I've been arguing with fellow progressives for more than a decade about our lack of outreach to the white working class. It's time. If we want to get a solid majority that lasts long enough to make real change, we'd damn well better start:
ATLANTA (AP) — Southern Democrats are joining others in the party who say that a return to advocating to lift people out of economic hardship and emphasizing spending on education and public works will re-energize black voters and attract whites as well.
"It's time to draw a line in the sand and not surrender our brand," Rickey Cole, the party chairman in Mississippi, said. He believes candidates have distanced themselves from the past half-century of Democratic principles.
"We don't need a New Coke formula," Cole said. "The problem is we've been out there trying to peddle Tab and RC Cola."
Cole and other Southern Democrats acknowledge divisions with prominent populists such as Hillary Rodham Clinton, who is expected to run for president in 2016, and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Yet they see merit in pushing stronger voting rights laws, tighter bank regulation, labor-friendly policies such as a higher minimum wage and other familiar party themes.
Democratic politics have become a tough sell in the conservative South. A major challenge in the region is finding candidates who can win high-profile races now that Republicans, who scored well in midterm elections earlier this month, dominate the leadership in state legislatures and across statewide offices.
Georgia Democrats thought legacy candidates were the answer. But Senate hopeful Michelle Nunn, former Sen. Sam Nunn's daughter, and gubernatorial challenger Jason Carter, former President Jimmy Carter's grandson, each fell short by about 8 percentage points despite well-funded campaigns and ambitious voter-registration drives.
Arkansas Democrats lost an open governor's seat and two-term Sen. Mark Pryor. Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu led an eight-candidate primary but faces steep odds in a Dec. 6 runoff. Democrats' closest statewide loss in the South was North Carolina Sen. Kay Hagan's 1.7 percentage point margin of defeat.
Exit polling suggests Democrats did not get the black turnout they needed and lost badly among whites. Nunn and Carter got fewer than 1 in 4 white votes, while Pryor took 31 percent and Landrieu 18 percent.
Should Landrieu lose, Democrats will be left without a single governor, U.S. senator or legislative chamber under their control from the Carolinas westward to Texas.