Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Rednecks, White Power, and Blue States

I'd like to welcome readers of the Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler and Hugh Hewitt.

I’ve run into it again. A “progressive” site (which I will not name, let alone link) has gone off on an extended rant about Southern racism, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness – while, of course, using terms like ‘toothless”, “inbred”, “ignorant”, “stupid”, and “redneck” to describe these benighted people. Woe, woe is the South, perpetual home of hate, racism, and crimes against the marginalized.

If you have read anything here, you can probably guess where I am going with this. Let me add a little personal background to give you some perspective.

I am from a “middle state”, a Mid-West bastion of farming where I was raised amidst the tall corn. Being in a sort of border area along the Mason-Dixon line, I heard the stereotypes of Southern yokels, but never really understood it. After joining the Army, which has many a Southern man in its ranks, I was even more nonplussed by the stereotypes I routinely saw. I lived for many years in North Carolina and loved the land, the weather, and the people.

Then I moved to Michigan for college. The reaction of born-and-bred Northerners to the fact that I had lived in the South was jaw-dropping to me. I was asked if I (as a non-Southerner by birth) was threatened by the Ku Klux Klan; if I could understand “those people” and their accents; if I had any trouble with how dirty it was in the South; and a million more. Even better were the assumptions made by people who mistakenly thought I was born in the South, including a PoliSci TA from Oregon who assumed I learned to drive on a tractor and the Brooklynite who asked me, in all seriousness, how long it took me to get used to wearing shoes when I joined the Army.

I later moved to Minnesota where the misconceptions were, if possible, even worse. After a decade of living in the frozen tundra, I escaped back to the South, this time to Atlanta. Deeper Thought, my wife, is a Michigan native and her parents want to move nearer to the Airborne Philosophy Squad (Aristotlean). Even they, though, are plagued with the doubts and fears of someone who only ventures to the sunny side of the Mason-Dixon for rare visits to Disney World. They worry about the Klan, they worry about ignorant people, they worry about no jobs. In short, they reflect the constant Northern worry about the South.

As I mentioned above, these attitudes are very visible in many “progressives” from the coasts, the Mid-West, and the Northern plains. Indeed, the entire idea that Republicans are inherently racist seems to stem from the fact that Southerners routinely vote Republican (well, now). This has taken on a life of its own in the last few years, so that a simple perusal of liberal bloggers will quickly reveal the following prejudices; Southerners are ignorant/stupid, inbred, weak-willed, violent, and racist; Republicans are the same, and hate the poor, too! This myth (for it is, indeed, a myth) is so commonly accepted by the Left and the media that when Howard Dean openly accuses Republicans of being racist the press does not ask him to prove it, but simply wonders how Conservatives will try to 'deflect' this issue.

Let’s look at some history. The fact that the South was overwhelmingly a bastion of the Democratic Party after the Civil War is so well documented as to be common knowledge. Even today, over 140 year after the end of the Civil War there are many political positions that have never been held by anyone but Democrats since the end of Reconstruction. If having Southern votes is indicative of being a ‘racist’ party, does this indict the Democrats?

Certainly not, we are told. The myth is that the Republican Party pulled Southerners into the conservative fold by using the 1964 Civil Rights Act and “code words” to become the party of White Segregation, yanking the deeply-racist South into their orbit. Of course, this ignores the fact that the Democratic Party was very supportive of Jim Crow laws until the mid-1960’s, showing themselves as openly racist. It also ignores the fact that a much higher percentage of Republicans voted for the Civil Rights Act than did Democrats. In other words, the Republican Party had stronger support for the Civil Rights Act and, until about 1970 the Democratic Party was the one supporting Jim Crow laws in the South. This makes the myth that racism was the motivation for Southerners to start voting Republican very hard to support.

The concept that Southern voters became Republicans because of race is, indeed, a myth. In actuality, the Democratic Party drifted further and further to the Left, forcing many of the people who supported the New Deal (and the children of these supporters) to vote Republican. When the 1972 Democratic Party was called the party of “Acid, Abortion, and Amnesty” it was a fairly accurate portrayal of the direction they had taken. The Democratic Party had embraced the radicals that came with the anti-war demonstrators, often tacitly including the domestic terrorists that were on the fringes of such groups, and were advocating socialist policies that the average American found distasteful. The surge in violent crime around the nation was perceived (correctly) as being caused by the drug culture, driving more voters to the ‘law and order’ focused Republicans and away from the Democrats, who were visibly supported by the members of the drug culture.

In the 1970’s the serious disruptions of the economy were seen as an outgrowth of the New Deal and the Great Society, both very intrusive redistribution schemes with an emphasis on central control by the government. The Democratic approach of raising taxes and enlarging such programs (seen as a cause of the problems to begin with) contrasted poorly with the Republican position that tax cuts and smaller government would lead to prosperity. Another heavy blow was the Carter presidency. Although Carter created a Department of Energy and formulated a national energy policy, the oil shocks and steep price increases in fuel were seen as concrete failures of Democratic policies. Combined with Carter’s ineffectual response to this energy crisis, economic factors drove more voters to the Republican Party.

So the migration of voters from the Democratic party (with its support for Jim Crow laws) to the Republican Party (and its support of the Civil Rights Act) has very little, if anything at all, to do with race and is more about crime, taxes, and (oddly) politics. This trend was believed to be so obvious by Conservatives that they expressed it openly, including in the Seminal 1969 book The Emerging Republican Majority, where the argument was that if Republicans simply didn’t change Southerners would be forced to vote for them in reaction to the radicalization of the Democrats. But the question remains….

Are Southerners racist, or not?

Let’s start with the South. For some time now the FBI has been tracking hate crimes. These are broken down by state and type of offense. If we look at racially-motivated hate crimes, we see something, well, that goes against the conventional wisdom. According to the 2004 statistics, the top four states for race-based hate crimes are;

New Jersey
Michigan
Montana
Minnesota

That is a bit of a surprise, isn’t it? Let’s look at the bottom four states for race-based hate crimes. They are;

Louisiana
Georgia
Mississippi
Alabama

I must admit, I expected the results to be counter to the commonly held ideas, but this was a shock to me. Especially when I looked at the breakdown of numbers and realized that when you compare state to state, per capita, hate crimes are FIFTY TIMES more likely in Minnesota than in Alabama! Texas has 1/6th the race-based hate crime rate of Michigan, racial hate crimes are more than twice as likely in Massachusetts as opposed to West Virginia, and North Carolina has 1/3rd the incidence of racially-motivated hate crime of California.

When you look beyond race-based hate crimes and look at general hate crime statistics (which include sexual orientation and religion as categories of crime) these surprising trends remain; Minnesota has nine times the per capita incidence of hate crimes of the state of Alabama, Massachusetts has three times the race-baiting, gay-basing, and anti-Semitism of Georgia, and California has twice the hate crimes (again, per capita) of Kentucky. In short, the “Red States” are, in general, home to fewer race-baiters, Jew-haters, and gay-bashers than the “Blue States”; in particular, crime statistics show that there is much less race-based crime in the South than in other regions of the country, especially the Northeast and the upper Mid-West.

What about Republicans as a whole? Are they racist? Or, at least, aren’t they ‘more racist’ than Democrats?

I learned about this study recently whilst listening to that bulwark of Conservative punditry, NPR. In a political contest where the Republican candidate is Black, 25% of Republican voters will ‘switch loyalties’ and vote for a White Democrat. This seems pretty damning, perhaps a clear indicator that Republicans are racist. The study goes on, however, to show that when the Democratic candidate is Black 38% of Democrat voters will vote, instead, for a White Republican. In other words, 50% more Democrat voters will change party if their ‘own’ candidate is Black than will Republicans in the same instance. This seems to show that if Republicans are racist, Democrats are more racist.

Another study showed that Republicans would give less money to victims of the Katrina disaster than would Democrats. No surprise there. Also, the study showed that while Republicans were most likely to make aid even, regardless of circumstances. The Democrats, on the other hand, varied the amount of aid they would award based on race, but not the way you think; in general, Democrats would give Whites more money, up to twice the average relief, while giving Blacks, Asians, and Hispanics less. In other words, while Republicans were ‘color-blind’, Democrats tended to give more, maybe much more, to Whites. This echoes another study done by the same group that showed that Republicans have stricter prison sentences across the board while Democrats gave much longer prison terms and steeper fines to Blacks while reducing the penalties paid by Whites.

What does the evidence show? Northern states have a higher instance of race-based hate crimes than Southern states (indeed, “Blue states” have a higher instance of hate crimes overall than do “Red states”). Democrats are more likely to change their votes to ‘avoid’ a Black candidate than Republicans. And Democrats tend to give greater rewards to White disaster victims and greater punishments to Black criminals, while Republicans are ‘color-blind’ in both cases.

So much for the “reality based community”.

UPDATE: Look what a prominent Lefty blogger was kind enough to put up today.

UPDATE to the update: The HuffPo entry has been edited, but a screenshot of the original is at Michelle's.

ANOTHER Update: I have some followup information on this topic here.

A LATE ADDITION of another article on a related subject is here.

1 comment:

Anita said...

Excellent post. It was quite refreshing to run across this today. I was helping my kids do a little research on stereotypes - specifically (because it's a topic that affects us so personally) the southern stereotype. Thanks!