Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Why is the South so stubbornly Republican and Conservative?

An extraordinary New York Times series of essays answers the question posed in the title of this blog; and you should absolutely read these brilliant opinions by a number of southern scholars.
by Charlie Leck

Mitt Romney will sweep all the southern states (listed just below) in the coming presidential election. Remember, Florida is not typically considered a “southern” state because of the immense transition of northerners to it. West Virginia and Virginia I’m counting as Border States.
North Carolina
South Carolina

Why is the South so stubbornly conservative – and, sometimes, obsessively so? The New York Times sought an answer to this question and they called on an impressive list of scholars to explain the phenomenon. This is really a must read series and it’s an extraordinary contribution by this newspaper to our understanding of the politics of the South.
You’ll find the series here!

As you read these pieces keep in mind that some of the reasoning also fits quite well as an explanation for why Romney will probably sweep all of the huge western states in America too – the Dakotas, Idaho, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, Texas, Utah and Wyoming.

And, believe me, if it were not for the large, urban populations on the eastern edges of Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin, they’d be on this list as well.

The following scholars joined this discussion and offered their opinions…
Kareem U. Crayton, an associate professor of law at the University of North Carolina School of Law.
Joseph Crespino, Emory University professor of history and author of “Strom Thurmond’s America.”
James C. Cobb, professor of history at the University of Georgia and author of “The South and America since World War II.”
Pearl K. Ford Dowe, an assistant professor of political science at the University of Arkansas
Todd Shaw, University of South Carolina associate professor of African-American studies and political science.
J. David Woodard, professor of political science at Clemson University in South Carolina and the author of “The New Southern Politics.”
Hastings Wyman, the founding editor of Southern Political Report.

Mr. Woodard, interestingly and tantalizingly, ties this voting trend into the South’s long memory of the loss of the Civil War (or the war between the states or, better yet from the South’s point of view, the war of northern aggression).

“The South is more conservative because, in the words of C. Vann Woodward, it was ‘the only part of the nation to experience the pain of a military defeat, occupation by a victorious external foe, and subsequent domination by its former servants.’ Robert Penn Warren wrote that, “That kind of defeat, gives the past great importance.’ Conservatives love the past, never more so than in the South.”

Woodard provides a number of other reasons why the South has such a long and painful memory, including its extraordinary poverty during the depression – a poverty that far exceeded that of the North.

I think you’ll find the time you spend with these concise papers very rewarding. And, I do promise you, each of the essays is extremely brief and right to the point.


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