In Timothy Carney’s Dec. 9 article, the Washington Examiner senior political columnist makes the case that the conventional wisdom is wrong when it comes to why white Southerners have fled the Democratic Party.
It’s not because of the GOP’s very successful Southern Strategy, which played up the racial fears and prejudices of white Southerners in response to an increasingly empowered black population.
For Carney, the South no longer has a white Democrat in the U.S. Senate for two reasons and two reasons alone: the Democratic Party is hostile to guns and God, two things that every Southerner hold dear.
Democrats waged a culture war against the South, trying to force Southerners to stop “clinging” to their guns and to God. When you try to make it illegal for people to conduct their own affairs according to their conscience, you tend to lose their votes.
The self-soothing story the Left tells itself is that it’s all racism, that Democrats have lost the Southern vote because they’re not as willing to be racist as the Republicans are. Liberal columnist Michael Tomasky cheered the Democrats’ loss of the South, which he lovingly called “one big nuclear waste site of choleric, and extremely racialized, resentment.”
While Carney acknowledges race plays a role in discussing the Southern politics of yesteryear, he points to South Carolina’s own Nikki Haley and Tim Scott as proof that the South is now a post-racial wonderland of colorblindness.
I’m not going to deny the fact that the election of Haley and Scott are signs that we are moving out of the separate-but-unequal morass that has hobbled progress in the South for generations, but Carney fails to acknowledge that both Haley, an Indian-American, and Scott, an African-American, have succeeded, at least in part, because they both support policies that often hurt poor minority populations. They may be minorities themselves, but they always vote with the white establishment.
And make no mistake, the GOP likes having Haley and Scott in their camp. It inoculates them from charges of racism when they try to, say, purge black voters from the rolls with unnecessary Voter ID laws.
Now, I don’t expect Carney to say that, although I’m sure in his heart of hearts he knows it’s the truth. However, I must say that I was surprised to see that he fell into the trap that so many others fall into when talking about Southern culture as a whole: He uses the term “Southerners” to describe “white Southerners” exclusively. Carney writes:
The best explanation comes from the mouth of President Obama himself. Speaking to San Francisco donors in 2008 about white voters in the Midwest, Obama lucidly expressed his low opinion of all non-rich voters in flyover country: “they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion.”
Naturally, Democrats and the Left have tried to pry Southerners away from their guns and religion. Gun control has largely been a culture war effort for Democrats. “Some of the southern areas have cultures that we have to overcome,” was Congressman Charles Rangel’s explanation for why gun control was both needed and difficult.
The Washington Post’s Gene Weingarten cursed the Second Amendment as “the refuge of bumpkins and yeehaws who like to think they are protecting their homes against imagined swarthy marauders desperate to steal their flea-bitten sofas from their rotting front porches.”
Obama and his party waged this culture-war crusade with glee — and failed, but not before making it clear that they disapproved of the way Southerners live…
There’s no mystery here, and no need to assign widespread racism to why Southerners have rejected Democrats. It’s simple: Democrats and the Left have tried to outlaw Southerners’ way of life.
See, black Southerns typically support gun control. And while they love Jesus, you typically won’t see them protesting outside abortion clinics, fighting to erect a 10 Commandments memorial in the town square. They’ve got bigger problems — one of which is fighting a culture of racial institutionalism that, at best, marginalizes them and, worst, holds them down.
In his column, Carney even goes as far as to tip his hand, revealing exactly which white Southerners he believes are the real Southerners. Carney writes:
Democrats have given up on being the populist party, and — as they have increasingly won over the wealthy suburbs and the college-educated — have embraced their status as the party of the economic elite.
Think about that for a second: Carney believes that the Democratic Party, even right here in South Carolina, is now the party of the educated and the upper-middle class and the Republican Party is almost exclusively the party of dumb, chaw-chewing, wrasslin’ lovin’, trailer parking rednecks.
He’s wrong, of course.
The GOP still has a lock on college grads and salaried professionals, in the South and the Palmetto State. What he’s attempting to do is very much the same thing Sarah Palin did in 2008: create a world in which barely graduating high school and working at a dead-end factory job are two defining characteristics of true-blue Americans.
Of course, it goes without saying that in this world, black people don’t even graduate high school, and few, if any, actually ever land a blue-collar job. In the mind of the redneck populist, black people either end up in jail or on the couch eating government cheese and chatting with their baby daddies all day long on their Obamaphones.
All of which is why I think it’s high time that we quit using the term “Southerners.” It simply doesn’t represent everyone that calls the South home. As it stands today, Southerners only applies to a certain segment of the population — white folks who were born and raised in the South and who, thanks to the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow, feel empowered to dismiss the claims that black folks have to that same title.