As the dust settles
after another election year, here is a request to those individuals
who place missing persons on milk cartons: could you help us
find the real Southern white male Democrats? It is obvious that
they are MIA when it comes to local and national politics.
Case in point: in the
recent campaign by incumbent Democratic Mississippi Governor
Ronnie Musgrove, he ran ads that said he was conservative and
independent. He never once mentioned that he was the Democratic
nominee for re-election. Many in the African-American community
were upset and betrayed by this campaign tactic purportedly dictated
by opinion polls. One prominent Democratic African-American official
told me that his wife expressed outright rage when she first
saw the commercial.
is not isolated to Mississippi. All across the South, white males
that outwardly declare their Democratic pedigree are becoming
increasingly scarce. They are constantly put in awkward positions
on issues ranging from abortion to tort reform. They are not
comfortable touting the party line, as their college buddies
and co-workers shift their allegiance whole-heartedly to the
are being pressured to switch parties as the Democratic Party
is labeled as “the
Black people’s party.” This makes them uncomfortable and when
we need them the most they turn up missing.
this can be attributed to a successful campaign started by
former President Nixon entitled “The
Southern Strategy.” Nixon initiated this strategy, when former
Alabama Governor George Wallace made a somewhat successful run
for president in 1968. Wallace, four years before his “Damascus
Road” experience, targeted Southern white males who suddenly
felt disenfranchised as African-Americans started to infiltrate
the power structure of the Democratic Party.
to the 1940’s,
Blacks were loyal to the GOP because it was considered the party
of Lincoln, the alleged “Great Emancipator.” The combination
of Franklin Roosevelt’s public policies and the deliberate targeted
protests, led by grassroots leaders like Fannie Lou Hamer, toward
full political access, started the shift for Black Americans
toward becoming almost monolithically Democrat.
shift started to displace those white males who could not adapt
to the times,
and Wallace was able to reach them. Nixon saw this demographic
as a gold mine, and sought to aggressively cultivate them. The
culmination did not come to fruition during Nixon’s political
career, but the seeds had been planted. The initial beneficiary
of this strategy was former President Ronald Reagan as he took
Southern votes from former President Jimmy Carter, a Democrat
from the state of Georgia.
then, it has been a fight for Democrats to win the hearts and
minds of Southern
white males, who now felt at home with the GOP’s subtle racist
agenda. Under the guise of conservative family values, the Republicans
have de-valued the need for hard-fought gains, such as affirmative
action, and have escalated the level of fear by highlighting
wedge issues like crime and religion. The current GOP has used
the same manipulation tactics engaged by slave owners in the
1700’s and 1800’s to convince poor whites under their employ
to enact acts of atrocity toward Negro slaves and to later fight
a war for “the noble Southern way of life.”
successful, yet invidious, manipulation of the “vox populi” has caused many Southern
white males who claim to still be Democrats to become spineless
jellyfish. Former Vice-President Gore’s debacle of a presidential
campaign is a classic case study.
Gore, from Tennessee,
refused to allow his former running mate, President Bill Clinton,
from Arkansas, to campaign for him in the South, because, supposedly
Clinton alienated other Southern white males, despite his apparent
popularity with base Democratic voters. Gore went on to lose
the South, including Arkansas and Tennessee. If Gore had won
those states, Florida would never have been a factor.
need for acceptance by his white males counterparts cost him
the most powerful position
in the free world. How many more defeats will it take for Southern
white male Democrats to realize that to win the war of ideology,
they cannot act like the enemy?
That is why the candidacy
of North Carolina U.S. Senator John Edwards has not energized
the African-American community. That is why Southern Democratic
governors are becoming an endangered species, election after
election. More importantly, that is why Blacks are becoming more
disenchanted with the half-hearted efforts of the Democratic
National Committee to address their issues.
When a team needs to
change their losing ways, they make adjustments in their personnel
and their play calling. If the Democrats want to start winning
elections again in the South, changes have to be made. Southern
white male Democrats need to re-discover their political backbone
and challenge the misinformation campaign of the GOP head-on.
If they can be found, that is.
Governor Ronnie Musgrove was defeated by Republican Haley