Friday, January 16, 2009

Hope Springs Eternal

In a fresh attempt by the mainstream media to try to understand the rural Southern voter, The Washington Post has fashioned another expose of the mentality of its residents. Having lived in the general vicinity most of my life, it is plain to me that there's a certain futility in even seeking to understand from whence they form their opinions. To wit, the rural voter of the South ceased to have an open mind long ago. The last time their points of view existed in anything resembling a malleable state occurred during the Great Depression when the entire region was quite literally teetering on the brink of famine, and as a result of the sweeping reforms of the New Deal the region gave overwhelming support to Franklin Delano Roosevelt for the full length of his substantial time in office.

Rural Arkansas resident Wayne Loewer is quoted in the piece as saying that, in his mind, the reason Obama has yet to appoint a southerner to a major post in his Administration is itself a retaliatory gesture, since most of the region voted against him. This is the kind of myopic, ignorant, persecution complex many rural residents of the region adhere to, since I can think of at least two examples to disprove this off the top of my head. For one, Robert Gates, the incoming White House Press Secretary is a proud product of the state of Alabama and has the accent to prove it. Artur Davis, Representative of Alabama's seventh congressional district was considered for an Obama administration position but rejected at the last minute. I'm sure there are many others. The reason most Obama supporters are from other parts of the country is because few significant liberal or centrist Democrats are from the state. The few Democrats who do get elected in the region are either a) African-American or b) so Conservative that that might as well be Republicans.

As a brief history lesson---Abraham Lincoln agreed to put Andrew Johnson as the second on the ticket in his 1864 re-election campaign because Johnson was a southerner, albeit the only major politician from the state of Tennessee who refused to align himself with the Confederacy and as such stayed resolutely loyal to the Union. One-hundred-fifty years later, centrist and liberal Democrats are still lacking in the states that seceded from the Union. In 2008, some posed the theory that the recent Presidential cycle was a realigning election, but this kind of pronouncement can only be made from hindsight. And, as this article underscores, realigning in certain areas of the country does not necessarily mean realigning in other parts of the country. Though there were cracks in the Solid South (i.e. North Carolina and Virginia), one doesn't know for sure whether this was a result of Obama's charisma and organizational strength or a marker of larger trends yet to come. Get back to me in two to four years.


PENolan said...

Southerners are often making spectacles of themselves so maybe it just seems like they've cornered the market on willful ignorance. As someone from the south (well, Texas anyway which is a lot like the south although sometimes it's worse), I wish more attention would be paid to rigidly myopic thinking in the country as a whole instead of just among our relatives.

susan said...

Joe Bagent's blog was the third one I linked to. He's a fascinating writer.