Friday, April 21, 2017

Redneck nation? Or Victorian?

This is from 14 years ago. It's from an interview with Michael Graham about his book Redneck Nation. Graham's argument, partly serious, partly comic, is that "Northern Liberals" (we'd say "Coastal Elites" nowadays) have picked up redneck attitudes.
When I talk about redneckery in Redneck Nation, I’m not talking about the Jeff Foxworthy stereotypes. I’m writing about the ideology: What did a typical white southern “redneck” believe at the beginning of the civil-rights movement 50 years ago?
  • He believed that race mattered, that race was determinant.
  • He believed that free speech was dangerous, spread by “outside agitators” who never learned the southern speech code: “If you can’t say something nice…drink.”
  • He believed that all women were either delicate creatures in need of special social protections, or they were roadhouse trailer trash who would spank you and call you “Daddy.”
  • He believed that the more irrational and ridiculous your religion, the more fervently you believed in God.
  • He believed the most entertaining way to spend a Saturday night was to watch something get “blowed up real good.”
 I'm not convinced he really wants to avoid Jeff Foxworthy stereotypes. If he did, he wouldn't talk about "roadhouse trailer trash" or about watching something get "blowed up real good". It's not that those things don't exist in the south. The problem is that they aren't, and never were, particular or definitive of the south. You can find trashy women, and trashy men, anywhere. Similarly, there are boys and men everywhere who like watching stuff get destroyed.

So let's strip that stuff out and see what's left. What's left is pretty much what any good, progressive thinker from the Victorian era believed:

  • Eugenics: the belief that people can't transcend their genetics and, consequently, the people at the top of the socio-economic ladder belong there.
  • That free speech is dangerous in the hands of people who don't know the rules.
  • That women need to be protected in order to flourish.
  • That the historical and rational basis of religion has been destroyed so all that is left is spirituality.

That is the real ideology of the contemporary left. And that explains this:
Shattered is sourced almost entirely to figures inside the Clinton campaign who were and are deeply loyal to Clinton. Yet those sources tell of a campaign that spent nearly two years paralyzed by simple existential questions: Why are we running? What do we stand for? 
If you're wondering what might be the point of rehashing this now, the responsibility for opposing Donald Trump going forward still rests with the (mostly anonymous) voices described in this book. 
What Allen and Parnes captured in Shattered was a far more revealing portrait of the Democratic Party intelligentsia than, say, the WikiLeaks dumps. And while the book is profoundly unflattering to Hillary Clinton, the problem it describes really has nothing to do with Secretary Clinton. 
The real protagonist of this book is a Washington political establishment that has lost the ability to explain itself or its motives to people outside the Beltway.
And they can no longer explain themselves because their real motives are exactly the ones above and they don't want to admit that, not even to themselves. As a consequence—and I'm hardly the first to say this—the contemporary left is reduced to saying whatever looks like it will win. They have no beliefs of their own they're willing to admit to so they can only viciously attack.

I'm not sure what anybody can do about it. Sometimes I think the best thing would be for the parties of the left to get blowed up real good. That prospect strikes all my lefty friends, and most of my friends are lefties, as terrifying. I'm sure it would be for a while. Very soon, however, I think they'd find it liberating.

No comments:

Post a Comment