Liberals don't get the South
Let's talk for a moment about the American South. Earlier this year, Forbes issued its list of fastest-growing cities in the United States, and 11 of the 20 were Southern cities. Around the same time, the US Census released its annual numbers on local-area growth: 7 of the top 10 fastest-growing metro were Southern; 4 (and arguably 5) of the top 10 largest metro were Southern; and 5 of the 10 fastest-growing counties were Southern. Of the 8 states gaining Congressional representation after the 2010 Census, 4 were Southern. These statistics go on and on -- at one point in the recent recession, Texas alone was responsible for half the job creation in the entire country. That's right: a single (Southern!) state was creating 50% of the jobs in a national economy that itself accounts for about a quarter of the entire global economy. You see the effects of this extraordinary growth and dynamism throughout the region, from BMW manufacturing in Greenville, SC, to Toyota plants in San Antonio, TX, and Huntsville, AL; from global capital coursing through Atlanta and Dallas, to direct Austin-to-London air service; from the 90 languages spoken in the city of Houston -- really! -- to the roaring reemergence of New Orleans as a center of cultural innovation, to the construction of a spaceport in Brownsville, TX. There's a guy selling Korean soul food in Atlanta. There's a major Hindu temple complex in Sugar Land, Texas, which you know as Tom DeLay country. There's an influx of people and ideas and capital that is concurrent with a region punching well above its weight in nearly every sphere. It's exciting, it's real, and here's the important thing: it's not uniquely Southern so much as it's uniquely American.The fact is that the South is ahead of the blue states in job creation and it is where people are moving too, not from. That includes people of all races. It is not about race as liberals want to imply, but it is about a rejection of liberal economic and tax policies. It is states like California, Illinois and New York that are in decline, but rather than focus on what they are doing that discourages economic activity, they insult southern white people with bogus allegations of racism.
This brings us to a fellow at the New York Times by the name of Nate Cohn. It doesn't particularly matter what his background is, although you'll get no points for guessing where he stands on the "Coming Apart" bubble quiz. He's got a piece up in the NYT -- on Southern white voters' exceptional 2012 dislike of the President -- that's getting a lot of traction this evening for the usual reasons these things do: it affirms the regional bigotries and prejudices of the mediasphere. Here's Cohn's centerpiece statement:
"The collapse in Democratic support among white Southerners .... represents an end, at least temporarily, to the South’s assimilation into the American political and cultural mainstream."
In the words of a leading thinker of our day: what the what. It's such a bizarre and pompous statement, it's almost self-refuting -- go ahead, swap out parties, ethnicities, and regions, and see for yourself -- except it isn't to every member of the commentariat who grasps on to it for the soothing reassurance of normalcy. This ought to clue the public in to the general value of their analyses, but it won't, as the public reasons in precisely the same fashion. One waits in vain for a declaration that "the collapse in Republican support among white Californians .... represents an end, at least temporarily, to the Pacific Coast's assimilation into the American political and cultural mainstream." It won't come, and it shouldn't, because it's a dumb statement, but that's the point. On a substantive level, Cohn doesn't quite grapple with the parallel he draws, and that's a problem. Arguendo, why is it bad if whites vote en masse as blacks do? Cohn's ideological milieu is apt to argue that black voting patterns are in fact rational-actor choices, and I happen to agree with that contention. He doesn't contend at all with the possibility that other groups might similarly act, and doesn't even seem aware of the absence. Analytically, to write this passage requires two fairly significant intellectual failures: first, to be unaware of the broader economic, social, and cultural context of the topic under discussion, in this case the American South; and second, to conflate election-specific political preferences with those contexts.