Southern Conference: Howell’s Agenda

[The Center for American Progress is co-hosting a two-day conference this week in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, entitled New Strategies for Southern Progress. The conference is convening more than 200 national, state and local political leaders, policy experts, journalists and academics to rethink critical issues facing the South and chart a new progressive vision for the region. ThinkProgress Team member Jon Baskin is on the scene.]

During today’s first discussion, “The Mind of the South,” Dr. Susan Howell, the Director of the Survey Research Center at the University of New Orleans, set out an agenda for a successful version of “progressive populism” in the South. Progressive populism would emphasize:

— Health care insurance assistance  — College tuition assistance — Controls on violence and pornography in the media — Humanitarianism and the importance of a “giving, helping culture”

Progressive populism would set itself against:

— The corporate elite, which abuses working people — Wealthy tax evaders who don’t pay their fair share

Howell emphasized her agenda as a way for progressives to reconnect with working-class whites who have been trending conservative in recent years. One-third of working-class whites cannot afford adequate health care, Howell said, and there is growing resentment of the “two-tiered” college system in which only the rich can afford to send their children to top colleges. Meanwhile, Southerners remain broadly convinced that corporations are not working for the public good and that too many rich Americans find ways to avoid paying their share of taxes.

Amusing quote of the day (so far):

“If they want to talk about family values, let’s talk about family values. What’s the family values of cutting child immunization programs? What’s family values of not funding No Child Left Behind? What’s the family values of calling ketchup a vegetable? Let’s really talk about family values.”

— Rural Political Consultant Dave “Mudcat” Saunders