Losing the White Democrat in the Deep South

 

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Democrat Mary Landrieu lost her Senate seat to Republican Bill Cassidy in a runoff election in Louisiana. As of 2015 there will be no white Democratic elected officials in the Deep South at the federal or state level. I lived and worked in Alabama for six years of my life. I’ve also traveled several times to Georgia and Mississippi. Honestly, I love the Deep South. The people are some of the most welcoming, thoughtful people in the world. I interned for the Alabama Democratic Party. I traveled across the state and met some of the most dedicated Democrats, both black and white. In 2008 Barack Obama became this country’s first black President. In my last two years in the Deep South I began to realize that some white southerners were not totally comfortable with the idea of a black family in the White House. I went to one of the Tea Party’s first rallies in Alabama just to see what they were talking about. If you remember, the Tea Party first promoted themselves as an organization fighting for the people not an Anti-Obama organization which they seemed to have transformed into today. As a longtime activist they had my interest, however after fifteen minutes at the rally hearing “I want my country back” and “restoring America’s greatness” I realized they were not talking about fighting for people that look like me and I quickly got out of there.

In our efforts to make this a more progressive and inclusive nation we may have lost the White Deep Southern Democrat. The southerners that identified themselves as Democrats are dying off. They are an older generation of Franklin Roosevelt New Deal Democrats who believe government plays a valuable role in putting American citizens to work so they can realize the American dream. Many Deep Southern Democrats solely support the economic platform of the party. Today in the Deep South social issues such as abortion, gay rights, immigration and gun control have backed the white deep southerner both democrat and independent into a corner to support Republican candidates. They identify more with their white Republican neighbor on social issues. In the past two years Alabama, Mississippi, South Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee have passed strict immigration laws making access to basic public resources nearly impossible for un-documented immigrants. These laws are currently being fought in the courts. Although, in 2014 the majority of the people in these states not only approve of the direction the Republican Party is taking their state they rewarded them with control of the Senate and gave Republicans a stranglehold in the House of Representatives and in their State Houses.

The fact of the matter is some White Southern Democrats have more in common with their Republican counterparts than they ever will with a Democrat from Los Angeles, New York or Philadelphia. The Deep South is called the Bible belt where Christianity is a way of life. Terrorist organizations like ISIS kill Christians making the war on terrorism for the Deep Southerner very personal. Republicans during this past election cycle played on these social issues focusing their campaigning on two things; southerners fear and hatred of Muslims and their fear of Obama allowing “the others” to take over the country. There are those who believe the answer to getting the White Southern Democrat back into the fold is to simply remove Obama from the equation. If this is the case those of us that want to see America become a more progressive and inclusive nation may have to accept there are just some things we can’t change.

 

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About David Washington

Graduate of Norfolk State University Summa Cum Laude BA in Political Science, President of the New Chesapeake Men for Progress, Navy Veteran, Former Obama Campaign Staffer, and Campaign Manager to Chesapeake Councilmember Dr. Ella Ward
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