Wednesday, July 31, 2013

In Defense of the South

So, we have the latest liberal craze - telling southern/conservative states how to run their elections. If you're able to bear the sanctimony, see EJ Dionne.

Look, I get that southern states have a less than stellar record on the pursuit of participatory democracy. I get that racism remains a real problem. But I also (unlike many liberals) get that we live in the 21st century. We have an African-American President. We have minority representatives, both Democrat and Republican, serving southern states. We have come a long, long way. In this sense, subverting state rights is just another example of the arrogant condescension that typifies much left wing sentiment towards the south. In DC, I hear it all the time; it's rarely pleasant and it's never profound. I've been told that ''people in the south are stupid'', or ''inherently racist'', or... you get the point. Yet, aside from the self-evident idiocy of these statements, this abuse carries destructive consequences. 

For one, the hate helps to foster a northern elite v redneck cultural divide. Also, albeit slightly, it weakens the common understanding of an American national identity. By effectively telling Americans who live in the south that they lack the mental faculties or moral character to develop their own laws, liberals are pushing the worst instincts of a governing paternalism. And when, for example, liberals argue that requiring IDs at a polling station is the equivalent to a war on democracy, they're embracing utter absurdity. Are we really to believe that the acts of drawing money at a bank or flying on a plane, are more sanctified than voting? It's nuts.
           There's also a pretty simple way through here. If a voter lacks the financial ability to procure an ID - the state can provide one for him/her free of charge. To pursue such a course would be to avoid the risk of a voting nobility (IE - those who can afford an ID card), whilst at the same time ensuring integrity in elections.

But let's be clear. Ultimately, this liberal interference isn't about protecting minority rights. Rather, it's about restricting state democracy when that democracy separates from liberal ideology. It's the flowing result of a dynamic of authoritarianism evident in a multitude of areas - see criminal justice and gun laws for two such examples. Yet, this dynamic also occurs at the Federal level - where liberals seem to believe that balanced power need only apply to conservatives (who tend to be more heavily represented in southern states). An understanding to which the President also unashamedly subscribes.

We need to challenge this arrogance. After all, when it comes to the facts, liberal interferers are left with very little ground to stand on. For a start, voting right protections are still rightly enshrined in Federal law. But what about the record of southern states in other areas? For example, on the economy. Here, as Democratic states and cities wallow in black holes of debt, many conservative states are flourishing

On a more serious final note, with southern states continuing to provide the core of American military recruitment, perhaps northern liberals should pause before they claim that those same citizens cannot be trusted with democratic protection?


  1. Ok, I take issues with a number of points and characterizations in this post.

    For one, I don't know many liberals calling Southerners "stupid", but whatever that's not important here. The "inherently racists" label is something that I think nips at something coherent, but is ultimately a stupid statement that I hear far too often from liberals, so on this we agree. I think a more appropriate approach would be to explain that Southern culture has a dark history that has still spilled over into the 21st century. The rampant stereotypes of minorities, and the blatant mischaracterizations are just some examples. Yes, we as a country today are very different from the 1960s, but culturally tendencies and prejudices aren't just something that disappear because the government tried to change its policy with regard to race. Racism is still alive and well all over this country, but particularly in the South. It's just not seen in state government legislation, mainly because the federal government took action in the 1960s to get rid of such legislation. Living in Georgia for a year (I go to Georgia Tech) has only exposed me to some of this racism. Yes, this "evidence" is anecdotal, but my experiences have affected me greatly none the less.

    Secondly, most Conservatives don't really understand objections to voter ID laws, and I think your statement that "Are we really to believe that the acts of drawing money at a bank or flying on a plane, are more sanctified than voting? It's nuts" exemplifies this misunderstanding. The fact is, we as a country DO look at our right to vote as some sort of "holy" right, a natural right if you will. The belief of being able to take part in the democratic process in this country without any arbitrary hinderances is the life and blood of the Republican Idealism that flowed from the American Revolution. Although the Federalists in some respects were wary of this democratic and egalitarian tendency, as they wanted a "dis-interested" government that could tame the interest and passion within the US (Madison in Federalist Paper 10), they could nothing to stop the surge of democracy and voting that was to take place during the early 19th century. Legal barriers to voting (property qualifications as an example) were torn down, and suffrage was expanded to thousands. Although it took many years to include women and black minorities in this process, the right to vote is still considered the life and blood of our political process. Voter ID laws in my eyes are just arbitrary restraints that create barriers to voting. The fact is, voter fraud is just a delusion (look at empirical studies) created by conservative talk show hosts and the like, and these laws are being considered merely to try and exclude certain social groups from the voting process. That to me is true arrogance and goes against the spirit of this country.

    Some of your critique on the Democratic Party with regard to voter ID might be relevant, but a lot liberal objections to voter ID not only have to do with minority rights, but the very nature on what it means to vote.

    Plus your last two paragraphs I viewed as cheap shots. Various liberal states are doing well economically and growing at a fast rate, independent of tax policy.

    1. Hey man, thanks for the comment.

      On the racism point - I hear you, but surely we should trust state legislatures to enact their own laws and then, if they cross the line, act against them with the full force of the department of justice? I'm uncomfortable with a prior restraint style Federal system in the 21st century.

      On Voter ID's, some fraud exists - if we care so much about our democracy - why shouldn't we want to confront it? In addition, if IDs are available free of charge then from my perspective there's no undue burden on voting.

      On the economic results, I think that you're ignoring the importance of looming collapse of pension/health care funds in those states(even Oregon -, also, the top 5 from the MSN list (apart from Oregon) are all dominated by Republicans at the state level.

  2. On point 1, yes that could very well be an option. I myself believe that most racism in this country is implicit, and it won't be reflected in state legislation any time soon, if at all. So I do is some sense agree with you on state rights and importance of federalism with regard to this subject. My general point was that SOME liberal fears aren't completely unjustified.

    On point 2, my main point is that voter fraud, which has and always will exist to some small degree, isn't a big problem to warrant the implementation of a voter ID system (which I believe to be ultimately arbitrary). The fact is, myth about voter fraud are perpetuated every day, and to implement a system that will affect certain social groups in unequal ways is undemocratic to me.

    Point 3, I'm not saying that Republican States are doing poorly, or that Liberal states are doing better. Unfortunately my first comment wasn't clear enough, so I only have myself to blame on this. My main point is that the economic conditions of various states in the US, in my view, reflect structural economic changes that have been taking place the past 20-30 years, not so much state tax policy. For example, one of the main factors that has affected Michigan in recent years has been the decay of the US industrial sector, and not state policy (although I'm sure you can point instances of state incompetence). While you certainly have a point about unfunded liabilities that certain democratic states are facing, the big thing to focus on is that they are, as you said, "looming" problems. State legislatures can still make changes to these liabilities that would make implementation possible.

    Anyway, I should mention that I agree with you with regards to Liberals and Democrats treating the South unfairly, To me, it's just like Republicans and Conservatives throw around the word "Northern elite" far too often. I guess that's how politics works.

    1. Okay I hear you. I'll try and read more about voter fraud. Good points on the economic side - though, I have to say that I'm highly doubtful those legislatures will be able to address the challenges they face. And you're right on ''Northern elite'' - I guess it's a bit hypocritical of me to use that terminology when I'm arguing 'In defense of the south'.