George Hawley has written an interesting article on regional differences in White racial attitudes at The American Conservative that touches on the Unite the Right rally:
“Whether it is primarily due to migration, mass media, federal policy, or the homogenizing effects of global capitalism, the cultural and political differences between the North and South have become less pronounced in recent decades. But it remains unclear just how different Southerners remain from their fellow citizens in other parts of the country. White Southerners’ attitudes on the issue of race remain a question of particular interest and importance.
This subject has been coming up with increasing frequency. Across the South, monuments to the Confederacy have been coming down—though not everywhere in the region—and with some serious pushback. Alabama, for example, passed legislation protecting such monuments in May. A white nationalist rally in defense of Confederate statues occurred in Charlottesville, Va., that same month. A similar rally is apparently in the works in a few weeks. …”
Here’s why I don’t exactly agree:
1.) I would be wary of using Donald Trump as a proxy for White racial attitudes. From what I saw during the 2016 presidential election, it seemed to me that Trump was a more polarizing candidate along class lines. White working class rural voters responded to him with greater enthusiasm than traditional Republican candidates. White college educated suburbanites were much less impressed. Trump also performed much better than expected with blacks and Hispanics.
Trump won a smaller share of the White vote than Mitt Romney but won the 2016 election because of the nature of his coalition. He lost voters in places like the Atlanta, Houston and Philadelphia suburbs, but he gained disaffected voters in places like rural Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin. Hillary Clinton bet the election on winning over those disaffected Republican suburbanites and lost.
Trump’s underperformance in the South tells us more about how he repulsed college educated White suburbanites than anything else. At the end of the day, those people shocked pollsters by voting for him anyway in greater than expected numbers. They couldn’t stomach Hillary Clinton.
2.) I think it would be more useful to look at the big picture than the performance of a single candidate as controversial as Trump. The overall trend is the demise of the Democratic Party in the South. Republicans now have unified control of 11 out of 15 Southern state governments. In 2016, they picked up unified control in Missouri and Kentucky while losing the gubernatorial races in Louisiana and North Carolina. Republicans control every single state legislature in the 15 Southern states.
In the House of Representatives, Democrats didn’t pick up a single Republican held seat in the South in the 2016 election cycle and lost one in rural Kentucky. They’ve been pushed back to urban enclaves and predominantly non-White majority districts. There isn’t a single White Democrat representing the 5 states of the Deep South (AR, LA, MS, AL, GA and SC) in Congress.
Southern politics is much more racially polarized today than it was 10 years ago. We are significantly more racially polarized now than we were 20 and 30 years ago. The Republican Party is the White party in the South. The Democrat Party is the non-White party. That’s the elephant in the room. We haven’t been this racially and culturally polarized since the Jim Crow era.
If Trump is a proxy of racial attitudes, it is worth noting he won 13 out of 15 Southern states in the Republican primary in a field of 17 candidates, which handed him the Republican presidential nomination. He only lost Texas and Oklahoma where Ted Cruz had a home state advantage. In the general election, 190 of Trump’s 304 electoral votes came from the South, which was 62.5% of his electoral total.
The base of the Republican Party in the South is becoming more racialized, more populist, more White working class. Decades ago, suburbanites were the Republican base in the South. In the future, we will see more of these uncucked candidates like Donald Trump and Corey Stewart.
3.) The explanation for this is intense racial and cultural polarization. Trump only won Mississippi by 57.9% of the vote compared to 68.2% in Wyoming. In Mississippi, 58% of the population are non-Hispanic Whites compared to 82.9% in Wyoming. Whites in the Deep South are much more inclined to vote as a racial bloc for the Republican candidates than Whites in the Midwest or Mountain West. In much of the rural and small town Deep South, elections are racial headcounts.
The Deep South has always been the most reactionary region of the United States. There is little evidence to suggest this has changed. It’s true that we no longer live in the Jim Crow South. Both the South and the rest of the United States has been transformed since 1965. The most fundamental transformation has been that the North and West have become demographically more like the South. Alabama is now whiter than the national average. California was transformed into a majority-minority state in a generation. This is why a candidate like Donald Trump succeeded on the national stage.
Whites elsewhere in the United States are now grappling with many of the same problems that have traditionally been confined to the South. The Midwest is gripped by nostalgia for a bygone industrial age. The Northeast and Southwest are more racially diverse than the Upper South. No one in mainstream conservatism saw Donald Trump coming because they didn’t appreciate how the electoral landscape had changed or how alienated their base had become.
4.) The polls cited by George Hawley will prove to be lagging indicators. They are measuring socially acceptable answers. It’s true that there was a great transformation in White racial attitudes in the South in the 1970s and 1980s. White racial attitudes in the North and South converged in this period. The Alt-Right loves to poke fun at what it calls the Boomer Mindset.
Fundamentally, this convergence was due to a series of historical coincidences: the memory of the Second World War among the Greatest Generation, the Cold War with the Soviet Union which kept Americans unified around an external enemy, the unusual consolidation of the mass media in this period, the power of a few Jewish television stations to control the Narrative, trust in the government, media and other institutions, the relative strength of the Republican Party and conservative movement, a healthy two-party system in the South, the historical peak of American whiteness, a better economy, affordable college tuition and so forth. None of these conditions hold anymore though.
The smartphone and social media will have a revolutionary impact on our culture and politics. The transformation will prove to be just as dramatic as the introduction of film and television which created a Jewish cultural elite which had a monopoly on the Narrative. The Southern cuckservative and the Eastern liberal might give a pollster the same answer on a racial question, but for different reasons. The former is giving the socially acceptable answer whereas the latter is a true believer.
The White South’s commitment to social justice and civil rights is much more shallow. It was a byproduct of an unusual period when New York City and Hollywood dominated our news and entertainment. America cast its shadow over the entire world at the time. The “mainstream” culture will be the easiest to break here. It has much deeper roots in other regions of the United States.
Who passively sits in front a television for hours on end to get their news and entertainment? Elderly people who grew up in a different world which is now passing.
5.) I think we will find that White Nationalists have a better take on the pulse of the American South than mainstream conservatives. From the rural areas and small towns, we will use social media to tap into and recruit from a vast and growing pool of culturally alienated, economically distressed, college educated and working class White Millennial males. They are alienated from traditional religion. They don’t believe True Conservatism has any answers to their problems. They are unswayed by editorials in newspapers they don’t read and conservative pundits on television they don’t watch.
What do they have to lose? A career, a wife, or social respectability they don’t have? Many of those who have these things assume they will be lost at some point. The typical life for White males who try to navigate this insane system will only become more expensive and perilous with changing racial and cultural demographics. We will live to see this country go down the drain. There will come a point when millions won’t have anything to lose anymore and they will have a lot of time on their hands. What does conservatism have to offer them compared to our message?
The reigning taboos that have come down to us are dead weight we have inherited from the late 20th century. The “mainstream” was a creation of the television era. These -isms and -phobias are things cranks in academia cooked up which our cultural elites in a few metropoles expect us to believe because really important people who matter on television and with bylines in newspapers and liberal clergy preaching social justice in empty mainline churches are saying that is what it means to be a good person. None of those people have any control anymore over our discourse.
Trump showed how ripe they are for a fall for all the reasons mentioned above. The long term trends are only going to become more favorable for us. Fifty years ago, they could create “a story about race in America” in a place like Selma and move legislative mountains. Now, we have all the tools we need to create our our own “story about race in America,” an increasingly receptive disaffected audience and all the tools we need to mount a powerful challenge to the status quo. I’m an optimist.
Note: I don’t think it is a Southern thing. I just think conditions here are more favorable mainly because the opposition is softer due to our history. The new media we have at our disposal has a global reach. The system we are challenging is also coextensive with the West.