As we painfully watch right before our very own eyes, our first black president being reduced to little more than an "impotent ceremonial Democratic Party presidential placeholder," this book "Dixie Rising: How the South is Shaping American Values, Politics, and culture," by Peter Applebome, comes immediately to mind as a possible explanation for why, despite being elected by a clear majority, the US government is still being run by the agenda of the far rightwing (mostly southerners) of the Republican Party.
The running joke in
Republican circles today is: "What's better than failing to get Obama re-elected
to a second term?" Answer: Allowing him to be re-elected -- and then tying him up
in so many legislative knots that he ends his tenure with a legacy of having
done nothing but: become the first to have raised a billion dollars for a campaign war
chest, getting an empty pre-awarded Nobel Prize, and leaving office with a
briefcase full of unread "empty hope and change" speeches.
Here, in a deft, nuanced and entertaining reading of American history, the author properly situates both the old and the new South into the scheme of American History as well as within the context of what can only be called a new kind of American exceptionalism.
After giving us a brief snapshot of key highpoints across the region, his conclusion is that contemporary American exceptionalism, for better or worse (and mostly for worse), has become indistinguishable from "southern exceptionalism." Arguably, it is the "southern exceptionalism," ensconced within the Republican Party -- a party, which unless we forget morphed from Strom Thurmond's Dixicrats in 1948 into Richard Nixon's Party of the Southern strategy in 1968, to today's "Tea Party -- that has run the Obama presidency into the ground. For all generations of the Republican Party -- from Strom Thurmond to Mitt Romney, racism has been the context, the pretext and the subtext. Full Stop.
In this context, at least it can be said that the Republicans do have a strategy even if it is a bad one. They do have their eyes on the donut while the Democrats without a strategy (beyond demographic inevitability, that is), continue to have their eyes on the hole.
Quoting Egerton's equally entertaining book "The Americanization of Dixie," the way the author puts it is that: "the South is not merely melting into the national stew but leading in the creation of a new stew through a process in which the North and South are exchanging not strengths, but sins, exporting vices without importing virtues."
This in my view is the crux of the book: We fought a war against both bankrupt southern values and southern culture, and won, and yet now those same bankrupt values and culture have returned with such a vengeance that they have so trumped our democracy that our first black president has had to tucked his tail, run and hide behind the Oval Office desk shuttering as he awaits the next conservative shoe to fall?
How did American democracy get pushed into this ungodly conservative corner?