farm industry. There are food co-ops and other venues in place that fit in with a Democratic platform perfectly. Support the family farmer,you'll find a friend there.
Our schools simply need better curriculums,we are woefully behind in many ways. Bring people some sane changes to NCLB and religious wingnut nonsense and people will respond,happily.
Urban Sprawl has surpassed infrastructure capacity,and it's taking it's toll. Traffic is a mess,public transportation is limited,utilities are on tenuous ground. Sane city planning is needed desperately.
Women and minorites,as I said above,huge untapped voter base. Stop treating us like we're stupid and second class. The things we care about are good for everyone.
Small businesses here are taking hits from the WalMarts of the world,support them,you'll find a loyal voting bloc. Combine them with small scale farmers and you'd have an even bigger voting pool.
Atlanta's GLBT community is huge and has outreach outside the city limits. There are allies there with organizing experience.
Also,the Southern suburbs are full of white people who aren't FROM the South and don't have "southern traditions"as baggage.Like me. Hell,I can go for days without actually meeting someone who was actually born here. You think all those people are conservatives? No way. We didn't come here for the politics,most of us came here when jobs up north dried up or companies transferred us to the region.
Yeah,the wingnuts are moneyed and loony,but they are not invincible. They're very comfortable here,which means there are weaknesses that are obvious if you look for them. By writing off the South you're proving that the Southern Strategy works and you're engaging in the same divisive politics that let the GOP claim the South as it's own. Stop It.