When Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama stumped in Arkansas, each tried on a Southern drawl, and both were roundly mocked as pandering Yankees. Even John Edwards, a native Southerner, was accused of “carefully maintaining” his accent for political effect. Yet Fred Thompson and Mike Huckabee were allowed to drawl with impunity, writes Jane Hammons of the Columbia Journalism Review, thanks to a stereotypical double standard.
Edwards’ accent is “as real as it gets,” Hammons writes, but it didn’t play because “we in the media allow GOP candidates to have accents because the South is, politically, ‘theirs.’” But the accent remains a loaded symbol, an increasingly rare artifact of a misunderstood region. Even Edwards misjudged and thought the drawl would help him. After all, he said, the last two Democratic presidents both “tahlk like thee-us.”