May 17, 2008

Dixiecrat Dawn?

After the Republicans? 8-point trouncing in an erstwhile congressional stronghold in Mississippi this week, former Representative Tom Davis likened the GOP to ?dog food? due to be ?taken off the self.? Well, whatever ?re-branding? this expired can of victuals and gravy will undergo this fall, I?m beginning to sense that the Democrats, too, might be in for a fairly dramatic internal transformation in the near future.

Tom Childers, the victor last Tuesday, has proven that a Democrat can win in a mostly rural, mostly white redneck bastion. Moreover, in the Indiana, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia primaries, the loyalty to Hillary Clinton of former Regan Democrats (?hard working Americans, white Americans? without college degrees?) has a been a phenomenon as significant as Obamania. I agree with Paul that it?s ridiculous that graying blue-color Catholics see Hillary as sticking up for the common folk, but the fact is, it?s happening. 

None of this means that these voters have taken a wholesale political 180; they?re clearly being driven in droves from the GOP due to Bush and the war, but I doubt they have changed much on most other issues. I sense instead that we might be witnessing a kind of rebirth of the Dixiecrat, a historically important aspect of the party?s identity that Nancy Pelosi probably hoped had been flushed down the memory hole long ago. The new Dixiecrats are ?conservative Democrats,? that is, Democrats with ?values? but with no real interest in small government … well, I guess this makes them much like actual Republicans but without any Dubya milstone hanging around their necks. The war make it easy for Dixiecrat voters to leave the Republican party, but then the Democratic party and its candidates are also perfectly willing to allow a lot of the red-state stuff to pop up the (largely symbolic) discourse of the campaign. 

On one of his commercials, Childers announced that he?s pro-life and pro-gun, and even that he?s never raised taxes. 

I?m not sure Childers will be reliable on any of these issues, or that he?ll be more or less effective advocating them as a Democrat, but it?s clear that this kind of rhetoric wins.   

As described in the Politico, Childers even scored big by opposing atheism, gambling, and the Chinese in one swoop: 

In Mississippi, a [Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee] radio ad asked why Davis was accepting support from ?the world?s No. 1 casino czar and one of atheist China?s top American business partners.? The DCCC referred to a massive casino Adelson?s Sands Corp. owns in Macau, just outside Hong Kong, as ?an investment in a country that steals our jobs, persecutes Christians, uses forced labor and forces women to have abortions.???And what has Greg Davis said about all of this?? the ad asked. ?Absolutely nothing.?

Whatever one wants to say about all this, there are ways that more Dixiecrats in Congress would be of great benefit. Of the Democratic senators supporting the crucial SAVE Act, the most significant piece of legislation aimed at attrition of illegal immigrants through workplace enforcement, two of the three are southerners. In the House, 21 of the 49 Democratic supporters come from the land of the old confederacy.

The Conservative Democrats will need issues with which they can prove their ?conservative? bona fides; for such a purpose, immigration restriction serves well.

In ?06, many of us hoped Jim Webb might be the start of something new; now he?s seeming more like the revival of something rather old. Whatever the case, I much prefer the Dixiecrats? ?big government conservatism? to the kind Fred Barnes and the contemporary GOP has on offer. 


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