Over at Slate, Dee Davis has a remarkably insightful piece:
Maybe the party that once welcomed Appalachian coal miners and hillside farmers has moved on. The national Democratic Party has become younger, richer, hipper and far less interested in preserving an identity forged in the Great Depression. Who really wants a political party full of poor mountaineers? Perhaps, in the minds of some, "Coal Miner's Daughter" has been supplanted by "Deliverance."
Lots of ink has been spilled about the competing coalitions that make up the Democrat Party but they've all been defined in terms of immutable characteristics -- race, gender and the like.
Davis correctly notes that many of the biggest fissures are, in fact, ideological and socioeconomic. Normal, rural Americans aren't interested in dismantling the country's defenses, going soft on criminals, or hanging around with anti-American radicals. (Oh, and keep up the attacks on the military record of a guy who spent years in the Hanoi Hilton and refused an early release when it was offered to him -- these traditionalist Democrats will love that).
In short, they're cultural conservatives who are becoming an increasingly uneasy part of a party that's going further and further to the left on non-economic matters (well, economic matters, too) -- and which will be veering sharply to the left with Barack Obama at the top of the ticket.
And contrary to the way they're too often portrayed and treated by elites, they're not stupid, and they're not ignorant of their own interests. They also know when they're being condescended to.
Would they be a natural Hillary constituency? Not really -- until her most recent incarnation, she's come across as pretty much of a lefty throughout her entire career. In my view, what's carried her through is the obvious cultural leftism of her rival -- and the memory of her husband. Bill Clinton had many faults, but he was able to convey a genuine understanding and respect for the lives and experiences of rural Democrats (perhaps because he had been one).
That's something the Dem ticket is going to be sorely lacking in '08.