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WHISTLING PAST DIXIE by Thomas F. Schaller Kirkus Star


How Democrats Can Win Without the South

by Thomas F. Schaller

Pub Date: Oct. 3rd, 2006
ISBN: 0-7432-9015-1
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

The Democrats can return to power by running against the South, argues Schaller (Political Science/Univ. of Maryland), who lays out the geography, demography and platform that support his strategy.

Comprised of 11 states with a stagnant core and more dynamic outer rim, the South is too religious and too white for the Democrats to convert it on matters of progressive policies for at least a generation, the author avers. However, a dominant political party can do without the region, as the Republicans themselves proved from 1860 to 1932, when the South was solidly Democratic. The area today’s Dems need to cultivate, Schaller contends, is the “Diamond”: a triangle of Midwestern and interior western states whose apex is Ohio and whose base runs through the Rockies to the Mexican border. Partisan affiliation in the Midwest is particularly loose, he notes. Voters there can be persuaded to change allegiance through the cultivation of issues for their “salience” (essentially a product-branding of the party with emotionally resonant policy positions) and “efficacy” (the ability of a party to enact those policies). Schaller argues at length that the nation as a whole is much closer to New England than to the South on culture-war issues. Indeed, readers may surmise that his real aim is to set out an alternative to the suggestion sometimes voiced in Democratic circles that the party should relax its position on abortion. Schaller proposes the opposite: The Democrats would prosper by branding the Republican Party as the instrument of Southern theocracy and reproductive tyranny. The one cultural issue that they might concede, he suggests, is Second Amendment rights. Give Western hunters their guns, and they will hear you out on healthcare, unionization and immigration.

Cutting-edge applied political science, with 21 statistical charts and the sort of state-by-state, even district-by-district, analysis that will delight political junkies.