The South Changes Course

The South Changes Course


The South is known for its strong support of the military. Perhaps it’s that very support that has led to something one might not expect – growing opposition to the war in Iraq. Not only opposition matching national levels, but in some southern states even exceeding it.

An important new national survey by the Institute for Southern Studies and the School of Public and International Affairs at North Carolina State University shows that, “Southerners, after disproportionate support for the war early on, now doubt US policy in Iraq just as strongly as people in other regions of the country, and in some cases more so.”

Fifty-seven percent of Southerners believe the US “should have stayed out of Iraq,” compared to fifty-eight percent nationally. Thirty percent said the US should “withdraw completely,” compared to twenty-six in non-Southern states. Fifty-six percent of Southerners support a decrease or total withdrawal of US troops, compared to fifty-nine percent in other regions. (The 13 southern states for purposes of this poll include: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia.)

According to the Institute for Southern Studies, “The results signal a shift in Southern attitudes towards Iraq. As recently as July 2005, a Pew Center poll found fifty-three percent of Southerners believed using military force against Iraq was ‘the right decision,’ the highest level of support in the country.”

This survey comes on the heels of an Associated Press-Ipsos poll that reveals a similar shift among southern women: only thirty-two percent approve of President Bush’s handling of the war, compared to twenty-eight percent nationally. Further, three out of five southern women plan to vote Democratic in the midterm elections – an encouraging change from the fifty-four percent support George Bush received in 2004.

“The current Washington leadership has counted on Southern states as a bastion of support on Iraq,” said Chris Kromm, director of the non-partisan Institute based in Durham, NC., “but clearly that support is deteriorating.”

The significance of this southern shift was noted in an Atlanta Journal-Constitution op-ed by the astute Jay Bookman: “When you’ve lost even the South, it’s over. Pretending that we can sustain our effort in Iraq for several more years with such meager support here at home is sheer fantasy.”

Of course, operating under sheer fantasy is nothing new for the Bush administration. The only way to burst its bubble and end this war is to voice opposition, vote opposition, and hold our representatives accountable on November 7.

Working Families Party–Continued
This past Monday, I posted an Editor’s Cut about the great Pete Seeger’s letter urging New Yorkers to vote this election season on the Working Families Party ballot line. I also suggested that those–like me–who believe the WFP should have either abstained from endorsing, or refused to cross-endorse, Hillary Clinton for Senate because of her position on the war should just go for Spitzer and the down ballot races. My colleague Katha Pollitt, the finest columnist working in these times, wrote me and asked:

Hi Katrina,
What do you make of this, from the listserv Portside:

“In another race in Rockland County where I live, we have a Democratic candidate, Nancy Low-Hogan, challenging the long entrenched Republican/Conservative endorsed Thomas P. Morahan for the State Senate in the 38th Senate District. The Working Families Party also has given Morahan their line instead of the Democratic candidate.”

Do you really want people to “vote the WFP ticket in down ticket races” as you say in Editor’s Cut– when the WFP candidate is a Republican?”

Thanks for pointing out this race. I’d still strongly urge people to vote for Eliot Spitzer for Governor on the WFP line. Then, voters should choose their candidates, down ballot, as they see fit. Follow your conscience–and in these days, that may well mean a vote against the GOP. However, it’s worth pointing out that in some of these cases, what we should really focus on is redistricting (which we need a pro-democracy movement to bust up) because those Republican candidates on the WFP line are pretty much invulnerable. But the bottom line remains: The WFP operates as a fusion party, trying to provide strategic support and then using the leverage it builds for policy gains that actually improves people’s lives. It’s fair to say that in terms of real-world impact in New York, in terms of building a multi-class, multi-racial political organization, the WFP’s strategy has been effective.

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