Monday, November 29, 2004

"Red" States Part V

"Red" States Part I was mainly an e-mail that's acting as a frame work for this series
"Red" States Part II contained the belated set up and addressed the harm and hurt generalizing and stereotyping of people in "red" states is causing
"Red" States Part III dealt with some "unsexy" issues the press isn't exploring and that the DNC might not address: the breakdown of party infrastructure and allowing "undercover"Democrats to run with party money
"Red" States Part IV dealt with media damage

Where are we now?

We've got a "myth" passing for truth and it's not surprising that people are downing the south. More voters in the southern states painted "red" voted for Bush. Because of "values" -- the myth tells us that.

And while the blame game is not surprising, it's not productive. And it's harmful and hurtful to those living in "red" states who voted for Kerry.

Ty (courtesy of Natalie, thank you Natalie & Ty):

As a resident of a "red, red, red, red state" I want people to remember that there are some of us down here that aren't past of the evangelical christian right. Unfortunately many of us here get lumped in with the slim majority that still exists here to support causes that limit the rights of every American. I am a 24 yr old man with a personal campaign to support tolerance for all americans even those lost souls on the right. I am proud of my southern baptist roots, who is just as proud of being liberal. What citizens of Alabama who seem to be oblivous need is Democratic leadershipthat doesn't seem to toe the line between what they really believe and what they feel will get them the most possible votes. The one thing that people here that voted for Bush and other conservatives in the last election held onto as their reasoning for making such a terrible choice, was that no one in theDemocratic party seemed to embrace their liberal viewpoints. What our northern liberal cousins must realize is that Alabamians and other southerners aren't waiting for the next Jimmy Carter or Bill Clinton, but the "real" John Kerry. The passionate Kerry who came home from Vietnam and opposed the fight there without regard for the political fallout that ensued. Here's to hoping that the votes from Nov.2 continue to be counted and the "new" leaders of ourparty (Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton) stand up and lead us back to the political prosperity we enjoyed during the 90s."

You might respond, "That's just one person's voice!" That's one more southerner than the media's recognized. That's one more "red" stater you never heard from. Because there was no need to get backing evidence for a myth. There was no need to argue a theory when it was already accepted as fact.

You've heard from actual voters in this series than you've heard in the mainstream reports.
Why is that? Why is it that when we supposedly want to address why the "red" states voted as they did, we're not hearing any real voices from that area who voted for Kerry?

In Karla Furlong's The Daily Register article we hear this about the "myth" from Frank Rich:

According to Rich, we live in an age where it’s easier for the media to pursue a fictional storyline than to pursue the truth. While 22 percent of voters may have cast a vote for “moral values,” that’s not the whole story. “The press was off and running with this storyline, and it persists even now,” said Rich. “How did we get in a position in this country where we have so many media sources that ‘go off’ on these fictional storylines?”

How indeed?

We've discussed the faltering/failing infrastructure in the Democratic party. Areas left to wither so that "effective" campaigning could focus on the current election only. But that required people drawing our attention to it. Regular people, the kind that aren't popping up in these stories on Desperate Wives as a social baromenter or whatever other "trend" story that some writer's been assigned. That's not an issue? That's not something that we need to be concerned about?

We've talked about candidates being given party money while refusing to declare themselves Democrats in their advertising. But there was another issue, on candidates, that ninety-three people noted: no Democratic candidates. They had offices with no choices.

"Libertarian or Republican," writes Annie. "Those were my choices for a judge." Or Shondra who notes, "I've never seen so many unconstested races in a presidential election year. Where was my party?" As Ricky points out, "Where are the future Congressmen and women and Senators going to come from? The future governors? The future presidential candidates? Howard Dean says we need to realize that they come up from smaller races but, at least in my precint, it was as though my party wrote off every small race."

This is a problem. And no it won't let us work in some pithy remark about Nicolette Sheridan's bare back and it won't let us feel high and mighty as we tell our jokes about how we should secede or how these are the same states that supported slavery in the civil war or some other mindless garbage.

But darn if we won't be infotained in our ignorance. The same media that gave us wind surfing as a campaign issue now gives us "values" as the election factor. And it's really sad that some of us who were questioning the way the campaigns were covered are now so quick to accept as reality another narrative that has little to do with reality.

It's not surprising. If you voted for Kerry, as the returns came in, it was only natural that your spirits would sink. We needed a bad guy, we needed someone to blame. That is a basic need.
It's a need the adminstration stroked to get us into Iraq. (And you can be sure, they'll be stroking that need again.)

We don't have to be geniuses here. No one needs the I.Q. of Einstein. We just need to use a little common sense. Maybe some healthy skepticism.

A ___ the South supporter wrote in that, "I don't care if it's true or not, I'm sick of the south and being insulted as an elitist." The Bush campaign made those charges. And the attitude of that e-mailer can make the charges true. Brad is frustrated. I get that. I don't get how his "declared war on the south" (his term) helps anyone?

Other than the GOP.

It doesn't help us address what is happening in most states ("red" or "blue") in terms of our party infrastructure or candidate issues. And the more we repeat this myth, the easier it is for
the Democratic party to veer right. If we're out of touch, if our issues and stands are too extreme, than of course we need to "modifiy" them.

Because that's where this myth will lead us. Those who supported Dean, Kuccinich, Mosley Braun or Sharpton and had to hear over and over that they were "just not electable" better be prepared for the 2008 candidates because it won't be pretty if we accept this myth. When we're counseled in 2007 of how we were just too darn lefty in 2004, so darn lefty that we lost, you can be sure that the message we'll be encouraged to embrace will be one of "move to the middle."
Or, as the e-mailer noted in the first section of this series, "don't think in terms of left or right, think in terms of better."

You can say no to that. You have the power to. But you've got more power now then you will have in 2008. Right now, we can start rejecting this myth. Right now, we can say no to. It's taken hold in the same way other trend stories do. But it's not as entrenched as it will be after we've heard it for a few years.

Katrina vanden Heuvel and Robert L. Borosage maintain we need to learn argue our points better:

But that does not mean abandoning the party's principles on social issues like choice or equal rights. Democrats champion the values of the civilizing movements of recent decades--the civil rights movement, the women's movement, the environmental movement, the human rights movement. We should lead the forces of tolerance against the forces of intolerance. We win by being the party of progress, not by blurring differences with the new reactionaries.

Which road do you want to take? The one that merges with the Republican somewhere around the Tom DeLay mixer or just one off ramp away from Santorum Avenue? Or do you want to stay on Democracy Drive?

There's work to be done here. We can start doing it right now or we can find ourselves grumbling about our 2008 choices being either a Republican or Republican-lite candidate and wondering how we got to this point.