Jewish World Review Feb. 10, 2004 / 18 Shevat, 5764

Martha Zoller

Martha Zoller
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Southern Strategies, Georgia Style | As the momentum picks up for Senator John Kerry, the questions begin to be formulated and the strategy is picked. He has already said that he does not need the South to win. His analogy is that he could win the Gore 2000 states and New Hampshire and win the presidency. He did not take into consideration that 8 electoral votes have moved into the traditional south and out of the Gore states. So with the example he gave, he would still lose.

There are two serious mistakes that the Kerry campaign is making as they enter the South. One is thinking that Democratic Primary voters are representative of the American norm and the other is misunderstanding the earthquake that happened in Georgia in 2002 with the election of the first Republican governor in over 130 years and the ousting of and incumbent Governor and U S Senator.

The Kerry campaign, Senator Clinton and others have shown in their statements that they do not understand the progressive nature of the South today. This is especially true in Georgia. Maynard Jackson had it right when he wanted to be the DNC chairman and had they listened to him about grassroots development in the South; it would be in play today.

Kerry's dismissal of the South is dangerous. It is one of the fastest growing regions in the country. For the last two quarters, Atlanta has had the fastest job growth in the country. In addition, while there is still a disparity between rich and poor and there are a disproportionate number of poor people of color in the South. There are also more wealthy and self employed people of color, especially African Americans in the South than in any other region.

When the top 10 cities for African American wealth were announced from U S Census data last year, 5 of them were in the South with Atlanta leading the pack. There is growing diversity in the electorate. In Georgia, there are African Americans running the U S Senate seat being vacated by Zell Miller in both parties and there are two Black men, Herman Cain and Al Bartell, who have qualified for the Republican primary along with two Congressmen, Johnny Isakson (R-6th) and Congressman Mac Collins (R-8th).

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Throughout the country the diversity in candidate offerings is on the Republican side. In California, we are beginning to see Latinos qualifying and running for both parties nomination. As these populations grow and as the leveling of the playing field from the Civil Rights Movement completes its second generation, we are seeing political diversity also.

Even Rep. John Lewis (D-5th), icon of the Civil Rights Movement, said on November 7, 2000, that even though he was a partisan Democrat that diversity in political views and voting patterns would help African Americans in the long run because then their (African Americans) vote would not be taken for granted. Another icon of the Movement, Rev. Joseph Lowery said, "the Democrats take us for granted and the Republicans just take us." That is the result of 40 years of lock step voting with the Democratic Party.

The second major issue is the continued insistence that Senator Max Cleland lost his run for the U S Senate because his patriotism was questioned. Cleland is one of the best known men in Georgia. While the Chambliss campaign erred in using images of terror in their advertisement on Homeland Security in the 2002 race, the issue was solid. Senator Cleland was inactive on this issue and the votes and timing back that up. His voting record looked more like Ted Kennedy than Sam Nunn, his predecessor in the Senate, and that is why Georgia rejected him.

There are a few political mistakes he made also. He forgot that he and Governor Barnes had both won their first elections against a weak Republican by the name of Guy Milner. Cleland also forgot that he only won his seat in the Senate by 30,000 voted and that many Republicans voted for him in 1996. He gave those Republicans not reason to vote for him again.

From a strategy point of view, he had a press team that was keeping him off interview shows and he only used the fastest growing part of the state, North Georgia, as a source of funds not a place to campaign. There were also reports of poor constituent services and lack of follow through with Georgians. The truth is that Senator Cleland just did not campaign effectively and he beat himself. Senator Kerry cannot be blamed though; former Governor Barnes and Senator Cleland still tell anyone who will listen that the flag issue did them in. If they cannot see the truth, how so you expect Senator Kerry to see it.

Finally, then Georgia GOP Chairman, Ralph Reed, "Out Democratted" the Democrats. For the first time in Georgia Republican history they canvassed neighborhoods and put more resources into getting out the vote than the Democrats did. You do not have to be first with a good idea, but if you implement it better than the other guy, you can own it and Ralph Reed owned it.

So Senator Kerry, continue on your current strategy in the south and you will not win any southern states and you will not win the Presidency. It will be a good thing though; we southerners do not want a president that voted down every weapons system in the last 15 years. When it is all said and done, the rest of America does not want that either.

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JWR contributor Martha Zoller is a radio talk show host in Georgia. Comment by clicking here.

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© 2004, Martha Zoller