It's Al's Party
November 10 2003
In a single news cycle last week, the nation got a splendid lesson on
why the Democratic Party has ceased to be America's Party.© 2003 Creators
For months, Howard Dean, in his own Vermont way, has tried to connect
with working-class whites who have deserted his party to make the South
a bastion of Republicans like Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and George W.
Dean has told Democratic audiences that Southern folks who paste
Confederate flag decals on their pickups should vote for us, because we
will improve the health care of their families and the education of
their kids. "I want to be the candidate for guys with Confederate flags
in their pickup trucks. We can't beat George Bush unless we appeal to a
broad cross-section of Democrats."
Whatever one thinks of Dean's message, it was without malice. Dean was
practicing the politics of inclusion, trying to reach out to
working-class white Southerners by accepting them on their own terms.
And what did he get for it? A savage caning from Al Sharpton. After
which, Dean crumbled, apologized and asked for forgiveness.
It began when a young black at the Rock the Vote debate in Boston rose
to declare himself "extremely offended" by Dean's statements on the
That sent Rev. Al into his patented rant. If a Southern candidate had
said what you said, he roared in Dean's face, "they'd have been run out
of the race." The Confederate flag is "America's swastika." Dean's flag
remark was "insensitive. ... You ought to apologize for it. You are not
a bigot, but you appear to be too arrogant to say, 'I'm sorry.'"
Sen. John Edwards, fading Southern star of the Democratic Party, piled
on, calling Dean's remark "condescending ... the last thing we need in
the South is somebody like you coming down and telling us what we need
Dean first stood up to the demagoguery. "I'm no bigot," he roared back
at Sharpton, "I make no apology for reaching out to poor whites." But
even as he was standing up, Dean was backing down, conceding that, yes,
the Confederate battle flag was a "loathsome symbol."
After a long dark night of the soul, Dean arose to confess he had been
wrong to mention the flag: "Many people in the African-American
community have supported what I said in the past few days because they
understand what this is about. But some have not, and to those I deeply
regret the pain I have caused."
What does this episode reveal? First, it reveals the depth of rancor of
fellow Democrats at Dean's success. Behind the savagery of the attacks
on Dean lies a deep-seated jealousy that Dean has come from nowhere to
become the front-runner for the party's presidential nomination.
Second, it show that, for all its blather about multiculturalism, the
Democrats of today are as intolerant and exclusionary as the party of
the KKK. Only now it is white folks who love the Confederate flag whom
it is permissible to hate and segregate – and with whom decent folks do
Third, it reveals that the new moral arbiters of the party are, if you
can believe it, Al Sharpton and the Rev. Jesse Jackson. They decide what
is permissible to say and not to say, on all issues related to race.
When Rev. Al called the Confederate flag "America's swastika," not one
Democrat rose to protest.
Yet what Sharpton was saying is that anyone who cherishes or who
displays the Confederate flag is a Nazi, a bigot, or just too stupid to
know he is paying tribute to a banner of hate.
And whom does that include? Certainly, all members of the Sons of
Confederate Veterans and Daughters of the Confederacy, whose ancestors
fought in that war and whose memory they cherish. It also includes
two-thirds of the people of Mississippi, who voted to keep the battle
flag in their state flag and the millions all over the South who still
paste those flag decals on cars, trucks and motorcycles.
It includes all the kids who wear replicas of the battle flag on clothes
and put them on their school bags, and their parents who wave the rebel
flag at NASCAR races, and all those folks who tend the graves of
Confederate soldiers and memorials all over the South. And what does
Rev. Al think of those re-enactors who dress up as Confederate soldiers
to refight battles their great grand-fathers fought in the Lost Cause?
If the national Democrats loathe a heritage many in the South love, if
they think millions of white Southerners are Nazis or bigots, if they
hate the flags and symbols of the Old Confederacy that so many
Southerners cherish, why should a self-respecting Southerner want to
belong to a party run by people like that, people who openly despise
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