A Southern Strategy for Democrats

Jarding and Saunders argue that Democrats must appeal to the “Bubbas” to win

If you are a Democrat, go and march on the White House in 2008.

At least this is what authors Steve Jarding and Dave “Mudcat” Saunders hope will happen.

The two political strategists outline a comprehensive strategy for the Democratic Party to reach out to the Southern “Bubbas” of America in their new book “Foxes in the Henhouse: How the Republicans Stole the South and the Heartland and What the Democrats Must Do to Run ‘em Out.”

Surprisingly, it’s a plan that might work.

Jarding and Saunders argue that the Democratic Party is ignoring an important constituency. “Bubbas”—distinct from “rednecks”—are blue-collar in outlook, devoted to God and family, and keenly patriotic. They are also concerned with conservation.

Most importantly, they are registered to vote.

The book points out that any “Bubba” will support social welfare programs, if Democrats can get him to listen.

Unfortunately for liberals, Democrats have ignored him in all but a few recent elections.

Indeed, the authors point out that Kerry basically conceded 20 states and a total of 164 electoral votes to Bush in the 2004 election—and only 270 electoral votes are required for national victory. Winning is tough when the candidate automatically writes off half the country. Jarding and Saunders suggest Democrats might benefit from a quick refresher in basic math.

But the party’s problems run far deeper than just an inability to count.

The authors write that Democrats are painted as yellow-bellied cowards, godless liberals, freedom haters, France aficionados, and consummate sissies.

Such propaganda-created images must be pierced if “real” issues are to be the meat and biscuits of future elections.

Jarding and Saunders argue that Democrats have adopted unnecessarily defeatist campaign strategies.

Presidential candidate John Kerry’s weak responses to accusations about his military conduct in Vietnam are an apt example.

Kerry was hurt on the issue even though—compared to the stint’s of top Republicans and Democrats’ in the armed forces—it is the G.O.P. that comes out looking like a squashed fly on the gravel of a trailer park, the authors write.

“Foxes in the Henhouse” also severely lambastes members of the liberal intellectual elite—many of whom call Cambridge home.

Perhaps my geographical location accounts for my mixed feelings toward some of Jarding and Saunders’ “winning” strategies, such as sponsoring a NASCAR vehicle and penning a campaign jingle.

Such tactics seem condescending to voters: surely can’t the Bubbas spot a cheap gimmick?

However, those kind of cheesy tricks actually helped make Democrat Mark Warner the governor of conservative Virginia in 2001. The authors know because they both worked on Warner’s campaign.

Perhaps I give Americans too much credit—or too little.

While Jarding and Saunders criticize the Democrats, they save their most scathing comments for the Republicans. GOP leaders are accused of harming job and economic opportunities and the quality of life for children and the elderly.

Jarding and Saunders avoid for the most part the cheap shots that characterize the work of Michael Moore.

They tell the truth with colorful language and they convinced at least me that the Republicans have got to go. And if Democrats can’t follow their advice, those sly G.O.P. leaders have truly “outfoxed” them for good.

The only lingering question is whether Democrats deserve the victory that Jarding and Saunders would have them win. I’ll leave the answer to the reader.

Foxes in the Henhouse
By Steve Jarding and Dave "Mudcat" Saunders
Out Now