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Mon Jan 14, 2013, 11:02 AM

SOUTHERN DISCOMFORT: a large historical shift is under way

SOUTHERN DISCOMFORT
BY GEORGE PACKER

The New Year’s Day vote in Congress that brought a temporary truce to the fiscal wars showed the Republicans to be far more divided than the Democrats, and the division broke along regional lines. House Republicans from the Far West and from the Northeast favored the Senate’s compromise bill by large margins, and Midwesterners were split; but in the South, Republican opposition was overwhelming, 81–12, accounting for more than half of the total Republican “no” votes. In other words, Republicans outside the South have begun to turn pink, following the political tendencies of the country as a whole, but Southern Republicans, who dominate the Party and its congressional leadership, remain deep scarlet. These numbers reveal something more than the character of today’s Republican Party; a larger historical shift is under way.

For a century after losing the Civil War, the South was America’s own colonial backwater—“not quite a nation within a nation, but the next thing to it,” W. J. Cash wrote in his classic 1941 study, “The Mind of the South.” From Tyler, Texas, to Roanoke, Virginia, Southern places felt unlike the rest of the country. The region was an American underbelly in the semi-tropical heat; the manners were softer, the violence swifter, the commerce slower, the thinking narrower, the past closer. It was called the Solid South, and it partly made up for economic weakness with the political strength that came from having a lock on the Democratic Party, which was led by shrewd septuagenarian committee chairmen.
The price was that the Democratic Party remained an anti-modern minority until the New Deal. As late as 1950, there were just three Republicans among the South’s hundred and nine congressmen, and none in the Senate; a decade later, the numbers had barely moved. In 1964, Lyndon Johnson said that breaking the Southern filibuster and passing civil-rights legislation would cost Democrats the South for a generation (he was too optimistic), but the region’s conservatism had already begun to push it toward the Republican Party. And, as the South became more Republican, it became more like the rest of America. Following the upheavals of the civil-rights years, the New South was born: the South of air-conditioned subdivisions, suburban office parks, and Walmart. Modernization was paved with federal dollars, in the form of highways, military bases, space centers, and tax breaks for oil drilling.

At the same time, the Southern way of life began to be embraced around the country until, in a sense, it came to stand for the “real America”: country music and Lynyrd Skynyrd, barbecue and nascar, political conservatism, God and guns, the code of masculinity, militarization, hostility to unions, and suspicion of government authority, especially in Washington, D.C. (despite its largesse). In 1978, the Dallas Cowboys laid claim to the title of “America’s team”—something the San Francisco 49ers never would have attempted. In Palo Alto, of all places, the cool way to express rebellion in your high-school yearbook was with a Confederate flag. That same year, the tax revolt began, in California.


Read more: http://www.newyorker.com/talk/comment/2013/01/21/130121taco_talk_packer#ixzz2Hxxg4qAV

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Reply SOUTHERN DISCOMFORT: a large historical shift is under way (Original post)
DonViejo Jan 2013 OP
leveymg Jan 2013 #1
Jackpine Radical Jan 2013 #2
leveymg Jan 2013 #8
patrice Jan 2013 #3
Odin2005 Jan 2013 #16
leveymg Jan 2013 #17
Sunlei Jan 2013 #19
Moonwalk Jan 2013 #4
Demo_Chris Jan 2013 #6
msongs Jan 2013 #9
RobertEarl Jan 2013 #11
patrice Jan 2013 #7
Dawson Leery Jan 2013 #15
yellowcanine Jan 2013 #5
starroute Jan 2013 #10
Aristus Jan 2013 #13
Third Doctor Jan 2013 #20
samsingh Jan 2013 #12
Dawson Leery Jan 2013 #14
leveymg Jan 2013 #18
Dawson Leery Jan 2013 #21
leveymg Jan 2013 #22

Response to DonViejo (Original post)

Mon Jan 14, 2013, 11:10 AM

1. The Union should never have abandoned Reconstruction and allowed Jim Crow, even if the South

had to remain under military occupation for 150 years. Allowing the South to rise and dominate American politics set back social progress in this country by centuries.

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Response to leveymg (Reply #1)

Mon Jan 14, 2013, 11:23 AM

2. The Reconstruction went all wrong.

The north went south to exploit their victory by plundering the bleeding body of the South.

Had Lincoln lived to guide the rebuilding of the South, I think things might have gone very differently.

In a way, the story of the postwar years was like that of post-WWI Europe, when Germany was driven to its knees by the demands for reparations. The Europe of today arose from the much wiser policies of George Marshall, that emphasized healing. I think if that sort of thing had been done after our Civil War, our national history would have been much different.

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Response to Jackpine Radical (Reply #2)

Mon Jan 14, 2013, 01:22 PM

8. I read the history books a little differently.

The biggest problem with Reconstruction was its abandonment across the South. The failure by one vote of the Impeachment of Johnson in Feb. 1868 was a major step toward that, as it showed the lack of real political resolve on the part of the Republican Party and particularly the moderates within the Administration.

The Impeachment motion was in response to Johnson's violation of the Tenure of Office Act, passed by Congress the previous year. Specifically, he had removed Edwin M. Stanton, a Radical Reconstructionist Secretary of War (whom the Tenure of Office Act was largely designed to protect), from office and replaced him with Major General Lorenzo Thomas, who pursued a less resolute efforts to enforce the 13th and 14th Amendments.

This is without reference to the plunder and corruption among some Northern agents that did take place, and the general mismanagement of the post-war program that undoubtedly would have been more satisfactory for all involved had Lincoln not been assassinated.

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Response to leveymg (Reply #1)

Mon Jan 14, 2013, 11:34 AM

3. +++1

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Response to leveymg (Reply #1)

Mon Jan 14, 2013, 08:57 PM

16. All the planters should have been executed and the land redistributed...

...to former slaves and poor whites alike. Freeing the slaves wasn't enough, the entire quasi-feudal culture of the South needed to be overthrown.

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Response to Odin2005 (Reply #16)

Tue Jan 15, 2013, 05:58 AM

17. Executed? Even li'l old me?

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Response to leveymg (Reply #1)

Tue Jan 15, 2013, 10:36 AM

19. great point, Reconstruction stop, stopped social progress in its tracks.South 'reenslaved' the free

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Response to DonViejo (Original post)

Mon Jan 14, 2013, 11:34 AM

4. This is all well and good, but what's the solution? According to the article...

...we're damned if we do, damned if we don't. There are, the article says in the end, some important elements from the South that we need and we certainly want a whole nation. Fine. But the story says that while the South held power over the last twenty years, and became known as the voice of "America" it used that power to turn back the clock on things like civil right, a woman's right to choose, even separation of church and state. It also incorporated the worst aspects from North (Republican) thinking like Walmart and such, and became a bastion of rampant capitalism with no checks or balances.

The best aspects in the south have had a hard fight against all this. Now, as the tide turns and all this becomes less "American," certain parts of the South feels isolated and under attack, and so they circles the wagons and become even more isolated, more extreme, and more under attack. These parts of the South seem determined to drag us all down to the bottom if they can't remain on top.

So what do we do? Obama has shown that you can hold out the olive branch, even give them what they want, but unless it's their guy in power and they have it all, you're still the enemy. And their one and only aim is to completely destroy the enemy and return to absolute power. The article doesn't offer any alternative, any way to save the good elements of the South--get them into power?--and neutralize these isolated pockets of super-red South that seem intent on a scorched Earth policy.

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Response to Moonwalk (Reply #4)

Mon Jan 14, 2013, 12:26 PM

6. What do we do? We wait, because the South (and America) is CHANGING

 

America is divided not only by wealth, but by AGE. Young people, with access to the internet and a million channels on TV, are largely rejecting the ignorance, intollerance, and religious fantacism of the boomer generation.














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Response to Demo_Chris (Reply #6)

Mon Jan 14, 2013, 01:34 PM

9. thanks for the laugh nt

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Response to Demo_Chris (Reply #6)

Mon Jan 14, 2013, 02:03 PM

11. The South is changing

Women here are more empowered than ever. The formerly oppressed are enjoying more freedoms than ever and all are becoming better educated. We are making progress. Young people are casting off the hate-filled bigotry of their parents and bringing peace with them more so every day.

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Response to Moonwalk (Reply #4)

Mon Jan 14, 2013, 12:27 PM

7. Well. The article does close with the suggestion that the South should reclaim traits that

are authentically their own, but that predate all of the alienation.

I like this suggestion because it is about the South for its own sake, for what it really is that got lost in slavery, the Civil War and all of the struggles ever since that have layered all kinds of stuff on top of what is more positive about being authentically Southern. I think about how, when you teach, if you don't AUTHENTICALLY validate a person's positive traits, his/her assets, talents, skills, nothing matters to them except the injustice of being wholly judged by their problems.

It would be better for America as well as for the South if Southerners rediscovered their hidden past and took up the painful task of refashioning an identity that no longer inspires their countrymen.


Read more: http://www.newyorker.com/talk/comment/2013/01/21/130121taco_talk_packer#ixzz2HyEuqkyh

I have happened to listen to W.P. Inman read his book Cold Mountain, with an audio book, twice this last year and I'm struck by a more primal Southern identity that, at least at one time, did not have that much to do with the violation of the human and civil rights of others. They were people who were born into a situation. Aspects of slavery were not that different from what was going on in the North. No excuses for either side in that regard, but it is useful to recognize that our perceptions of the South, exacerbated by its own tendencies to react in certain ways, are not all that there is.

You ask what to do. Maybe, within certain legal parameters about Civil Rights that the whole country should abide by, each of us should be asking "the South" that question about itself.

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Response to Moonwalk (Reply #4)

Mon Jan 14, 2013, 03:42 PM

15. The south is not "courteous" at it's core.

On the surface southerners are kind, once you past appearances, one can easily see the mean spirit and pettiness of the region.
Culturally, the south has held onto the old British class structure where everyone knew their place (Calvinism) and few ever attempted to improve their condition. That is the most un-American idea around.

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Response to DonViejo (Original post)

Mon Jan 14, 2013, 12:10 PM

5. So a "pinko" is now a just right of center Republican?

I am so confused. "Pinko" used to be reserved strictly for the radical left wing.

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Response to DonViejo (Original post)

Mon Jan 14, 2013, 01:52 PM

10. How can you say *anything* about the South without talking about poverty?

I am getting so sick and tired of "cultural" explanations that ignore economic realities.

Since the Civil War, the South has been the poorest area of the country. The hints of liberalization in the 70s and 80s went along with an apparent trend to catch up economically -- but now that's all come to a grinding halt.

Even the "alienation" of the South -- and its passion for fundamentalism and conspiracy theories -- is not some weird psychological manifestation. It's a direct consequence not only of poverty but of the destruction of its traditional small town and rural way of life, without the payoff that was supposed to come from urbanization.

Deal with poverty and you might just have a hope of addressing the real issues. Ignore it, and the problems are hopeless.

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Response to starroute (Reply #10)

Mon Jan 14, 2013, 02:31 PM

13. The article mentioned the South's aversion to unionization.

An aversion manifesting itself in manufacturing plants relocating to the Southern states to take advantage of unskilled workers with no evident desire to stand up for themselves, each other, and the work they do.

As long as the South is anti-union, the poverty will remain. Unionization is not meant to bring untold wealth and riches, but simply a living wage, medical & dental benefits, sick pay, unemployment insurance, and retirement planning. If the South ever comes to understand that the corporation owners are not their friends, and decide to do something to protect the value of their work, poverty will decrease in the region.

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Response to Aristus (Reply #13)

Tue Jan 15, 2013, 12:49 PM

20. I agree totally.

I've had to do three times the work that I used to for less pay and no benefits or job security. And it's like people around here think that's okay?!! My dad worked at a plant making a good wage for 30 years but those days are long gone.

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Response to DonViejo (Original post)

Mon Jan 14, 2013, 02:04 PM

12. kick

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Response to DonViejo (Original post)

Mon Jan 14, 2013, 03:38 PM

14. Lincoln's great error!

"At the same time, the Southern way of life began to be embraced around the country until, in a sense, it came to stand for the “real America”: country music and Lynyrd Skynyrd, barbecue and NASCAR, political conservatism, God and guns, the code of masculinity, militarization, hostility to unions, and suspicion of government authority, especially in Washington, D.C. (despite its largesse). In 1978, the Dallas Cowboys laid claim to the title of “America’s team”—something the San Francisco 49ers never would have attempted. In Palo Alto, of all places, the cool way to express rebellion in your high-school yearbook was with a Confederate flag. That same year, the tax revolt began, in California."

Read more: http://www.newyorker.com/talk/comment/2013/01/21/130121taco_talk_packer#ixzz2Hz5dLTWk

Lincoln made a grave error by taking Andrew Johnson as his VP.
The "old south" (culture) needed to be eliminated and the region rebuilt, the same way we rebuilt Europe after the Second World War.

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Response to Dawson Leery (Reply #14)

Tue Jan 15, 2013, 09:20 AM

18. DeNazification?

?w=450

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Response to leveymg (Reply #18)

Wed Jan 16, 2013, 06:56 PM

21. It's a fair comparison.

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Response to Dawson Leery (Reply #21)

Thu Jan 17, 2013, 02:38 PM

22. The Nazis learned much of their "race theory" from the American eugenics movement

and the legal doctrine of Jim Crow and the genocide from our Indian reservations. When it was translated into German they added huge smoking factories to the model.

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