Rise of the paranoid South: How defending against “outsiders” brought the region together

Ted Cruz (R-TX) certainly knows that he's  an exceptional southerner.

Ted Cruz (R-TX) certainly knows that he’s an exceptional southerner.

My latest post is an article for Salon that explains why the American South continues to be exceptional in its own unique way.

The Civil War ended in 1865. Before the war, it was common parlance in America to speak of two regions: the “North” and the “South,” which were divided, above all else, over the issue of slavery. After the war, however, the idea of the “North” gradually disappeared from American culture, but “The South” as a regional, cultural and ideological construction has lived on.

Read the whole thing over at Salon.

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  1. Great article. Happy to have found you via Salon. I have a great appreciation for writers who can synthesize an academic perspective with current political and cultural events.

    I grew up in South Louisiana, moved North, and worked for years in Democratic politics during the time in which this political realignment worked itself out. Saddens me greatly that there are very few white Democrats left in the South. Yet at an analytical / academic level I find the whole process fascinating.

    • Thanks for reading and for the compliments! The South does indeed make for fascinating — if somewhat infuriating — study. I grew up in northern Ohio and have always been interested in U.S. regional dynamics, so the South is a source of endless intrigue for me. Thanks again for commenting!

  2. Of course, Ted Cruz was born in Canada. Last I heard, a few months back, he was still working on cleaning up that Canadian citizenship business.

    • No offense to the fine junior senator from Texas, but I’ll be a Canadian Permanent Resident by this time next year. It really isn’t all that bad up here.

      • No, I like Canadians and Canada, what little I personally have experienced of it. But Ted Cruz’ retaining his Canadian citizenship all these years is an odd, discordant note given his tricorn-hat-wearin’, Gadsden Flag-waving, more-patriotic-than-thou Tea Party base.

      • I hear there is a powerful politician in Canada named Stephen Harper there who governs like a Texas Republican.

    • Harper doesn’t have Cruz’s flamboyance, but he’s quite dangerous indeed, especially if you’re not a fan of shredding government documents and closing down research facilities.

      • My understanding is that Harper’s government has gutted Parks Canada, which does archaeology there, and re-directed much of its remaining resources to finding Franklin’s expedition. (Which they succeeded in doing.) That’s a genuinely significant achievement, but it seems to be part of a larger, proto-nationalist push by Harper to extend Canadian claims into the Arctic for more immediate reasons.

  3. I’m sure he knows that you can have dual citizenship. Heck, I’m not renouncing my Ohio roots just to become Canadian, because you can have the best of both worlds. My guess is that Sen. Cruz wouldn’t have bothered had his nativist Tea Bagger base not pointed out the “evils” of socialist Canada.

  4. An upgraded definition of Reconstruction would largely consist of the extensions of civil rights to blacks beyond the LBJ years. As the Democratic Party supported extensions, its political hold on the South weakened. We can trace the rise of Republican control below the M-D Line in near lockstep with southern Democratic candidates’ guilt-by-association as civil rights extensions were championed by their party’s national agenda. It is only quite recently that southern Democratic leaders became whole-hearted about those extensions. With that change came the southern Republican sweep…and well before the 2014 elections. Black civil rights is THE issue in the American south. As the Republican Party uses its new power to restrict financial aid to education, to push for loosening Washington’s control of healthcare, to raise barriers that inhibit minority voting, to further sweeten tax laws for the already-wealthy, to further insure that political campaign financing becomes a wealthy white domain, and to proclaim the inadequacy of black (and minority) candidates, the allegiance of southern whites to that party will increase and solidify. Equally strong will be the allegiance of southern blacks (and blacks moving back there) to Democratic candidates, a competition that, in the long run, Republicans will lose.
    Thank you for your perceptive articles! Keep ’em coming…

    • Can’t really disagree with you on much there. Even when race hasn’t been the major factor in this realignment, it’s always been on the periphery. Thanks for reading!

  5. In 1962 my family moved from Northern Maine to West Texas. I was 14. In my first class at my new school a football player heard my accent and loudly proclaimed that I was a chicken shit Yankee and at lunch time he was going to stomp a mud hole in my sorry ass. At lunch time I went to meet him a couple streets away from the school and he, at least 30 pounds heavier than me, and surrounded by a dozen friends, and me, not knowing a single person went toe to toe and he “won” the fight–but I got a couple licks in and no one picked a fight with me after that. Seven years later I moved to California and it was like leaving hell for heaven.

    The sign in the above illustration reminds me of this anecdote: My folks were living in San Antonio, TX in the 70s and about to move overseas. I had little money as I was putting myself through college so I hitchhiked from Los Angeles to San Antonio for a visit. the hitch hiking went fine until I got to Texas. Now Texans, as the traffic sign above shows, view themselves as a special uniquely friendly sort of people. So when one hitchhikes on the side of a Texas highway in 100 degree heat at least one occupant in every car with Texas plates that passes by will smile and give you a big ole neighborly Texas wave of the hand. But not one of of them will give you a ride. I ended up getting a ride to San Antonio with a driver from California. And it was the same for my return trip to La.. I like to say that the only thing wrong with Texas is that Texans live there. I may be wrong. It may be different now, forty years later, but I doubt that the level of ignorance and hypocrisy I witnessed in the time I lived there could be overcome in just a few decades; and from what I read in the media-it hasn’t.

    • Well, there’s a story for ya! But seriously, I actually quite love the South. I wrote my dissertation on Civil War Mississippi and spent a lot of time researching in Dixie because I find the region fascinating. Yes, I’m deeply critical of the region’s conservatism (and conservatism in general), and its racial and gender norms are still quite retrograde (then again, the same goes for much of America), but it’s also a region rich in culture and art. But the South’s one-party trend is something that has to stop if the region is ever going to really let go of the worst aspects of its past. Thanks for reading!

  6. I have often wondered why the history of the south starts with the Revolutionary War when the settlement in the south proceeded that event by over 100 years. Furthermore, the Colonies were a dumping ground for the British legal system, much like Australia. Would you consider doing a sociological study of the descendants of those transported to these penal colonies?

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