Saturday, June 03, 2006

The always wonderful Digby posts this today:

I think that until we grapple with the fact that this is the real nub of the problem we will get nowhere.

The question recurs, what will satisfy them? Simply this: We must not only let them alone, but we must somehow, convince them that we do let them alone. This, we know by experience, is no easy task. We have been so trying to convince them from the very beginning of our organization, but with no success. In all our platforms and speeches we have constantly protested our purpose to let them alone; but this has had no tendency to convince them. Alike unavailing to convince them, is the fact that they have never detected a man of us in any attempt to disturb them.These natural, and apparently adequate means all failing, what will convince them? This, and this only: cease to call slavery wrong, and join them in calling it right. And this must be done thoroughly - done in acts as well as in words. Silence will not be tolerated - we must place ourselves avowedly with them. Senator Douglas' new sedition law must be enacted and enforced, suppressing all declarations that slavery is wrong, whether made in politics, in presses, in pulpits, or in private. We must arrest and return their fugitive slaves with greedy pleasure. We must pull down our Free State constitutions. The whole atmosphere must be disinfected from all taint of opposition to slavery, before they will cease to believe that all their troubles proceed from us.

So too, today, we must ask the question, "what will satisfy them?" Will it be to ban gay marriage? Outlaw abortion? Destroy the public schools? Institute mandatory prayer? Deport all non-English speakers? I don't think so. It certainly will not be enough to nominate a conservative, born again southern Democrat. We did that. His name was Jimmy Carter. Here's what they are still doing to him even 25 years later. We nominated a son of the "New South," modern, moderate and pro-business. They impeached his ass.

I think this analysis is wonderful, and parallels my own thinking in many ways. But the premise is not thought-through quite to the most basic level, namely that the reason our Red friends have this overpowering sense of resentment is not because they sense our disapprobation. It is because they sense their errors in themselves. It is they who insisted on the aristocratic electoral college/senate compromise as the price of admission. It is they who brutally oppressed a race of their fellow humans (don't think they were unawares, or believed for two seconds their fig leaf justifications). And now, it is they who don't educate their children, who don't refrain from child-bearing until later, who tolerate crushing poverty amongst their fellow citizens. And they get to be reminded every night when they watch tv or a movie that those of us in Blue America are better educated, have nicer homes, live better, etc. And their entirely understandable reaction is this sense of defensiveness, this way of projecting their feelings of inferiority onto us as a claim that we are lording it over them.
The reason why this is important is that it shows a key -- maybe even THE key -- to a successful strategy of getting them to join us in moving the nation forward. We must show empathy for their challenges. We must never gloat or lord it over them (as so many blog readers seem to). We must never, ever forget that there is no moving forward without these people. They are our friends and our colleagues. They are our loud brother-in-law at Thanksgiving. They are our, at the end of the day, our fellow citizens and our partners in building a national life, and we must respect them.
Which means respecting them enough to call bullshit on those that exploit them -- the Bushes, the Dobsons, the Robertsons. These people are cynical abusers of our fellow citizens, and we do them no favors by either emulating them by pandering, nor ignoring their crimes by being silent.
A successful national progressive candidate does not need to be from the South. He or she simply needs to be 100% free of any sense of condescension, and must demonstrate total empathy for the challenges of all Americans.

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