Sunday, January 15, 2012

Must... Stay Strong... Must... Overcome... Evidence... Must Not... Yield... to... Competing Fact... BLAAARRGGHH

Here's a shrewd piece of reporting from Reuters, which notes tension between states and the federal government over "a series of intrusions into state business by Washington." At the center of the story: "a standoff with Democratic President Barack Obama's administration over a new state law that would require residents to produce a photo ID before they could vote."

Framing the story with all the delicacy and nuance we expect from a wire service, Reuters reporter Andy Sullivan opens with the artillery at Fort Sumter: "The state that fired the first shot in the Civil War is once again battling the U.S. government in a racially charged conflict that is drawing heated rhetoric from Republican presidential candidates."

And from there it's off to the races, with calm assertions that "race-baiting...has been an ugly feature of South Carolina politics in the past" and "The rallying cry of states' rights was used to defend slavery before the Civil War and racial segregation during the post-World War Two battles over civil rights." The good-ole boys are yearning for their slavery and their Jim Crow again with all this stuff about the balance of power between the state and federal governments. Indeed, arguments about the nature and boundaries of authority in a federalist political system could only be coded yearning for racial oppression -- what other explanation could ever make sense?

Sullivan even notes the comments of a South Carolina professor who warns him that "injecting race into political discussions risks dredging up stereotypes of an Old South that faded away before most of residents here were born" -- attention Andy Sullivan, are you in there? Hello hello helloooo Echo echo echoooo -- and the reporter dutifully allows that the eternally Confederate state somehow overcame its own racist soul to elect a governor who was born locally to Indian immigrants.

But never mind that South Carolina is governed by the daughter of Ajit and Raj Randhawa, okay, because these shoeless motherfuckers are all about one plug of tobacco away from putting on gray uniforms and secedin' from the Union all over again. After all, "the old attitudes haven't disappeared entirely," and Sullivan finds an "unemployed paralegal" who complains that whites now wear baggy pants like "black thugs." Whenever a political reporter finds a white person in the South who complains about how black people caused the trend of baggy pants, Thomas Friedman encounters a cab driver in South Asia who can shrewdly discourse on the dynamics of globalism. It's a 1-to-1 relationship, like a bell ringing and an angel getting its wings.

And so here, in short, is the analysis: South Carolina is animated by -- you might say trapped by -- its past, caught in a deep cultural pattern inescapably informed by an agrarian, rural, pre-modern, slaveholding history. Caught forever in the fact of their origins, people in South Carolina make political decisions that can't help but echo the realities of slavery and Jim Crow. To discuss the political authority of states in the federalist system is to invoke, precisely and without variation, the specter of "state's rights," that old segregationist dogwhistle. It's all just the Confederacy and the nightriders again, in one form or another.

And that, you see, is why so many of South Carolina's most conservative Republicans are uniting behind a Mormon venture capitalist from New England.

But that last part comes from Reuters, so I wouldn't trust it.

ADDED LATER: A week before the South Carolina primary, polls show that the top four Republican candidates competing for conservative Southern votes include a Mormon in first place and Catholics in second and tied for third. It's "Pitchfork Ben" Tillman all over again, I tell you, with this atavistic return to the Deep South's infamous embrace of Papists and Latter Day Saints. Jim Crow and the slave power echo forever.

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