Liberal Stereotypes Never Die. Nor Do They Fade Away

It’s clear from reading Harold Meyerson's assertion that is now the Republicans rather than the Democrats who have a “Southern problem,” that he does not subscribe to the old political scientist’s maxim that “one election doth not a realignment make.” He does, however, show amazing loyalty to the time-worn liberal maxim that everything one finds distasteful about American life must somehow emanate from below the Mason-Dixon line.
As Myerson sees it, the Republicans got their well-deserved comeuppance last month and are now on the ropes politically because “They've become too southern -- too suffused with the knee-jerk militaristic, anti-scientific, dogmatically religious, and culturally, sexually and racially phobic attitudes of Dixie -- to win friends and influence elections outside the South. “ It’s always helpful to have “the attitudes of Dixie” laid out in such concision, although it is surprising to learn that voters in the seventeen non-southern states that went for Bush just 24 months ago are suddenly so revulsed by the narrow, regionality of the GOP’s message that they can no longer stand the thought of ever again being in the same party with those reactionary southerners.
My guess is that a lot of non-southern voters in November were not so much rejecting conservatism as a President whose misrepresentations of military purpose and failure to provide the resources to attain that purpose, along with his disdain for fiscal responsibility and individual rights proved him no conservative at all. A quick profile of the Demo winners from November doesn’t exactly suggest a widespread resurgence of Left- or Right-Coast liberalism. Certainly, the Democratic freshman class doesn’t exactly seem to be brimming with Nancy Pelosi’s and John Kerry’s in-waiting. It may be true, that Kerry “came close” to prevailing among white voters outside the South in 2004, but primarily because he carried New York and California, whose electorates, so far as I know, have not been widely cited as exemplary of broader national trends in a good while.
Maybe Myerson and others who see the Democrats on a roll toward filling in the blanks between their bi-coastal strongholds are on to something, but I wouldn’t bet the farm on it just yet. One reason for my skepticism is the tendency of so many liberal pundits to fall back on comfortable categories and stereotypes that support what they believe about how things are and how they should be. Having already dismissed southern conservatives, some of whom are black, by the way, as racist , Bible-thumping morons, Meyerson doesn’t hesitate to identify Wal-mart’s low-wage, no-benefits practices with its origins in “the rural South, ” as he compares the battle between the company’s “southern low-wage labor system ” and representatives of “higher-paid workers in the North” to the recent unpleasantness that some know as the Civil War. Apparently, this latter conflict isn’t going as well for the northern side . There are currently five times more Wal-marts per capita in Connecticut than in Georgia and 2.5 times more in California . Not only is Wal-mart in every state but in 14 countries serving an estimated 176 million customers per week. Say what you will about this enterprise, if it was once distinctively “southern,” it clearly ceased to be a long time ago. Faulkner’s observation that the past is never dead or even past is always presumed to apply specifically to the South, but I have noticed that it seems to work pretty well for northern liberals too.

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This page contains a single entry by Jim Cobb published on December 13, 2006 4:10 PM.

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