Barrack Obama is my choice for President. I have editorialized at length during the primary how limited I believed Senator Hillary Clinton was a national candidate. I correctly foretasted that Senator Obama would be much more competitive in the interior western states as well as in Midwestern populist states like Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa than the cookie cutter Democrat with baggage that Clinton is. I however appear to have been wrong in believing Obama's ability to transcend race and regional appeal would make him attractive in the South. Sadly this is not all Obama's fault nor due to Southern voters being left to their own devices. They are being manipulated.
Surprisingly Obama currently leads by a big margin in Virginia, increasingly suburban and less reactionary than it once was. But Obama is not even slightly competitive in rim/border South states like Arkansas and Tennessee which have a much greater progressive tradition than the deep south. Obama looks to have a slight shot of carrying North Carolina on election day but is not polling well in Louisiana, a state Bill Clinton carried twice or Georgia which Clinton carried in 1992 and lost by a single point in 1996. It is also highly likely inspite of the current polls that Obama will not carry Florida.
Obviously the National Democratic Party is too toxic right now in the Deep South to seriously entertain thoughts of competing in South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama or Mississippi. However, Obama's poor poll numbers in Tennessee, Arkansas, and Louisiana are to me very worrying. In fact in the case of Tennessee and Louisiana it is possible Michael Dukakis ended up with a better percentage of the votes than Obama will. That's flat out unacceptable for a new kind of Democrat, but perhaps this owes itself more to John McCain's race baiting.
Much of this is not Obama's fault. Southern whites of course vote based on race more often than any other white voters in the nation. Moreover, the national media which is made almost entirely of elites in New York and Washington who look down upon the South, have not picked up on the use of code words by John McCain. Calling Obama a socialist is like throwing red meat to white southerners. "Socialist" in Southern political lingo means "for the blacks." Southern whites fear Government programs and interference will help poor blacks: that's why code words like welfare and crime are often used also in Southern campaigns. Some examples of the socialist terminology:
- In 1964 when Hayden Burns was running against Robert King High in the Democratic Primary for Florida Governor, Burns from Jacksonville attacked High from Miami as a "socilaist." His justification? High supported civil rights for African-Americans. Burns won the primary.
- In 1966 George Wallace accussed Alabama Attorney General Richmond Flowers of "bringing socialism to Alabama." Flowers crime? Enforcing federal civil rights laws that protected blacks.Flowers got the ultimate revenge sending his son, future Olympian Richmond Flowers Jr. to the University of Tennessee to play Football. The younger Flowers became the Alabama Crimson Tide's biggest nemesis for the next few seasons.
- In 1964 Strom Thurmond in his speech leaving the Democratic Party accused President Lyndon Johnson was "moving the country towards a socialist dictatorship." Johnson had just signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
- In 1967 John Bell Williams was elected Governor of Mississippi as a Democrat despite attacking the National Party as a " Soviet Style Socialist Party." Williams would become a loyalist to Richard Nixon years later.
Senator McCain has now added to his legacy as a typical Arizona Republican by race baiting his way to a potential Presidential victory. For someone who served his country so honorably in the past it is a sad way to conduct what could be his last campaign.