The Carpet Bagger's Journal — moving from NYC to Mississippi

November 3, 2010

Good Riddance to Blue Dogs

Bad dog! Bad dog!

What does it mean to be a Democrat?

In the news of this turnover of Congress, I was not sorry to read that 28 so-called “blue dog” Democrats were unseated out of the 60 seats in Congress lost by the Democrats.  That’s almost half of the seats they lost.

Why did they lose?  The media will ask this question ad nauseum, no doubt.  Why did they ever call themselves Democrats in the first place?  — That strikes me as a much better question.

This shift to the Right has occurred in American politics because Americans don’t have job growth back yet.  While no amount of rhetoric is enough to restore American confidence when, as the 1980s song “No Romance Without Finance,” says, there “ain’t nothing going on but the rent,” Americans have been right to feel disillusioned by the difference between the Obama-expressed idealism and what a majority Democrat Congress was actually willing to deliver.  The timidity, the hand-wringing, the unwillingness (with several important exceptions) of representatives to take strong stands for things like a public option in Healthcare, or — as was famously pointed out on The Daily Show — stand strong for a bill to guarantee mesothelioma care for rescue workers on September 11th while the Republicans stood against it, those are the reasons that many Democrats felt disillusioned and why Americans did not understand the importance of keeping a House Democratic majority in place.  After all, if a Democrat acts like a Republican, talks like a Republican, votes like a Republican, runs a campaign claiming to have stood up to a Democratic president, why on Earth would anyone care enough about him or her to vote for him against a Republican?  The Republicans are not apologetic for who they are — they walk like themselves, talk like themselves, think like themselves.  Why should anyone ever vote for a Democrat who thinks like a Republican?

Frankly, to most of us out there — it looked pretty Chicken Sh#t.

Travis Childers, whom I wrote about in this blog not long ago, lost his seat yesterday, and I won’t weep over this loss.  He mis-managed his campaign.  His ads proudly announced that he stood up to Obama.  Childers is indistinguishable from a Republican — except that he repudiates his supposed allies.  Between a Blue Dog Democrat who turns on his friends, or a loyal Republican , why would any voter embrace a Blue Dog Democrat?

What Americans lacked in this election was a sense that they had a choice between two very different visions of how America should go.  This is entirely the fault of conservative Democrats, who worried more about losing their own jobs than about fiercely standing up for the needs of Americans who had just lost theirs.

I am very sorry to see Nancy Pelosi lose her job as Speaker.  As the first woman who ever held that position, she was a champion deal maker, a tireless negotiator.  She was so effective that she became the target of most Republican television ads.  That’s a compliment to her.  By being the first woman to ever hold that job and hold it effectively for her party, no one will ever question again whether a woman is qualified to hold the position.

That said, I am thrilled to see the Blue Dogs go.  Voters need to see clear choices when they go to the polls.  They need to understand that a party has a platform, that the platform stands firm on issues that affect them.  They need to know that the candidate for whom they vote stands by a platform that means something positive to their lives.

Democrats have the ability to fumigate the blue dog poopy smell from their back rooms.  They can repopulate now with idealists who will take firm stands for the electorate.  I just pray they have the wisdom to do this.  I believe that they can take back the House in two years if this becomes their strategy today.

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October 19, 2010

Roy Herron for Congress — Tennessee’s 6th district — as a litmus test for my adjustment here.

In today’s New York Times, a marvelous story about Southern Democrats quotes Roy Herron, who says in order to win, he has to convince voters here he’s a  “truck-driving, shotgun-shooting, Bible-reading, Gospel-preaching, crime-fighting, family-loving country boy.”

He poses on his campaign website with his mother in a photo that could be the inspiration for a Country Western ballad.  Loving your Momma and treating her right is more important down here — even if she’s (and I’m sure that Mrs. Herron is a lovely lady) an old battle axe.

The candidate and his Momma

Roy Herron served in the Tennessee State Legislature and State Senate for some years.  He is the author of three (I’m guessing self-published) books, including one called God and Politics.  Yet he is fighting an uphill battle in his district to convince people that he participates in the following activities — let me list them down here once more:

  • Truck Driving
  • Shotgun shooting
  • Bible Reading
  • Gospel Preaching
  • Crime Fighting
  • Family Loving

These sound not only like a list of things that people in the Sixth district of Tennessee might want in a candidate but a pretty good litmus test for Southernness in general, at least for a man.  Allow me to add a few more items:

  • Grits Eating
  • Elvis Adoring
  • “Y’all” yowling
  • Whiskey swilling
  • Football flinging
  • Yell whooping
  • Denim sporting
  • Hound-dog hoarding
  • Knee slapping
  • Neck reddening

I would like to propose the list above — Mr. Herron’s and my own — as a Southern Democrat’s litmus test.  I would like to go over it one item at a time to see how I’m doing at adjusting to living down here.

  • Truck Driving — As a woman, truck driving is optional.  Trucks are to manhood in the South what the Red Porche is to midlife Manhood in the North and the West Coast.  Hence, I’m going to substitute “pie baking,” a very traditional Southern women’s activity.  I have baked so many more pies down here than I ever did up North.  I give myself an “A” for that one.
  • Shotgun Shooting — Men and women both do this.  I am so willing to learn how to do this.  My future son in-law has promised to take me out to a place where I can fire off a few rounds, but this promise has yet to be fulfilled.  I give  myself a “D-” since I have not done it, but I get a couple of points for willingness.
  • Bible Reading — I read the Bible.  I even teach it in the context of courses at Belhaven University in Jackson, Mississippi.  I get an “A.”
  • Gospel Preaching — I have not, I admit done a lot of this, so here goes:  Everyone within earshot, know that Jesus loves you and died for your sins.   Accept him into your hearts and spend eternity in Heaven and the here and now in a transformational liberation from cynicism and bondage to sin.  There — okay, that’s a “C” effort.
  • Crime Fighting — I wonder what image Mr. Herron is trying to evoke here.  Is he the Sheriff at the OK Corral?  I have done none of this, but perhaps my ladylike womanhood allows me to substitute another activity — say, Home Decorating — my total  home makeover  in Vicksburg earns me an “A.”
  • Family Loving — Southerners, as I mentioned before, seem to love their families without questioning the dysfunction within them.  Bourbon substitutes for Freud.  I’m a New Yorker.  Years of needed therapy after dysfunction would give me an “F,” but loving my husband and my two step-daughters would give me an “A,” so I’ll average that out to a “C.”
  • Grits Eating — I aced this!  “A.”
  • Elvis Adoring — Although I really like Elvis, I have been getting a PhD approximately 75 miles from Graceland and have yet to visit.  I think I’ve got a “C-.”
  • “Y’all” Yowling — I am in remedial classes for this criterion.  I have graduated from “You guys” to “You all,” but “Y’all” remains out of reach and “All y’all” is a distant Willie-Nelson-Soundtrack dream. “F.”
  • Whiskey Swilling — Hello!  My Irish-American ancestry prepared me to excel in this area. I get an “A,” with a Summa Cum mention for Sour Mash Tennessee No. 7: I am eligible for the Jack Daniels dean’s list.
  • Football Flinging — This is a manly attribute, although women can participate.  I will substitute for “Football Player Tutoring,” which I have done — think Cathy Bates’ role in The Blind Side.  I’ve done that and am doing that. I get an “A” for this.
  • Yell Whooping — There’s a Rebel Yell and a Lady Rebel Yell.  I have just learned the Hotty Toddy Ole Miss Rebel Cheer.  I get a “B-” here.
  • Denim Sporting — Because of mud and dog slobber, jeans are a more practical choice in Mississippi in my wardrobe than black pants of non-denim material.  I get a “B+” here.
  • Hound-dog Hoarding — I now have a hound dog — a yellow lab named “Baby” by my Step-daughter.  I have a Daschund named Oscar.  Do two dogs constitute a hoard?  Just barely.  I get a “B-.”
  • Knee Slapping — I am indeed an afficionado of Southern humor.  However, I lose 200 points for using the word “afficionado.”  Hence, I get a “C+.”
  • Neck Reddening — Having fair skin and no sense at all when it comes to when I’ll be spending any time outside, I am actually, much to my horror, watching my neck turn red.  If I were looking in the mirror, I would have a red ring beneath my head from time spent at a Bill Clinton rally and a trip to the Mississippi State Fair.  I get an “A+” for this one, alas.

So what then are my mid-term grades for Southernness?  Add to the mix of  the above that I did some extra credit — I wrote a piece that got picked up on Y’all Politics and there’s a website for the book The Cracker Queen that has a link to this blog.  Combining these two, I give myself another “A,” and averaging it all out, my mid-term grade for Southernnness is: C+

I’m still a Yankee, but not a “Damn” Yankee anymore.

As for Mr. Herron in his Mid-term elections, I wish him every success on the first Tuesday in November.  He loves his Momma, and I’m just betting that lady will be voting for him.  Honestly, how many other people really might live in the Sixth district, anyway?  If he can get his cousins on board, I bet he has a real shot at Congress.

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