The Institute for Southern Studies launches its new online magazine, Facing South, with a Chris Kromm piece celebrating the re-emergence of the South as a useful political force in America — in short, we’re not just whistling Dixie with Jesse Helms any more.

In fact, the 2008 elections provided two important lessons about the South, clear to any willing to see them: First, the South is rapidly changing in a way that makes it a more — not less — politically competitive region.

And second, despite the fevered hopes of certain wings of the Northern intelligentsia, the South’s political clout is rapidly growing — making the South a centerpiece of any strategy for national political power.

And who’s lifting the South to such Olympia heights? Well, with all due modesty, it’s our very own Triangle metros:

The Urban South: The South’s voters are increasingly based in rapidly growing urban areas. Seven of the country’s 10 fastest growing cities are in the South. Metro areas like Atlanta, Northern Virginia, and Raleigh-Durham, N.C. are becoming centers of political power — which, as 2008 showed, increasingly favor Democrats.