Non-southern appointments

The absence of southern appointees is not something to worry about, nor applaud.


Thomas Schaller
December 17, 2008 7:17PM (UTC)

The Washington Monthly's Steve Benen, who has spent some time blogging in this very space, commented recently on a Politico piece by Amie Parnes noting that there is a general absence of southern appointees by Barack Obama. Is this a reason to be encouraged, disappointed, neither or both?

Maybe both, but probably neither.

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Both, because it's disappointing because there is plenty of political talent in the South, yet encouraging that there is no felt need to provide regional balance as some end in itself or to appease a wing of the party. Neither, because, as my regular debating partner and southern-as-they-come Democrat Ed Kilgore has pointed out in private correspondence, a lot of southern Democrats just happened to remove themselves from consideration (Sam Nunn, Jim Hunt, Artur Davis) . . . so there's no cause for alarm or angst.

A misconception about my non-southern strategy is that it means Democrats must nominate non-southern candidates for president and vice president, as they happened to do this year. But as I state very clearly in the book, just as the southern strategy worked well for decades for Republicans with non-southern nominees (Nixon, Agnew, Reagan, Bush41 of Connecticut, Quayle), the non-southern strategy can work just fine -- maybe better -- with southern nominees (think Clinton-Gore).

Likewise, there's no reason that an Illinois president and Delaware vice president won't be well served by southern appointees, and plenty of reasons to think they will be served well by having such regional diversity to go along with the more prevalent forms of diversity. There haven't been many (yet?), but that doesn't seem to reflect any pattern on Obama's part.


Thomas Schaller

Thomas F. Schaller is professor of political science at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the author of "Whistling Past Dixie: How Democrats Can Win Without the South." Follow him @schaller67.

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