The Man from Yazoo City

 

Up today, my Uncommon Knowledge interview with the governor of Mississippi, Ricochet’s own Haley Barbour. Just go to the right hand side of the Ricochet homepage, scroll down until you see a picture of the governor and me, and then click. You’ll be transported to National Review Online, where Uncommon Knowledge first appears.

Beginning with tomorrow’s segment, the governor starts throwing punches. Today, though, he and I engage in a kind of warmup round, discussing his political origins. Which are pretty amazing. Haley Barbour chose to become a Republican activist at a time when Republicans accounted for only six percent of Mississippi voters.

What comes through in this segment, I think, is, well, flavor. By the time these five minutes are over, you know you’re listening to a man who’s tough and determined, intensely Southern, and utterly without pretense or guile. Also–and this is more important in a politician, I believe, than is generally realized–a sense of sheer enjoyment. Contrast, for example, our current chief executive, who less than two years into his job appears testy and petulant, with FDR and Reagan, who manifestly loved their work. Haley Barbour is in the Reagan school. He’s having a high time.

After you click through to NRO to take a look, be sure to return to Ricochet to let us know what you think–or as Gov. Barbour would put it, Ya’ll come back.

There are 7 comments.

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  1. Profile Photo Member
    @DuaneOyen

    I have the podcast from National review’s RSS feed. Unfortunately, the Thomas Sowell podcast link for last week still doesn’t work; I e-mailed them about it. Some day, perhaps!

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  2. Profile Photo Member
    @NathanielWright

    I very much enjoyed this interview segment, and was glad that you had some discussion of the “Southern Strategy” and the shift of the South from Democratic to Republican.

    I do think that his answer on the issue is a little “soft” overall. No disrespect for the Governor intended, but discussions of race issues and political parties deserve more discussion than he gave in his response. I am not quite convinced that the abandonment of the Democrats by the South was purely due to a new generation of politicians. I am certain there are many Southern Republicans for whom race is not at all an issue, but I am equally certain that there are those for whom it is.

    There is still an echo of Calhoun in the language of some Southern, and even non-Southern, conservative politicians. One cannot be Calhounian — even in agreeing with Calhoun’s valid arguments regarding liberty etc. — without discussing race and the legacy of slavery in the South.

    To be fair, your interview isn’t focused on the shift in Southern politics, but that would be a good topic for a future series.

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  3. Profile Photo Member
    @AaronMiller

    “…and the United States became more like the South” There’s probably some truth in that, but I’m having trouble spotting it.

    It’s difficult for me, as a Southerner born in 1980, to imagine the transition y’all describe. I’ve always known Southerners to be across-the-line conservatives, aside from inner city folks. Though cultural remnants of segregation aren’t uncommon, it’s hard to believe that issue alone could so dominate political affiliations.

    I suspect the Democratic Party’s abandonment of blue-collar workers as their dominant political image had as much to do with it. But unions were never popular down here. I’ll trust in the judgment of the folks who lived through that change.

    I was able to watch all the Thomas Sowell videos except the last, which stopped loading halfway through. I just assumed that was Peter’s way of telling me, “We’re past that! Move on to Barbour, already.”

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    @PeterRobinson

    Nathaniel and Aaron: You guys raise very, very important points. Any deep discussion of the so-called Southern Strategy lay outside what I was trying to do in my interview with Gov. Barbour, but he’s has to confront the charge. As does every self-respecting Republican.

    I myself am entirely persuaded by the work of Prof. Gerard Alexander of the University of Virginia. Since this represents a topic unto itself, I just put up a new, separate post about this, including a link to an article by Prof. Alexander. If you don’t know his work, you’ve just got to take a look.

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  5. Profile Photo Inactive
    @MichaelTee
    Peter Robinson: Also–and this is more important in a politician, I believe, than is generally realized–a sense of sheer enjoyment. Contrast, for example, our current chief executive, who less than two years into his job appears testy and petulant, with FDR and Reagan, who manifestly loved their work.

    FDR enjoyed it so much he verged on becoming a dictator.

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  6. Profile Photo Inactive
    @MatthewGilley
    Nathaniel Wright: I am certain there are many Southern Republicans for whom race is not at all an issue, but I am equally certain that there are those for whom it is. ยท Aug 30 at 1:26pm

    (1) As opposed to the legions of Democrats for whom race means nothing? (I hope everyone’s catching the sarcasm, because I’m laying it on pretty thick.)

    (2) I’ve never held out much patience for the Republicans-are-obsessed-with-race bit, and considering recent nominations here in South Carolina my patience with it has worn even thinner. I just don’t buy that race-conscious Republicans hold any sway over the direction of the party.

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  7. Profile Photo Inactive
    @MatthewGilley
    Nathaniel Wright: There is still an echo of Calhoun in the language of some Southern, and even non-Southern, conservative politicians. One cannot be Calhounian — even in agreeing with Calhoun’s valid arguments regarding liberty etc. — without discussing race and the legacy of slavery in the South.

    Now this is a great comment. Slavery stained everything – the South, the early Union and the even the Constitution until the 13th,14th, and 15th Amendments (all Republican creations, by the way). It certainly stained Calhoun. Under other circumstances, I don’t think it’s an overstatement to argue Calhoun could have been as important as Madison, Hamilton or Jefferson; he’s at least as important as his contemporary and sometime boss, Andrew Jackson, in terms of influencing thinking on federal-state relations. Can those ideas, though, be usefully untangled from slavery? That’s a tough bear to wrestle.

    In a sense, Calhoun’s employment of states’ rights to defend slavery reflect the warning from Holden Caulfield’s teacher in Catcher in the Rye that (and I’m paraphrasing here) he worried Caulfield would die gloriously for a wholly unworthy cause. Calhoun’s influence certainly perished for an unworthy cause – slavery.

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