Friday, December 20, 2002

I agree with Brad DeLong. The Republicans shouldn't think that Lott stepping down is bad for the Democrats.
The big story is that one of our two political parties has now taken a big step toward breaking the fetters of servitude that Richard Nixon fastened upon it when he decided on his Southern Strategy of nudge-nudge-wink-wink we-won't-enforce-the-civil-rights-laws that was so successful in getting people like Trent Lott to move over to the Republican Party. It is a great day for the Republic. (It will be an even greater day when Nixon's fetters are completely broken.) Those of us in the Democratic Party are very happy to see something new in the Republican Party--that it contains real Men and Women, and large numbers of them, too.
I've been thinking about this some this evening and I've come to the conclusion that the disgrace of Lott can only be viewed as a positive for both political parties. A lot of complaints have been made in recent years that the Democrats have shifted to far to the right and have left their core constituency in the lurch. I think the southern strategy may have had a big part in it. When Nixon and the GOP decided to purposely play to the sentiments of the segregationist shitheads (as Gene Lyons so aptly described them) they did so in order to steal the south away from the Democrats and dominate American politics. By nearly any measure, except the moral one, you would have to agree the plan has been a rousing success. The only problem is, as the GOP shifted to the extreme right in its appeal to the cockroaches, it started to lose its appeal to the middle. Your average suburbanite just doesn't want to be associated with that kind of trash. Perhaps a Reagan or a Dubya could make them temporarily forget what the Republican party has come to stand for, but only for a while. It was inevitable that they couldn't keep sweeping the garbage under the rug before people started to notice the lumps in the floor. The Democrats, in the form of the DLC and Bill Clinton, saw this opening demographic and, naturally, grabbed for it. Unfortunately, Clinton is the only one who has been really successful at it. The rest of the Democratic field has been generally inept when it comes to playing to the middle. They have come of looking to this key demographic like a bumbling bunch of cowards who aren't willing to defend themselves. Combine that with the feelings of betrayal on the leftward side of the political spectrum and it is surprising the Democrats are even close to parity with the Republicans. But consider this, if the Lott situation forces the GOP to perform a long overdue house-cleaning, they will have to stop making appeals to the sheetheads. This means they will start to lose the extremist votes. To make up for it, they will have to start competing even more for the middle. That means they will have to start shifting back to the left. Now, the Democrats could continue to compete with them for that group. Or they could wake up and realize they have a vast, untapped reserve on their left flank. So, just as the adoption of the southery strategy resulted in a shift to the right for both parties, a repudiation of it could result in a commensurate shift to the left. And that can't be anything but a good thing as far as I am concerned.

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