Flag Flap

At last night's Rock the Vote debate, Howard Dean got his ass kicked trying to respond to criticism of his statements that he wants the votes of people with Confederate flags on their pickup trucks. As a Dean supporter, it was really disappointing to see his performance, because I believe the point he's trying to make -- when not distorted by the PC police -- is right on. A lot of poor white people in the South (not to mention the rest of the country) are voting against their interests, divided by emphasis on symbols, "gays, guns, God, and the Flag". To win, Democrats need to reach these people and get them to vote for them.

But Dean did not articulate that point well, and in the process, managed to offend blacks and Southerners at the same time! This is doubly disappointing for me because Dean is consistently not doing as well as he should be in the debates. He should've been ready for this, and he wasn't. If he doesn't get better in the debate format, how is he going to defeat Bush one-on-one?

Below is a summary of commentary on the flag issue.

Jack Balkin: Dean and the Guys with the Confederate Flag on their Pickup Trucks. "I would rather that the Democratic party be more populist than it currently is. Let me be clear: I don't particularly like Dean's way of exemplifying the working class Americans he wants to appeal to: the Confederate Flag, after all, reemerged into popular consciousness as a symbol of massive resistance to Brown in the 1950's and 1960's. But I do think that it is important to show people who have a gun rack on their pickup trucks-- to change the metaphor-- that the Democratic Party is working in their interests."

Dan Conley: Rock the Vote. "But no one's claiming Dean's a bigot, we're claiming he's an arrogant ... I don't want to say it but it rhymes with trick."

Hesiod: Block the Vote. "It's time for the Democrats to stop Howard Dean."

jgkojak, Daily Kos: Debate comments/flag flap. "Howard Dean has had his sister souljah moment- and then some."

LiberalOasis: Dean Can Stop Dean (after yesterday's Can Anyone Stop Dean?) "Oops. Less than 24 hours after LiberalOasis said Howard Dean was 'barely scraped' by the confederate flag flap, he got pummeled by it."

Nathan Newman: Dean and Confederate Flag. "This is not an argument for pandering to racism; it's an argument that if poor white voters aren't given a real economic alternative, they'll retreat to frustrated scapegoating."

John Nichols, Capital Times: Rebel flag flap shows media failure. "What isn't being reported is this reality: Every single presidential candidate who is now expressing concern about Dean's remark has sat in meetings where political operatives, pollsters and consultants have discussed strategies for winning the votes of white working-class males. These voters, whose economic interests would be at least somewhat better served by Democratic policies but who tend to vote Republican for social and cultural reasons, have fueled the rise of the GOP in recent years. And Democrats are obsessed with figuring out how to reach them."

William Satelan, Slate: Confederate Flog. "The headline coming out of this debate is the pounding Howard Dean took for saying he wants the votes of guys whose trucks sport Confederate flags. It's a bum rap."

Emory Walker, Daily Kos: The High Road To Dixie. "I lived in Louisiana, Mississippi, Georgia, and Tennessee for more than 20 years, including all of my childhood prior to high school. The notion that confederate flag-bearing, gun-toting truck drivers make up the better part of that population is nonsense--the kind only a carpetbagging yankee could conjure. That is why that phraseology will ultimately come back to haunt Dr. Dean. There is a New South, and it looks nothing like cotton plantations and tent revivals."

Joan Walsh, Salon: Confederacy of dunces. "Howard Dean's Democratic rivals are willfully misrepresenting the candidate's reference to the Stars and Bars -- and writing off the pickup-truck vote."