Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Where Sympathetic Observers See A Problem, Rush Limbaugh Sees A Plot

It's funny, the uses of isolation. Sometimes it's very helpful to be isolated, but it can be crazy-making too.

I'm very pleased George Packer employs Wilbur J. Cash in his wonderful New Yorker article about the growing isolation of the South. Cash's book explained the political and social attitudes of the South in the period between the War Between The States and World War II better than any observer has ever done:
For a century after losing the Civil War, the South was America’s own colonial backwater—“not quite a nation within a nation, but the next thing to it,” W. J. Cash wrote in his classic 1941 study, “The Mind of the South.”

...And, as the South became more Republican, it became more like the rest of America. Following the upheavals of the civil-rights years, the New South was born: the South of air-conditioned subdivisions, suburban office parks, and Walmart. Modernization was paved with federal dollars, in the form of highways, military bases, space centers, and tax breaks for oil drilling.

...Now the South is becoming isolated again. Every demographic and political trend that helped to reĆ«lect Barack Obama runs counter to the region’s self-definition: the emergence of a younger, more diverse, more secular electorate, with a libertarian bias on social issues and immigration; the decline of the exurban life style, following the housing bust; the class politics, anathema to pro-business Southerners, that rose with the recession; the end of America’s protracted wars, with cuts in military spending bound to come. The Solid South speaks less and less for America and more and more for itself alone.

...An estrangement between the South and the rest of the country would bring out the worst in both—dangerous insularity in the first, smug self-deception in the second.
For a hundred years, Southern isolation fostered noble resistance to neo-colonial military interventions in Latin America, and to the clarion call for European 'war to end all wars.' At the same time, in alliance with the Midwest, the isolated South bred ultimately-disastrous American isolationism. Isolation was a double-edged sword.

When Cash was writing, about 1940, he could see a growing danger: what kind of revolution would the coming cotton agriculture mechanization cause among all the soon-to-be-unemployed black sharecroppers? It made him fret. What would it mean for the South? Cash didn't live to see the result. What happened, of course, was the vast black migration to the Northern cities, and, in time, the modernization that transformed the South.

These days, I suspect the isolation is more 'meta' than the isolation of old. It's not a physical isolation, in these days of laptops and the Internet. It's more a product of suburbanization. It's just way, way too comfortable sitting in front of the TV set, listening to FOX News and ESPN all the time. Like suburbanites who joined the Tea Party in recent years around the country, Southerners, and those who think like them, readily misinterpret what is happening.

Rush Limbaugh, for example. He seems to think Packer's article is an elite roadmap regarding Obama's intentions. Where Packer sees a problem, Limbaugh sees a plot:
Barack Obama, if you'll note, really never talks about plans and proposals to solve problems. What he does is position his political opponents as the enemy.

...Eliminating them, reducing their numbers, depressing them, dispiriting them, getting them out of office, humiliating, embarrassing them, caricaturing them, character assassination, whatever it takes. The primary focus is to make sure that whenever a conservative speaks, everybody laughs at him.

...That's what was happening here in Obama's presser, the debt limit, he was blaming the Republicans, and he means conservatives for this, but he'll get rid of the Republican Party, too. The one thing the Republican moderates don't get is who this guy is.

...Now, I've got this story here, and it's not just in Washington. I have a story here from the New Yorker, by George Packer. "Southern Discomfort: The Political Isolation of the American South," is the title of this piece. And what this is about is a very approving story from the New Yorker about the attempt here to isolate the South. To make the South an island unto itself, made up of oddballs and kooks and weirdos who have to be ignored, who also have to be defeated.

...And this is being done by design. They're trying to isolate the South again because the South is conservative, and it's not just the New Yorker.

...There is no effort to solve a problem. There's no effort to get the deficit under control. There's no real effort to control spending. We're going to grant amnesty. We're going to open the border. We're going to do all these things the left and Big Government types have wanted to do for the longest time. We're gonna make moves on guns. They finally got health care done, and now we're on the march. So wherever there's opposition to it, we're gonna take it out.

Of course not by the argument. They can't take us out via argument. They'll never win an argument with us on ideas. They're taking us out via smear.

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