“Everyone makes the mistake of looking South,” John Kerry was quoted as saying in early 2004. Kerry was talking about the notion that Democrats must win some southern states if they are to win presidential (and other elections). To make a long story short, Kerry was heavily criticized by a lot of folks in the media and both parties for this statement. Of course many of these people failed to point out that:
1. Every Republican presidential election winner (and even some losers) from 1880 through 1988 won a majority of electoral votes in the non-South.
2. Except for Richard Nixon in 1968, every GOP winner from 1880 through 1988 won enough electoral votes outside the 13 southern states to win a majority of total electoral votes. Pick any election the GOP won from Lincoln through Bush Sr. Except for 1968, any Republican winner could’ve failed to win a single southern electoral vote and still won their respective election. Can we say MSM double standard?
Anyhow, while the debate over what Democrats and the South will long continue, contrary to popular belief, it is not like the notion that the Democrats could win without “winning” the South is anything new.
In their 1970 memoir Johnny We Hardly Knew Ye: Memories of John F. Kennedy presidential aides Dave Powers and Kenneth O’Donnell explained one big reason JFK went to Dallas in November 1963. “He was planning to campaign hard in Texas and in Florida because he had little hope of carrying the other southern states,” (page 12). While LBJ would go on to win some other states aside from those two, he did fail to win Alabama, Mississippi, South Carolina, Georgia, and Lousiana. Without the black vote in NC, Va., Tenn., and Ark, Johnson probably loses those states as well.
In addition, Theodore White in The Making of the President 1964 has this little nugget about a meeting held between JFK and his political advisers on November 12, 1963: “There was little doubt that they (the Democrats) would win. Therefore, cartain longer-range matter than victory had to be attended to. The South was prime on the agenda, and as between the the Sorenson and the Bailey-Scammon strategies for reducing the South’s mischief-making in the Party, the President chose the Bailey strategy- which was to reduce the strength of the South in the Democratic Party slowly ( by a new adjustment of delegate seats at the national Convention to reduce South seats from 23% to 19% of the total) as against the Sorenson strategy which would’ve broken the back of the South right then and there in 1964,” (page 29).
So no, Kerry (and other 2004 Democrats) were not saying some heresy, nor out of touch on “values” and other DC pundit baloney, they were just following the trail blazed by their forefathers.
Next: A Rich, Compassionate, Northeast Liberal Who saw the Future Geography of Both Parties-Before John Kerry