Wednesday, November 5, 2003

Saletan on Dean's latest flap

I think Will Saletan gets it right when he suggests that the flap over Dean’s confederate flag comment is much ado about nothing.


  1. It seems like everyone is completely focused on the possibility of racism in Howard Dean's comment. Most people have entirely missed the most damning angle of this whole situation: he just completely ruined all chances of getting the Southern vote, which is what he had set out to get when he made that comment. I can tell you with 100% certainty that those of us in the South are UNANIMOUSLY sick and tired of our national image as poor, uneducated, truck-driving, beer-guzzling, racist morons who have nothing better to do that race tractors and go to Wal-Mart. Those of you in other parts of the country may think I am going a little overboard. But you have to realize something. A Democrat will never win the South until he or she learns to talk to Southerners, especially when the vast majority of people here are staunchly Republican.

    Think about it this way. When a candidate campaigns in a poor neighborhood, he talks about jobs, healthcare, and housing. Why? Because those are the topics relevant to the poor population. Now, he wants to expand the Democratic presence in the South, so what does he do? He conjures up the image of a white guy driving a truck with a Rebel flag on it. In other words, he implicates that that type of person is relevant to winning the majority of the South! That tells me two things: 1) he's never been here and 2) he, like the rest of the country, does not know that we moved past the 1960s a long time ago. Now if a middle-of-the-road Alabamian like myself (who could have possibly voted for him) is incensed by his comment, how on God's green earth do you think he is going to swing the heavily Republican vote?

  2. Amy, I live smack dab in the "Heart of Dixie" and I could not disagree with you more. Dean did not turn off conservative white southern voters with his comments. He did the first thing in ages that any Democrat has done which stands any chance of breaking through the emotional wedge issue barriers Republicans have cultivated over the last 40 years. Dean is saying "Even if you do have that flag on your truck, you should vote Democrat and here's why."

    You may be "sick and tired" of references like Dean's but from the reaction of my "Reagan Democrat" friends that voted for Bush, you are in the distinct minority. Dean hit it just right when he originally said "White folks in the south who drive pickup trucks with confederate flags decals in the back ought to be voting with us and not them, because their kids don't have health insurance either and their kids need better schools too."

    If Dean made a mistake it was his "shorthanding" of his earlier line from the stump speech. Perhaps he thought everyone had heard it and knew what he meant. Now he knows better. I hope he keeps the line. In Alabama it plays well to the poor and middle class whites voting against their own self interests and all the black people I know are not so stupid as some of my fellow liberals seem to think that they are. All of the black people I have talked to up to and including the ones at the last Meetup were smart ebough to know exactly what Dean meant.

  3. One more thing Amy...

    I can't help but wonder how a fellow Alabamian can think this state (or this region) has "moved past the 1960's a long time ago."

    From where I sit as a white guy, the racism that was here in the 1960's is for the most part alive and well in the first decade of the 21st century. The only difference now is that it isn't so much out in the open. Jobs are still denied because of race. ("Can't hire those niggers because you can't fire 'em. They'll holler discrimination and sue." is pretty much a direct quote from a certain owner of a certain Montgomery auto dealer I once worked for.)

    Auburn University is a more recent example. Auburn just fired their director of football operations for letting his tongue get away from him in public. The man lost his temper with a late arriving player and let "the N-word" slip. The thing is, this was a 60+ year old "coach" that everyone knows used this sort of language regularly in "private" conversations with other coaches and university personnel on campus. His real mistake wasn't his racist attitude, it was allowing it to come out directly in dealing with a player. He could have talked all he wanted to about that "lazy nigger" to the head coach or the athletic director if he'd just waited and done it in private.

    I know businessmen from Selma, Montgomery, Mobile and Birmingham. None of them will ever admit to these attitudes in public. What their real attitude is comes out in private. Not that much has changed below the surface for a lot of people.

    I still say Dean hit it just right. Anyone that wouldn't vote for him based on the distortion of what he said is someone that would cast a defacto vote for George W. Bush. No thanks.

  4. I lived all over the South, mostly in small towns where pickups outnumber passenger cars, complete with gun rack and the good old boys. Somehow, I've managed to not see a Confederate flag sported on the back of a pickup truck in the last fifteen years. Not Calvin and Hobbes pissing mudflaps, or naked ladies, but Redneck Hicks bearing Confederate flags. And he has the chutzpah to whine that no one ever complained about it before. Did he not follow the South Carolina flap? Unconscious racism is in many ways worse than the conscious sort. Howard Dean is an elitist classist snob completely out of touch with the so-called Reagan Democrat, and no way he'll win the southern vote. At the very least, try to sound like you've been there before.

  5. And the worst part of it? Did you watch the debate where he was quizzed? How are you going to help the poor black kids in the South Dr. Dean. Why sir, by helping out the poor white kids!