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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Book Review: Two southerners take on GOP ‘foxes’

    “”No way will he get re-elected.”” That was the liberal mantra for four years, until George W. Bush’s relatively slender but solid victory over John Kerry silenced it forever.

    The American people had spoken – and they had opted to give the increasingly embattled and unpopular president four more years. Not only that, but when the dust had settled, the Republicans had tightened their grip on the Senate and the House.

    How could it have happened? How could the Democrats have let themselves be beaten so easily? That’s the question that Steve Jarding and Dave “”Mudcat”” Saunders set out to answer in “”Foxes in the Henhouse,”” an irreverent polemic aimed at the Democrats.

    The book’s thesis is simple: If they want to start winning elections, the Democrats need to learn how to reconnect with the American public.

    On the surface, Jarding and Saunders are about as serious as one of those anonymous, sweaty-looking stand-ups who show up on Comedy Central around 3 a.m. – and sometimes about as funny, too.

    Of their 2004 candidate, they write: “”Democrats had gotten themselves an honest-to-God, down-home, authentic-as-Elvis war hero! Even better, John Kerry had medals! Lots of them. Including three Purple Hearts. George Bush thought Purple Hearts were flavored marshmallows in Lucky Charms breakfast cereal.””

    It’s hard to say what’s stranger – the fact that they felt the need to explain what “”Lucky Charms”” are, or the odd implication that Elvis was a war hero.

    Fortunately, it isn’t all like that. Jarding and Saunders have their moments of drier humor. While the Republicans celebrated their victory, they write, the Democrats clung desperately to the few victories they’d managed to snag from that dismal November week: “”John Kerry touted the fact that he got more votes than any presidential candidate in history – except George W. Bush.”” Talk about your moral victories.

    Face it: The Democrats ran a lousy campaign from the start. That’s the gist of Jarding and Saunders’ argument. Instead of putting a war hero like Wesley Clark on the ticket, Kerry opted for the bright but lightweight John Edwards.

    Deadlier still, instead of focusing on the war on terror – obviously the hottest issue in America for the last half-decade – the Democrats tried to avoid taking a clear stance on the issue by concentrating on economic issues.

    Worst of all, these two southerners charge, Kerry and Edwards turned their back on the very voters who could have handed them the keys to the White House – particularly those of the South.

    The Kerry camp didn’t even bother to campaign hard in several states – including Arizona – that could have made the difference. Bush, meanwhile, never made the mistake of writing off areas that he “”couldn’t win.””

    Since the ’60s, Jarding and Saunders explain, the Republicans have held sway over southern voters by convincing voters that they stand squarely with them on moral, religious and social issues – even as they turn their backs on the same voters as soon as they get into office.

    But the Democrats, charge Jarding and Saunders, have turned their backs on their legacy, in actions if not words, by all but abandoning the South.

    “”Democrats cannot afford to keep writing off the South,”” Jarding and Saunders declare. “”If you don’t start listening to people there, if you don’t start spending time, energy and money there, and if you don’t stop belittling the culture of those who live there, you can … you are relegating yourselves to the status of a permanent minority party.””

    How can they remedy this? Jarding and Saunders have a few unusual suggestions, including sponsoring NASCAR cars, hiring country singers to write campaign songs and campaigning at football games.

    Odd suggestions, but they’re certainly worth a shot. After all, it may be no accident that the last three Democratic presidents were southerners.

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