Letter from America: The changing face of the American south: myth and reality

Foreign Affairs & Security
Thursday, December 12, 2013
Brian Cattell, Former Chairman

Read the original article at Trending Central here. 

As a place where many of the traumas and decisive events of the country’s history have played out, the southern states of America continue to hold a fascination for anyone seeking to understand the past, present and future of the nation. But the myth of the South and what makes it tick is increasingly becoming a political weapon to be wielded by liberal progressives seeking to denigrate the Right.

The left wing Fox News commentator Juan Williams said recently in a debate on the “O’Reilly Factor” that the only part of the country that does not generally support President Obama and backs the Republicans instead is the South. The unspoken suggestion that barely reconstructed, bigoted whites are just about the only people that lean right these days.

Earlier in the year, the liberal-leaning New York Times published its own analysis of the South entitled, “Beyond Black and White, New Force Reshapes South.” If the title of the article promised an honest analysis, then the content of the piece horribly disappointed: its essential thesis was that an increasing Latino population in the South would eventually spell the end of Republican electoral dominance; and that the attempt to introduce voter ID checks was simply a Canute like attempt to hold back an inevitable tide.

However, by far the most egregious piece of conservative baiting on display in America in recent times was a campaign e-mail sent in October this year by Democratic Florida Congressman Alan Grayson that carried a picture of a burning KKK cross with the strap line: “The Tea Party: No More Popular Than The Klan.” The fact is that not only has the face of the South changed beyond recognition over the past 40 years: it has seen an influx of many different ethnic groups from elsewhere in the US, as well as from around the world, including from the Indian sub-continent, non-Anglo Eastern and Southern Europeans, and Hispanics.

But the Republican Party that aspires to represent it has changed with it too. Two of the brightest young Republican governors – Nikki Haley in South Carolina, and Bobby Jindal in Louisiana are from non-white ethnic minorities. South Carolina’s junior Republican senator Tim Scott is of African-American heritage; whilst the Hispanic Senators Ted Cruz of Texas and Marco Rubio of Florida are acknowledged Republican stars.

None of them would have passed muster by the crazy standards of the old Anglo guys in the pointy white sheets – which makes the Left wing equation of these modern Republicans to the Klan even more repugnant. It is a lazy analysis that says the Republicans replaced the Democrats in the South because the latter embraced Civil Rights and the former were happy to mop up the votes of old Southern racists. True, there may have been “dog whistle” elements to Nixon’s famous Southern Strategy back in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. But since then, two key forces have shaped the South.

The first, already mentioned, has been the explosion of ethnic diversity, rendering the old two-way breakdown between Anglo Whites and Blacks meaningless; and the second has been industrialisation and economic dynamism. The old agrarian economy that fostered division between identity groups has been swept away in many areas by a boom in the South’s service economy, manufacturing base, high technology industries, the financial sector, and the auto industry.

The South has changed in so many ways that are underreported, that the Republicans in other parts of the country should be careful not to let liberal clichés force them to wear their electoral success there as a badge of shame.

Read the original article at Trending Central here.