Jewish World Review Nov. 10, 2003 /15 Mar-Cheshvan, 5764

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Consumer Reports

You don't have to be racist to win elections in the South | Republicans have been beaten up for years because they wouldn't call Southerners who fly the Confederate flag racists. Well, this week, the leading Democratic presidential candidate was caught in a political firestorm himself, after saying Democrats should go after poor Southerners who drive pickup trucks and fly the Confederate flag.

Ah, the outrage flowed like old Tennessee whiskey. Somehow, Howard Dean's condescending remarks managed to offend everybody, white Southerners who are angry about Dean's "Dukes of Hazzard" stereotype. And black politicians like Al Sharpton attacked the flag once again as a racist symbol. But both sides missed Howard Dean's bigger point, that the Democratic Party is dangerously out of touch with white Southern voters.

And just in case they didn't get it the first time around, this week, Southern voters handed Democratic governors historic losses in Kentucky and Mississippi. I'll let D.C. Democrats in on a little secret. Voting Republican still makes millions of Southerners still feel very dirty about themselves, but that beats voting for somebody who calls you a bigot, and beats it any day of the week.

You see, you don't have to be racist to win elections in the South. You just have to get it through your thick skull that, just because some voters are proud of their Southern home doesn't make them racists, apologists for slavery, or supporters of segregation, even though institutional racism gripped the South until the 1960s civil rights revolution. But back then, of course, civil rights battles weren't waged over 100-year-old flags. They were waged over basic human rights.

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