Memo to Howard Dean:

Memo to Howard Dean:
Forget Gore it’s all about Zell

(By Chris Ingram as published by, 2003)

Ten years ago, I was cursing Governor (now Senator) Zell Miller.

At the time, Miller was the governor of Georgia. He had given the nominating speech for Bill Clinton at the 1992 Democratic convention — where he uttered the line, “Bill Clinton is the only candidate who feels your pain” — and was viewed by many as a very partisan Democrat. Miller’s detractors called him “zig-zag-Zell” because he frequently changed his stance on tough issues.

Fast forward to 2002 when Senator Paul Coverdell died unexpectedly and Zell Miller was appointed by Democratic governor Roy Barnes to fill the remainder of his term. The day he was sworn in, Senator Miller said he would vote like Sen. Coverdell – apparently meaning as a conservative. At the time most who knew Zell thought “Yeah right.”

But Sen. Miller has been true to his word – a rarity in Washington. As senator, Miller took up many of Sen. Coverdell’s pet initiatives including cutting taxes and working to restore responsibility in government. He voted for President Bush’s tax relief package and has been on the side of common sense conservatism on most important issues.

Miller has been a thorn in the side of Sen. Tom Daschle and the rest of the out-of-touch liberal leadership — whom Miller scolds in his book “Conscience of a Conservative Democrat.” As Miller rightly points out, the Democratic leadership just doesn’t get it. That is, they don’t know how to appeal to moderate to conservative Southern white male voters – which is arguably the most coveted segment of voters in America going into next year’s elections.

If you don’t believe the importance of Southern white male voters, just consider that if Al Gore had carried just one Southern state (or won just one of the Border States he lost) in 2000, he would be President Al Gore today.

In 2004, neither party can win without this group of voters. The difference is, the Republicans work for the Southern white male vote, the Democrats in Washington don’t. They just talk like they do, as they lust for their support.

But for the Democrats, the problem is deeper than just not working for the Southern white male vote. The Democrats are so out of touch they don’t even know how to appeal to Bubbas because they don’t understand them. But understanding Southern conservative white male voters isn’t all that hard. It’s simple really. And you don’t need to fake knowing the difference between Rusty Wallace and Dale Jarrett to do it.

What Democrats need to understand about Southerners is they don’t like having out-of-touch liberal values shoved down their throats. And they should also understand Southerner’s can’t stand Al Gore. So if you happen to be a Northeastern former governor from a small state with extreme leftist tendencies (ok, Howard Dean), getting Gore’s endorsement isn’t going to help you. Remember, he lost the South (including his home state), as well as such traditional Democratic Border States such as West Virginia.

Instead, Dean should focus on appealing to these voters and their sophistication. Yes, people who shop at Wal-Mart can be sophisticated.

How? Here are a few starting points:

1) don’t try to place restrictions on guns;
2) forget about forcing quotas and set-asides for special interest groups;
3) don’t give special “victim’s rights” for specific groups of people;
4) don’t give needles to drug users; and finally,
5) Lord knows (hey, you can’t write about Southerners without bringing up the Lord), don’t give same-sex couples the right to marry.

Here is why you shouldn’t touch these issues based on how Southerners think:

The right to possess guns is in the Constitution. Read it. Enough is enough. Even Al Gore had enough sense to leave this issue alone in 2000. Washington, D.C. has the strictest gun control laws in the country and yet the city consistently has one of the highest gun crime rates in America.

As for quotas and set-asides, two wrongs don’t make a right. Hire the best person for the job and forget about their color. We should be a nation of individuals, not a nation of groups.

Liberal Democrats think if you’re gay, black, or Muslim and someone smacks you over the head with a golf club, the attacker should be charged with a “hate” crime and face tougher penalties. But if the same attacker hits a white, Christian, Rebel flag waving, Chevy pick-up driving male with a gun rack and a number three sticker in the window ten minutes later, the charge should not be so severe. Who is being discriminated against now?

As for needles for drug addicts, you wouldn’t hand out six-packs of beer to people walking into an “AA” meeting would you? So why do national Democratic leaders like Nancy Pelosi support giving needles to drug users? No Southerner in his right mind understands this.

Finally, a majority of Americans (and Southerners) support the right of gay people to have the same rights as everyone else. But they don’t support diminishing the sanctity of marriage, plain and simple. Even most of the current Democrats running for president understand this. Liberal Nancy Pelosi who represents the San Francisco area apparently does not.
Pelosi and Daschle’s lack of understanding on these issues is the reason the Democrats lose. Zell Miller has stood up and told them so. But as is often the case in Washington, being told what you don’t know isn’t appreciated.

The Republican Party is known to eat its young and promote its out-of-touch elders. The Democrats appear to work in reverse. They try to euthanize their elders and promote their out-of-touch up-starts. Fortunately the Democrats haven’t been able to stick the needle in that old dog Zell’s neck yet – a needle that ought to be aimed at Gore, and Dean, and other out-of-touch liberals.
One thing is for certain, if Dean is going to win the presidency, he’ll need to win at least a handful of Southern states — something Gore didn’t do despite his roots. Being from Vermont, Dean’s challenge is even greater. He should read Senator Miller’s book and forget about Al Gore.

A Southerner, Chris Ingram is the former Washington press secretary to Sen. Paul Coverdell and chief of staff to Rep. Max Burns. He is the president of 411 Communications, a political polling and communications firm based in Arlington, Virginia.

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