Sunday, December 16, 2007

Song of the South, Lament of a Nation.

For some of us there are times when the tendency to reduce complex phenomena to simple causes over rides more sophisticated analysis. With that in mind, I submit that over the last few decades the south has played an especially large role in the degradation of national politics. In making my case for the south's role in this "degradation", it might be helpful if I first establish some evidence relating to the putative scope of the south's influence on national politics. To that end, I offer that for twenty of the last twenty eight years, by my count, southerners, two from each party, have occupied the White House. From Jimmy Carter to two terms of Bill Clinton and three from The Bush family, the results have been, by common consensus, less than scintillating. In more recent times the results
have been nothing short of appalling.

I offer as some sort of disclaimer, that though I no longer live there, I too am from the south, born in the erstwhile capital of The Confederacy, Richmond, Virginia, raised there and in a small town, a village really, just west of Charlottesville, famous in some parts as the home of The University of Virginia, the proudest creation of the nation's third President, Virginian, Thomas Jefferson.

Years ago, political analyst Michael Lind wrote extensively about the south's inordinate and damaging influence on the conduct of national politics, and in the
roughly fifteen years since he made his initial observations little has changed. In fact, the trend seems to have only intensified as a plethora of mountebanks such as former White House occupant Bill Clinton, our sitting President, and presidential wannabee Mike Huckabee, a proud proponent of creationism, collectively pollute national politics with a combination of sloth, stupidity, and retrograde thought that would make an average high school history student blanche.

The demographics of the south are likely at least partly responsible for that region's overweening influence. More people have settled in the south over the last few decades than any other region in the country, and unfortunately, rather than raise the consciousness of the region regarding such issues as global warming, gun control, abortion, the place of religion in the public sphere, etc. etc., the newer citizens of the south seem to have been subsumed by the region's longstanding and infamous backwardness.

Another contributor to the south's special power may be due to the dominance of the visual medium as our primary means of mass communication. National political campaigns are determined by the vagaries of the boob tube, where complex thinking and nuance have never played well. In such an environment, it is no wonder that the sort of folksy and fatuous drivel of the sort profferred by the Clintons and Bushes, and lately Mike Hick, er Huckabee, finds a large and eager audience. This in turn influences other political players, who ought to know better, to dumb down their own message and approach to politics. This phenomenon may have something to say about why there is so little variation in thought within each of the respective political parties as compared to times past. Alternatively, if there are substantial gradations in thinking in the two parties, which I doubt, the generally dumbed down approach to politics simply stifles any forward thinking that might dare to manifest.

It would be hard to find, at least in any advanced nation, a political class that is more behind the curve than the collection of half wits who occupy the seats of power in Washington. Where in the halls of government is there even a vaguely intelligent energy policy being crafted? Once again, we must turn, in the manner of one facing the Medusa, towards the south. Our energy policy, such as it is, is spearheaded, I use that term advisedly, by a failed Texas oilman who uses armed force to attempt to control the planet's fast dwindling oil reserves. That is the essence of our nation's energy policy and no area of the country has more to say about that than Dixie.

As I write this entry I am aware that my thesis is, to some extent, flawed, and that the question of regional influences on national trends in politics is indeed quite complex. However, in the meantime, while I ponder the issue more deeply, don't be surprised if our next President possesses a bit of a draaaawl and has a special fondness for fried foods, and of course, Jaeeesus.

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