Wednesday, March 15, 2006

The South and Republicans

Kevin has a good post on Republicanism in the South where he quotes a book review as saying:
The engine of partisan change in the postwar South was, first and foremost, economic development and an associated politics of social class," they conclude after sifting through reams of electoral and polling data. "The impact of legal desegregation and an associated politics of racial identity had to be understood through its interaction with economic development." In other words, the Southern realignment wasn't about white racial backlash. Rather, it was about a new, middle-class South that focused mostly on economic issues and only secondarily on race.
Kevin doesn't buy this, and I don't either. I'll use a personal anecdote to illustrate why.

Let's look at my neighbour across the street from my house in Chamblee (15 min outside central Atlanta). He recently had a meeting of minds with my wife over the FUH2 website which posts pictures of people "saluting" Hummers. He carries stickers in his car that read something like "H2: Fuck the environment, I'm rich", along with an assortment of anti-Bush stickers. Yet he is not a Democrat. Like most other white and sensible people I've met in the South he says he's a "Libertarian".

I don't know exactly what it is, but there's some powerful force that keeps Southerners away from the Democratic party. If you're a white male who grew up in the South, and you don't work in a very liberal-minded profession such as education or healthcare, then you're just not going to admit any allegiance with the Democratic party no matter how liberal, environmentalist or even socialist your political views are. I didn't go to high school in the South but I'm pretty sure boys who support Democrats get wedgies until they learn to stop.

My own theory is that white kids down here are taught to associate Democrats with poor work ethic and a desire to milk other taxpayers for as much money as possible. And if so, there is clearly a historically racist element in this view (although I would not classify any of the people I've spoken to as racists). I've posed this theory to many white Southerners, and nobody really denies it. They usually utter an embarrassed laugh and try to change the subject.

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