Southern Man

Beinart, Peter
November 2003
New Republic;11/24/2003, Vol. 229 Issue 21, p6
The article presents the views of the author towards how U.S. Presidential candidate Howard Dean was criticized by candidate Al Sharpton for comments he made regarding the plight to win racist voters. The press--perhaps irritated that Dean's grassroots following insulates him from its whims--eagerly joined in, eventually forcing him to apologize. During the whole pseudo-scandal, in fact, Dean sounded only one false note. In his apology, he said his comments about guys with Confederate flags were meant to initiate a "painful" dialogue about race. Dean is saying that, since 1968, Republicans have used race to distract Southern whites from the economic self-interest--health care and better schools--that would lead them to vote Democratic. He isn't vowing to change Southern whites' views on race. Indeed, he's implicitly acknowledging that he can't convince the guys with pickup trucks to remove their Confederate-flag decals. Dean's problem is that race isn't the only conversation he must quiet to make his economic message heard in Dixie. The Confederate flag is more than a racial symbol; it's a symbol of the culture war.


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