Saturday, April 26, 2008

Plantation aristocracy takes over America

I was just about to write an entry about this very phenomenon, but I saw an article that beat me to some of my points - though it lacks the homespun observations that can only be gathered in the states that are most at-risk.

The past 25 years of American political history have indicated that the South's old plantation aristocracy has gotten its way over 100 years after the Civil War. Elite conservatism was the ideology of powerful plantation owners, and what's seen in today's conservatism is a progeny of these sad old ways.

The wealthy planter of the 19th century became the privileged and conservative Sun Belt suburbanite of the 20th century, who in turn became the financially secure and conservative exurbanite of the 21st. Anyone who studies America's politics can see an unbroken line with no zigs and zags. If it's any help, notice that a map showing states that allowed slavery at the time of the Civil War is strikingly similar to a map showing those that have so-called "right-to-work" laws today.

No region has a monopoly on bad politics: The South has produced some bold political leaders who dissented from the conservative fold, and the North has produced some stinkers. On average, however, it's fair to say the South is more of a conservative stronghold. I have nothing against Southerners in general, but the fact is that the region brings to mind a more conservative brand of politics.

Today's suburbs and exurbs of the South and Southwest seem vastly overrepresented in America's political and even social dialogue, but the problem isn't really geographic. It's more of a battle of ideas. And lately, discredited conservative ideas have been reintroduced and actually treated as credible, even though they were thought to be on the outs 25 years ago.

Let's cut to the chase: the boundaries of the conservative Sun Belt are moving north, and the edges of conservative suburbia are moving out. The long and short of it is, we've got a real problem, because Kentucky happens to be the state that's right in the middle of it. (Lucky us!) Kentucky waited until the 2000 "election" to join the Confederacy, so this trend is only beginning here.

As a populist, I view both the Sun Belt and the suburbs as representing aristocracy - plantation and otherwise. The South is often viewed as a poor region, but it's had conservative political leaders who represent the rich. The expansion of the aristocrats' empire has pushed aside Kentucky's one-of-a-kind populism and threatens to silence it completely. Kentucky could even be the one of the most Republican states in the looming presidential election, which in the '80s would have been unthinkable.

Kentuckians have sacrificed for generations to stop the state from being turned into a lavatory of elite conservative politics. It would be downright shameful to allow the aristocrats to win now. Conservative elites won't isolate their ideas to just a willing audience, so (for your own sake) just try to keep your distance from them - while also defying them. Hopefully you live in a town that's small enough where you can get the forces of dissent to take control of city government, so your community can hold firm against the conservative trend.

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