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Facing South: Yearly Kos ignores strategies, voices in the progressive South

Thank you, Chris Kromm, for posting on this. Billed as the biggest shindig on the Left, the Yearly Kos convention, is set for June 8-11 in Vegas, and it completely misses the mark on its panel on Southern politics.

You’d think the slate for “The Impact of the South on U.S. Politics” would feature bloggers who know the region and would be able to shed light on how to regain the South by embracing and helping to tease votes from and grow the progressive movements here. You’d be wrong. Chris:

But my enthusiasm vanished when I read the panel description:

“The South is a large region of the U.S., but does it hold an important place in the country’s politics? “The South’s Importance in the American Political Arena” is a panel discussion by a group of acclaimed political writers – Thomas Schaller, Jerome Armstrong, Steve Jarding and Dave “Mudcat” Saunders.”

From what I know of them, these are all nice enough people. But what insight can they give us on the South and U.S. politics? Let’s do a quick run-down:

1) Tom Schaller is prof at U of Maryland-Baltimore County, best known for his view that Democrats should write off the South. Consider this gem from November 2003:

“Trying to recapture the South is a futile, counterproductive exercise for Democrats because the South is no longer the swing region. It has swung: Richard Nixon’s ‘Southern strategy’ of 1968 has reached full fruition.”

So much for the South’s Importance in the American Politica Arena.

2) Next up is Jerome Armstrong, who’s only experience in Southern politics that one can divine is his active role in ex-Virginia Gov. Mark Warner’s bid for president in 2008.

3) And then there’s Steve Jarding and “Mudcat” Saunders, the media’s favorite go-to guys for colorful quotes about why Democrats should pass on social issues and focus on NASCAR, hunting, and aligning party politics to speak to “the white male,” as if that’s a useful category. (This apparently also includes rehabilitating the image of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, which Saunders is quick to note “has two black members.”)

I’m sure all will have something interesting to say, but what’s missing from this picture?

Well, for starters, what’s missing is anyone advocating a truly progressive politics in the South. There are two main views represented here: that progressives should 1) forget the South, or 2) move to the right. As we have argued since Facing South launched over a year ago, these aren’t the only options.

The South has a deep progressive tradition, rooted in values such as a sense of place, love of the land, mutual aid, and a healthy populist wariness of unaccountable power. Throughout history, Southern political figures and movements have successfully tapped these rich veins to advance various progressive causes. The fact that the right has been more politically successful — as it has nationally — doesn’t make these progressive traditions any less real or useful.

Go read the rest of Chris’s post. I’m really tired of the same old “F*ck the South” song and dance, or that there is no hope for the red states — some that are rapidly turning purple, given disaster of Iraq and its impact on states like NC, and certainly the outsourcing of jobs overseas, hitting the wallets of working men and women in the region.

There is plenty of discontent from which Dems can harvest votes, yet as usual, they just think the South is a complete waste of time, or that you have to hump Joe Six Pack and become a Centrist Stepford Wife like sHillary to win.

It’s unfortunate when the folks at Yearly Kos don’t see the need to put voices of the progressive South on the bill to help broaden the strategy discussion. But are we surprised?

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding