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"America has two great dominant strands of political thought - conservatism, which, at its very best, draws lines that should not be crossed; and progressivism, which, at its very best, breaks down barriers that should never have been erected." -- Bill Clinton, Dedication of the Clinton Presidential Library, November 2004

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Thursday, March 20, 2003


confederate flags for Dean?

posted by Aziz P. at Thursday, March 20, 2003 permalink View blog reactions

Dean has a new line in his stump speeches:

"White folks in the South who drive pickup trucks with Confederate flag decals in the back ought to be voting with us and not them [Republicans]," he said, "because their kids don't have health insurance either, and their kids need better schools too!"

Most people think this is great (myself included), but there are a few who are uncomfortable with it. The best case against including the "confederate flag" part of the line comes from Orcinus, who argues that there are two different groups, one worth pursuing, the other not:

. And if you had to explain it in a simple sound bite like Dean's, that division nowadays is between the folks who have Confederate flag stickers in their back windows and those who don't.

The latter -- the decent, civility-minded, neighborly people of common sense and good will who make up the vast majority of rural America -- are the Democratic party's natural rural base, the people who have most felt abandoned by the party's urban focus in the past 20 years. They are the people that Dean, or whoever carries the party's banner, needs to bring back into the fold.

The former -- the neo-Confederates and Patriots, the right-wing extremists and the unregenerate racists and segregationists, all of whom are the people most likely to put a Dixie sticker in the back window -- are the people who once upon a time made the Democratic Party the acknowledged home of the nation's unreconstructed racists. They are the people who fled the party in the 1960s for the welcoming arms of the Nixonite Republican Party.

Dean should not be courting this faction of rural America. Even if he provides them with a brilliant plan to ensure health care for all of them, they will reject it and him in the end anyway, because their hatred of "gummint" ultimately knows no bounds.

Personally, I have to disagree. I live in Texas and I see a lot of Confederate flags myself - and I think that the perception of anyone who has a C flag on their truck is a closet racist (implied in Orcinus' argument) is blatant Yankee stereotyping. I despise the Confederate Flag and what it stands for but the truth is that it has become a social rallying point for conservatives, not because of racial overtones, but rather in response to the "liberal onslaught" of progressive ideology such as welfare, multilingual education, immigration, secularism, political correctness, affirmative action, etc. When you hear a Southerner speak fondly of Dixie and Southern Culture, they aren't talking about returning to the cotton plantations as massah and boy. They are literally too far removed from that era to really be tied to it.

It's true that many of these people will never vote for Dean anyway. But te point is not to try and appeal to those confederate flag wavin' pickup drivin' gun tootin' whoever they are - it's to appeal to the moderate conservatives, the ordinary people, who may be attracted by Dean's message of affordable health care but still have closer cultural ties to the more "redneck" (to use the gross stereotype) types. You can't attract Southerners to your platform without demonstrating respect for their concerns - and Dean's soundbite is (I believe) an honest recognition of this.

What does Deanlandia think? Keep the line, edit it, or dump it entirely, and why?


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About Nation-Building

Nation-Building was founded by Aziz Poonawalla in August 2002 under the name Dean Nation. Dean Nation was the very first weblog devoted to a presidential candidate, Howard Dean, and became the vanguard of the Dean netroot phenomenon, raising over $40,000 for the Dean campaign, pioneering the use of Meetup, and enjoying the attention of the campaign itself, with Joe Trippi a regular reader (and sometime commentor). Howard Dean himself even left a comment once. Dean Nation was a group weblog effort and counts among its alumni many of the progressive blogsphere's leading talent including Jerome Armstrong, Matthew Yglesias, and Ezra Klein. After the election in 2004, the blog refocused onto the theme of "purple politics", formally changing its name to Nation-Building in June 2006. The primary focus of the blog is on articulating purple-state policy at home and pragmatic liberal interventionism abroad.