BY JOHN HILTON
The furor sparked by Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean’s professed desire to be the candidate for “guys with Confederate flags in their pickup trucks” reveals the patronizing stereotype that liberal elites and their lapdogs in the Democratic Party hold of Southern voters and rural Americans generally.
If Dean ever deigned to spend quality time outside the Northeast, he might notice that rural America is not Hazzard County, peopled by affable, lawless rednecks speeding around the countryside in an aptly named (and decorated) 1969 Dodge Charger. Much to his surprise, Dean would discover that the battle flag of the Confederacy has no place in the lives of most rural Americans. And Dean might be startled to know that we do not appreciate being stereotyped as unreconstructed white trash by an arrogant Vermont patrician who knows, in the words of Georgia’s senior Senator, “as much about the South as a hog knows about Sunday.”
In contrast to the backdrop of reality, the abuse Dean took at the Democratic debate in Faneuil Hall last Monday evening is absurd. His fellow candidates accused Dean of racial insensitivity and demanded his apology, as if “Southern Partisans for Dean” chapters were spreading like wildfire throughout Dixie. While the Stars and Bars has been used as a symbol of racial oppression, no one in his right mind would ever believe that Dean is a Confederate enthusiast with a portrait of Jeff Davis in his study and a trunk full of Confederate currency under his bed, just in case the South ever does rise again. Dean is not a bigot, and he plainly meant no offense to African Americans.
It is often noted by pundits that the South has realigned in the last generation from a one-party Democratic stronghold to a sea of “Red States” (states that President Bush carried in 2000 were colored red on the TV networks’ electoral maps, while those carried by Gore were colored blue). But rarely is the animosity liberal Democrats feel towards the once “Solid South” openly discussed. Unable to accept the fact that conservative Southern and rural voters simply are not at home in a party dominated by pro-choice, anti-freedom, tax-and-spend liberal interest groups, I suspect Democrats feel betrayed by their former constituents. Deep down they know why their lover has found a new beau, but it is easier to hate her for leaving than to face the shame of having taken her for granted for so long.
No one should doubt Howard Dean when he insists that he is not a racist; any insinuation to the contrary is ridiculous. Dean’s remarks, however, indicate that he may be prejudiced against Southern and rural Americans, and it is they who Dean owes an apology.
John Hilton is an HLS 2L.