Public Theology About   Organize   Theology   Church   Philosophy   Ethics   Politics   Planning   Society   Economy   Creation   Peace   Preach   Media   TheoEd   Contact  Home  Subscribe   Get Our Newsletter
Contact Us

The Southern Dominance of Real Politics Can End
The South has and does dominate the politics of the United States. Ordinary Republicans can help end this now. Or, maybe not.

By Ed Knudson

Update on 1/22/10

In the summer before the 2008 election I wrote an article about how the Southern dominance of politics in this country can end (see below). Then I added an update near the election which in flowerly terms announced the election of Obama to be a new era in politics if he were elected. It was an expression of hope more than realistic assessment. Now, after the first year of the Obama presidency a Republican, an independent one but still a Republican, has won the special election in Massachusetts to fill the seat of Ted Kennedy. And this has occurred despite the fact that the Republican Party has carried on in the Congress in ways that are disgraceful making it impossible for Obama to achieve what he had hoped for himself, a bi-partisan approach to governing. Republican leaders, almost entirely from the South, have refused to cooperate on any major legislation, and engaged in campaigns of lies on health care reform (death panels) and fostered such movements as the "birther" movement, also coming from the South, challenging whether Obama even is an American citizen. The major media, ever watchful for that which plays best on television, covers these movements and gives much attention to the most outlandish and ridiculous charges, but this distracts then from the actual deliberative public discourse necessary to adopt wise and necessary policy for the people of the country. Obama has "lost the narrative" as they say, the people willing to shout the loudest get the last word even though what they are saying is ridiculous.

The upshot is that despite the election of the first black president of the United States, the South is winning again. Southern politicians, ultimately playing to the continuing racism of the South, are continuing to dominate the politics of the country. The major media do not want to report on this because they cannot be viewed as attacking one section of the country. Now the South, through the influence of Southern cultural populism in the media, such as the so-called tea party movement, has even elected someone in a Northeast state.

The level of irrationality in politics in this country is increasing to the point that the government itself will not be able to do what is necessary to provide for a modicum of justice for all or even provide for the structure for guiding the management of a highly technological and mechanized system upon which the lives of Americans are dependent. Big crashes are in the future if the irrationality of racism continues to be such a large factor in the political process.

---------------------

Update on 10/24/08: Since writing the article below last summer, Barack Obama has a strong lead going into the final week of the campaign. It appears that an Illinois Democrat, the first Democrat for a long time not from the South, has a very serious chance to become President. That will mean that the Southern dominance of politics in this country will be coming to an end. The "cultural wars" waged by the religious right coming out of the South will be over. The public consciousness of the nation will be changed. A new generation of leaders is coming forward with a whole new spirit and an open, hopeful vision for the future of the country. This will unleash a great deal of energy for rebuilding America in a new day.

If you know some Republicans who may still be wavering and are uncertain about the relation of race and politics in this country, you might send them this article. It is not an effort to blame everything on white Southerners, the North has its share of prejudice as well, for sure. But it is an effort to describe what has been happening in politics and why it has been bad for the country. With the end of the Southern dominance of politics for the past four decades the future literally is opening up for a whole new era of peace and prosperity for all Americans.

---------------

Original article: 7/30/08

The Southern states of the "United" States have enjoyed immense influence in the politics of this country, much beyond their proportional representation would indicate. When will the rest of the country realize this and refuse the South to have so much power over the future of the nation? Well, maybe this year, hopefully this year, 2008.

For a century after the civil war Southern politicians in the Democratic Party were able to keep the purposes of that war, to allow slaves to become free citizens, from being fully realized. When Hubert Humphrey, who in his thinking represents a form of Social Democracy, spoke in favor of civil rights for blacks at the Democratic convention of 1948 he was opposed by the Southern Democrats. When Lyndon Johnson signed the civil rights bills of the 1960s he knew he was giving over the South to the Republican Party, which is exactly what happened. (See the three-volume biography of Lyndon Johnson by Robert A. Caro for vivid descriptions of the legislative battles involved here.) Richard Nixon's "Southern Strategy" was successful and the South has been voting Republican ever since as a backlash against the gains of black people. Only politicians from the South, Democrat or Republican, have been elected president since, until this year.

Race has been the most crucial single factor in American politics ever since. Large numbers of Republicans in other parts of the country may well share the racism of the South, but I think not. I don't think most Republicans actually realize the degree to which Southern politics has dominated their party. The party of Abraham Lincoln may talk about freedom for all and the unity of the nation, but it's real politics has been against those goals for black people, the very purpose of the civil war. It is time for those Republicans of good will to stop supporting their party, and bring the nasty racial politics of this country to an end.

It is not just gains for black people that are at stake. It is all the other issues now facing the country as well in foreign and domestic policy. When one part of the country dominates politics on the basis of a negative racial attitude it means there cannot be true, rational, and helpful debate about the other serious issues confronting the country. The abortion and gay rights issues, for example, so important to religious conservatives in the South, have been used by Southern politicians to gather support in the rest of the country for what is otherwise an agenda explicitly against civil rights gains for blacks. In fact, the whole conservative religious movement emerged from the South and its primary proponents are Southern Baptists and Pentecostalists, all headquartered in the South. The actual social and economic condition of blacks in the South and in urban cities has not improved dramatically except for blacks who have been able through education to leave those communities.

Southern states have low taxes and demand that taxes not be raised because the government programs would help those awful black people. Southern states have bad schools because they didn't want to pay for integrated public schools when the Supreme Court ordered them to do so in 1954. The religious conservative movement began, in fact, over fights with the federal government over taxation and private schools established to avoid integration. And that's also why conservative Southerners hate the Supreme Court and the federal government in general; it forced social change upon them, forced them to begin treating blacks fairly. The central language of the Republican Party, low taxes and bad federal government, is straight out of the South and sounds just like George Wallace, the angry Alabama governor who fiercely opposed integration in the 1960s. If Republicans want the rest of the country to be like the South, if they want the public schools all over to continue to decline and fail, for example, then they should vote for George Wallace Republicans of today.

The real politics, the real power of politics, has made it possible in this country to allow the continuing degradation of black communities all across this country to a degree that should be a moral outrage to any fair minded person. It is justified by continuing racial prejudice, "those people" don't know how to live and take care of themselves, they don't have "personal responsibility." Well, it is time for the rest of us to exercise moral responsibility in how we vote and stop allowing hidden racial prejudice to influence us so much.

Think of the fact that racial hostility has led to a politics that has allowed nearly the literal destruction of the great cities of our nation. Think of the problems in Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, New York, Atlanta, Los Angeles. People sit in their cars for hours and spend immense amounts for fuel to make sure they don't have to live in or near "those neighborhoods" where the blacks live with high crime, poor schools, few jobs, bad business, and social instability. Think about the stupidity of the urban settlement patterns over the past decades, way too much based on racial attitudes and failure of politics to do what is necessary to create healthy communities for all. Republicans living in suburbs should be mad as hell this has been allowed to happen and realize much of it is because of continuing racial prejudice. They should realize it is not the Republican Party which is going to be able to finally do something serious about rebuilding our cities which is dramatically needed now with much higher energy costs.

This is because especially hostile racial prejudice continues to find expression across the South. There has been much change of attitudes there over the past decades, and over-generalizations can always be questioned in specific places of the South, but the level of pure racial hatred is more widespread than we may want otherwise to believe. This is indicated by a response to an article at Alternet by John Dolan who blamed the Scots-Irish and Southern racism for the recent shooting in a Unitarian Church in Tennessee. A 59-year-old white man named Jim Adkisson marched into the church with his shotgun and starting shooting. Adkisson "left a four-page letter ranting against liberals, was known by his acquaintances to hate 'blacks, gays and anyone who was different from him,' left a pile of books by O'Reilly, Savage and Hannity behind in his car, and even wore a red-white-and-blue shirt to his church killing spree."

The article reported on reaction to the Adkisson shooting at the right-wing Free Republic website and was strongly debated at Alternet. A response by "Grandma Crabby" caught my eye because it talks about continuing Southern racism:
I live near Nashville, TN. For many people in the south, the civil war never ended and they are itching to have another. I have heard more than one person around here say they think another civil war is inevitable.

It is scary to know how many redneck idiots like this guy are running around. Trust me, there's tons of them and they are incredibly hateful and mean.

People from other areas don't quite get it. They do not understand how COMMON these right wing extremists are. They do not understand how SERIOUS they are and how they are convinced that they are right and supported by God and the constitution. Of course, they couldn't tell you what either the Bible or the constitution actually says, but they are willing to kill you over it.

The churches around here spew this kind of hatred and feel that it is holy. All Jews are going to hell. Homosexuals deserve to die. God hates niggers. Amen brother.

They are self righteous, stupid and mean. This incident didn't surprise me at all. What surprises me is that it doesn't happen more frequently.
This description of Southern attitudes, to the degree it is true, expresses the kind of feeling which supports Republican candidates in the South. I think ordinary Republicans, elsewhere and anywhere in the country, ought to decide they have had enough of that Southern influence in their party and vote differently this year. It is way past time for this to end. If you are a Republican in the South and have made efforts to change your party, thank you. The rest of the country needs good folks in the South to stand up and change the politics that has been so dominant there and hurtful to us all, black and white.


Please Comment - See More Articles in this Section - Submitted By: 5520

Date Added: 7/30/2008 Date Revised: 1/22/2010

  Sponsored by the
Center for
Public Theology
.
About   Organize   Theology   Church   Philosophy   Ethics   Politics   Planning   Society   Economy   Creation   Peace   Preach   Media   TheoEd   Contact  Home  Subscribe