Winning Back America by Ignoring the Parts You Hate

 

Remember a few years back when the media was stocking up on smelling salts over Sarah Palin’s reference to small towns as “the real America?” Truth be told, I was never warm to that formulation. As a matter of crass politics, a winner never disowns huge segments of the electorate. I also disagreed with the idea on principle. I think a lot of us at Ricochet know what Palin was trying to say: that there are parts of the country where earnest patriotism is regarded as gauche. I’m all for attacking that attitude when it specifically arises, but applying it as an undifferentiated slight does a disservice to a big chunk of the country.

Still, if the media’s outrage had to do with the content rather than the speaker, they’d be taking to their fainting couches over the latest column from (West Virginia native!) Michael Tomasky, whose new piece at the Daily Beast drops the mask about how leftists really feel about the South; namely, that it is populated by untermenschen. After referring to the region as a “reactionary, prejudice-infested place” (the evidence for which comes from Louisiana’s rejection of Mary Landrieu in last weekend’s Senate runoff), Tomasky lets fly with an olympian expectoration:

A toothless dog [Landrieu] is a figure of sympathy. A vet who takes pleasure in gassing it is not.

And that is what Louisiana, and almost the entire South, has become. The victims of the particular form of euthanasia it enforces with such glee are tolerance, compassion, civic decency, trans-racial community, the crucial secular values on which this country was founded… I could keep this list going. But I think you get the idea. Practically the whole region has rejected nearly everything that’s good about this country and has become just one big nuclear waste site of choleric, and extremely racialized, resentment. A fact made even sadder because on the whole they’re such nice people! (I truly mean that.)

I don’t know what that last sentence and parenthetical are supposed to be, though a word that the Obama Administration uses to refer to Benjamin Netanyahu comes to mind. If you’re going to flip over the table, don’t bother complimenting the tablecloth.

I’m a native of the Los Angeles area, one of those oases of enlightenment that Tomasky is so fond of (we build community by torching cars after Lakers championships), and I now split my time between the City of Angels and Nashville. I don’t find either place to be the hellscape that Tomasky is describing (and I love them both), but if you compared them side-by-side, his argument wouldn’t look great.

Tolerance? I’ve never seen a gay guy in Tennessee heckled like a smoker in Los Angeles. Compassion and civic decency? Maybe if you’re measuring it by spending on social services (without regard to outcomes). In the South, however, compassion tends to happen organically and often. In L.A., you have to start a non-profit. Trans-racial community? You won’t find more racially balkanized neighborhoods than those in America’s inner cities. Crucial secular values? Even this infrequent churchgoer is going to go ahead and reject that premise.

Tomasky’s argument, such as it is, is that Democrats should just abandon the South — with the exceptions, of course, of the parts he likes. Tomasky will take South Beach, the Research Triangle, and the D.C. suburbs, thank you very much. You knuckle-draggers can have the parts that provide the plurality of men and women in uniform and that boast six of the eight top states for domestic migration.

You can be outraged at Tomasky’s soy latte invective. In fact, I’d encourage it. But don’t make too much noise. This is a man in the midst of trying to persuade his preferred political party to give up on what is now probably the most dynamic region in the country. I say we let the little scamp touch the stove.

There are 33 comments.

  1. 1
  2. 2
  1. Stad Thatcher

    Small town, big city – they’re all the real America. I haven’t heard Palin’s comment in context, but I’m willing to bet her point was what you said and more.

    I won’t pretend to be a spokesman for the South, but like a southern man, I’ll speak my mind anyway. I absolutely, positively, LOVE living in the South for a whole host of reasons (listen to Mona Charen on the Need To Know podcast). There are very few other places I’d rather live. The Colorado Rockies are one place I’d love to live, but lack of huge financial resources precludes that location as a retirement spot. Texas, Tennessee, and maybe Florida are others I’d think about. However, all my old friends live in North Carolina, and it would be very hard to move to a place where it would take me more than a half-day’s drive to get together with them.

    No, I love South Carolina. The cost of living is low, conservative Republicans dominate state and local politics, and the small town I live in is just the right size for me.

    Troy, didn’t you move to Tennessee from LA? Your thoughts?

    • #1
    • December 8, 2014, at 1:52 PM PDT
    • Like
  2. EJHill Podcaster

    In reality, Troy, the two parties have done this for years. Politics, especially on the Presidential level, is so expensive that there are really three Americas: Red, Blue and the place where all the money is going to be spent.

    Both Red and Blue America each has around 225-230 electoral votes. That’s the starting point and everybody claws their way to 270.

    Every time someone complains about both the Electoral College and money in politics reveals themselves to be a fool. Can you imagine the cost of a national campaign where the two candidates actually fought for every single vote?

    • #2
    • December 8, 2014, at 2:01 PM PDT
    • Like
  3. Vance Richards Member

    By not giving Landrieu a forth term the voters are rejecting “nearly everything that’s good about this country”? I never realized just how important she is to this country.

    And as for the “we build community by torching cars after Lakers championships” comment, I am pretty sure you won’t see a repeat of that any time soon.

    • #3
    • December 8, 2014, at 2:01 PM PDT
    • Like
  4. Troy Senik Contributor
    Troy Senik Post author

    EJHill:In reality, Troy, the two parties have done this for years. Politics, especially on the Presidential level, is so expensive that there are really three Americas: Red, Blue and the place where all the money is going to be spent.

    True, but Tomasky’s argument is that they shouldn’t contest anything, not just presidential elections. Moreover, you can make a tactical retreat without slandering an entire part of the country.

    • #4
    • December 8, 2014, at 2:08 PM PDT
    • Like
  5. Troy Senik Contributor
    Troy Senik Post author

    Vance Richards:And as for the “we build community by torching cars after Lakers championships” comment, I am pretty sure you won’t see a repeat of that any time soon.

    No, see, it’s genius … you just give Kobe everything he wants, then find a bunch of guys playing a pick-up game in Long Beach to fill out the roster, then …. something, something, something … championship!

    • #5
    • December 8, 2014, at 2:10 PM PDT
    • Like
  6. EJHill Podcaster

    Troy Senik, Ed.: Moreover, you can make a tactical retreat without slandering an entire part of the country.

    But you can’t really. Not and continue to fund raise there. You have to demsplain and make your abandoned comrades feel superior while doing it.

    • #6
    • December 8, 2014, at 2:14 PM PDT
    • Like
  7. Troy Senik Contributor
    Troy Senik Post author

    Stad:Troy, didn’t you move to Tennessee from LA? Your thoughts?

    I’m still in L.A. a big chunk of the time, but, yes, I’m a Tennessee resident. As for my thoughts … well, I often tell friends that are struggling to start their adult lives in California to search for greener pastures. Golden State residency has a lot of upsides, but it’s become essentially a luxury good. Outside of a few prestige industries, it’s a place to spend wealth, not accrue it.

    • #7
    • December 8, 2014, at 2:14 PM PDT
    • Like
  8. Jon Gabriel, Ed. Chief

    I love that Tomasky is telling Dems “to dump Dixie.” Perhaps he didn’t notice, but Dixie already dumped the Dems.

    • #8
    • December 8, 2014, at 2:15 PM PDT
    • Like
  9. Dave of Barsham Member

    Stad:

    No, I love South Carolina. The cost of living is low, conservative Republicans dominate state and local politics, and the small town I live in is just the right size for me.

    Troy, didn’t you move to Tennessee from LA? Your thoughts?

    I didn’t realize that we had several active ricocheti in the state. If you don’t mind my asking, are you in the lowcountry or further North?

    • #9
    • December 8, 2014, at 2:30 PM PDT
    • Like
  10. Vicryl Contessa Thatcher

    I can attest to the contempt the North feels for the South, having experienced it myself when I lived up yonder for a couple years. Having made the mistake of expressing a conservative viewpoint on something or other, a close friend stated, “Well, you can take the girl out the South, but you can’t take the hick out of the girl.” Like you, Troy, I’m a Californian living in Nashville, so the moniker of “hick” isn’t exactly applicable. Though, I believe hicks exist in different manifestations in every part of the country, including the vaunted city of New York. I ran across several people who had never really been outside of NYC or LA. One such friend, upon driving through upstate NY for the first time, commented “Yo, there’s like cows and s&!% up here! That’s crazy! I can’t believe people live out here.” He was as clueless about the realities of people living in a different milieu as the Southern hicks he so maligned.

    So, please, let the lefties abandon the South. We are very happy without them.

    • #10
    • December 8, 2014, at 3:23 PM PDT
    • Like
  11. Wylee Coyote Member

    The sour grapes, it is strong with this one.

    I’m with you, Troy, I hope the liberals really run with this one.

    • #11
    • December 8, 2014, at 3:34 PM PDT
    • Like
  12. Rightfromthestart Coolidge

    I wish the left would stop telling the world what we think without… you know.. discussing it with us. The whole diatribe consists of what lefts think we think. They offer no proof or quotes to back it up except the fevered rantings of a leftist mind. I’m in the suburbs of the northeast not in the south but they hate me too.

    • #12
    • December 8, 2014, at 3:42 PM PDT
    • Like
  13. Vicryl Contessa Thatcher

    Rightfromthestart:I wish the left would stop telling the world what we think without… youknow.. discussing it with us. The whole diatribe consists of what lefts think we think.They offer no proof or quotes to back it up except the fevered rantings of a leftist mind. I’m in the suburbs of the northeast not in the south but they hate me too.

    No, they have true, reliable sources to back up their assertions, such as: Deliverance, Wrong Turn, and Honey Boo Boo.

    • #13
    • December 8, 2014, at 3:48 PM PDT
    • Like
  14. Dave of Barsham Member

    Sadly, I’m usually a little too touchy about what people say about Southerners like myself. However, the fact that this past election has a lefty ranting like some dejected teenager that just wants to just leave us all alone in our “backwardness” makes me all warm and fuzzy inside.

    • #14
    • December 8, 2014, at 3:53 PM PDT
    • Like
  15. Cow Girl Thatcher

    I grew up in the Mountain West. It is large, and the population is small and scattered. I felt totally insulted in the 60’s when the enviros started to migrate into our area and tell us how to “save” our land. As though we, being farmers and ranchers, didn’t have a stake in keeping our natural resources from being destroyed. Or that we couldn’t possibly cherish the exquisite surroundings in which our grandparents and our parents had chosen to live their lives.

    As an adult, I spent a decade living in the midst of the East Coast “Big City” corridor. Wow, it was like I’d moved to another planet. There is no recognition at all that people outside of that region can even think or do for themselves. I got the impression that if you choose to live anywhere but one of those big metropolis zones, that you were clearly mentally impaired and really needed all the “smart” people to run your life. They had no idea why anyone would deliberately choose to live in a rural place, or small-town, or even moderately-sized city. It was quite illuminating.

    Go ahead and let them write off the south, or the west. Those are the states that are generating new jobs and increasing in population.

    • #15
    • December 8, 2014, at 4:32 PM PDT
    • Like
  16. Randy Weivoda Moderator

    Vicryl Contessa:I can attest to the contempt the North feels for the South, having experienced it myself when I lived up yonder for a couple years.

    I wouldn’t make too broad a generalization about the North. I live pretty far north — about 160 miles shy of the Canadian border — and I only know one person who has a even a semi-disparaging opinion of the South.

    • #16
    • December 8, 2014, at 6:49 PM PDT
    • Like
  17. EThompson Inactive

    I’m a native of the Los Angeles area, one of those oases of enlightenment that Tomasky is so fond of (we build community by torching cars after Lakers championships), and I now split my time between the City of Angels and Nashville.

    *sigh*

    Really Troy, the Lakers are sooo 90s; it’s all about being on the ice at Staples. :)

    • #17
    • December 8, 2014, at 7:19 PM PDT
    • Like
  18. Vicryl Contessa Thatcher

    Randy Weivoda:

    Vicryl Contessa:I can attest to the contempt the North feels for the South, having experienced it myself when I lived up yonder for a couple years.

    I wouldn’t make too broad a generalization about the North. I live pretty far north — about 160 miles shy of the Canadian border — and I only know one person who has a even a semi-disparaging opinion of the South.

    I should have specified the Northeast. The anti-South sentiment seems to be more pervasive on the coasts.

    • #18
    • December 8, 2014, at 7:23 PM PDT
    • Like
  19. Mountie Member

    This is, in fact, tragic. I was born and raised in the south, my family moved to Canada when I was in high school, I attended university up there and got my first real job in New York City. I fell in love with the Big Apple. A love affair that continues to this day. I left NYC and moved to Los Angeles. Oh well, we’re all entitled to one mistake in life. I moved from LA back to the south and have lived there ever since. My work has carried me to San Francisco repeatedly and I’ve consumated a love affair with that city as well. Ditto Chicago. In fact, there are only two states in the union that I haven’t been to: both of the Dakotas. I carry my beliefs and politics wherever I go (lifelong conservative) and find sympathic and “antagonistic” attitudes regardless of where I am. This is a wonderful country, all of it (not sure yet about the Dakotas but I’ll post a comment when I get around to seeing them). To have someone disparage and dismiss such a large section is tragic.

    • #19
    • December 8, 2014, at 8:16 PM PDT
    • Like
  20. AUMom Member

    I have lived most of my life in the South. Except for the 8 year stretch in Louisville, it’s all been in Tennessee (west, east, and mid), Alabama (north), Louisiana (Lake Charles), and now South Carolina (Greenville). During my time here, there are compassionate folks, bigots, and those who fall somewhere in between.

    It was in Louisville, which is mostly Midwest, that we saw the biggest racial divide. We moved back to north Alabama for our children’s educations. Huntsville probably has the biggest proportion of rocket scientists of any place outside of Cocoa Beach. Smart folks tend to marry smart folks and have bright children. The school systems in the area reflected that.

    I cannot hide my roots once I begin to speak. I am able to say a one-syllable word but I have to think about it. Wherever we travel, museum docents think we are a bubble or two off plumb until we ask pertinent questions. When I was in Boston in September, the guy at the ticket counter asked if we had internet in South Carolina.

    If the Democratic party wants to write us off, more power to them. I still vote and I don’t believe I voted for one of the presidential candidates yet.

    By now, I am used to being considered backward or uneducated. I don’t particularly like it but I know the assumption is far more indicative of northerners than of me.

    • #20
    • December 8, 2014, at 9:19 PM PDT
    • Like
  21. MACHO GRANDE' (aka - Chri… Coolidge

    I live in Vermont, but keep thinking about moving to North Carolina. If I do that one thing, then Bernie Sanders no longer “represents” me in Congress. Which would almost make it worth it, just for that.

    If it’s any consolation, Vermont’s demographics are trending like much of Europe’s: Very low birthrate, a significantly higher ratio of retired to working people (which has the neat effect of keeping the unemployment rate low, making the Democrats who drive the bus here simultaneously gleeful that they have something to point to, and head-scratchingly stupid when tax revenues continue to miss budget targets in the last several months), and is frequently rated one of the worst states to do business in.

    1/3 of our state budget comes from federal dollars.

    In other words, we’re a dependency state. Or in one, if that makes it clearer. It is consistently nauseating.

    • #21
    • December 9, 2014, at 4:05 AM PDT
    • Like
  22. Brian Clendinen Member

    Great strategy, ignore the region that is over a third of the population ( took Maryland and put it into the NE were it belongs) of the population of the U.S., and has twice the population of the NE. This must be part of his job application to work for the White house.

    • #22
    • December 9, 2014, at 5:42 AM PDT
    • Like
  23. Randy Weivoda Moderator

    AUMom:Wherever we travel, museum docents think we are a bubble or two off plumb until we ask pertinent questions. When I was in Boston in September, the guy at the ticket counter asked if we had internet in South Carolina.

    When I was in high school (early-1980’s) my English teacher talked about a trip he took to New York City. He said someone asked him if we had roads and cars in Minnesota. Maybe that person thought Little House on the Prairie was a drama of present-day Minnesota.

    • #23
    • December 9, 2014, at 6:44 AM PDT
    • Like
  24. Patrick McClure Member

    “I have lived most of my life in the South. Except for the 8 year stretch in Louisville”

    Ouch AUMom, that hurts. We’re south of the Mason-Dixon line, even if only barely. Keep that talk up and I’ll root for the Tide in the next Iron Bowl. As to the subject, we here in KY are written off as toothless Hillbillies. When my wife went to Kawleefornya after HS graduation, her cousins asked her if that was the first time she had worn shoes.

    • #24
    • December 9, 2014, at 7:11 AM PDT
    • Like
  25. No Caesar Thatcher

    Vicryl Contessa:

    Randy Weivoda:

    Vicryl Contessa:I can attest to the contempt the North feels for the South, having experienced it myself when I lived up yonder for a couple years.

    I wouldn’t make too broad a generalization about the North. I live pretty far north — about 160 miles shy of the Canadian border — and I only know one person who has a even a semi-disparaging opinion of the South.

    I should have specified the Northeast. The anti-South sentiment seems to be more pervasive on the coasts.

    I live in NH and echo Randy. While the northeast urban area can be incredibly blinkered, there are plenty of small-town areas throughout outer New England and upstate New York who feel more in common with the South than with the Bos-NY-Phile-DC Corridor.

    • #25
    • December 9, 2014, at 7:16 AM PDT
    • Like
  26. AUMom Member

    Patrickb63:“I have lived most of my life in the South. Except for the 8 year stretch in Louisville”

    Ouch AUMom, that hurts. We’re south of the Mason-Dixon line, even if only barely. Keep that talk up and I’ll root for the Tide in the next Iron Bowl. As to the subject, we here in KY are written off as toothless Hillbillies. When my wife went to Kawleefornya after HS graduation, her cousins asked her if that was the first time she had worn shoes.

    Oh, Patrick, I was not clear. I do apologize. Kentucky is a lot Southern and Louisville is strictly Southern during the 10 days of Derby Week.

    Louisville is a large enough city to incorporate all the comings and goings of its residents. Maybe that was the vibe I felt back in the early 80s. I went from small town to the city.

    We moved to Louisville in March of 81. Auburn was already in its second phase of spring—the tulips and daffodils had already given way to azaleas and dogwoods. When we moved, Louisville was thirty degrees colder, not even crocuses had shown color, the mineworkers went on strike and were shooting at folks across I65, Lent and Passover took over the groceries (small town South is virtually all Protestant), and Derby news kicked off. AUDad and I were stunned.

    During our time there, I loved every morsel of the above, well, except, maybe the strikes of the mineworkers. It was a good eight years.

    We ended up moving back to Alabama because AUDaughter was close to starting school and I didn’t relish the idea of her being on a bus at 6am and getting home at 4:30.

    And, please, by all that is good in America, do not root for the infidels in Iron Bowl.

    • #26
    • December 9, 2014, at 7:35 AM PDT
    • Like
  27. Patrick McClure Member

    AUMom- My threat was hollow. I should have no reason to dislike Alabama, (the U, not the state) but for some reason I do. So I couldn’t really have rooted for them. And the JCPS forced busing plan was horrible. No offense was really taken, but it is fun to tease.

    • #27
    • December 9, 2014, at 10:22 AM PDT
    • Like
  28. Stad Thatcher

    lesserson:

    Stad:

    No, I love South Carolina. The cost of living is low, conservative Republicans dominate state and local politics, and the small town I live in is just the right size for me.

    Troy, didn’t you move to Tennessee from LA? Your thoughts?

    I didn’t realize that we had several active ricocheti in the state. If you don’t mind my asking, are you in the lowcountry or further North?

    We live in Aiken, S.C. Go to the Ricochet Meetup website, and read some of the posts. In addition, my wife and I met some other SC folks on the National Review cruise this past November.

    • #28
    • December 9, 2014, at 4:17 PM PDT
    • Like
  29. Stad Thatcher

    Jon Gabriel, Ed.:I love that Tomasky is telling Dems “to dump Dixie.” Perhaps he didn’t notice, but Dixie already dumped the Dems.

    Excellent point! It just takes longer to dump senators . . .

    • #29
    • December 9, 2014, at 4:18 PM PDT
    • Like
  30. Pugshot Member

    @AUMom – I’m a Yankee born and bred, but my late father was from Alabama (I’ve got lots of “kin” there), and he was U of A ’40, so, with apologies to you: “ROLL TIDE!” [I do have one cousin who went to Auburn, though.]

    • #30
    • December 10, 2014, at 8:19 AM PDT
    • Like
  1. 1
  2. 2