the secret is Sarah…

Posted on Saturday 27 December 2008

After the election, I found myself musing about The South – my own beloved country (looking back [1860]…). I concluded:
    We think of politics in contemporary terms, but much of it is deeply embedded in our history. Those roots that fed the Civil War are still buried in this part of the country. I’ll end my musings with the cartogram by counties from this election with the Old South marked. It’s bright red with blue/purple holes – Dallas, Atlanta, Birmingham, Nashville, New Orleans, Raleigh – the big cities. The spaces in between are much as they were a very long time ago… 
Today, in the Washington Post:
The GOP Goes South
By David S. Broder
December 28, 2008

… This one, however, is loaded with meaning because LaHood is no ordinary member of Congress. He has been, as Shields pointed out, one of the most widely respected members of the House; a leader in the uphill struggle for comity between the parties; and a throwback to the days of his old boss Bob Michel, the minority leader who resisted the scorched-earth tactics of Newt Gingrich. Such was LaHood’s reputation for fairness that he was the natural choice to preside over the House during the explosive impeachment proceedings against Bill Clinton.

The significance of his accepting Obama’s offer goes beyond the signal it sends of the new president’s seriousness about outreach to moderate Republicans. As transportation secretary, LaHood will be at the center of the road and bridge construction projects Obama plans to make the highlight of his almost trillion-dollar stimulus program.

All the signs are that the stimulus spending will be opposed by congressional Republicans, whose shrunken ranks are increasingly dominated by right-wing Southerners who care not what their stance does to harm the party’s national image…

The danger became apparent as far back as 2007. With Bush weakened by the Iraq war, Hurricane Katrina and the midterm election losses of 2006, a Southern-led revolt killed his immigration reform bill. Junior senators such as Jim DeMint of South Carolina directed the rebellion, and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, unable to stem the insurgency, joined it.

The price was paid in the 2008 presidential campaign. Despite his personal credentials as a sponsor of comprehensive immigration reform, John McCain was caught in the backlash of anti-GOP voting by Hispanics…

The same thing happened this year when Bush supported a bailout for the Big Three auto companies. Led by Republican senators from Southern states where there are many foreign-owned auto plants, the Senate refused to cut off a filibuster against the bill to provide bridge loans to General Motors and Chrysler…

The Southern domination of the congressional Republican Party has become more complete with each and every election…

LaHood, who witnessed but did not welcome the Gingrich "revolution" in the House, has watched with growing alarm the decimation of the GOP in Illinois and surrounding states. As point man for Obama’s stimulus spending, he now poses the dilemma for his own party in the sharpest possible terms: Will congressional Republicans again sacrifice their political interest to satisfy their Southern-baked ideological imperatives?
When I was growing up on the Tennessee/Georgia border, it was the Dixiecrats:
    The States’ Rights Democratic Party (commonly known as the Dixiecrats) was a segregationist, socially conservative political party in the United States. The term Dixiecrat is a portmanteau of Dixie, referring to the Southern United States, and Democrat, referring to the United States Democratic Party. It split with the Democratic Party in the mid-20th century determined to protect what they saw as the Southern way of life against an oppressive federal government.

    In the period following the Civil War, Reconstruction took place. The Union Army occupied the states of the former Confederacy, enforcing federal law protecting the rights of blacks, many of whom were freed slaves. Reconstruction abruptly ended in 1877, obliterating many of the gains that had been made in securing political and civil rights for blacks. When Reconstruction ended, the so-called "Redemption" occurred, disenfranchisement began anew, and the region gave its political allegiance almost entirely to the Democratic Party, giving it the name the "Solid South."

    In the 1930s, after the New Deal under Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a realignment occurred. Much of the Democratic Party shifted towards economic intervention and support for civil rights and liberties. After the crises of the Great Depression, World War II, and the beginning of the Cold War, Southern Democrats began to drift from the mainstream of the party. The formation of the Dixiecrat movement heralded an end to the New Deal coalition. For more than a century, white Southerners had overwhelmingly been Democrats, but in 1948 many bolted from the party, angered by Harry Truman’s efforts to abolish or ameliorate the effects of racial segregation, and supported Strom Thurmond’s third-party candidacy for president.

    Over the next several decades, as the white South slowly realigned from the Democrats to the Republicans, the term came to have a broader usage. For example, it was used to refer to those members of the Electoral College who voted for Harry F. Byrd rather than John F. Kennedy in the 1960 election, and to the white Southern voters and electors who supported George C. Wallace in 1968.
I reposted that Cartogram above because it has stuck in my memory since I made it last month. Here are the results by Party from the last two Presidential elections:

2004 2008

by County [Geographic]

by County [Geographic]

by County [Population]

by County [Population]

This is kind of a rambling thought, but it’s about Sarah Palin. What was her appeal? She’s a pretty lady, sure enough. But that’s not all of it. Nancy Pelosi is a pretty lady, and she couldn’t have brought off what Sarah did. My own reaction to her was to smile. It’s like I grew up with her – a feisty lady who is full of personality but butchers the English language. It reminded me of something else. Sharon and I have driven all over the U.S. at one point or another, and I always feel at home in the "spaces" between the cities. Whether it’s Washington State, or Montana, or rural Pennsylvania, it feels familiar. The diners may not serve grits, but the idea’s the same. The radio plays Country Music in the spaces. There are those same little churches with full parking lots on Sunday. To my horror, Rush Limbaugh is on the radio and Fox News plays on the public T.V.’s. But all of small town U.S.A. feels like the South where I grew up, where I now live.

If you look at the Cartograms, those red lines are "rural" America – the places in the spaces that I’m talking about. The only real difference between the South and the rest of the country is that we have more of it ["spaces"]. Even though Sarah Palin is from the least Southern place in the Nation, she’s one of "us" – from little old Wasilla, Alaska. She might as well have been from Tupelo, Mississippi or Albany, Georgia. I don’t question that the South and its racial history adds something to the mix, but I think my point is still a valid one. The Republican Party has become the party of the spaces, and the real split in the U.S.A. is urban/rural – the city and the country. Those blue spots in the non-coastal parts of the Country are the Cities that show up as large on this map because it’s based on population, not surface area.

So I don’t think that this is quite right, "The Southern domination of the congressional Republican Party has become more complete with each and every election". It should be, "The Southern Rural domination of the congressional Republican Party has become more complete with each and every election." The shame of it is that the Republican Party does not represent this constituency – at all…
    December 28, 2008 | 12:45 PM

    Dare I venture this argument a bit further? Even the dressed up and semi-articulate right wing Republicans (Saxby, Stevens, the pervert from Idaho) are essentially rednecks. By redneck, I mean a cloistered mind, xenophobic world view, a generalized, instinctive intolerance, enduring arrogance of righteousness in thought and action and a penchant for the lowest possible brow of humor (cf. Cheney’s slur on the state of West Virginia). What else can underlie the re-release of a supposed political satire by a ranking Republican (the tasteless and nasty slur on the President – elect in the form of song)? Some of my best friends are rednecks and it is a wholesale unfairness on my part to impute Mickey’s “spaces” with such a rough label to all the folk occupying same. Moreover, my own favorite places are in those spaces and I go to lengths to get to them. Still….

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