Friday, January 30, 2009

Exploring Southern Mythology, Part 1

Alli sent me this article some time ago about how race and class play in Southern politics historically. Winding and complicated history? You don’t know the half of it.

But this post here is mainly a blurb, linking to and quoting from this post, which is a response to a Salon article - Third Reconstruction - that I’ve been meaning to discuss. This last part claims that the Civil War is ongoing, and will require a ‘Third Reconstruction’ to get out of.

The whole subject matter coincides with the End of Whiteness article from the Atlantic and the Liberadio posts that went back and forth with DADvocate.

What does it really mean? Now that the election is over and Obama is the winner, there is some need among certain pundits of the left to engage in victory lapping against the caricatures of the South that have, to date, been the oversimplified representations of the complex politics of a region that has dominated the national scene since, well, Independence. In response, students of history and the South are compelled to defend their region by pointing out the rather silly oversimplifications of others.

Let’s look at the first two posts. Alli wanted to hear my thoughts, here we go.

The main post in this thread is from the Democratic Strategist, and is a brilliant defense of realism and history in the face of oversimplification and mythology. You have to look at the details if you want to understand the South, and doing so is a long, hard road even for Southerners to come to terms with. Mythology tells us that Andrew Young couldn’t possibly be less economically progressive than Zell Miller, but history tells us something different, and even that is an oversimplification.

After reading that article, Yglesias makes note of this like ships passing in the night. He seems more excited to point out that some Southern Red Socialists were enamored with the romanticism of the Lost Cause than actually getting down to the meaning. The quote he should have highlighted is:

In general, the idea that the South--or the White South, at least--was a monolith that transferred its unitary allegiance from Democrats to Republicans after 1964 while maintaining the same reactionary economic and racial views and the same "elite" leadership just doesn't bear up under much scrutiny.

And yet, he falls into the same trap, saying the South is more like that today than it was in the past. My opinion and my response, as a Southerner who has only left my native soil on 3 occasions, is that there are far more dynamics at play today; and these dynamics are more complex than it was even back then. We only appear monolithic and simple to folks from the outside looking in.



DADvocate said...

The idiotic thing about the 1964 reference is that nearly all (maybe all but I'm too lazy to check), Southern Democratic Senators and Congressmen voted against the Civil Rights Act. Al Gore Sr. voted against it.

Many of these continued to serve until Republicans rode a huge wave during Richard Nixon's re-election in 1972. Nixon successfully demonized Democrats and race had little to do with this.

While race is truly a huge factor in Southern politics, I believe it is over emphasized today.

Race to the bottom economics? I know a lot of people who work for Toyota in Kentucky and a few for Nissan in Tennessee. They live quite well. Probably better than the UAW members in Detroit because of the lower cost of living in TN and KY. And a hell of a lot better than they would have with pre-Toyota/Nissan jobs.

Dambala said...

great post

Leigh C. said...

On 3 occasions? Really? You've only been outta the south three times??? Damn!

sophmom said...

I'm wit Leigh. I wanna know the 3 times. :)

Come to think of it, I'm with Dambala too (almost always). Great post.


Cousin Pat from Georgia said...

DADv: Some left-wing op-ed writers who dabble in political science have to point to a date when the GOP's "Southern Strategy" started working. They usually choose 1964. So strange, then, that Georgia didn't have a Republican governor until Sonny Perdue was inaugurated in 2003.

Dambala: Thanks.

Leigh: Why is that so hard to believe? You've met me, for cryin' out loud. Don't I act too naive and provincial to be well traveled?

Soph: One road trip to Colorado. One road trip to the West Coast (LA - San Francisco). One road trip to Bay City, Michigan. And if you really want to break it down, I haven't been out of the deep South (S. Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana) more than 4 times. the 4th being a trip to Washington, D.C. when I was little.

I don't get out much, is what I'm sayin'.

mominem said...

Many progressive Democrats are running from their own parties roots opposing the Civil War and supporting segregation at least into the middle of the twentieth century.

At least one historian has called the Ku Klux Klan the armed auxiliary of the Democratic Party. Somewhat similar to the relationship of the Sein Fein and the IRA.

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