Editor’s note: Michael Ackley’s columns are satire and parody based on current events and thus mix fact with fiction. He assumes informed readers will be able to tell which is which.
Terry McAuliffe was feeling fine. His Christmas shopping was done, and he already had digested his holiday banquet – in the form of Mississippi Sen. Trent Lott’s cooked goose. In an expansive frame of mind, the Democratic National Committee chairman granted your reporter an interview.
We met in his commodious DNC office, which was amply decorated with framed testimonial certificates, souvenir paper weights, a canceled Global Crossing stock certificate and the old Lincoln Bedroom “for rent” sign.
Your reporter: After what everybody accounts a lousy autumn for the Democratic Party – and your own leadership in particular – you seem to be going into the winter in high spirits.
McAuliffe: And why not? We have a new “southern strategy,” and I think it has legs; it has traction; it can help us take back the White House.
As I said in Arkansas last August, “For too long, the DNC ignored southern states.” Oh, how my own words ring today. They sing, don’t they?
YR: Well, yeah. But what exactly did you mean by them?
McAuliffe: Of course, I didn’t know what I meant at the time. You might call it a kind of political speaking in tongues, but the meaning and the strategy are clear now. Trent Lott made it so.
YR: Can you define your southern strategy in a nutshell?
McAuliffe: Sure can. Our southern strategy is to say that the Republicans have a southern strategy.
YR: Come again?
(The DNC chairman laughed, pushed away from his handsome desk and spun around twice in his swivel chair.)
McAuliffe: It’s as plain as day. Pay attention: Our southern strategy is to say that the GOP has a southern strategy. It’s like psychological time travel. We take the public back to the day when racial segregationists ruled the South, and say those segregationists are now Republicans.
YR: But weren’t those old segregationists Democrats?
McAuliffe: Sure, but we just say the GOP was the segregationists’ refuge when the virtuous Democratic Party drove them out.
YR: You mean guys like Sen. Robert Byrd – the former Ku Klux Klansman?
McAuliffe: Let’s not talk about the Democratic senior senator from West Virginia. Let’s talk about how we’ve been able to bring new life to another disgraced Republican.
(He leaned forward in his chair, arms outspread and palms flat on his desktop. He eyed your reporter with a smirk that gradually spread into a wide grin that couldn’t contain the guffaw behind it.)
Nixon! The last guy anybody – Democrat or Republican – wanted to rehabilitate. He has been a godsend to us.
YR: Please explain.
McAuliffe: Look, we remind the nation of his strategy of catering to conservative southerners and we say conservative southerners were segregationists. Then we point out that today’s southern Republicans are conservative, ergo southern Republicans are segregationists, and because the GOP has a southern strategy, the Republican agenda is segregationist. Tricky Dick himself would call it genius.
(With this, the DNC executive got up and capered around the office, strutting like a drum major and chanting “Nixon, Nixon, Nixon” in the classic cadence of a schoolyard taunt.)
YR: It’s genius, indeed. It might even save your job. But don’t you think branding the Republican agenda segregationist is more than a bit of a stretch?
McAuliffe: Of course it is, but we’re applying a classic ploy we learned from one of our greatest leaders.
YR: Which is?
McAuliffe: Remember how Lyndon Johnson once spread the rumor that a political opponent had carnal knowledge of barnyard animals?
YR: Yeah, and his aide pointed out it wasn’t true.
McAuliffe: And Johnson said, “But we’ll by God make him deny it.”