Can Southern Democrats Still Compete?

Tomasky encourages liberals to write the South off – and he starts off in Moore Award territory:

It’s lost. It’s gone. A different country. And maybe someday it really should be. I’ll save that for another column.

Until that day comes, the Democratic Party shouldn’t bother trying. If they get no votes from the region, they will in turn owe it nothing, and in time the South, which is the biggest welfare moocher in the world in terms of the largesse it gets from the more advanced and innovative states, will be on its own, which is what Southerners always say they want anyway.

Harry Enten disagrees:

Democrats are arguably doing their best in at least 20 years in three of the five most populous southern states.

President Obama won Florida two consecutive times. In 2008, Obama was the first Democratic presidential candidate to win in North Carolina since Jimmy Carter in 1976. Even as Obama lost the Tar Heel State in 2012, Democratic House candidates there won a majority of the vote. Not only was Obama the first Democrat to win Virginia since 1964, but the state has two Democratic senators for the first time since 1973, and Terry McAuliffe was the first gubernatorial candidate of either party to win the governorship when his party held the presidency since 1973.

So maybe people really mean Democrats are hopeless in the Deep South? That’s a bit harder to rebut. Then again, you’re also talking about just a handful of states.

Jonathan Bernstein is on the same page:

Trying to shift the entire Democratic Party so its center of opinion is equal to that in South Carolina or Mississippi would be a bad idea. But accepting a diversity of candidates, with national Democrats willing to support centrists or mild conservatives in conservative states, is good politics that costs the rest of the party little. Those moderate candidates won’t be favorites to win in Alabama or Oklahoma in normal times. But they give the party a chance to capitalize when circumstances allow it.

And Cassidy finds evidence that the South is still in play:

[Demographer William] Frey notes flatly that “there has been a surge of new minorities to the South.” And he points out that it is combining with another monumental shift. The historic northward migration of African-Americans has now reversed course, turning into “a wholesale evacuation from the North—to largely prosperous southern locales,” such as the suburbs of Atlanta and Charlotte. According to Frey, this shift “encompasses all blacks, but it is most prominent among the young, the well-educated, and retirees. The greatest growth surges are occurring in economically prosperous areas of the South … and all signs point to a continuation of the trend.”

In brief, the longterm outlook doesn’t look hopeless for Democrats. By appealing to minorities new and old, plus Southern white liberals (yes, they still exist) and white moderates, particularly women, who feel alienated by the G.O.P., the Democratic Party can still put together a viable electoral coalition and, in years more favorable than 2014, hope to make some headway. Despite the recent shift toward the Republicans, the Democrats have demonstrated that they can succeed in places like Kentucky, which still has a Democratic governor, as well as in North Carolina and Florida.