Mary Katharine Ham

Perhaps the greatest lesson to be learned by Democrats from this week’s “bitter” brouhaha is that when you get advice about how to hook rural, white, blue-collar voters from a guy named Mudcat, you’d best listen.

Dave “Mudcat” Saunders—Democratic strategist, bluegrass enthusiast, and general pied piper of the “Bubba vote,” as he calls it—had a little-noticed fight with liberal bloggers back in June 2007 that perfectly presaged this week’s controversy.

“I have bitched and moaned for years about the lack of tolerance in the elitist wing of the Democratic Party, or what I refer to as the ‘Metropolitan Opera Wing.’ These are the people who talk of tolerance but the only true tolerance they ever exhibit is for their own pseudo-intellectual arrogance,” the then-Edwards adviser proclaimed in his typical profanity-peppered prose on Time magazine’s Swampland blog.

The liberal blogosphere, capital of the elitist wing, shot back in predictable, intractable style. MyDD’s Chris Bowers called Mudcat’s post a “work of paranoid genius” while a Daily Kos blogger seemed unclear as to “why the Democratic party should give respectful attention to rural voters (in any region of the country).” In short, Saunders was roundly criticized for deigning to criticize the liberal activist support of the blogosphere in the name of “rural, southern whites.”

Nevermind the fact that those rural whites are the key to Democrats winning back the South, much of the Midwest, and the Great Plains states, and subsequently winning national elections again. Though his electoral record is spotty (see Bob Graham and John Edwards), Mudcat’s call for respect of rural whites is nonetheless important, and has produced results.

When his message has met up with the right candidate who was willing to listen, there were glimmers of hope for the future of the Democratic Party. In 2001, he and other advisers managed to turn the voters of southwest Virginia back into Democrats, fielding Mark Warner, whose pedigree was as effete as John Kerry’s. Mudcat helped the Connecticut native and Harvard-educated millionare cozy up to rural voters by serving up basic respect and a NASCAR sponsorship. The state of Virginia is now more purple than it’s been in quite some time.

Mary Katharine Ham

Mary Katharine Ham is editor-at-large of, a contributor to Townhall Magazine.

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