Please stop blaming the South for the government shutdown (op ed)

As the government shutdown drags on, journalists everywhere, on the left and the right, have raised the level of their rhetoric in search of what they believe to be the appropriate scapegoat for their wrath. This past week, the American South has been in their sights.

The Washington Post’s Colbert King offered a sardonic editorial in which he used the metaphor of the Confederacy to describe today’s Tea Party.

Over at Salon, Stephen Richter of The Globalist wrote that the shutdown is a reminder that the Civil War never ended. Richter argues that “the South is once again rebelling against modernizing shifts in American society” and makes the analogy that “Southerners and white conservatives everywhere” fear that offering healthcare to Americans is akin to “freeing the slaves.” Of course, the article would not have been complete without illustrations of the Confederate battle flag.

Well, thanks for nothing.

Karen Cox

Karen Cox

The quagmire in Washington, DC, cannot be explained by simply tossing it into the lap of the South, since just as many states outside of this region are being represented in Congress by members of the Tea Party caucus. When Ari Berman writes in The Nation that the GOP has a “white southern Republican problem,” by noting the high numbers of southerners in the Tea Party caucus, he fails to address the reality that the shutdown would have been impossible if only GOP conservatives from the South were involved. The fact is that this southern faction has co-conspirators across the country.

Not only do these comparisons perpetuate the idea of a monolithic South, it keeps alive regional divisiveness (to say nothing of continued stereotyping), as the comments section of these articles attest. It also ignores the changing demographics of the region, which over the last few decades has included a considerable migration of people from North to South.

More importantly, this Neo-Confederate rhetoric does nothing more than embolden Tea Party leaders and their acolytes, while at the same time undermine the efforts of southern progressives. All the anti-South commentary, illustrated with battle flags, damages any inroads that are being made through grassroots efforts like those of the Moral Monday protesters here in North Carolina, who are doing their damnedest to hold the GOP’s feet to the fire.

The real power struggle is not inside the Beltway, but in individual states. North Carolina, for example, has just three representatives in the Tea Party caucus, but at the state level it is teaming with them. True, they have gerrymandered districts to ensure their power, but southern progressives in the state are not taking it lying down.

Texas Democratic lawmaker Wendy Davis, who is running for governor. (Photo by Kevin Sutherland, aka Apollo2011)

Texas Democratic lawmaker Wendy Davis, who is running for governor. (Photo by Kevin Sutherland, aka Apollo2011)

Republican Senator Ted Cruz may be a Tea Party darling from Texas, but Democratic State Senator Wendy Davis is offering a change to politics as usual with her candidacy for governor of the state. And in Georgia, Democrat Michelle Nunn is off to a strong start to replace Republican Saxby Chambliss in the U.S. Senate.

The point here is that progressives nationally need to support southern progressives. It makes no good political sense to dismiss an entire region as a “lost cause” behind the drumbeat of Civil War rhetoric.

What’s happening in Washington is not a result of the return of the Confederacy. It might make good hay to allude to the South as the “Old South,” or to suggest that it lacks the diversity (and by suggestion, education) to accept “modernizing shifts,” or insinuate that all southerners are conservative. But this kind of commentary only serves to inspire southern conservatives, while placing yet another obstacle in the path of those seeking change.

Yes, conservatives appear to have a stranglehold on the region, but throughout the South there are strong progressive voices that need to be heard. So here’s a novel idea: rather than bolstering conservatism in the South by pointing fingers to its Confederate past and discouraging progressive voters, which is what the Tea Party wants, how about shining more light on candidates and grassroots efforts and give progressivism a fighting chance?


Karen L. Cox is Professor of History at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, where she teaches courses on southern history and culture. She is the author of Dreaming of Dixie: How the South Was Created in American Popular Culture (UNC Press, 2011) and blogs at Pop South.

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76 Responses to “Please stop blaming the South for the government shutdown (op ed)”

  1. cambridgemac says:

    If you google “tea party racism” and put in the name of any southern state – I tried Alabama and Georgia – you come up with millions of hits. Many of them are Tea Party people responding to charges of racism and some of them are Tea Party leaders in Georgia denouncing a racist flyer. And many of them are….(drum roll)….instance of “overt racism” by Tea Party members. Here’s one

    http://aattp.org/another-tea-party-lie-crumbles-white-mother-may-have-killed-own-infant-son-blamed-black-kids/

    It’s not hard to find instances if you somehow have missed them over the last 5 years.

  2. cambridgemac says:

    Sadly, Alabama was once (1900 – 1940 or so) a union state – and black and white workers cooperated in the labor movement. A terrible example of retreat from justice, equality, and civic mindedness.

  3. The_Fixer says:

    I thought he was a Canadian-born U.S. citizen? He’s have to be a U.S. citizen in order to be elected to the Senate, no?

  4. Badgerite says:

    Well, here’s the thing. They also fought in WWII and all the other wars that America has fought. Curtis Lemay was instrumental in building the effectiveness of the United States Air Force and damned near killed himself (something like 1 hour of sleep a night for months on end) getting it done. We are one country. One people. It is in everyone’s interest that we remain so. Their’s, as well as ours. I’m a Northerner, to the core. I don’t get their way of thinking. To me, it just seems mindless and destructive. But I don’t see an alternative but patience, patience and more patience. The demographics are shifting against them. And they know it. What’s more, they are wrong. Their policies don’t bring about a stronger country or better lives for its people. One has to hope that at some point, their love of country will overcome their hatred.

  5. karmanot says:

    pppfffftttt Try harder.

  6. Mr. America says:

    It’s not so complex… it’s called IGNORANCE. if you put the money in your castle coffers and don’t let the serfs get educated or learn to think by constant brainwashing and authoritarian control it all runs smoothly… it’s called A KINGDOM. Until the feudal lords get so greedy they start trying to grab each other’s gold… then it’s called a Feudal system. It sure as hell is not a “Republic” or “Democracy” or Democratic-Judicial-Republic as the founding fathers intended.

  7. Mr. America says:

    what an odd coincidence….

  8. Mr. America says:

    The problem is that Dr. MLK was assasinated. So progressives all went home, put on Fox News and started drooling.

  9. Mr. America says:

    Can he produce a birth certificate? And because of his name he has apparently some Hispanics fooled… Thankfully that means he can NEVER be president.

  10. Mr. America says:

    You mean like the poisonous snake? Sounds appropriate.

  11. MarkVogl says:

    Let’s start with who you are, or do you prefer to be anonymous? Does it make your courageous? Typical yankee thinking.

  12. Mr. America says:

    i didn’t forget… they aren’t allowed to vote so they don’t count.

  13. Mr. America says:

    Well if progressives are going to run from the South they should move to Minnesota… Someone like Bachman should not get a Senate seat in the North!

  14. Mr. America says:

    Right you are! But of course all of this is a typical distraction. Meanwhile we are all screwed by the deals made in the basements of restaurants.

  15. Mr. America says:

    The “Region” is not as extensive as the Confederacy, it’s more like a subset.

    But do not forget that even when there were only 13 colonies these hateful people had Thomas Jefferson take abolition of slavery out of the Declaration of Independence before signing it. These turds have been obstructionist against humanity from the very start of this nation. It took 89 more years and the costliest war of American life EVER to get to Jefferson’s original declaration. They want to pull the whole country and the world down into their toilet.

    It is Seditious and Treasonous and should be treated as such.

  16. Mr. America says:

    Good point! get out while you can. Let the south secede, hell I’d trade it for Mexico any day.

    Or Better yet, why don’t we do the REVERSE TRAIL OF TEARS? Let’s take all of the deep south right wing and push them back into the Carolinas and Virginias, then give the rest of the south back to the Indians. We’ll have to cut Texas in half because it’s only half assed.

    I know, what to do with “The Blacks” well send them to live next to Justice Scalia. He needs a wake up call.

  17. Mr. America says:

    Yeah, but there is nothing good on TV lately, have to pay attention to the real world. Plus this whole global economic depression being caused by DeMented DeMint and John’s Boner for sadism are causing stocks to drop, interest rates to go up, me to have to get up off my sofa. And as us hard working Americans have to get up off our sofa and pay attention to these A-holes, there will be hell to pay.

  18. Mr. America says:

    How about outlawing lobbyist and sedition groups like the Heritage Foundation and locking up DeMint?

    Then the south wouldn’t smell like egoist-flagwaving-biblehypocrit-plantationrapist-slavewhip-horsearse-whiskeybreath-tobaccoskin-rhett butler’s buttocks. Then even people living in the south could finally feel like the civil war is over.

  19. karmanot says:

    You poor thing, still remember being martyred at the young age of 9.

  20. karmanot says:

    More precisely Kevin Phillips is to blame for the Southern Strategy.

  21. karmanot says:

    Excellent comment!

  22. karmanot says:

    “the Confederate battle flag, an internationally known symbol of opposition to tyranny and oppression” Well, as a traitor sympathizer you would take that position. History shows us that the Confederate flag is a symbol of the Southern War of Secession and Treason. As for your ‘Southern Fried Brains……” I’d rather read Joe Bageant’s “Deer Hunting With Jesus.” Now, that’s a Southern boy with roots which makes you look like a carpetbagger tumbleweed.

  23. karmanot says:

    You tell em pinhead!

  24. Titan Fan says:

    Southerners have a sense of humor about themselves. While visiting Tennessee some years ago, it was reported that Vanderbilt University spent good money reprogramming a talking computer so it would talk in a Southern accent. Said the Vanderbilt student newspaper, once this was accomplished, the computer unplugged itself, moving from the university to a local gas station where it spent its time swapping yarns with the good ol’ boys and drinking Dr. Pepper.

  25. haroldcrews says:

    The South ought to accept some of the credit for shutting down a few parts of the government. I only wish it was all of it. Attempting to assign or deflect ‘blame’ is the wrong perspective. The more of the government that is shut down and the longer it is shut down the better.

  26. MarkVogl says:

    Dr. Cox is a typical example of Southern Tories. There is nothing wrong with being Christian, conservative, supporters of the original Constitution! The South is full of rednecks and we love it. The South should fly the Confederate battle flag, an internationally known symbol of opposition to tyranny and oppression. I am glad the liberal media attacks the South as a region, it probably does more for Southern unity then anything southerners themselves do. If you are interested in the modern day Southern movement there is new book coming out which I wrote; Southern Fried Ramblings with Grits and All the Fixins. I would love to go head to head with Dr. Cox…if paid. :) God Bless the South!

  27. bffishe says:

    I agree with Dr. Cox. The South is ALWAYS the scapegoat when the rest of the country
    doesn’t want to deal with its complicity in racism. It’s irritating, inaccurate and intellectually lazy. Surely you all must know that racism is not a South-only phenomenon? If you’re not convinced, look at Stop-and-Frisk in New York City, gentrification in San Francisco, the bankrupting of Detroit, the attempts to establish a white supremacist stronghold in North Dakota, or look up the list of the most racially segregated urban areas in the country…not a single one of them is located in the South. I’m really quite tired of the dismissal of an entire region of the country based on stereotypes and caricatures. I’m not denying that the racism here in the South is nasty and pernicious, but I challenge white folks from other regions of the country to see how many denials of complicity take place when the South becomes the scapegoat. Racism is a nationwide, systemic, structural problem that occurs in every region, every institution of this country.

  28. Michael C. Lucas says:

    MyrddinWilt What Confederate States did unionists outnumber Confederate support?

  29. Arkie says:

    Ah. I get it. We should ignore the truth and think good thoughts. Excellent.

  30. ted says:

    considering it is there fault of course they are getting the blame. right where it should be.

  31. Ang says:

    Thank you for your precise, and thoughtful reply. I must commend your writing, as well. I, am an African -American from Charleston, South Carolina, and I reside in a Philadelphia suburb. I can identify with the “librul Northeast”. America is changing. I have witnessed great hostility by scared “Libruls”, if you are alluding to the stereotypical, “Hey Vinnie” or quintessential , Irish-Italian, most comfortable with 21st century segregation. I also witness, their children with a more tolerant acceptance of African, Indian , Korean, Laotian, Cambodian, Iraqi and Vietnamese students and families, into the Philadelphia area. Hope is still on the horizon for Americans. Lastly, I would like to return to Charleston, SC, as a resident. I am greatly hesitant about my chances for success, as a Black Woman with a Masters degree, during the presidency of a half African. I’m not sure if Beau and Barbara-Ann are not terribly enraged, enough, to cripple Black progress. These are all very real scenarios. I don’t want to refight the Civil War. But…?

  32. We’re fighting the good fight for progressive thought here in SC, but it’s only fair to let people know we are losing. We’re unable to turn out a third of the numbers we could twenty-five years ago, and we’re apply several times the effort. Most progressive activists here are in their 50s now and they’re not being replaced. Nearly every young person who can pack up and leave for somewhere with better opportunity, pay and a more open minded culture has left. That includes our children. The South is sick. We’ll fight it out to the end, but why ask people to waste their lives here when there are so many nicer places to move to. Young people aren’t going to waste lifetimes fighting rednecks.

  33. TampaZeke says:

    Unfortunately, at least in my area, it seems that all too many of the Northerners that move here are either wealthy “NO TAXES” Republicans or Northern Tea Baggers looking for their promised land. Jewish immigrants to the state seem to be the exception, which may explain why a South Florida or even St. Pete perspective may be different from a Tampa or Orlando (and certainly a North Florida) perspective. Thank goodness, it seems that central Florida and the I-4 corridor is steadily moving in the right (Leftward!) direction.

  34. TampaZeke says:

    St. Pete has been a part of the progressive wing of Florida for a long time. Unfortunately Tampa and Orlando haven’t been; but fortunately they’ve been coming along in leaps and bounds relatively recently. In Tampa, even our Democrats were all too often wolves in sheep’s clothing, like Greco, who had the audacity to stand on stage and endorse G. W. Bush. We quickly and unceremoniously threw him, and his request to end term limits, out on his DINO ass! Our current mayor, Bob Buckhorn, seems to have a lot of Greco in him so it seems that Tampans are moving in the right direction but haven’t earned the “progressive” label quite yet. More like “progressing”.

    And you are correct. I’m originally from Mississippi, which, though it didn’t seem possible, is “regressing”.

  35. whatsayyou says:

    Can you please point to this “overt racism” that you are attributing to the tea party because I have yet to see what you are describing. Additionally I need you to show me the “effective exercise of racism” in the Southern states. I have lived in the South my entire life (closing in on 45 years) and can count on one finger the acts of overt racism I have witnessed, but I can count on several incidents of prejudice that I encountered whilst visiting the wonderfully enlightened northeast. Am I to infer that because I was on the receiving end of anti-Southern bigotry in Rhode Island, or Massachusetts, or in a hotel in DC by a grumpy (that’s the nicest way to put it) person from the northeast (I was 9…what kind of person chews out and makes fun of a kid carrying a suitcase in an elevator). You want hatred, it is everywhere Masa. Show me your examples.

  36. urbanexile says:

    See, there you have it, the problem in a nutshell. “Tea Party infestation”, as if they were a bunch of roaches. Look, I hate their politics too, but the fact is that they are poor white people who come from a culture that has been worked hard, under paid, and under-educated. And instead of despising them, why not get about understanding who they are and talking to them? They are in their majority Scots Irish laborers who came to this land with nothing, had something for a little while, and now they’re on their way to having nothing again — and they’re mad as hell and blaming it on Big Government. But they’ve been blaming things on Big Government since King James, so that’s nothing new. How about progressives trying to get workers unionized again? Cause after all, down here at the chicken processing plant they’re saying “If you liberals are so damned smart, how come you let them kill my union?”

  37. DGT says:

    The good professor makes some good points, but she is largely arguing against a strawman. I don’t think anyone is arguing that the South is a monolithic group comprised completely of racists, right-wing extremists and teabaggers. Indeed, there are many liberals in the south, and the urban areas tend to be fairly progressive. As a former Texan, I am well aware of this dichotomy.

    However, it is just inarguable that the conservative reactionaries and teabaggers come from the Southern states. Overlaying states that the opted out of the ACA with a map of the Confederacy produces almost a perfect alignment. The hostage-takers in the House are products of the South.

    Here in the “librul Northeast”, there are also conservatives, but they are a minority and have little political power, and it’s the reverse in the South. (I will say that the “libruls” here are far less to the left than the reactionaries in the South are to the right.) So while no one is saying that every person in the South is to blame, we can certainly say that, as a whole, the South is definitely to blame for the present dilemma.

  38. lilyannerose says:

    I’ve been in Austin for over three years and Austin is definitely urban with an identity of it’s own. It’s a good fit for me as it blends a lot of elements that I’m very familiar with from where I grew up and from the West Coast where I lived most of my life. There is a large influx of West Coasters coming into the I-35 Corridor and I think it’s going to shake things up quite a bit. Recent Poll research in Texas reflected that the problem is not that Texas is a red state as the real problem is that people here don’t vote. It’s a shocking state in a lot of ways. I’ve never lived anywhere before where a white person felt it was OK to walk up to me and just start to download a bunch of racist crap. There’s a long way to go but I don’t feel that the situation is helpless.

  39. Clevelandchick says:

    It’s not just the South. In Ohio, we are so despicably gerrymandered that the urban districts have been largely diluted. 8 major urban areas, 7 of which went for Obama in both 08 and 2012 – more than enough to carry the state by a wide margin. But only 4 of our 16 House Reps are Democrats. When they recently redrew the districts, I lost my rep of 14 years (Dennis Kucinich) for NE OH. My new rep is 90 miles away at the opposite end of the state in Toledo. My district’s map is a joke, a few miles south of Lake Erie and 90 miles to the west.

  40. The_Fixer says:

    This is a tale of two Souths, one modern/urban and the other older/rural. From what I have observed it is not unlike the generational battles we see in other parts of the country, just more intense. And part of it appears to be culturally based.

    I live in the North and see similar divisions. We have two mainly liberal cities in my state, the rest rural conservative, with a lot of them expressing sympathy for the TEA party. It is getting better now that the millennials are coming of age. I suspect the same thing will happen in the South, too.

    From what I’ve read, the South has had, for many years, a paternalistic society in rural/poor areas. Education is underfunded, and some towns are run by corrupt individuals who want to keep the populace in the dark. Hence the support for the TEA party in those regions. The effect may be less noticed in the north, but it’s still there.

    I chalk it up to a lack of education and the cloistered nature of life in the rural areas, North or South. The South has a pretty bad public image; Some of it is due to media misrepresentation. But there are “people like that” and that certainly colors the view of people in other parts of the country.

    At some point the rural South, as well as the rural North, will change and get with the times. However, there is a need to improve the lot of people who live in rural areas (like in Appalachian areas) and bring them into the modern era.

    But one thing I still have a problem with is “Redneck Pride (you see that up here, too, along with – curiously – the occasional Confederate flag being flown). That’s nothing to be proud of, being closed-minded and ill-informed.

    In short, there’s a certain amount of truth to the linkage between the TEA party and the South, but I agree that it’s not exclusively a Southern problem. After all, the TEA party is funded by wealthy Northern industrialists who are playing them (no matter where they live) for fools.

  41. Badgerite says:

    Good post. But it is hard to ignore all the nullification and secessionist talk that has rumbled mostly, though not exclusively, from that region since we managed to somewhat overcome race prejudice and elect a black man to the presidency. It hadn’t occurred to me that that type of talk might be inflammatory on purpose to provoke regional animus. But it’s a point.

  42. Mighty says:

    I don’t know what more liberals in the south could do. Suggestions? Part of the problem is so many liberals leave the south because its conservative. If they leave though how is it ever going to change?

  43. EdA says:

    Sorry, Prof. Cox, While decent people can be found in a great many places, and while sadly racists too can be found in a great many places, it cannot be denied that the heart of Dixie is also the heart of Teatotalitarianism and racism. While the owners of the plantations don’t care where the people they own live, it is probably no coincidence that the locales most infested by Christian fundamentalists are also the ones most infected by lack of critical thinking skills and fear. It is bizarre that people who claim to love America seem to have little but contempt for most other Americans, but then, it is also bizarre that people with a fundamentalist’s rigidity of religious beliefs are more than willing to burn in hell, literally assuming they believe what they claim to, and to deprive their own families of health care if it means they can also keep the family across the street hungry, sick, and homeless.

  44. peteywheats says:

    This the the type of crap that Northerners tell themselves to absolve themselves and their neighbors from racism.

  45. peteywheats says:

    Ted Cruz is a Canadian citizen.

  46. Bill_Perdue says:

    The fight over the shutdown and Obama’s active union busting and his plans to gut Social Security and Medicare is not a fight between regions, it’s a fight between classes.

    It’s a fight between the rich, who own both parties, and working people don’t have a party of their own.

    Building the union left and dumping the Democrats and Republicans and forming a workers party are our first priorities.

  47. masaccio68 says:

    When you consider the amount of overt racism in the Tea Party, it’s hard not to see a Southern problem. Of course, racism is everywhere, but the most effective exercise of racism is in the Southern Confederacy.

  48. MyrddinWilt says:

    In several of the Confederate states, more citizens fought for the union than for the confederacy in any case. Though the southern histories tend to ignore that.

  49. TonyT says:

    Southern strategy on steroids.

  50. elrod says:

    Are you in Athens, GA by chance? Charles Darwin got thousands of write-in votes against the numbnuts “Dr” Paul Broun.

  51. Bill says:

    And click on the county-by-county map on the left side of the screen.

  52. Bill says:

    This is also an urban/rural divide as well, as you point out.

    This map is useful. Btw, Macon County, Alabama voted 87% for Obama in 2012.

    http://elections.nytimes.com/2012/results/president

  53. richardgrabman says:

    One forgets the American South also includes a lot of African-Americans and [email protected] who — through no fault of their own — have largely been locked out of the political process. And, you look at local politics in the South, and progressives are all around us. Think of Houston, with a lesbian mayor cruising to a third term, or Pete Gallegos out in the Texas 23rd, or …

  54. TheOriginalLiz says:

    Sorry, no sympathy. As the saying goes “Me thinks he doth protest too much”.

  55. LanceThruster says:

    I feel bad for any of my fellow libs trapped behind the Tea Curtain, and I applaud them for holding firm and working relentlessly to effect change.

  56. Naja pallida says:

    Of course what is happening in Washington DC isn’t a resurgence of the Confederacy. That’s just the convenient specter hanging over the policies of so many southern states which seek to discriminate against anyone not exactly like them. Or do you suppose North Carolina’s voter suppression is really because there’s so much fraud in the state? But one could look to Wisconsin or Michigan to see rights being rolled back too. So it isn’t exclusively a south problem, it’s a regressive Republican problem… and they’re everywhere, at every level of government, and in every state. The more ground sensible people give up to them, the more they take… and the only thing all the Congressional capitulation to them has gotten us is a government that is entirely non-functional. Exactly how they said they wanted it.

  57. nobonesl says:

    This is a muddled message. To the contrary, I believe that the spectre of The ‘Ole Confederacy must be mentioned OFTEN. The American South is like Germany–It has some horrid things (3rd Reich)) in its past. The way to EVOLVE is to remind everyone of this past as SOMETHING TO AVOID BECOMING AGAIN.
    No one learns from history, who desires to ignore or erase, that same history.
    Of all people, a History professor should know that.
    Methinks The Conservative South is just hyper-sensitive and has thin-skin, and just wants to avoid the normal human process of embarrassment of admitting to past mistakes in order to avoid making them again.
    The Conservative South doesn’t really want to grow up.

  58. Quilla says:

    Oh, please. The South certainly IS responsible for this boondoggle.

    And it continues to surprise me that bullies from Texas, Alabama, Kentucky, Georgia, North Carolina, Louisiana, plus Iowa and Michigan can shut down the government! Coups are awfully easy.

  59. Houndentenor says:

    One thing that Steve Karacki pointed out last weekend is that Obama actually won fewer counties than John Kerry did. Democrats are concentrated in urban and suburban areas. The rural and most suburban areas are heavily Republican. Granted that’s still more people who are Democrats but the concentration of Dems into smaller areas makes the gerrymandering the GOP has been doing easy. In Texas for example, Democrats in the House run in districts that are 70% or more Democratic. Republicans run in districts that are 55-60 Republican. It’s hard for either to lose the way the deck is stacked but it also means that Democrats statewide are underrepresented.

  60. Houndentenor says:

    It’s very hard for a Wendy Davis to get elected down here. There are plenty like her but they don’t have an elected office because they live in such deep red districts that there’s no hope.

  61. Houndentenor says:

    Everyone with any sense knows that there are conservatives in the northeast and liberals in the south. But the characterization of the Tea party of being a movement most influential in the former Confederate states is completely accurate. Not 100% obviously. Nothing about humans is ever that cut and dried. But it’s bad down here. Democrats didn’t even bother to run a candidate against my Teavangelical asshole Congressman. There wasn’t any point. I voted for the Libertarian as a protest. The worst part? I live in a decent sized college down that is very liberal but we are gerrymandered in with the right wing know-nothings so that are votes count for nothing. It sucks down here. There’s no reason to sugar coat it. I’m cheering for Wendy Davis but it’s an uphill battle for her. She starts out at least 15 points behind and her only real choice of winning is an opponent who does and says incredibly stupid things. In other words, we need a replay of the 1990 governor’s race.

  62. Two of you have mentioned Prof. Wolf – you mean Prof Cox?

  63. iamlegion says:

    I’m sorry, Prof Cox, but until those progressive voices actually generate a progressive response from the voters of the South, you’re still going to be tarred with the same brush. Louie Gohmert is in Washington – Wendy Davis is just a State Senator. Michelle Nunn has not won yet, but Ted Cruz is the single most influential man in the House GOP caucus, and he’s not even a Representative! When you actually start _replacing_ the idiots, nutjobs, and terrorists of the South with sane human beings, instead of just as an _alternative_ to them, then you’ll get some respect. Until then I’m afraid I can only give you an ‘A’ for effort.

  64. DublinIrishBob says:

    Prof. Wolf, the politicians outside the South who supported the Rebels were called Copperheads. I’m willing to use that term to describe Boehner and other Northerners for the time being until something better comes along.

  65. karmanot says:

    It only hurts when I laugh.

  66. Freedonian says:

    In many parts of the Deep South, advocating liquor sales on Sundays is enough to get one labeled a ‘wild-eyed “librul” out to destroy ‘merica’.

  67. Mark Bunster says:

    Prof Wolf raises some interesting points, but none of them really address the core argument she claims she is trying to push back against: that the prime culpability for the current political standoff comes from the South. That the South is not monolithic, and that extreme conservatism exists outside the South, are both true. (Lord knows the latter is; right outside the progressive mecca of Portland; I’m being majority-ruled at both the City and County level by tea partiers). So OK, not EVERYBODY in the South is rooting for a shutdown, and others outside the South are–but that doesn’t change the fact that the genesis of and driving grassroots force behind con extremism resides squarely with Southern legislators.

    The South is simply different. Public opinion polling routinely shows minor variations on a given topic by region–except in the South, where responses tend to differ widely. Without other pockets of strength the Tea Party would not be as strong, but without the South we wouldn’t even know what the Tea Party was.

    It surely must suck to be a progressive in a far-right Southern state. There are many people like that, yes. But the presence of a progressive political minority doesn’t eradicate the sins of the majority, nor make it unseemly to point that majority out.

  68. douglas01 says:

    There are a few Windy Davis types. . . there are millions of Cruz, Perry, Lee types. Enough said.

  69. FLL says:

    I probably went on too long about Florida in my comment below, but I think that the Tampa/St. Pete area is very much part of the progressive majority that dominates Florida at election time: South Florida, Orlando and Tampa/St. Pete. You’re originally from Mississippi, aren’t you? I’ve always liked the Tampa Bay area.

  70. TampaZeke says:

    “The South’s strong progressive voices need to be heard.”

    BOTH of them!

    Just kidding; but just barely.

  71. FLL says:

    I’ll try to be more detailed later, but briefly, I think you have a point as concerns Texas, North Carolina and Virginia. At this point, there is still a solidly far-right-wing regime entrenched across the South, but it does not include all of the former Confederate states. Texas, North Carolina and Virginia have broken off and often are aligned with more national currents, in spite of the fact that their populations are largely of Southern heritage. I think this has happened for various complex reasons, one of which you mentioned yourself: the movement of many Northerners to these three states. So I am partially in agreement with, partially not. I hope that these politically moderate or progressive breakaway chunks will grow and eventually encompass the majority of the former Confederate states. But until that time comes, Texas, North Carolina and Virginia is what we have to work with.

    Oh, how could I have forgotten my own home, South Florida? Well, that’s a story that is unique among former Confederate states. Beginning in the 1920s, with the advent of modern air conditioning, South Florida and the Central Florida/Orlando area has been steadily torn away from the American South. Today, 90 years later, South Florida (and to a great extent, Central Florida) is a Yankee state, not a Southern state. Only North Florida (aka “South Alabama”) still has a population that is of Southern heritage; the families in North Florida are actually related to the families in southern Alabama and southern Georgia. But when it comes to election time, the Yankee population of South and Central Florida overwhelms North Florida, which is why Florida’s electoral votes end up in the Democratic column. I’m originally from Chicago, and I guarantee you that the greater Chicago area has a higher percentage of people who are of white Southern heritage than does my home, the greater Fort Lauderdale area, where the percentage of people who are of white Southern heritage is very, very close to 0%. So you may as well ignore Florida’s unique story when you’re discussing “the American South.” I share your hope that the South’s newly progressive areas in Texas, North Carolina and Virginia will prosper and spread into other states. Here’s hoping for change.

  72. BeccaM says:

    I know better than to blame “the South.” I blame the Republicans.

  73. Bill says:

    It’s worth noting that the South is a very complex place, and while it and many parts of the mountain west are on average more conservative than the rest of the country, there are some states in the south that have become genuinely purple, such as Virginia and Florida. Some of the most courageous critics of conservatism, such as Representative John Lewis, are southerners.

  74. ariesmatt says:

    This is a refreshing article to read. There are a lot of us progressives in the Deep South and hopefully the tide will start to turn in our favor as the leaders of the Tea Party spew crazier stuff and continue to obstruct governance.

  75. S. Parilla says:

    Hear, hear, Prof. Cox. Thank you.

  76. judybrowni says:

    Maybe not.
    But throw in the slave states in the Mid West and West, and you have a faily good map of curret TeaPartydom.

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