The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Budd McLaughlin

May 2, 2012

Yanks try to redneck their way to delegates (3-14-12)

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Since possibly the beginning of time there have been hucksters, snake-oil salesmen and con men.

After reading and watching reports of the Republican presidential candidates in the Deep South, I feel like I’ve been duped. Maybe some of you feel the same way.

In search of Alabama and Mississippi’s delegates, Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul descended on the south like Sherman’s army on Georgia. They used a variety of sad, worn-out and insulting tactics in an effort to win our favor.

They couldn’t have done worse if they had burned the state to the ground, much like Sherman tried to do in Georgia.

The candidates attended church services, appeared at tractor dealerships, used the word “y’all” and, in the case of Mitt Romney, doted on the delicacy that is cheese grits. Gingrich, a southerner who believes the president has the ability to control the price of gasoline, told a crowd he had always enjoyed grits.

Romney, however, decided to up the ante by appearing last week on the “Rick and Bubba Show” and by joining forces with comedian Jeff Foxworthy, known for his lame, redundant and stereotypical “You Might Be a Redneck if” jokes.

Last Friday, Newt sent his bus across the Tennessee Valley and let his surrogate, former Sen. Bob Smith, R-N.H., shake some hands. Where did Newt and Smith believe they could best win over the southern vote? At a Cracker Barrel in Athens, of course. Why not Logan’s or Applebees? Too sophisticated for a bus featuring a blown-up image of Gingrich’s already gargantuan cranium?

What kind of rubes and hayseeds do these candidates take us for? I’m surprised Romney didn’t arrive in a rusted pick-up truck with a plug of tobacco in his jaw, strumming “Freebird” on a banjo. Just for good measure, he could have been dressed in a University of Alabama T-shirt, overalls, a camouflage hat.

Admittedly, Alabama and Mississippi are commonly viewed as the redneck cousins to Tennessee and Georgia, but these hucksters have repeatedly stereotyped us and painted us into a confederate flag-draped corner.

When Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton waged successful presidential campaigns, did they arrive in northern states bragging about how much they liked Bruce Springsteen, Philly Cheesesteaks and Yankee bean soup? Did they pull alongside luxury cars and ask if they had any Grey Poupon?

It just irritates me when politicians pander to southerners by relying on the same tired stereotypes. I’ll admit Alabama has its share of idiots, but so does every other state in the nation. Alabama also has its share of intelligent citizens who care more about the issues than whether a candidate had grits for breakfast that morning.

Instead of saying “Howdy, y’all,” why not tell us what you plan to do about Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran. Or, tell us what you plan to about putting more Alabamians back to work, reducing the national deficit, reforming entitlement programs and ensuring gas prices don’t go up to $5 per gallon by this time next year.

That fake southern charm may work on some of the state’s more dim-witted plebeians, but it’s not going to fly in November. I think I can speak for both Republicans and Democrats when I say, “We’re going to need to hear some specifics.”

President Obama has been using generalities so long, perhaps the Republicans are starting to think it sounds good to their ears. The only Republican contender who had a concrete, albeit flawed, economic plan was Herman Cain and his 999 strategy. However, his ship sank months ago under the weight of sexual misconduct allegations.

At least Cain presented the public with specifics, which is more than I can say about Gingrich, Paul and the two wannabe hillbillies, Romney and Santorum. And because he had specifics, the Georgia native and pizza mogul didn’t have to resort to talk of grits.

By the time you read this, we’ll know which candidate won over the south, which could be an indicator of who will win the White House in November.

None of the candidates, however, won me over. And unless I hear some specifics, they won’t win me over in November, either.

 

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