Wednesday, May 8, 2013

What Mark Sanford's South Carolina victory says about Democrats

So I was wrong.  I admit it, and humbly beseech your forgiveness.  Mark Sanford won the South Carolina First Congressional District last night, by what seems a really commanding percentage, 54% to 45%.  The County by County breakdown of voting is Here.

So what does this election say about Democrats heading into the 2014 mid-terms?  Well, first, the Solid South is still Solid - and Solidly Republican.  Democrats need to really look at the long term economic, sociological and cultural trends in this region before picking candidates and crafting campaign messages, or the 17 seats they need to flip the House won't materialize.

Second, Democrats need to rethink their national money strategy.  Sanford's luck seems to have shifted when the RNC pulled its campaign funding, but state politicians like the Governor, Nikki Haley (R) endorsed Sanford in the final week of the campaign.  Once that happened, Sanford was able to turn to establishment Republicans in his District and say "hey, do you want to elect local old me, funded from the grass roots, or do you want to get that Democrat, funded by outsiders elected because you can't stand my past?"  Oddly its a card that worked for Newt Gingrich in the Family Values Party for a long time, and I really hope to dig into that hipocracy at some point.

On the money point - I know it gauls liberals, progressives, and historians everywhere, but generations of Southern politicians have built successful careers on lashing out at modern day carpetbaggers, still out remake the South after its humiliating loss in the War of Northern Aggression (the Civil War to you).  Like it or not, the South still feels aggrieved that preserving the union meant being forced to radically alter it's economy at gun point.  That sense of loss, that sense of needing to regain face and respect, has driven much of Southern politics and economics for a century, and once Sanford could legitimately point to DNC money (referred to as Nancy Pelosi campaign funds and the like), Colbert-Busch and her backers had a tougher fight on their hands.

So where do Democrats go from here?  I am not sure - my Party of Record seems too preoccupied with shooting itself in the foot these days to effectively navel gaze about this loss and what it says about their approach to an old, proud, and not inconsequential part of the electorate.  To be sure, white Southerners are dwindling in number as a part of the electorate, but as long as Republicans run a better ground game that appeals to those voters fears and insecurities, Republicans will have a strong hold of the Soild SOuth.

No comments: