Thursday, November 05, 2009

The South has Won

By Bernie Quigley

- for The Hill on 11/05/09

One key fact explains the present that has come to us in Tuesday’s election: A deeply conservative Republican explaining himself without apology has won the Old Dominion by 18%. Virginia is bright red. It will be this way in Texas too where the conservative, Rick Perry, is ahead of the moderate, Kay Bailey Hutchison, by 12%. It will be this way now throughout the South. It will possibly be like this in all the red states reaching as far north as Alaska and back east to the outer agrarian regions like NY 23 where Amish buggies travel in traffic. But the South IMO, from Richmond all the way to Dallas will be red for a long time. Possibly a hundred years. Possibly a thousand years. The South has won. The South has beat the devil.

George Allen, the Republican governor from 1994 to 1998, carried Virginia through an age of transition. But he was all hat and no cattle; a Reagan imitator, a Californian and a celebrity son who didn’t have a clue as to the values of the South and Virginia. I worked in his bureaucracy and from top to bottom it was incompetent, imitational and simply oppositional. Mark Warner, a Democrat who was voted by Wall St. to be one of the country’s best governors, brought Virginia an auspicious beginning.

A rare Yankee-born politician, Warner actually liked the people he had come South to govern. And they liked him as well. When Senator Jim Webb came on board in 2006 there was between them the potential to restore old Southern Democratic values of family, community and hard, hard labor on Daddy’s farm and football practice after school without whining. Us commie, heathen, horse worshiping Yankees could truly delight in hearing the Stanley Brothers and the Clinch Mountain boys singing Angel Band at their pep rallies and the best of us joined up. Mudcat Saunders, advisor to Webb and Warner, made a good connection and brought out a South that could awaken and fulfill us head-bound outsiders. Truth is, they liked Webb, a well-known novelist, better in the urban enclaves like Alexandria than they did in his western Virginia home place.

Mudcat’s book, Foxes in the Henhouse: How the Republicans Stole the South and the Heartland and What the Democrats Must Do to Run 'em Out, written with Steve Jarding, brought the very smartest advice to Democrats hoping to do well in the South. But about 70% of the way into the text the authors gave a warning which should have been on page one: If the Democrats ignored the South, they said, the price would be high. There was a countervailing text by Thomas F. Shaller, an academic in Maryland who writes for Salon and The Nation: Whistling Past Dixie: How the Democrats Can Win without the South.

They could and they did in 2008, but as Jarding and Saunders warned, the price now will be high. The auspicious revival conjured and cultivated by Saunders and Jarding and brought to fruition through the good work of Warner and Webb is as of Tuesday, I believe, gone with the wind.

American history post-war and now hereon into the future will have been hinged on one critical turning. In 1981 82% of my old neighbors in Tobaccoville, North Carolina, changed their registration from Democrat to vote overwhelmingly for a Republican, Ronald Reagan. That moment can be seen now as a beginning. And as of Tuesday, there will be no turning back.