Mary Landrieu: Last Senate Democrat loses in Deep South

Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana. Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Senator Mary Landrieu's defeat marks the end of an era for Democrats in the Deep South

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With Mary Landrieu's defeat on Saturday in her bid to be re-elected to a US Senate seat in Louisiana, there will soon be no Democratic senators in office from the Deep South.

In fact, Virginia and Florida are the only two states that were part of the 11-state Civil War Confederacy that have Democratic senators come January.

This year's mid-term elections, in which three Southern Democratic incumbents lost, complete a long, slow decline of the once-dominant party to near irrelevancy in Dixie.

Although it's a development that has led to a great deal of concern among party elders, the Daily Beast's Michael Tomasky says Democrats would be well served to write the region off, as it's not worth fighting over.

"Practically the whole region has rejected nearly everything that's good about this country and has become just one big nuclear waste site of choleric, and extremely racialised, resentment," he says.

Nationally, Democrats can win the presidency without carrying any Southern states, he says. Barack Obama only carried Florida and Virginia in 2012, and their votes just padded an already assured victory.

In Congress Democrats shouldn't waste money on trying to field competitive Southern candidates, he continues. Their efforts would be much better spent in Western states like Colorado, Arizona, South Dakota and Montana, which have proven they are still competitive for the party.

Tomasky says this is more than just a matter of political expediency, however. Democrats campaigning in the South have to make too much of an ideological sacrifice on the social issues, like gay rights and gun control, that are important to the party's non-Southern voters.

The column has been greeted with a fair amount of criticism, particularly from the right.

Robert Draper, a freelance writer for the New York Times and GQ, calls it "condescending … elitist and divisive". John Podhoretz of the conservative Commentary magazine wryly tweets: "Yes, it's always a good idea to shrink your party."

William Upton of the Americans for Tax Reform says the Democratic Party is "becoming absurd" - and "Tomasky is a chronicler and cheerleader of this absurdity".

Whenever a political party suffers the kind of sweeping defeat the Democrats endured in 2014, there's always considerable hand-wringing. After John Kerry was beaten by President George W Bush in 2004, Democrats - led by newly elected party chair Howard Dean - adopted a "50-state strategy" in which they pledged to recruit competitive candidates across the country, including in the South.

Mr Dean famously said that he still wanted Democrats to field candidates "for guys with Confederate flags in their pickup trucks".

It seems Tomasky thinks those voters, and their entire region, are now a lost cause. Are Democrats ready for an every-state-but-the-South strategy?

Egypt

Human rights the victim of misplaced priorities - Although many Egyptians think it's a practical necessity to forgo human rights protections to achieve domestic security, Dina Iskander for Mada Masa writes that cracking down on free speech and assembly will have a destabilising effect.

"The more you enable groups to work in the light, the less likely they will work underground," she writes (translated by WorldCrunch). "It is no coincidence, therefore, that oppressive states are fertile lands for the rise of terrorism and terrorist movements."

Moreover, she warns, if nothing is done to ensure access to education, healthcare, shelter and economic opportunity for the 40% of the Egyptian people living in poverty, the next popular revolution could prove to be the longest and the bloodiest.

Russia

Severing ties to the internet - In order to keep control of the Russian people, writes Vedomosti opinion editor Maxim Trudolyubov in the New York Times, President Vladimir Putin is increasingly having to isolate them from the outside world.

One of the ways the Russian government is trying to achieve this is by curtailing the internet, he says, through harsh controls like requiring popular bloggers to register with government regulators.

"Backed by a considerable segment of Russian society, Moscow's leaders are slamming the door on the world," he writes. "A new, vengeful isolationism has prevailed in Moscow."

Mexico

US public can't ignore an unstable neighbour - President Barack Obama must move quickly to condemn the human rights violations in Mexico following the killing of 43 students in the state of Guerrero, writes the Kansas City Star's Mary Sanchez.

While the US public appears to be uninterested in the story, she says, human rights abuses could adversely affect the Mexican economy and lead to a spike in undocumented immigration into the US.

The US must use its "economic and diplomatic leverage" to urge Mexico to clean up its act, she concludes. "A prosperous, democratic and tranquil Mexico is in our country's best interest.

Burma

Free press crackdown could be the beginning of trouble - Although the current media environment represents one of the "most open in Burmese history", writes Brent Crane for the American Interest, there have been recent instances of free-speech oppression that have some observers worried.

Although restrictions have been eased, the rules governing the press are vague and could be changed at any time, he writes, which has led to considerable self-censorship. Sceptics worry that the Burmese government relaxed enforcement to attract Western investment and "now that Burma has Western money flowing in, the government will revert to its old ways".

If the US government wants to see democracy in Burma truly take hold, he says, it should exert its influence to ensure that the press is protected.

BBC Monitoring's quotes of the day

Israeli commentators react to accusations that their nation launched air strikes in Syrian territory around Damascus on Sunday and the political implications for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's recently declared upcoming parliamentary elections.

"Finally, we passed the decision on the agenda of the upcoming election to the hands of a 'serious person': Bashar al-Assad. The way in which the Syrians will respond to what they define as Israeli Air Force attacks on two targets in the Damascus region will dictate the headlines and public preoccupation in the coming weeks and months." - Alex Fishman in Yedioth Aharonot.

"The pictures from the Damascus region as well as the timing of the bombardment close to Mr Netanyahu's elections announcement immediately stirred speculations as to whether political considerations stood behind the attack... The charge does not seem reasonable; it is difficult to see how Mr Netanyahu could initiate such an offensive move - and drag behind him the security arms - without something of the debate leaking to the media." - Amos Harel in Ha'aretz.

"The Al-Assad regime remains Hezbollah's main weapons depot, from where both Syrian-made and Iranian-produced arms often pass through en route to Hezbollah storage facilities in Lebanon. When this happens, Israel's choice is to either intervene, or watch closely and map out the location of the arms once they are stored in Lebanese apartment buildings and bunkers." - Editorial in the Jerusalem Post.

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