The Plight of the Southern Democrat

Written about at CNN:

“I can’t remember it being any gloomier for Democrats in the South than it is today,” said Curtis Wilkie, the longtime journalist and observer of Southern life who lectures at the University of Mississippi. “The party has been demonized by Republicans. It’s very bleak. I just don’t see anything good for them on the horizon.”

That about sums up the 2014 elections here in the South, sure. Some measure of hand-wringing and naval-gazing is inevitable. Figuring out what went wrong is important, and this piece tries to answer that question a bit. In a nutshell:

  • Obama: Unpopular, dragged down the Dems. Standard for a midterm.
  • Decreased importance of African-American voters (compared to white and Hispanic ones)
  • The GOP controls a lot of state legislatures, which makes things difficult for Democrats chiefly via gerrymandering but other ways as well

#2 and #3 are worrisome to me. Realistically the Democratic Party is going to have to secure a broader foundation beyond winning a minority of many groups (white voters being the largest bloc) and relying on 92%+ of the African-American vote to capture elections. Some liberal issues have been successful lately, the most significant being gay marriage and marijuana legalization in some states. But this hasn’t really translated to electoral success for liberal candidates.

The Democrats need to build a bigger bench. Its candidates have got to start focusing on more local issues or else they’re going to have more years of wondering why they’re getting eviscerated nationally. This is going to be especially rough in the South–at this point I am fairly sure that Satan could run and win as a Republican in my district–but it’s the most necessary here. If you can’t demonstrate to Texas voters (for example) that Democrats can run a competent local government, you’re not giving traditionally-Republican voters a reason to change over.

If Democrats tuck their heads down and mutter about how Republican voters are hardheaded bigots, they’re going to see a lot of repeats of 2014.

Update: Obama’s immigration announcement is a hit among Hispanic voters. A sane, ethical policy that also wins over voters? Hooray.


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