The Democrats’ Southern Strategy

democrats southern strategy

White House Photo: Pete Souza

What is to be done about he right wing Republican agenda which seems to be taking shape for the remainder of Barack Obama’s term as President? That agenda seems to be: oppose everything proposed by him, even if it was once proposed by the GOP, and even if it clearly is for the good of the country. The answer: do everything to facilitate the self-destruction of the Guns Over People party over the next three years or so.

It is sad but true that there are about a hundred Republican members of the Congress who are more interested in pursuing their extreme right-wing agenda than governing the country. That agenda involves destroying as much of the old New Deal infrastructure as possible by “starving the beast”, without regard to the harm that is done to the poorer or less healthy Americans in the process. Their allegiance is not to the United States of America, but to the principles of the Tea Party and Grover Norquist.

And it may get worse before it gets better. The 2014 mid-term elections could be a disaster for the Democrats, as the redistricted (after the 2010 elections) House is unlikely to change hands, with only 49 seats in play out of 435 (26 Democrat and 23 Republican). The rest are considered “safe” seats for the incumbents, and there would have to be an 18-seat swing to the Democrats for them to be in the majority again.

In the Senate, there are 21 Democratic seats up for reelection, and only 13 Republican seats, and six of the Democratic seats are in states won by Mitt Romney in 2012 (Begich, Alaska; Hagan, North Carolina; Johnson, South Dakota; Landrieu, Louisiana; Pryor, Arkansas; and Rockefeller, West Virginia, who is retiring). Also, Baucus in Montana, Harkin in Iowa and Levin in Michigan have announced they are not running for re-election. 12 of the 13 Republican seats are in states won by Romney in 2012, the only exception being Collins of Maine. So it is fairly likely, unless some unforeseen events intervene, that the Republicans will control both houses of Congress for the last two years of President Obama’s Presidency.

The Strategy

Most of the states in the South and Southwest will never be returned to Democrat control in our lifetimes: Alabama, Mississippi, South Carolina, Georgia, Louisiana, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia, Oklahoma, and Texas. Add to these states the traditionally Republican states in the Midwest: Indiana, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota and North Dakota, and in the Rockies: Utah, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, and Alaska, and you have 170 electoral votes (270 needed to elect) and 112 seats in the House (currently held by 93 Republicans and 29 Democrats). There could be the occasional popular Democrat politician in these states elected to the House or the Senate, but that will be the exception and not the rule.

So here is the strategy:

  • Give up trying to negotiate with the Republicans in Congress. Focus on demonizing them as gun-toting pro-lifers, climate change deniers, 1%ers, isolationists, racists, anti-immigrant, anti-women. etc. Pound this in, day after day.
  • Takers, not givers. Point out, as Gov. Christie of New Jersey did so effectively with Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, that many of these Republican states are net takers and not net givers of federal tax dollars. It is ridiculous for them to complain about “Big Government” when they are the primary beneficiaries of the concept of “The United States of America”. In the table are the numbers (using 2005 data).
federal spending

State Federal Spending Per Dollar Rank Voted in 2012 of Federal Taxes Paid

Thus it is clear that the blue states are largely supporting the red states with their tax dollars. Without Uncle Sam supporting the deadbeat red states, many of them would be broke.

  • Veto, veto, veto. President Obama to date has only vetoed two bills in his almost five years in office (neither were overridden). But after 2014, if the Republicans do control both houses, he is going to be confronted with a torrent of crazy right-wing bills passed by Congress and sent to him for signature. Veto them all, no matter the consequences. Send the legislation back to the Congressional drawing board, until public opinion forces Congress to get it right.
  • Take executive action if Congress will not act to pass important legislation. Come up with inventive reasons for doing this, such as using emergency proclamations to put in place necessary government actions and programs until Congress acts. (Also see martial law, below) Declare that the debt ceiling law is unconstitutional, and refuse to enforce it. Grow some gonads…
  • Continually call for Congress not to adjourn or recess so long as important legislation remains to be passed. The current Congress is the most impotent it has been in many years, passing only four major bills so far this year, and has a paltry 16% approval rating. The President should direct the Treasury Department not to pay Members of Congress for so long as they refuse to pass responsible appropriations bills. If the Republicans want to shut down the federal government, let it hit their pocketbooks too (see martial law, below).
  • Declare martial law. W rammed through the Patriot Act in the aftermath of the patriotic fervor caused by 9/11, and the country has been living with the excesses resulting from this Act ever since. If anything happens over the next three years that would justify imposing martial law, President Obama should do it, and use the martial law period to put in place necessary reforms impossible to get through Congress as it currently is constituted.

Article I, Section 9 of the U.S. Constitution provides that “The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.” Section 1031 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012 can be interpreted as essentially repealing the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 [which forbids military involvement in domestic law enforcement without Congressional approval] by authorizing the U.S. military to perform law enforcement functions on American soil. And recent American history is replete with occasions, such as during the civil rights crises of the 1950s and 1960s, of the deployment of troops to quell civil unrest.

ted vaillOne possible scenario would be if Congress refuses to pass a budget and the necessary appropriations to keep the government running after September 30, 2013, causing a shutdown of the federal government, as occurred for 28 days in late 1995 and early 1996. In order to keep essential government services from shutting down, the President could declare martial law, and take over the functioning of the entire government, with the aide of the military and without the input (or interference) of Congress. It could be classified as a “Rebellion” by Congress.

Or at least threaten it.

Ted Vaill

Wednesday, 21 August 2013


  1. Linda Sutton says

    Good job, Ted, laying out the serious problem with Republican appeasement that Obama’s TRIED and FAILED. I’m really sick of hearing about working in a “bipartisan” way. Republicans DO NOT do that at all, and the Dems who keep repeating that keep moving away from the progressive ideas that ELECTED them.

  2. Ted Vaill says

    Should the Republicans in the House shut down the federal government and refuse to extend the debt ceiling, causing a default in America’s public debt, that could be considered by President Obama to be a “Rebellion” by Congress justifying the imposition of martial law to bring the country through this crisis.

    That great Republican President Teddy Roosevelt said “Speak softly, but carry a big stick”. This would be President Obama’s ‘big stick”.

  3. Eric K says

    Seriously are you justifying a good reason to declare marshal law In order to institute reforms. Because congress fails to act. This is how dictators and tyrants come to power and solidify it. We have a Constitution and Bill of Rights for a reason. I do not agree with the Patriot act. But ,still you wish to stop and suspends rights of Americans. When we are being stripped away slowly by both sides as many of us try to fight to get them back. So the special interests do or do not get what they want. So let force them upon people. That is a Dictatorship. See that is the problem with a two party system that in reality is one and the same. How does their acts in Congress constitute rebellion? Because they(the Right) does not agree with the left wing agenda or President. The Left have destroyed Freedom of speech with Political correctness. Because we might hurt someones feeling. The right wants to take away Freedom of Choice with Anti abortion laws. Just to name one on each side. Marshall Law is will rob us everything our founding fathers have fought for and what I swore to uphold and defend. Also read the fine print of what is going on. It has already started.

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