Saturday, September 13, 2003

The GOP plays 'identity politics'

The next time a conservative True Believer tries to tell you that the Southern Strategy is a thing of the past, and the GOP is purging itself of its ties to neo-Confederates and their ilk, point them to this story:

Republican poll seeks to identify Rebel flag supporters
There is no issue on the ballot for November about the state flag, which has the much-debated Confederate emblem in one corner. But Lt. Gov. Amy Tuck spoke in favor of the Confederate symbol this summer during the Neshoba County fair. Her Democratic opponent, state Sen. Barbara Blackmon, is seeking to be the first black person elected to statewide office since Reconstruction.

Blackmon's candidacy, many political experts say, is expected to generate a big turnout among black voters, which could also benefit Democratic Gov. Ronnie Musgrove. He is challenged by Haley Barbour, the former head of the Republican National Committee.

The jockeying over the state flag comes two years after state voters overwhelmingly decided to keep the Confederate symbol. A local non-binding election on a similar issue occurred last year when Harrison County voters also overwhelming said to keep the Rebel flag flying at a beach display.

Jim Herring, chairman of the Mississippi Republican Party, said the telephone question about the state flag is being asked as part of a voter-identification effort.

"It is not unusual to ask people how they voted on various issues," Herring said. "That's pretty much it. That's what you call voter-identification calls."

Some of the people polled say the questions abruptly ended when they indicated support for changing the state flag. Rickey Cole, who heads the Mississippi Democratic Party, said the effort does not surprise him.

"I think the Republicans have looked at the numbers from the flag vote in 2001," Cole said. "They are very interested in trying to recoup their constituency that turned out for that vote that hasn't been turning out for other votes."

Not that this will really help persuade a True Believer. They are always immune to facts. But it might shut him up for a little while, at least until the next Limbaugh show gives him a fresh set of talking points.

Likewise, I will be awaiting Mickey Kaus's and Glenn Reynolds' stern denunciations of this brand of "identity politics" with unbated breath.

[A tip o' the Hatlo Hat to Seeing the Forest.]

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