Sunday, January 22, 2012

Let's Build a Tunnel

So apparently Newt Gingrich won the South Carolina Republican primary because he blew the racist dogwhistle and called the Old South snarling from its slumber. Stories on the primary, before and after, bulked up with references to the Civil War and Jim Crow. The whole thing was just so terribly Southern; at the conservative (and generally awful) Washington Times, Charles Hurt very nearly blew out the gaskets on the Southern cliche machine:

"It has been a week of more heartache and drama than 'Gone with the Wind.' More intrigue than a John Grisham novel. And the story has been so Southern Gothic as to make William Faulkner wake from the dead to enjoy the show."

Why stop there? Willa Cather! Mint juleps! Cat on a Hot Tin Roof! Journalism in action, ladies and gentlemen. Two weeks before the primary, Mitt Romney's poll numbers were hotter than a big plate of Waffle House grits, but then they wilted like a Clemson cheerleader's hair in a big ol' afternoon thunderstorm. Print reporters, feel free to paste any of these into whatever you're writing today.

But keep watching, because here's Charles Hurt describing the outcome: "Scoring a measly third was the original Bible-thumper himself, Mr. Santorum, who got busted in the lip by the very buckle of the Bible Belt."

Anyone who thinks a conservative Pennsylvania Catholic scans as a Bible-thumper in the South is missing a few small bits of nuance, and be sure to look for Charles Hurt's next column on the Jesuits and all their traveling tent revivals. Pope Benedict XVI will now handle a serpent and speak in tongues, in the tradition of his people. They use corn whiskey for communion, don't they?

But if Hurt missed every single shot at discovering some nuance, so did everybody else in his aggressively shallow profession. In a conservative Southern state, the top three finishers in the Republican primary were a Mormon venture capitalist from New England, a Catholic lawyer from Pennsylvania, and a Catholic with a PhD in European history. It's all so terribly Southern Gothic, isn't it? It hearkens back to the Jim Crow era, insert own Confederate reference here. There they all were, poking at the dirt with a stick, dreaming of the Lost Cause, and voting for the guy from Bain Capital and the Church of Latter Day Saints.

Just goes to show you: down South, nothing ever changes.

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