The Votes Are In

And it seems we may be seeing the creeping end of the GOP hegemony in the United States.

Arnold had his ass handed to him on a platter. Any newspaper bold enough to use eight “no”s as a headline with reference to the Governator is a-okay in my book. Some of these were nail-biters, especially Prop 73, which would have established a notification requirement for minors seeking abortions. For a while, Prop 73 was passing, as were some of Arnie’s juvenile bits of legislation. But, as it turned out, all turned out as it should. Granted, I wish 79 and 80 would have passed, but their defeat is a rather small price to pay for the other six going to pot.

The Democratic revolution is also being seeded in New Jersey and Virginia. Although in both states the incumbent Governor is a Democrat, the victory of moderate and even a smidge progressive policy is a good omen for the Dems, especially in Virginia. I mean, Senator Corzine has more money than the Treasury does, so it wasn’t altogether surprising that he won the election. But Virginia is one of the redder of the red states. Not quite a Utah or Wyoming, but still much redder than anyone should have the right to be. Being the old capital of the Confederacy and still the border between North and South, the old Southern prejudices run strong in Virginia. This is a state that passed a law that (according to the strict constructionalism advocated by the Religious Wrong) bars gays from entering into any contract. Like Texas’ gay marriage ban that unwittingly outlawed any form of marriage, gay or straight, it’s unlikely that it will be read that way since, you know, Republicans are hypocrites. Strict constructionalism when it serves our hateful agenda, loosey goosey when we’re so retarded we can’t even amend our Constitution properly.

Case in point, Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. Republicans are for small government and keeping the government’s hands out of state/local issues, right? Right. But then, there’s DCA Airport. After Reagan left office, the Religious Wrong held a circle jerk in his honor and renamed Washington National Airport, just over the river from the Capitol in Virginia, in Ronnie’s name. Now, since there’s a Metro stop at the airport, it became necessary to replace all Metro signage in that stop and every Metro map systemwide to reflect that name change, to the tune of quite a few bucks. Normally, Metro signange is replaced every few years, and all updates are done at once, unless the local governmental authority requests a special change. Arlington County, not exactly a White Republican stronghold, didn’t request such a change. But the GOP-led Congress, affronted by this display of fiscal responsibility, threatened to de-fund the entire Metro (Congress holds the DC purse strings) unless the change was made NOW. Being a pragmatic bunch, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority acquiesced. So, once again, the GOP says “We’re all for what we say we’re for, except when it becomes an obstacle to the progress of our asshattery.”

But getting back to the Texas sitchyation. In contrast to the rest of the country’s remarkable display of functioning synapses, Texas voted to outlaw all marriage, and a town named White Settlement (named because a bunch of white folk moved into an Indian area) overwhelmingly rejected a name change to something, you know, not unbelievably racist. Res over at The Republic has an excellent post on why we shouldn’t simply dismiss Texas as a bunch of asshats with the occasional normal thrown in. I agree with his assertion that Texas’ politics has as much to do with Democrats abandoning the state and not suggesting any worthwhile alternatives to the GOP asshattery as it does with the GOP asshattery itself.

I do, however, have to add a couple of cents of my own to the politics of the South. As Res notes, up until 1979 Texas hadn’t had a GOP Govna since the end of the Civil War. However, 1979 also coincides with the completion of the frame shift of the two major political parties. Beginning with the Civil Rights Movement (or the Depression, if we want to include the New Deal), the Democrats moved away from being the party of the South, keeping the old ways intact come hell or high water, and moved toward being the party of inclusiveness and rationalism. This movement came to a peak with the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1965, which, as LBJ presciently noted, lost the South for the Dems for a good long while. At the same time, the Republican Party (neither Republican nor a Party; discuss) moved away from its roots as the party that freed the slaves and campaigned for social justice to the mouthpiece of the Religious Right that it is today. So we might not see Texas’ long prior record of Democratic governance as a sign of changing political attitudes of the people, but rather a change in the political attitudes of the political machine, resulting in the people casting their lots with the new party that now holds their same old beliefs.

When you get right down to it, the political and policy attitudes of the South/Midwest haven’t changed much in the last 140 years. Granted, black people got that last 2/5 of personhood accorded to them, but that and just about any other advance from 18th-century attitudes was forced upon them, begrudgingly. I’m aware of the straw-man bent of this argument. After all, there are wonderful people who live in the South and Texas and other Red strongholds, like Res and Twisty and Gwen and Ann Richards. But there are also millions more outnumbering them, so that To Kill a Mockingbird could just as easily take place today as it could have in Harper Lee’s heyday. If we needed any more proof of the intolerance of rationalism, we need look no further than the latest example of idiocy handed down in Kansas. Nothing like a schoolboard rewriting the definition of science to fit their wild hallucinations. Jesus H. Christ.

Note that I don’t think this is the exclusive provenance of the South or the flyover statesMidwest. As Jonathan Kozol points out in his new book The Shame of the Nation, Northerners and Westerners are perfectly content to keep their head in the sand as segregation reemerges and opportunities once at the hand of minorities are swept away once again. But, I think the dominant, hegemonic culture extant in the Bible Belt/Confederacy goes a tad beyond that, to active support of blatant hatred, discrimination and the remarkably Tom Cruise-like denial of reality. And this isn’t the fault of the political parties. This is the result of the normative culture that continues to be handed down in these areas. It is slowly changing, as it must, but for the time being, it’s still a dangerously ignorant culture we’re dealing with. In the immediate term, we must focus on political strategy if we want this country to avoid the fate of the Roman Empire. But in the long run, we must focus on the culture, on education (and intelligent design doesn’t fit the bill), on spreading the “disease” of critical analysis to these groups if we hope to accomplish anything meaningful for our society.


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