And Now the South Rules the North: the 2004 Presidential Election

 

By Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph.d.

November 3, 2004 

George Bush has won the 2004 Election and I find myself disappointed and depressed. I was sure Bush was going to win the election, but it still hurt when he did. The election campaign from the Republican side was especially dirty. The Republicans pushed the fear factor of terrorism, even though it has been over three years since a terrorist attack has been committed against the United States homeland. And they pushed the fear gays marrying. In other words, they pushed their favorite issues: demagogic ones.

As if the election campaign was not bad enough, it seems to me the media political analysis by the supposed political experts is just adding insult to injury.

 

"Moral" Issues?

The pundits have concluded that according to their surveys, the top issue of the election was "moral" issues. I find the use of the word "moral" insulting. If the right wing is moral, then I guess the implication is that the left wing is immoral. If it is moral to be homophobic, then it is immoral to want to grant full civil rights to homosexuals. If it is moral to forbid abortion, then it is immoral to support freedom of choice. And on and on it goes.

The issues the pundits brand as "moral" ones, are really "social" issues, not "moral" ones. (Or they are civil rights issues, which the conservatives want to limit for gays, women and minorities.)  And these "social" issues are directly related to demographic divides in the United States, especially over race.

"Isnít it about culture?" asks Chris Matthews of MSNBCís "Hard Ball." Well, no Chris, it isnít. That kind of statement is like saying the Civil War was not about slavery but the greater evangelical streak in the South, or to be even more ridiculous, over the Southernersí love of grits over home fries.

In the great debate in sociology between Marx pushing the primary importance of economic forces on social life and Max Weber pushing the primary importance of ideas and values as the primary force, Weber basically lost. In other words, those people wanting to break with the Catholic church in order to prosper economically willingly grasped at the Protestant rationale that the greed and self-advancement associated with capitalism were superior values, not inferior ones. The self-interest came first, the justifications and rationalisms came second.

It is this type of self-interest that always drives human beings. The realm of voting is no different. People vote because of their self-interests. And their self-interests are to promote themselves, their families and friends and other people who are like-minded (and all too often like-skin-colored). Now most people do not like or want to describe their politics this way. They want to say that they are motivated by the highest and purest of moral ambitions. They want to believe that it is not their own interests they are voting for in elections, but rather the interests of the entire nation.

Americans are afraid to talk seriously about race. And it is in their self-interest to say that we are primarily divided by "moral" and "cultural" issues. Yes, it is true we are divided by these issues, but this division is the result of demographic divisions within the United States and those are primarily over race and secondarily over ethnicism.

The South has been a bastion of racism for almost 400 years of American history and it still is. Since most people now admit it is not really acceptable to be racist, the Southerners and their allies in other regions are not going to admit that they are motivated by racial concerns or racial fears. No, instead, they are going to say they are motivated not by racism, but by a real concern for states rights, not motivated by hate, but opposed to big government programs that aim to ease the terrible economic conditions under which blacks and Hispanics live.

Vernon Johns once wrote that that region of the country (the South) that is most in need of forgiveness by religious values, claim itself to be the most religions. Similarly, the evangelicals claim that they are the moral majority;. But there was a wonderful bumper sticker during the Nixon years when this characterization was popular: "The Moral Majority is Neither."

The claims of the South and their mid-western/western allies that they are motivated by the highest of moral values is ridiculous. The South is still motivated by what it has always been motivated by: a fear of the racial advancement of black people. No matter how moral the people of the region claim to be, and how immoral the liberals are, this kind of talk has to be taken with a grain of salt. They, like all voters, are motivated by self-interest and they see their self-interests in opposition to blacks and those liberals willing to support them.

It is even ridiculous to claim that the evangelicals are more religious than those who are not evangelical. It is an insult to religion and spirituality to say that those associated with racism, chauvinism, ethnicism and homophobia are the most moral and the most religious. On the contrary, these people are more in need of Godís forgiveness than those of us who are concerned with overcoming the negative isms that so drive the religious right.

And now the pundits are congratulating Bush and Karl Rove for the brilliance of their campaign strategy. To call demagoguery brilliance is to turn logic on its head. In the "old" South, the campaigner who was the most anti-black was the one who usually one. But would we call the more strident racist of the campaign the most brilliant? I would hope not.

George Bush is supposed to be more in touch with the people in his base. That is probably true because he shares the same narrow, parochial and racism-influenced values that pervade the

South and rural areas of the United. States. Yes, he is a "good-old-boy" (never mind that this type of person is motivated by racism, homophobia, religious bigotry, etc.)

The plain simple fact is that the South would have voted Republican even if the Republicans had run a chimpanzee instead of George Bush. Bush performed miserably. He was the first president to actually loose jobs in the last 75 or so years; he lied to the American public (and to himself) about the existence of weapons of mass destruction in order to use the revenge fever in America to start a war in Iraq; he made the United States class system even more grossly unequal than even his equally negative Republican predecessors; he managed to take a budget surplus and run it down to the largest budget deficit in American history; and his spend-thrift ways has made it impossible to fund substantial social progress in health, education and welfare. But the South did not care about Bushís record. For no matter how poorly Bush performed, at least he did not help further progress in civil rights.

 

The Loss of Northern Power

 

As a result of the Great Depression the Northern Democrats could count on the support of the conservative Southern Democrats because the South was interested in gaining greater economic advantages. But following the signing of the Civil Rights Legislation of 1964, the South started its switch to the more conservative Republican Party. As a result, the Northern Democrats had to nominate Southern Democrats for the office of the president if they wanted to win. But now, in 2004, it is becoming quite clear that the majority of the Southern Democrats have virtually all become Southern Republicans and that the entire Democratic Party cannot count on any electoral help from the South. And to make matters almost unbearable, the South with their rural allies in the mid-West now have greater political power than the North and that the North will be forced to take a secondary role on political and cultural issues.

I have written about the Southernization of the United States in which the whites of the North and South have reached a somewhat shared negative view of any future progress in the civil rights field, a negative view that is primarily directed at blacks. But one think I did not see was that as the South got more powerful they would start to go too far; they became emboldened and have tried to thrust their general negative/rural culture on the North. They talk about getting rid of abortion, maintaining the right of every American to own an assault rifle and bringing prayer back to the schools.

I also did not envision that the North and South would change roles and that now the North would start to feel alienated from the larger culture and start to fight to retain their more liberal, more forward-looking culture. They are not willing to accept the racist culture of the South.

So where do liberals go from here?

 

Democrats Should Move More to the Political Center?

 

Now all the pundits are saying that the Democrats have to rethink their positions. And, more specifically, they need to come more to the political center. Of course, coming to the center these days is to become like the Republicans, anti-gay, anti-civil rights progress, pro-war as a means of handling foreign disputes, etc. And on, and on goes the crazy logic created by using the term "moral."

The division of the United States into two different camps is really nothing new. The United States was barely able to come together in the first place and had to grant so much authority to the individual states that it almost assured the Civil War that followed only four score and seven years later. The Northís pulling out its troops from the South led to racial apartheid and then a second Civil War, the American Civil Rights Movement. Ever since LBJ signed the civil rights legislation, the South had been consolidating its political position around the Republican Party, a party they see as having the right attitude towards blacks Ė ignore their issues and let them fall farther behind whites.

No, the fact of two nations in one is nothing new, it has just become more consolidated along racial divisions and their associated cultural justifications. No, it is nothing new. It is just that the South and their allies have now come to dominate the nation.

And we liberals donít like it!!!!!

I grew up in the South and hated it. There was racial bigotry everywhere I looked. I thought Southerners were crazy and at times even dangerous. As a liberal in the South in the Jim Crow days, one had to be very careful of what one said to others. I chafed under the system of racism in the South and I find myself in somewhat familiar territory now as the South exerts its power politically and morally.

No, I wonít move to the political center. I wonít compromise with racism and bigotry. To hell with the South and its political allies and its supposed moral superiority. Give them enough rope and they will hang themselves.

Under racism, the South was economically and culturally backward. If they are able to continue to exert their negative influences on the entire nation, the United States will find itself like the old South, left behind economically and politically and culturally impoverished.

 

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