If I was in the Romney camp, I’d be very worried about this:
Reuters) – Sheryl Harris, a voluble 52-year-old with a Virginia drawl, voted twice for George W. Bush. Raised Baptist, she is convinced — despite all evidence to the contrary — that President Barack Obama, a practicing Christian, is Muslim.
So in this year’s presidential election, will she support Mitt Romney? Not a chance.
“Romney’s going to help the upper class,” said Harris, who earns $28,000 a year as activities director of a Lynchburg senior center. “He doesn’t know everyday people, except maybe the person who cleans his house.”
She’ll vote for Obama, she said: “At least he wasn’t brought up filthy rich.”
White lower- and middle-income voters such as Harris are wild cards in this vituperative presidential campaign. With only a sliver of the electorate in play nationwide, they could be a deciding factor in two southern swing states, Virginia and North Carolina.
Reuters/Ipsos polling data compiled over the past several months shows that, across the Bible Belt, 38 percent of these voters said they would be less likely to vote for a candidate who is “very wealthy” than one who isn’t. This is well above the 20 percent who said they would be less likely to vote for an African-American.
In Lynchburg, many haven’t forgotten Romney’s casual offer to bet Texas Governor Rick Perry $10,000 or his mention of his wife’s “couple of Cadillacs.” Virginia airwaves are saturated with Democratic ads hammering Romney’s Cayman Islands investments and his refusal to release more than two years of tax returns.
Now look, this obviously doesn’t mean that Mitt Romney is going to get destroyed by Obama in the south. Outside of Virginia and North Carolina, I doubt there’s much for Obama to carry in the region. (Unless you count Florida as the south of course though culturally it’s very different for the most part.) I’d bet most of these folks, rather than voting for Obama like this lady, just stay home. That’s going to be bad news for Republicans down ballot if they do, especially if this turns into a good year for Democrats nationally like it’s starting to look like.
But there’s another point to be made here, and it’s the same point we’ve been making here since 2009. Economic populism will work for Democrats in the south. We just have to start using it in a big way. Yes, we have our, shall we say, cultural issues-translation: a lot of southerners are a bunch of homophobic, racist, religious zealots. The article also mentions prejudice towards Romney’s Mormonism, something I think we progressives should work a bit harder to denounce as ALL prejudice is wrong and we can’t rightly condemn some forms while allowing exceptions, and I think we all really know the main reason why Obama won’t do well in southern states is because of race. (Seriously, you’re really naive if you haven’t figured that out yet. That or just disingenuous.) Still, the south has always been and continues to be a bunch of poor folks bickering with each other over things that don’t really matter while a hand full of rich folks rob us all blind and then step all over us before we realize what they’ve done. Economic populism not only provides a way for Democrats to compete here again, but also, from a social justice standpoint, provides a mean for ordinary Americans living in the south to come together, put down old prejudices, and create a better place for everyone by uniting against and tackling the real problem-the dominance of a narrow economic elite.