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Opinion

Memo to candidates and my liberal pals: Southerners aren't stupid

Head's up, y'all: The South is filled with intelligent people. Treat them accordingly.

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If there's ever a time to mind the South, it's this November.

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Think about it: When folksy George W. Bush took on uptight Easterner John Kerry, who won?

When folksy George W. Bush ran against uptight Al Gore – a man who, while hailing from Tennessee, basically comes across as an Eastern know-it-all, Bush ended up in the White House. (And yes, I am aware that Gore won the popular vote and Florida was "rigged.")

Before that, we had eight years of folksy Southerner Bill Clinton, who got the Southern vote based on his Southernisms and the Northern, liberal, and West-coast votes based on his liberal bona fides.

Black folks, famously, went for him also – and there too, most African-Americans have roots, if not real estate, in the South.

Before Clinton it was Daddy Bush, who came across as the Eastern-bred Yalie that he was but at least had the advantage of running against an even more uptight Easterner – Massachusetts Governor Dukakis. But then Poppy crumbled before the Clinton Southern charm machine.

Reagan – another good talker, who, though not a Southerner, had played them in the movies – was also good at stifling any whiff of moral or intellectual superiority.

Before Reagan, we had Jimmy Carter, another bona-fide Southerner, who, if nothing else, didn't condescend to folks who talk slow. Even Richard Nixon, with his hunched shoulders and precise speech, had Alabama's George Wallace siphoning off votes. Lyndon Johnson was, of course, famously Texan – and hugely popular.

This time around, without a single Southerner in the race, all three candidates have to work hard to convince the South that they don't think we're stupid.

Because, frankly, it's downright insulting to be written off as so blind that you don't notice that Iraq is in shambles, or that one of our loveliest American cities is still entirely at the mercy of Mother Nature, and all but forgotten by the people we elected to lead us.

Jennifer Moses, author of "Bagels and Grits: A Jew on the Bayou," has lived in Baton Rouge for the past 13 years.

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