November 10, 2006
MarkBernstein.org
 
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Realigned, at last

From Wilson to LBJ, the Democratic Party in the United States was an awkward hybrid creature. On the one hand, it was the home of progress, reform, and populism, of the workers of the industrial North and the progressives of the new West. They allied with defeated Dixie against the old-money Republican dominance.

The alliance worked at the polls, but it made no sense. What partnership could exist between the most progressive and the most reactionary groups in the nation? For decades, the party couldn't even outlaw lynching. Civil Rights bills were brought to each session and died in committee.

Nixon changed that by turning Dixie red. The South was no longer solidly Democratic. The transition took a generation, but it was completed last Tuesday: the solid south is now solidly Republican, and the Republican party has become the party of the south.

This might be a blip, but it probably is not. The 2008 senatorial lineup favors the Democrats. So do the changing demographics of the country. Virginia, capital of the Confederacy, grows annually more suburban and more tightly connected to the great corridor city that runs from Boston through New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington. Colorado it turning blue. And New England's once-staunch Republican enclaves are gone now. Lincoln Chaffee closed a door on an era of liberal Republicanism yesterday with a gracious comment worthy of the party of Lincoln.

Asked if deep down, despite his personal disappointment about the outcome of Tuesday’s election, he felt the same way, Chafee looked into the TV cameras and said: “To be honest, yes.”

“When you enact a divisive agenda, don’t talk to the other side, I don’t think that’s good for the country,” Chafee said. At least now, “I think the president is going to have to talk to the Democrats. I think that is going to be good for America.”

Free of the South, the Democrats should be able to move toward the future, toward an era when we'll look back in astonishment at the Bush era just as we wonder how McCarthyism could possibly have flourished. It won't be easy. There will be setbacks. But we have at last turned the corner.

Digby's essay on Southern Comfort and the new alignment is well worth reading.