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Southern Working Class Whites and the Real “Problem” with Kansas

March 5, 2014 37 comments

One idea that has gained popularity among american intellectuals of the liberal persuasion within the last 10-15 years goes something like this:

The dominance of conservatives politicians in southern (and some non-southern flyover) states is due to their success at conning working class whites into voting against their own economic interest.

To put it another way, liberals believe that working class whites are decent human beings who are repeatedly tricked into voting against their best economic interests. This belief is the basis of books such as What’s the Matter with Kansas?. Many liberals believe that the white working class of southern (and some flyover) states left democrats because the later became too “culturally distant” and have not been able to provide enough decent jobs in those states. But do those explanations stand up to rational scrutiny? Or is there another far more obvious, but unmentionable, reason behind the rightward shifts in southern states?

Let us first examine the soundness of cultural explanations for the ascendancy of conservatives in the post-1980 (actually post-1968) south. The conventional explanations for this phenomena invoke public reactions to a series of socio-legal changes that occurred between 1955-1980. These include civil rights legislation, legalized abortion, sexual revolution and mass entry of women in the work force. Liberals want to believe that these changes somehow alienated a majority of “good” Americans living in those states.

While I do agree that these changes were large and controversial, it is worth noting that the end results of their implementation has been fairly uniform across the USA. The percentages and incidences of single motherhood in Kansas or Alabama are not that different those in Washington or Oregon. Similarly the percentages of blacks who vote in southern states today are not much different from those who live in the much less shitty coastal ones. Nor are fat white working class women in Alabama or Mississippi any less sexually promiscuous than their counterparts in Massachusetts or Maine. My point is- the progressive socio-legal changes which started in the 1960s have been far more uniform in their effect across the USA than most people realize or want to believe.

The idea that working class whites in the south are trying to preserve the old ways does not hold water simply because those ways no longer exist, except perhaps in the fringes, of those societies.

So why do these morons keep on voting people who promise to brings back things that are dead and beyond any hope of resurrection? Let us consider another angle, namely that the rightward drift of the south is a reaction to the loss of traditional blue-collar jobs. While there is some validity to the idea that people who lose their previously stable and well-paying livelihoods might turn to anti-establishment ideologies, it does not two aspects of the rightward movements of southern states. Firstly- why don’t north-eastern and mid-western states, who also lost a lot of blue-collar jobs, elect the same kind of people as those below the Mason-Dixon line? Secondly- why do southerners keep on electing politicians who actively undermine their economic interests?

Therefore the argument that southern working class whites drifted to right-wing politicians because of economic neglect by more left-wing ones also does not hold much water, unless we assume they are mentally retarded.

While it is certainly plausible that southern working-class whites are intellectually inferior to their counterparts in other parts of the country, it is also highly unlikely that most are mentally retarded. And this brings me to the history of their voting patterns- specifically how they switched their voting patterns after 1968. As many of you know, prior to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the democratic party had no problem getting the votes of working-class whites in southern states. Of course, that was also the era when the Democrats (and not the Republicans) were the party of American Apartheid. The passage of the Civil Rights Act under LBJ changed that forever and permanently antagonized the southern white working-class voter.

But why would simply giving equal rights to blacks cause such a large negative reaction among working-class whites in the south?

It is not as if equality is a finite resource whose distribution makes it scarcer. So what is going on? Why would legal remedies to end racial discrimination evoke such strong reactions among southern working-class whites? Is there a better explanation this seemingly irrational behavior.

Well.. there is, but that explanation requires the observer to abandon certain preconceptions about what working-class whites are and are not. Too often, polite public discourse tries to portray working-class whites as honest and decent human beings who just happen to be gullible enough to fall for racist demagogues. But what if that is not true? What if opportunist politicians are merely saying out what their constituents really believe? What if the identity and self-image of those subhumans is principally based on the constant abuse of blacks and the zeros-um exploitation of each other? What if all of the attempts by those subhumans to justify conservative beliefs through selective readings of religious scriptures are based on their true desires? What if all of their pathetic attempts to fellate the rich, even if they crap on them, are based in their world view?

My point is that the behavior of southern working-class whites is far easier to understand (and model) if we assume that it is the external manifestations of their mental world.

And this brings us to the question about how to fix that problem. The conventional liberal view is that more education and exposure to a more cosmopolitan world will somehow make those subhumans less so. However many real world indices suggest that education or exposure to a better way does not make them less subhuman. There is however another path to achieve a final and lasting solution to this problem, especially if we are willing to consider the possibility that these subhumans (or their progeny) are functionally incapable of ever being human.

What do you think? Comments?