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The shrinking donkey

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POSTED: September 25, 2007 5:03 a.m.
If Sen. Larry Craig wiggled out of his guilty plea for trolling for male sex partners in a public toilet and somehow wound up on the GOP presidential ticket, what would happen?
For starters, the South, including Georgia, would support the ticket. Abe Lincoln would have to rise from the grave and become the Republican standard bearer (again) for most white Southerners even to consider returning to the Democratic fold.
The once dominant Democratic Party of the South continues to be the incredible shrinking donkey, becoming smaller by the day.
Notice that Sen. Hillary Clinton, the runaway favorite to become the Democratic presidential nominee, has barely made a friendly nod toward Georgia. Not a single big-name Democrat in the Peach State has stepped forward to support Sen. Clinton. She and her handlers have decided that the white voters of the Old South are too deeply attached to the GOP to bother.
So looking at the other Democratic candidates, who will play best nationally and here in Georgia?
√ Sen. Barack Obama will most certainly win the Democratic presidential primary in Georgia. His supporters are African Americans and white liberals. Obama has the enthusiastic backing of numerous black officials and business leaders and will probably generate a record black turnout in the primary. An Obama rally at Georgia Tech turned into a rock-star event, drawing an estimated 20,000 yelling and clapping fans.
√ Former Sen. John Edwards, who hopes to become the foremost non-Hillary candidate, has a chance of winning the nomination only if he carries the states of his native South. Forget Iowa. Edwards needs Dixie. In 2004’s Georgia primary, Edwards beat John Kerry in six of the seven Congressional districts that voted Republican in November. Edwards’ honey-laced cadence plays well with swing voters in rural and suburban districts, but he’s had problems getting the Democrats’ black base vote in the primary. Some of the best known Democrats in Georgia are backing Edwards. They include former Gov. Roy Barnes, maverick Democratic Congressman Jim Marshall and Democratic legislative leaders Sen. Robert Brown and Rep. DuBose Porter.
Even so, let’s be realistic. Though Hillary Clinton snubbed us and will barely scratch in Georgia, she is riding off with the nomination, and Democrats in most parts of the country are thrilled at the prospect. Among Democratic candidates, she appears most ready to govern. Her husband took more than two years and a disastrous midterm election to get his sea legs as a national leader. Hillary has been there, done that. She takes over on day one and is ready to run the Oval Office the next.
A downside of the Clintons in the South is the “smell factor.” Bill & Hill can shut down scandalous news stories with practiced skill, but Southerners still want to keep their distance. Then, too, the raging enthusiasm among blacks for the Clintons — even in Obama Country — underscores some whites’ feelings of mistrust for the prospective first couple.
All of which makes your geezer correspondent think back. Remember 1992? Gov. Zell Miller sat on a couch in the Governor’s Mansion comforting Hillary as they watched TV blare the first news that Bill was a two-timing womanizer. The news didn’t keep Zell from coming to the rescue of Bill. Gov. Miller moved the Georgia primary up that year, helping Bill secure his first primary win. Then, Gov. Miller keynoted the Democratic convention, giving perhaps his most eloquent speech, “Listen to this Voice,” in which he extolled Bill Clinton and the Democratic Party as the beacons of hope for America. Clinton took Georgia that year thanks to Zell and the presence of independent candidate Ross Perot.
In most of the South, the Democratic Party continued its downward slide, which began in 1964 when Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act and predicted, “There goes the South for a generation.” LBJ may have underestimated the time frame. For years, Southern whites have poured into the ranks of the GOP. Their Democratic New Deal heritage is long forgotten. A photo of the Georgia GOP leadership could be captioned: “Sons of the Confederacy and the Wool Hat Boys.”
While a Democrat may win the presidency in a walk in 2008, my guess is that the Old South — our part of the South — will become further estranged from the national mainstream as well as the political party of our forefathers.

You can reach Shipp at P.O. Box 2520, Kennesaw, GA 30156, or e-mail: shipp1@bellsouth.net.
 

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