Michael Lind has written a provocative and insightful piece of journalism in the February 5th issue of Salon.com where he argues, and argues persuasively, that it is not the Liberal/ Conservative axis of conflict but the Northern section of the country politically polarized and dysfunctional from the Southern section, particularly the old white supremacist South that troubles the nation.Writing in “The White South’s Last Defeat,” Lind says “the long, drawn-out, agonizing identity crisis of white Southerners is having effects that reverberate throughout our federal union. The transmission mechanism is the Republican Party, an originally Northern party that has now replaced the Southern wing of the Democratic Party as the vehicle for the dwindling Southern tribe.”
Within the larger demographic change toward greater racial and ethnic and religious diversity and the civil rights revolution and the white South’s legacy of defeat going back to the War Between the States, Jim Crow apartheid and its defeat in the Twentieth-century Civil Rights Movement is the growing realization of white Southerners that they will be a minority even in the heart of the South very soon and they do not like it.
Lind pinpoints the problem as the inability of white Southerners who have always viewed themselves as the “real Americans,” most connected to the their geographical regional identity along with white British Protestantism that pulls in race and ethnicity in direct conflict with a Northeast, Midwest, and coastal West that has experienced diverse and extensive migration of non-British Protestant people of many colors.
Those sections of the nation had extensive waves of immigration where so many of our Northern ancestors are hyphenated-Americans. In my case it could be German-American, Norwegian-American, Polish-American, Swiss-American. For white Southerners it has always been just “American.”
This new irrepressible conflict pits a Tea Party Republican faction that has its real base in the traditional white South among highly conservative Protestants making a sort of last ditch attempt to resurrect a kind of new Confederacy to challenge the rest of the nation and the changes within it. Many Southern states are seeing an explosion in the Latino population along with previous migrants and African-American Southerners who tilt on the more liberal Democrat axis these days shifting the future balance of power against the white South.
This pure Scottish, Celtic, and English Protestant settler past and an attempt to achieve real independence from Britain, a growing industrial and powerful North in the Civil War that threatened slavery, and the inability to re-impose a racial caste system in the South following the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965 are all defeats that still sting and the Lost Cause even today unites the tribe with a bond stronger than anything. New Recruits from the plains states where whites traditionally dominate entirely make up Red State America. And in some parts of the West, those areas were first settled by people from the old Confederacy.
This mighty chasm between where poll after poll on issue after issue shows roughly two thirds of Americans to be on one side, and a deeply conservative white Southern based angry and dissatisfied minority on the other, may be the real divide that brings on a new kind of civil war.
Struggles for Justice has previously argued and pointed out the many parallels to the American Civil War and Reconstruction with new battles over States’ Rights, demands for secession from the Union in 2012 and 2013, and such strange emanations from the Republican Tea Party tribe that make them seem so out of touch and of another century. That’s because they literally are.
Lind prophesies still one more and final defeat for the Confederacy as it is forced to yield to the reality that white Southerners will not be able to use their racial and ethnic solidarity to dominate any region of the nation as it is simply becoming and has become too diverse.
That group of Americans who support universal background checks for gun sales, no longer freak out at gay marriage, understand the importance of a woman’s privacy and her right to control her own body, and either voted for Obama or do not spend their time hating him, are more likely to be younger, more female, of color, and live in the Northeast, the upper Midwest, and the Western coastal regions where the largest concentration of the population now live in urban areas.
The history of the American Civil War, the modern Civil Rights Struggle, and new anxieties among a broad section of whites in the nation but particularly among Southern white protestant evangelicals and rural conservative white Christians in the Plains states, long Red in color on the political map might be more useful in understanding why we are so at each other’s throats and cannot understand each other.
We are a House Re-Divided that sheer force of numbers, resources, and the experiences two thirds of us have had will ensure that rather than Lincoln’s “it will become all one thing or all the other,” it inevitably will become one thing and that is not a white supremacist Protestant evangelical nation of yesteryear. No racial or ethnic group will be a majority yet the traditional white dominance of the population which ran in 2010 at 62.5% will be down to 48% between 2040 and 2045 with the potential for it to occur a little earlier than that.
The only question is what sort of conflict we are going to have with these socio-physiological mind games as the backdrop to a new Civil War. We know already that total obstruction of a black President and what most Americans want is there already. A stiff-necked refusal to embrace the long and ongoing changes in the demographic structure and people’s attitudes by this white Southern led minority could break out into outright civil insurrection and armed conflict that might bring down a government or seriously threaten it so we would repeat the struggle of 1861-65 only this time it is anti-big government insular localism and race and religious identity that makes us enemies when we have no reason to be so.
Can white Southerners embrace change and change themselves to accommodate the reality of a Twenty-first Century America? Can we all reduce their anxieties at growing racial, ethnic, and religious diversity that does not require the vandalizing of a Mosque in the South or an attack on a Palestinian-American in New York City or the blocking of voting for eligible citizens who are of color? Can they realize that most people want women to have the full range of health care if and how THEY choose? And if two people who are not you or your spouse love each other can you accept it if they are a same-sex couple? Background checks for guns don’t mean confiscation of firearms from law-abiding gun owners or their imprisonment by some Socialist-Communist Black or Brown Red orYellow horde.
We’ve journeyed a long way from the struggle against imperial Britain in 1776. We’ve added a second Constitution that provides for a “more perfect Union” where a stronger national government is designed right into the document. We’ve fought a terrible Civil War to decide whether we will allow slavery to exist side-by-side with the “all men are created equal” cornerstone ideal that founded our nation and guides it to this very moment. We’ve realized that many immigrant groups who were not here from Britain and native people who were here before Euro-Americans were and so many more who came later provide most of us with a vastly different experience and national perspective than many white Southerners have.
Happily, it won’t mean white Southrons will ever have to be ashamed of who their ancestors were, what they did to build the nation, and the fine stuff they are made of. But accepting the rest of us and the totality of what the nation continues to evolve to be with the old Declaration, the Constitution and the English language and Western law and precedent to be the point of the arch does not threaten them at all. And Southerners of all colors can enjoy and flaunt their regional identity in style.
The other alternative is a long, protracted and bitter struggle over our culture, our national agenda that will spill into violent conflict of some sort reminiscent of the old Confederacy and Union in the Nineteenth century. The secession movement, the extreme anti-woman legal offensive in many Red States and anti-worker legislation in many states elsewhere; the bull-headed and hot-headed wish to obstruct even at the expense of the national interest of all of us is plain to see.
Will we have a second American Civil War? Will blood be shed? Will the Southern white tribe have to be defeated decisively by force of arms to maintain that “more perfect Union” or will we all have the common sense to take a deep breath, see the commonality of what at the core it means to be or become an American and embrace each other in brotherly and sisterly love and move the nation forward together.
White Southern British Protestant nation the ball is in your court.