Chris Matthews used to be the main man of the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives. Now he hosts "Hard Ball" on MSNBC. Usually, his talk reflects his knowledge of real world politicking, and is a relief from the silly and predictable comments of the usual media commentators.

But Chris is still a Yankee, and in some ways that's incurable. He said the other day that he would often use big words to confuse Southern congressmen.

He said it worked.

Yea, right. I used that Southern accent gambit plenty on Capitol Hill. You can ALWAYS trick Yanks with it, and I was endlessly astonished at their inability to catch on.

Tennessee Senator Howard Baker was talking to North Carolina Senator Sam Ervin years ago. Ervin said, "Well, I'm just a country lawyer from North Carolina." Baker said, "Sam, you are a MAGNA CUM LAUDE graduate of the Harvard Law School."

Old Ervin leaned back and said, "Yes, Howard, but nobody will ever know it."

Least of all Chris Matthews.

I was watching while MSNBC pulled out its inside-the-beltway political expert to talk about the unique situation in the Senate. With a Bush victory, the Senate would be 50-50, with Vice President Cheney breaking the tie and making Republicans a majority. The commentator said such a thing has not happened in over a century.

Because of this novel even split, Democrats are saying they should not be treated as a minority usually is. Actually, as I pointed out earlier in Whitaker Online, the exact same situation did occur in 1953, when Vice President Nixon broke the tie in the Senate.

And in 1953, the minority was treated as the minority, just as it was in 1955, when Democrats ruled by a single vote in their turn. The old Southern senators would know that. Sam Ervin might humor Chris Matthews by acting like Chris' big words impressed him. But he, not Chris, would know the basics cold.

Not so today. Today Southern Republicans are so bound up in the beltway culture that they probably don't know this. Outside of Helms and maybe Thurmond, your Southern Republican today is just one more Republican, dumb as a brick and with the courage of a rabbit. I have often seen them ignorant of the basics, just like the Yankees.

You would do well to write your senator and remind him of 1953. Don't give the Republicans another excuse to act like a minority when they have a majority.