Fridays Weekend Column
The South Is Changing
by James Glaser
When I first came down South this spring, George Bush was the hero to almost everyone I met. Back in Minnesota we knew that it was Florida that gave us George as President and many people from Florida would say to me, "Didn't you guys vote for Gore and Kerry?"
Back in the spring I would have to tell people that not only did we go for Gore in the first election, but that even more Minnesotans voted for Kerry in the second. I then have to explain that the Minnesota Republican Party is different than the Florida Republican Party, because up in Minnesota we believe that a Republican President would work for smaller government and try and cut the national debt, not add two trillion dollars to it. That is one of the reasons Minnesota's Democrat party vote increased this last time around.
That usually stops them dead in their tracks, because they believe the same thing about smaller government and cutting the debt, it was just that they got so giddy about electing a "Christian" president, they forgot about their principles.
Now those conversations were last spring and early summer. Today it is hard to find a Bush backer, unless you are at church, and I suspect that at many churches, it is only the minister who really still fawns over George. Many ministers still believe that George Bush is going to stop abortion in America. Some religious conservatives still believe George Bush is pro-life, and they don't care if he kills tens of thousands in Iraq - after all, they are only "rag-heads." I met a church-going, educated, Christian man down here, who has "Nuke the Rag Head Bastards" on the cover of his spare tire, mounted on the back of his jeep for all to see.
There is however a real change going on down here. In the last Florida poll, 61% of the people think attacking Iraq was a mistake. Now this is pretty cool, people are putting new Kerry/Edwards bumper stickers on their cars. I asked a guy if his was new, and he said no, he just had it from the last election. He was only putting it on now because they wouldn't get mad at him at church. Before now, they might have asked him to leave his church if he had that sticker on his car. He said, "Now they know backing Bush was wrong."
"Now they know backing Bush was wrong" is a big change, and many people, who have worked their entire adult lives to get the Republicans in charge are seeing that their work was for naught. They can see that George Bush is not going to work to change the legality of abortion, and neither is the Republican- controlled Congress.
The Religious Right is now seeing that all their work went to get tax breaks for the rich, and that getting those tax breaks used up all of the President's capital. They can now see that abortion is really just a Republican cash cow, and even those politicians who are sincere about stopping it will do nothing because the Party leadership will stop them.
I now find it interesting to talk politics with people down here, and my Minnesota plate on the truck is no longer a reason for people to scorn me. Now many of the millions of Floridians who voted against Bush are willing to admit it.
The South does vote Republican, but there are still a solid forty some percent who vote the other way, and George Bush's performance as President has given them the courage to stand up and tell people how they feel about America. I think many churches will go back to separating Washington from God. Also I hope Ministers will again work on people's souls and not their votes.
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