Saturday, March 17, 2012
The Southern Strategy
Several recent events have led me to the composition of this post. As I am sure all my regular readers know that the infamous Southern Strategy has long been at the top of my soapbox, so it should not be necessary to go over the history and details of the concept again. The Southern Strategy and its enablers in the CNP are of course discussed in detail in Paradigm Shift. However, several particularly poignant events have occurred in recent days that shed additional light on the subject. First of all, Alexandra Pelosi swatted the hornets' nest, as I like to call it, on Bill Maher's Real Time a week ago. She showed a brief film clip she shot in Somewhere, Mississippi, of potential voters briefly stating their opinions of President Obama, God, guns, and certain well established welfare programs. On last night's show, she returned with a film clip of mostly African Americans in New York City mouthing off their support of food stamps and welfare checks. One potential voter was ready for a career, but not a job. The working doorman interviewed nearby was not pleased.
Sandwiched between the airing of these two documentary film clips were a few key Republican Primaries last Tuesday. The Huffington Post did its usual outstanding job of tracking these primaries in real time for us Internet junkies and here are the final results. Since I was born in Mississippi, lived there until well into adulthood, and still have family living in the state, I feel qualified to discuss the voting results of that state in detail. Although the results in Alabama probably mirror these just like the geographical shapes of the states themselves, we are going to use Mississippi as our special Southern Strategy guinea pig. I followed the results as they came in, clicking on specific counties, and the lessons to be learned are pretty much as I expected.
You have a map of the counties to follow along geographically if you wish. Let's start with the Urban, Suburban, and Educated counties. Hinds County, the central county of the largest city in the state (Jackson, with a population of 173,000) voted 41% for Romney and 27% each for Gingrich and Santorum. (All these figures are rounded for simplicity here.) Rankin County (still mostly Jackson) voted 34% for Romney, 32% Geingrich, and 29% Santorum. In Madison County, mostly a wealthy suburb of Jackson, Romney got 43%, Gingrich 27%, and Santorum 26%. Now let's travel down to the Gulf Coast, a well-developed area containing the pseudo-resort towns of Gulfport and Biloxi. I refer to this as a pseudo-resort area because it is so effectively overwhelmed by the white beaches of Santa Rosa Island and other nearby Florida areas. Romney carried both Jackson and Harrison Counties with Santorum coming in second. There are three sizable universities in the state. Do you see that lonesome little Romney-tinted rectangle in the upper-middle of the state? That is Oktibbeha County containing Mississippi State University. Romney carried 35%, Santorum 31%, and Gingrich 27% in the college town. Romney kicked some Rebel butt at Ole Miss with 37% in Lafayette County. Gingrich and Santorum came in with 29% and 26% respectively. Gingrich scored a win in Forrest County, home of The University of Southern Mississippi, obviously a party school famous for being located not far from New Orleans. Yes, I guess you could consider Newt more of a party animal than his two opponents.
Now let's venture out into the deep piney woods of Redneck Central. Ronald Reagan made a point of announcing his 1980 candidacy in Neshoba County, also famous for civil rights murders and the movies made about them. Neshoba brought in 41% for Santorum, 32% for Gingrich, and 23% for Mittens. Ron Paul barely beat out Other at 3% to 1.4%! As you can easily see, guns and war are still quite popular in this infamous county. Clay County, the very place in which I discovered precisely the potential for the political nightmare that would become known as Sarah Palin decades later surprisingly voted 33% for Gingrich, 31% for Rick, and 30% for Mitt. I would have thought Mittens would have taken a dive there, showing this analysis is not perfectly scientific, but if Karl Rove can scribble figures on a board, I can write this article! Itawamba County brought home 44& for Santorum, 29% for Newt, and only 22% for Mittens. This is just one of many counties located out in the middle of nowhere in MS Sant0rum Country. In case you are wondering, most of the difficult to spell names originated with the Indians who were there before the rednecks moved in. Leflore County surrounds Greenwood, one of the richest Delta towns. Both are named after an Indian named Greenwood Leflore and money still supports money. Mittens took 49% in the county, Gingrich got 29%, and Santorum crawled in third with 16%. Gingrich easily took neighboring Carroll County where I lived when I was Opie Taylor's age and everything still looks like Mayberry. One thing that puzzles me is there is a band of Gingrich Country across the southern portion of the state, exactly three counties above the coastline. I haven't personally spent enough time in that area to define it.
That's enough numbers to paint you an accurate picture. The short version is that The Southern Strategy is most effective where: (a) the residents are most isolated from urban areas; (b) the voting districts are small in size, where everyone knows everyone else's business; (c) education levels are low; (d) income levels are low; (e) diversity of demographics is minimal; (f) job opportunities are minimal; and/or (g) the economic strength of the city, county, or region is low and not well diversified. I think these influences pretty much fall in this decreasing order, too. The most important indicator of whether or not a district will be heavily populated with voters who do not vote in their own best economic interests is geographic and demographic isolation. If you look at a map of the Southern states as a region, what do you see? MS and AR have far the least number and size of metropolitan areas, and these are the two states that usually battle it out for the title of poorest, depending on the criteria being studied. Alabama may at first glance look like a mirror image of Mississippi, but the state is populated by many urbanites in Birmingham, Mobile, Montgomery, and the high-tech Huntsville. The University of Alabama and its host city Tuscaloosa are far larger than any equivalent in MS. Mittens carried only five Alabama counties, including Birmingham, Mobile, and Montgomery, while Santorum took both Huntsville and Tuscaloosa! That surprises me probably as much as it does you.
On Bill Maher's show last night, Dylan Ratigan made two wonderfully accurate and poignant statements. He said that American citizens on both the left and right really want pretty much the same things. We want decent jobs paying decent wages in a country that we feel offers opportunity and a bright future for our children, and we want our government to represent us all equally. He also said in a comment to Alexandra Pelosi's first film, the one shot at some undisclosed location in Mississippi, that the voters living in poverty long ago gave up hope that our economic system is on their side, so they may as well vote on the God issues. Growing up surrounded by so many like them, I could not agree more. We on the left often confuse stupidity with ignorance. Voters who vote against their own best economic interests may be ignorant, but they are not necessarily stupid. One key thing they are is surrounded by reinforcement of their beliefs and voting influences. They are isolated into many tiny subcultural groups. Many of them associate little or none at all with the enormous African-American populations that closely surround them. Many cannot afford to run off to the nearest city to play or shop at every whim. They live their lives in a bubble, as Bill Maher would say, controlled by the reinforcement of church activities and the great isolated outdoors. The men shoot defenseless animals in packs and the women gossip about Muslim Presidents at the church socials. Their lives are limited by a lot more than their meager imaginations.
Ms Pelosi said something quite exquisite on the show, too. She said that liberals on the left do practically nothing to keep voters from continually sliding over to The Dark Side. She was referring to those who would sneer at the smart-mouths in the second film, those who said they had not worked in years, but who were walking on their own two feet like the rest of us. The doorman may have had a job, but as Bill asked, how many black people get doormen jobs? One young black man in the film was asked why he did not work and his reply was that he had been in prison and ex-cons have great difficulty finding a job. Amen to that! For starters, let's end The Drug War right now! How many lives do we have to ruin for their duration over such trivial matters as holding or possession? If every redneck in the USA wants to carry a .38 Special, a 9mm, or Dirty Harry's .45 stuck inside his pants, why cannot an adult with dark skin carry around a bag of weed? He's only going to blow his mind, not a hole in your head!
After reading through these details, even if you have never driven through the state of Mississippi, you can guess that Ms. Pelosi did not stop and whip out her cameras in Greenwood, Jackson, Starkville, or Oxford. Of course she could have gone anywhere not far from these bastions of money and education and found the toothless people on food stamps. In a poor, rural state like Mississippi, they are indeed just about everywhere, even in the urban ghettos. Of course all Southerners should not be painted with the same brush. If someone does this on the radio to women, the country explodes in an uproar. We have to find common ground. Dylan Ratigan, Alexandra Pelosi, and Bill Maher contributed equally to the discussion. Even Amy Holmes and the Mayor of Oklahoma City behaved themselves. We should all learn from their discussion. Conquer the issues. Don't divide the country. You know who really wins when we do not follow this mantra? The winners are the one-percenters and the media who are selling tickets to the game.