I was born a Democrat. My parents were Democrats before me. My father cast his first vote at 21 in 1936, for FDR. Four years later, when she turned 21, my mother did the same. She came from a long line of Democrats, going way back to Jackson, I suppose. When 1861 came along, some of her kin hiked on the blue uniform, and some wore the grey, even though all were Virginians. And after that, they all carried on voting Democratic.
They were Southerners and Democrats. They never wavered from the party, even when many of their friends, associates and even some close relatives, gulped and embraced the GOP at the time LBJ signed the Civil Rights’ Act. As New Deal Democrats, they morphed into Kennedy Democrats. When 1968 saw a disastrous four-way split in the Democratic Party, they voted for Hubert Humphrey; but they would have voted for Eugene McCarthy or Robert Kennedy all the same.
Both of them voted Democratic until their deaths, although my father was growing more and more disconcerted with some of the leaders emerging from the party’s ranks. Although he voted for Bill Clinton in the 1992 election, in the Virginia primary, he supported Jesse Jackson.
Jackson, he explained to me, was a real Democrat, who cared about the working man and the working classes.
Of course, you seldom hear about the “working classes” these days. I don’t expect to hear about them from the Republicans, although they use them to garner votes; after all, the Republicans were only ever about business, and the bigger the business, the stauncher the Republican support. But the Democrats were all about the working classes, or the public sector service industries, and – above all – the unions.
Nowadays, however, it all seems to be concern about the middle classes,a euphemism awarded like a gift with the Reagan credit de-regulations in the form of a credit card and an attitude that it’s OK to use your property like an ATM, as long as it got you the same toys as the professional person who lived around the corner had. Our recent middle class, the one to which everyone allegedly belongs in its Reaganian reincarnation, is one built on debt and deception and living above our means.
I’ve never heard any politician of note – actually, except the President – reference the working classes; and even the President does so, within a quick and essential reminder that this really is about preserving the middle classes; but, by and large, we tend to sweep the working classes under a mythical carpet. The Right pulls them out, occasionally, dusts them off, fills them with whatever the current fear-of-the-day happens to be, and then sends them off to the polls every two years to vote against their own interests.
The Left, if they don’t ignore them outright, derides them, assigning traits of stupidity and bigotry to them, especially if they happen to be Southern.
Lord, it’s hard to be Southern and Democrat, especially these days, and especially amongst a current species of Democrat (usually from the West Coast, I’m sorry to say) who view themselves as morally superior to anyone hailing from flyover country or anyone coming from South of the Mason-Dixon line. Flyover people might be deemed “rubes” by their cultural betters, but my lot – whether they’re fire-breathing, Fox-gazing Fundamentalists or real Liberals – are lumped together and described as “shitkicking inbreds,” “Neo-Confederates,” Secessionists, traitors or just plain common-and-garden bigots. All of us.
The hatred towards Southerners is a wonder to behold in reading some of the things you see on the Internet, much less on television; so much so, that many in the Democratic party, or many purporting to be Democrats, don’t think candidates should venture into the South at all, that it simply isn’t worth it, which is almost oxymoronic because these very people – probably the children and grandchildren of New Deal Democrats – were the real base, one time, of the Democratic Party.
Now, you can preach “Southern Strategy” all you want, but as late as 1976, the South went solidly for Jimmy Carter (with the exception of Virginia, but when Virginia does “stupid,” it does “real stupid” – cf: Ed Schultz and Eric Cantor). What annoys me the most is the condescension people in this region suffer from the so-called Democratic “elites” to the point that they’ve become a point of ridicule and are often presented as the bigots in the equation when ofttimes, it’s the real bigots who are levelling the accusations.
These people were part of the expendable hoarde, kicked to the political curb forty years ago by the “cool kids” who took over the Democratic Party. They were wandering in the political wilderness until the Republicans smelled blood and took them and trained them up to be their own brand of useful idiot.
The late Joe Bageant, author of Deer Hunting with Jesus, who hailed from my neck of the woods, says it best:-
In the days before the spine of the labor movement was crushed, back when you could be a gun owner and a liberal without any conflict, members of the political left supported … workers, stood on the lines taking beatings at the plant gates alongside them. Now there is practically no labor movement, and large numbers on the left are comfortably ensconced in the true middle class, which is only about 20 per cent to 30 per cent of Americans … From that vantage point, liberals currently view working whites as angry, warmongering bigots, happy pawns of the American empire – which begs the question of how they came to be that way, if they really are.
Meanwhile, we have what my people see as the “liberal elite,” the people still living the American Dream in relative economic safety. Yet the liberal elite – and verily they are an elite group – don’t think of themselves as elitists. Overwhelmingly white and college educated, they live among clones of themselves. As far as they know, American life is about money, education, homeownership, and professionally useful friends. How can one blame them? Conditioning is everything, and how could they fail to believe their own experience or what they see every day, all of which suggests that their privileges are natural and deserved?
At the other end of the melanin-and-money meter are the blacks. And alongside them are low-earning, uneducated rednecks, bred from generations of low-earning, uneducated rednecks, clustered into neighborhoods of the same.
The middle class, both liberals and conservatives, are utterly dependent upon my people,the great throng of the underpaid, undereducated and overworked. This is not whining, just a simple statement of fact.
No Democrat or leftie seems to grasp that much of the working-class theocrats’ eagerness to join the corporatists at putting the liberal yuppies in their place is revenge based. Working-class people can perceive the upper-middle-class snobbery toward them.
That last point is interesting, because it mirrors exactly the condescension of the Professional Left to the so-called plebs who make up their listening and reading public, whenever some potential ditto has an epiphany moment, wakes up and thinks for himself and dares to disagree publically with said hero or heroine, who take advantage of social networking sites to expound their self-perceived truths.
It’s the same sort of privilege and entitlement that drives Salon editor Joan Walsh to sneer at the African American blogger LisaLV711, when Lisa politely questioned the fact that racism might be behind many of the onslaughts of criticism aimed at the President from various sections of the Left.
It’s the same sort of privilege and entitlement which resulted in Boston Globe columnist, Charlie Pierce, actually calling me a TWAT on my Facebook page, when I, again, brought up the continuing question of Walsh’s apparent racism, in her diehard defence of Hillary Clinton and her wet dream wish of a Hillary primary. Walsh is currently using reverse psychology to promote her Hillary dream – appearing to be at pains to say repeatedly that she doesn’t want the President primaried, yet constantly reiterating a theme of “What would Hillary do?”
In her latest blog in Salon, I objected to the end of her article, which I felt was superfluous in many ways: It alluded to the personal conflict in which she’s immersed herself in arguments with Obama supporters on her Twitter page, almost to the point that she appears to interject herself into private discussions in the guise of a concern troll. She also has resorted to the classic Clintonian line of defence that, even though Obama’s been personally attacked, it’s not nearly as bad as the real first black President got.
it’s important for fervent Obama supporters to keep in mind that the GOP demonizes our current Democratic president much the way it did the last one.
Ummm … not quite. Clinton was smeared by the Right, true; and most of it was blather – the drugs cartel thing, Vince Foster, travelgate … but Slick Willie’s philandering with women from the wrong side of the track was something that couldn’t be denied, even if it all depended on what the definition of “is” was.
Racism gives the right wing more to work with, of course; on the other hand, they haven’t called Obama a murderer yet.
No, but they’ve called him an alien, a foreigner, a Communist, a Socialist, an illegal immigrant posing as President. In Clinton, they tried to delegitimise him, based on faux crimes, the Right hoped the public would believe; in Obama, they’ve tried to delegitimise him based on the colour of his skin – and many in his own party have proven to be useful tools for the GOP in their relentless quest to impeach a Democratic President.
And if Obama critics over-personalize the president’s problems, his defenders also over-personalize the criticism he gets.
This is rich, coming from Joan, who – until recently – claimed that Obama’s defenders were actually GOP trolls paid by Andrew Breitbart. But I digress:-
One divisive claim is that white progressives, in particular, are racially clueless for demanding that Obama fight harder and maybe even show anger, because he’d be attacked as a menacing angry black man if he did so.
First of all, we won’t know that the president doesn’t ever get angry, as he so richly deserves to. Second: I think the argument is condescending and kind of dangerous. Insisting a black president can never show anger might suggest a black man should never be president, because sometimes a president needs to get angry. It also harks back to the 2008 primary, when the normal give and take of politics was too often framed racially. If you noted that Obama was relatively inexperienced when it came to national politics, you might sound like you were calling him a boy. If you observed that he sometimes seemed above the fray, especially at a time of economic suffering, you could be accused of calling him uppity. If you suggested he could appear detached from voters, you were playing Sarah Palin’s game of questioning whether he’s “one of us.” Trying to erect a racial force field around the president, in which the normal terms of political debate are judged out of bounds and racist, hasn’t helped anyone.
It’s interesting that Joan cites Sarah Palin here, because she’s actually doing the same thing Sarah does so well – projecting that sin for which she’s been exposed onto the people leveling the accusation. So Joan’s not racist, it’s the people who say she is who are. They are the ones who are condescending, especially regarding the President.
But it’s interesting to note that Joan’s perceived racism, albeit subtle, has been around for awhile, at least since 2008, when she blogged about the PUMA supporter, Harriet Christian, unloading on the DNC for choosing an “inadequate black man” over a white woman, a blog which actually ended up almost defending Christian:-
We saw the face of the angry white female backlash against Obama over the weekend, and it was hard not to turn away. On Friday, Geraldine Ferraro complained in a Boston Globe Op-Ed that she’s been demonized for saying that Obama’s presidential run benefited from his being black, and called her treatment “reverse racism.” On Saturday, Harriet Christian replaced Ferraro as the overwrought voice of white female resentment. There she was at the Democratic National Committee meeting, screaming at reporters that Democrats were about to nominate “an inadequate black male who would not have been running had it not been a white woman that was running for president.”
Beyond Christian’s deplorable reference to Obama as an “inadequate black male” was a wail worth hearing. She also said, “I’m proud to be an older American woman!” I can feel her pain. Reading the sexist attacks on Clinton and her white female supporters, as well as on female journalists and bloggers who’ve occasionally tried to defend her or critique Obama, has been, well, consciousness-raising. Prejudice against older women, apparently, is one of the last non-taboo biases. I’ve been stunned by the extent to which trashing Clinton supporters as washed up old white women is acceptable.
These comments were enough to offend The Atlantic columnist Ta-Nehisi Coates, at the time, who responded thus:-
Walsh apparently thinks Harriet’s description of Obama as an inadequate black male, “was a wail worth hearing.” I’m physically sick reading that. I never much agreed with Walsh’s take on the Clinton’s, but for my money, she just fell into Pat Buchanan territory.Anyone who thinks there’s something to take from someone who says it’s fine to resent black people racially, who claims that there’s something worth hearing in describing the first black man to ever win a major party’s nomination as “an inadequate black male” is the moral equivalent of a racist to me.
I don’t play these word games. I don’t much care about what’s in your heart. I don’t make any distinction between people who think I’m less than, and the cowards who know the truth, but still run with bigoted fools anyway. There’s nothing feminist about siding with worst impulses of white America. The fact is we’re tied to each other. The same fuckers who’ve turned the incarceration of black men into a business, are the same fuckers who’d love nothing better than to drag women back into the dark ages.
… That said, anyone who’d be willing to put the health of women, the chance to expand childcare, the chance to revisit equal pay, on the line in the name of electing a dude who called his own wife a cunt, who laughed as one of his supporters referred to Hillary Clinton as a bitch, who would most assuredly appoint judges that would reverse Roe v Wade, is a joke. There ain’t nothing feminist, or “empowering” about gambling on the future of our daughters. It’s a ego and sore loser-ism writ large. If that’s your angle, take a hike.
There is also an ugly subtext to that “unqualified” remark. Exactly how many terms in the Senate did John Edwards have? Was he also unqualified? Would we be hearing that label from Hillary-supporters if he’d won?
That said, the answer is clearly “no.”
And this brings us back to the question of the South, and liberal Southerners, Democrats. The British columnist, Andrew Sullivan in his Daily Beast blog, entitled “The Daily Dish,” often posts comments to his op-eds, worthy enough, in and of themselves, to promote comment thereof. Earlier this week, he posted the following, which is clearly a Northern liberal’s take on the make-up of the Tea Party:-
No. There’s no sign the “Tea Party” are actually against government. They’re just against government run by anybody except themselves. And since “they” are the rump South, that “anybody” mainly means the feds: the Northerners, the liberals, the carpetbaggers, the negro-lovers — and of course, worst of all, the negros themselves (“negroes” to include not just African-Americans, but all sub-human others, including gays and, now, Muslims).
You have to remember this is the planter class. The planter mentality. The foundation of the South, and so of this country, when one considers the fortunes of many (most?) of the founding fathers. We have been at war with ourselves from the beginning. 2008 was just one more battle: a “n—-” (radical, terrorist, illegal alien) up against a son of the South (patriot, military man, scion of the McCains, among the largest slaveholders in Mississippi before the Civil War, still owners of the original plantation “Teoc”).
All the Tea Party/Republican/Fox News actions since losing the election have simply been scorched earth warfare: deny the oppressing invader any sustenance, no matter what the cost to the country. Because first things first: destroy the usurper first, the alien, the radical, the invader, the liberal, the fed, the other — then rebuild once the war is won. That’s the game. No, they are not against government, or debt. They’re just against any government or debt other than their own.
You see what I’m up against? Is that enlightenment? Is that intolerance? Pardon me, but Sarah Palin, to whom open race-baiting is but second nature, is from the snowy North. Michele Bachmann is from Minnesota, a Northern state. Did not New York choose Carl Palladino, a Tea Partier as their Republican candidate for governor? When a rather high-profiled blogger and California Democratic operative (and constant Obama critic) assails me on Twitter with an assertion that the South shouldn’t be bothered with, because the people there “spit on Progressives” (that’s “spit” as in “hock and …”)or when a well-known modern historian openly admits on his Facebook page that he hates Obama because he thinks he’s “arrogant” (in Southern-speak, “uppity,”), you know Joan Walsh is not alone in her sentiments.
But Sullivan, ever the critical thinker, also provides a beautiful response to that afore-mentioned diatribe of assumptions, and I couldn’t have expressed it better, myself:-
Okay, seriously, fuck this reader. As a Southern liberal who voted for Obama and gladly will again in 2012, I took offense to almost every word of that sanctimonious tripe.
I’d prefer to spend my life chained to the most backwards, Tea-Party, Limbaugh-listening, gun-toting, NASCAR-loving, backwoods hillbilly you’ve ever seen than to sit down for a single drink with this reader. It is one thing to be constantly condescended to by the rest of the country because we have funny accents and sweet tea. I am used to the constant reminders of the sins of our fathers (as if the sins were confined to one corner of the country). The Bible-belt moniker no longer bothers me like it used to.
However, one thing I will never get used to is the phenomenon of self-righteous Northerners talking about us as if we all love Jesus and guns and hate non-whites. Almost without fail, these are people who, other than the occasional trip to South Beach, have never been south of the Potomac; who have never lived in a small town; who have never seen a sunset in Texas; who have never never been to Shiloh, or Sharpsburg, or Mannassas, or Vicksburg; who think Faulkner is great because of his stylistic idiosyncrasies and who read the stories of Flannery O’Connor with horror and confusion rather than wonder; who have never loved their racist grandparents simply because family is family; who could not tell the difference between a Tennessee accent and a West Texas drawl; who have never seen the true devotion and love and warmth of the fundamentalist Christians they hate so vehemently.
When I was a boy, I loved the South. When I was a teenager, I hated it, wanted out. Now, I love it all over again, but for different reasons. I know the history of the place, and I know the mentality of so much of the Southern population. I know many Tea Partiers and NRA members and hard-line pro-lifers myself. I love many of them. Some of them are family. I love them too. I disagree with them, sometimes profoundly, but when you grow up with it, you learn to see beyond the caricature painted so crudely in the editorial pages and by your smug, self-satisfied reader. You learn that these people are every bit as capable of real compassion and sacrifice as any Northern son.
Your reader does not understand this place – does not care to try – because he/she does not like guns or Baptist churches or country music. That’s fine. Your reader must sleep comfortably knowing that his fathers were on the right side of history. Well done. He/she sure earned his place atop the moral totem pole.
Your reader and I will likely vote the same way in 2012. Your reader, though, is an asshole.
And as for award-winning journalist, Charlie Pierce, he of the TWAT ad hominem, I leave you with his Esquire essay on the President’s 2010 State of the Union address, complete with optional accompanying musical score … The theme from Shaft.
I ask you, now, who’s the real TWAT … and something else? I’ll just leave it at “asshole.”