Today's nomination for America's most far-reaching, longest-lasting paradox: how is it our least evolved, least enlightened, low-achieving Southern states set national agendas, even dominate the show. After all, where do emerging stars of the rightwing party reside, namely Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Rick Perry and Marco Rubio? Plus Mitch McConnell and his loyal confederates eager to gridlock the Senate. It's bad enough when any self-interested minority dictates national terms but worse still when that region, by empirical measurements, represents America's third-world. As one Forbes pundit overstated , "the common media view of the South is as a regressive region, full of overweight, prejudiced, exploited, and undereducated numbskulls." You mean someone else got here first?
Southern forces haven't decided America's destiny, but they've been a traumatic brake on advancement. Backwater mindsets fired with religious fervor are remarkably consistent in finding the wrong side of history -- opposing civil, women's, gay, and minority rights, aside from abortion, science education and climate change. A self-cornered minority becomes addicted to intransigence, thus delaying what is then widely celebrated as human progress. Do not the 37% minority population of Southern States -- roughly from Maryland to Oklahoma and state-ward towards the Gulf -- command disproportionate control, making up in cohesion what they lack in heft?
A mind experiment: if the Old South had been allowed to secede, would the remaining USA be as conflicted over abortion or immigration paralysis, nor refuse even to debate a national energy plan to confront climate change? Would anyone take seriously the rejection of evolution for the voodoo of Creationism and "intelligent design"? Who doubts the U.S. would, like the civilized world abroad, not already have enacted rigorous gun control to reduce the murder of schoolchildren? In retrospect, the Civil War offers the classic example of the winner taking the final battle but not dominating critical political wars 150 years later.
While rightwing rabidity spreads beyond Dixie, how long would the GOP Anti-Governance League endure without true-blue, if redneck believers below the Mason-Dixon line? Of course, southern Democrats often stand complicit with the radical right, as when condoning the triumphant "drill, baby, drill" mantra (deep-water drilling, fracking and the XL Pipeline), maligning Obamacare, tolerating racism, or ignoring global warming.
Evidence Outrages Wishful Thinking
What triggers my focus today is a compelling summary entitled "These 9 Maps Should Absolutely Outrage Southerners." For once, Huffington Post understates: these maps should outrage America. What the graphics dramatize is the startling consistency of southern backwardness, thus qualifying as America's third-world. And if Creationist buffoonery thrives, our most stunted region will further "secede" intellectually from the modern world, banishing technology skill-sets that assure jobs, higher pay, and economic mobility. That folly occurs whenever you distort education into the process of closing, rather than expanding young minds -- akin to shooting yourself in the foot, then wondering why walking is such a trial.
Oddly enough, this vaunted land of ease and plenty is anything but. Not only is Dixie our most impoverished region, with minimum minimum wages and thus the least economic mobility, it has less affordable medical coverage, the most obesity, the highest teen births, and the highest cigarette usage. Per Wikipedia, the South has lower percentages of high school and college graduates, lower housing values, and lower household incomes. Because southern life expectancy is lower and death rates higher elsewhere for all racial groups, one appreciates the century of black migration north. The South, however, boasts lower taxes, less union support, and incredibly lax drilling, mining, clean air and pollution regulations.