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Richard (RJ) Eskow Headshot

The Antiwar South

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A new poll documents the South's dramatic change of heart about the war in Iraq. By a clear majority, Southerners polled by North Carolina State University believe the war should not have taken place and want either a partial or total withdrawal of troops.

Democrats who ignore the South do so at their own peril. So do Democrats who condescend to the South by offering their own insincere versions of a hawkish foreign policy, in the mistaken belief that "Red Staters" only respond to red meat. There are no Blue or Red States, only shades of purple.

By a greater majority than elsewhere, the poll's respondents describe themselves as "very sad" about the war. That contradicts the Northern/progressive stereotype of Southerners as aggressive and warmongering. In other figures, 57% of those polled believe the U.S. "should have stayed out of Iraq," and 56% support a partial or total withdrawal of troops.

I and others have been arguing for a Southern strategy ever since the 2004 election. I've been particularly interested in targeting a group of Christian voters I call "the Christian wedge." Those are voters who have been supporting the GOP because they watch Pat Robertson or listen to their church leaders, or because of key cultural issues like abortion.

These voters have become increasingly disturbed by the war and by the Culture of Corruption, a culture that is fundamentally both un-American and un-Christian. They're even more disturbed by the war as it unfolds. These events have surprised a lot of people, but they were predictable.

There are other issues that play well for the Democrats among these voters, too. Arianna's right that economics can be used as a religious issue. So can the environment. And we shouldn't make the mistake of thinking that Southern voters are a monolith when it comes to voting. Religion isn't the only factor that influences them.

Democrats who see a divide between targeted races and a 50-state strategy are creating a conflict where none need exist. Targeting is about the present, and the 50-state approach is about the future. Their two adherents should be able to collaborate more effectively than they've done so far, since they both have something of value to contribute.

Suddenly, a Democratic Southern Strategy doesn't seem like such a far-fetched idea ...

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