Thursday, August 23, 2007

Tell it like it is, Krugman

Just the other day I was talking with my coworkers over lunch and we were discussing the 2008 presidential election. I said I thought John Edwards had the best shot, and someone else said "is it because he's a white, male, Christian and therefore electable?" Another coworker, new to the company, whom I'll call "B" said "and from the South." I said "exactly - the only way a Democratic candidate can be elected in this country is if he's from the South - ever since Kennedy. That's because so many people from the South are really gung-ho about being Southern, in a way that I've never seen any Northerners be about the North. I never thought of myself as a "Northerner" in opposition to the South. If anything, you'd think people from the South would rather think about themselves as Americans, since to say you're a gung-ho Southerner evokes the Civil War and the fact that the South seceded from the North in order to avoid the abolition of slavery they thought was coming, and then they proceeded to attack the North!

It turns out B is from North Carolina although she doesn't have an accent because she's spent so much time up here. She disagreed that a certain sub-section of people in the South are gung-ho about being Southern. I said I was sorry for saying that about the South, the way you do when you don't want to get into a fight with someone at work. But she herself disproved her own point a little later on - the subject came up again, and she said "the South will rise again" and I thought she was kidding, or being ironic, or whatever. So I said "yeah, and then we'll kick their ass again!" - several of my great-great grandfathers fought for the Union. And instead of kidding back, she said, pretty seriously "no, I don't think so." Clearly she has plenty of "Southern Pride." And it's easy to find plenty of gung-ho Southerners online: Unreconstructed Confederate Pride lists John Wilkes Booth as a "hero" - Southern Loyalists has a problem with the Fourteenth Amendment - Confederate American Pride plays a sickening, tenderly-sung rendition of "Dixie" - that charming ditty expressing nostalgia for the plantation system to name just the first nauseating three I found.

So anyway, what about Paul Krugman? In his latest editorial, Seeking Willie Horton he writes:
Ronald Reagan didn’t become governor of California by preaching the wonders of free enterprise; he did it by attacking the state’s fair housing law, denouncing welfare cheats and associating liberals with urban riots. Reagan didn’t begin his 1980 campaign with a speech on supply-side economics, he began it — at the urging of a young Trent Lott — with a speech supporting states’ rights delivered just outside Philadelphia, Miss., where three civil rights workers were murdered in 1964.

And if you look at the political successes of the G.O.P. since it was taken over by movement conservatives, they had very little to do with public opposition to taxes, moral values, perceived strength on national security, or any of the other explanations usually offered. To an almost embarrassing extent, they all come down to just five words: southern whites starting voting Republican.

In fact, I suspect that the underlying importance of race to the Republican base is the reason Rudy Giuliani remains the front-runner for the G.O.P. nomination, despite his serial adultery and his past record as a social liberal. Never mind moral values: what really matters to the base is that Mr. Giuliani comes across as an authoritarian, willing in particular to crack down on you-know-who.

The Republican Party has disgracefully gone from being the party of Lincoln to the party of racist-panderers. I don't know how anybody can admit to being a Republican these days.