Politics, Race, The Economy

Three excellent articles relating to the flap over Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean’s confederate flag” remark. First, from Paul Krugman:

Howard Dean’s remarks about the need to appeal to white Southerners could certainly have been better phrased. But his rivals for the Democratic nomination should be ashamed of their reaction. They know what he was trying to say — and it wasn’t that his party should go soft on racism.

What Krugman argues is that the Democrats need to understand why voters in the South are voting against their economic self-interests. Krugman hints, and David Neiwert forcefully argues that Republicans have a coherent Southern Strategy”. He quotes this AP report:

Rickey Cole, chairman of the Mississippi Democratic Party, said the GOPs tactics in this election season harked back to Nixon’s Southern Republican strategy to make subtle winks and nods to white racism in the South.”

Neiwert also makes an important point about the urban-vs-rural divide that is increasingly determining how Americans vote. Rural American is increasingly poor, and they see the Democratic party as representing largely urban interests. The third article is an extended discussion of this urban-rural divide by John Nichols in the Nation:

Poverty rates are now higher in vast rural stretches of the Great Plains than in America’s big cities; nine of the nation’s ten counties with the lowest per capita income are found in farm states west of the Mississippi. Twenty-seven percent of rural workers earn a wage that is insufficient to lift a family of four out of poverty. Rural hospitals are closing. Medicare and Medicaid payments are getting squeezed. Incomes for the vast majority of farm families remain stagnant. Free-trade initiatives like the North American Free Trade Agreement have been so unsuccessful in delivering a promised boom for family farmers that the federal government is now setting up a Trade Adjustment Assistance program to help farmers displaced by trade deals that were supposed to assure their prosperity. And the same free-trade policies that have failed farmers have devastated the small manufacturing concerns that once allowed farm couples to stay on the land by providing work–and health benefits–to the spouse who worked in town.”

So while Dean choose his words poorly, he seems to have been making a valid point. But can the Democrats have a Southern Strategy” that isn’t racist, and which limits the damage caused by NAFTA without being overly protectionist? I hope so …