Thoughts Obama and Appalachia: It Ain’t (Quite) About That Southern Thing

J.L. Wall

J.L. Wall is a native Kentuckian in self-imposed exile to the Midwest, where he teaches writing to college students and over-analyzes Leonard Cohen lyrics.

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109 Responses

  1. Tom Van Dyke says:

    I don’t see where TNC made his case. Chris Cillizza and Aaron Blake:

    “But although no one doubts that race may be a factor, exit polling suggests that the opposition to Obama goes beyond it.”

    TNC dials it back to race anyway: even while admitting that “race” is just one factor,

    “Complicating racism with other factors doesn’t make it any better. It just makes it racism. Again.”

    Uh huh. It can’t be what started the southern exodus to the GOP in the early 70s, not race but “amnesty, abortion and acid,” and its modern extensions “low-income white rural voters use to associate [Obama] with a national Democratic Party that they believe has been overrun by affluent liberals, feminists, minorities, secularists and gays – people and groups whose interests are being serviced at the expense of their own,” as Chris Cillizza and Aaron Blake write.

    No, ignore the constellation of other factors that don’t fit the racism narrative and dash off more red meat for the affluent liberal Atlantic reader, that opposition or antipathy to Obama’s full embrace of the progressive left agenda is only accounted for by racism [and general “clinging” bumpkinism].

    Funny thing is, the “racists” here are voters in the Democratic Party. [That GOPers are racist is self-evident by being GOPers, of course.]

    Not that the right doesn’t see these things coming with all the subtlety of a slow train up a big mountain…

    • Jesse Ewiak in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

      Insert Lee Atwater quote here. The Southern Strategy was real, it existed, and was acted upon. Unless of course you think all the white people in the South who jumped over to the GOP in the 70’s after LBJ signed the CRA was just a wacky coinkydink.Report

      • J.L. Wall in reply to Jesse Ewiak says:

        I know you’re responding to Tom, and not me, but this is precisely the narrative I find unsatisfying in terms of Appalachia. Its residents weren’t the targets of the Southern Strategy; they weren’t (as) persuaded by the Southern Strategy; unlike Cotton Country, they still register as Democrats. It could, of course, be as simple as they were 40 years slower — that it just took Obama to persuade them that Atwater fellow was on to something. But the reason it took those four extra decades was because the mountains have a different history of race relations than the rest of the South — in large part because pretty much only white people lived there — and in the absence of the presence of black residents, true racial vitriol didn’t develop as it did in, say, Birmingham.Report

    • J.L. Wall in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

      His post was less interesting than his title, which made me think it was going to take a bit of a different tack than it did.

      Now, clearly, not all votes against Obama in Appalachia are motivated by race. But a startlingly high minority confessed that they voted against him at least in part because of race — and the totals themselves swung very suddenly toward the GOP. This is enough to make me wonder suspect — and above all wonder why — that this region has reacted disproportionately to Obama’s race, ESPECIALLY when compared with other white regions of the south. (See, for instance, Louisville, or Virginia.)Report

      • Nob Akimoto in reply to J.L. Wall says:

        I think your point 7 is actually what TNC was originally getting at.

        Or rather he was trying to separate racial superiority narratives from racial resentment/racist signifiers.

        You can be racist without thinking white people are super superior.Report

        • Stillwater in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

          Just regular old superior.Report

          • Nob Akimoto in reply to Stillwater says:

            Not even.

            It’s more “black people, gays and lesbians are getting things AT OUR EXPENSE.”

            That is to say “THEY” are getting what “WE” should have.

            And resentment at black people or LGBT people isn’t any less prejudiced because this is the driver.

            Let’s remember what the actual themes in Mein Kampf actually were driven as much by resentment at Germany’s loss as much as a screed of the superiority of the aryan race.Report

            • Stillwater in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

              Well, my account of expressions of racism and suchlike at the level of policy is that they preserve privilege (or a sense of privilege anyway). So I’m with ya about all this stuff.Report

              • Will Truman in reply to Stillwater says:

                Because if there’s one thing I associate with Appalachia, it’s being privileged.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Will Truman says:

                They certainly have longer vowels than we do.Report

              • J.L. Wall in reply to Jaybird says:

                Yeah, people in the north really HATE vowels or something. Can’t figure it out up here. And don’t get me started on the Canadians! Talk about anti-vowel discrimination!Report

              • J.L. Wall in reply to J.L. Wall says:

                (Says the native Kentuckian who sounds so little like one that people have lately assumed was raised in Chicago.)Report

              • Kimmi in reply to J.L. Wall says:

                it puzzled me when people asked if i was british. i do NOT have a british accent!Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Will Truman says:

                It could always get worse.Report

              • Nob Akimoto in reply to Stillwater says:

                Privilege is probably the wrong word here. Perhaps a sense of being given the short-stick in favor of certain other groups.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

                Or making sure some other groups end up with it.Report

              • Will Truman in reply to Stillwater says:

                If only they were more enlightened and realized that they should take the short end of the stick more graciously while their social betters proclaim themselves the defenders of the dispossessed while displaying not-a-little cultural contempt for them.

                I mean, if I were Appalachian, that’s what I’d do.Report

              • I figured what we were actually asking them to do was team up with the rest of us to give the short end of the stick to the people shipping jobs overseas, etc. etc.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Will Truman says:

                I don’t understand that comment at all. I mean, I know it’s snarky, but I still can’t figure it out.

                Lil help?Report

              • They’re largely on board with a lot of that. But they’re not on board with the personalities through which there is a cultural divide (not just the appearing to choose other short-enders over them, but more generally). It’s not productive, but counterproductive behavior is not something that Appalachia has a corner on.Report

              • Still,

                As long as you’re looking at Appalachians with a fair amount of contempt, and attributing the motivation to their comparative privilege, you’re doing a good job of demonstrating why they’re not getting with the program.Report

              • My previous comment was excessively personal in Still’s direction. I apologize for that.

                My point is more general, in the way that we often look at the undesirable behavior of one group with understanding (though not approval) and another group as though there is no context or that the context is that they have unduly much, rather than that they are acting undesirably becuase they are in an undesirable situation. An undesirable situation that if I were in, I am not sure how different I would be. Or maybe I’d be totally different, but many of my seemingly-enlightened peer-group might not be so different.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Will Truman says:

                Well, no worries about any of that. I’m just wondering how – and why – you construed anything I said as expressing contempt for the people of Appalachia!?!?Report

              • I find your explanation as to why there are pockets of racism – that this goes back to undue privilege on their part – to be so off-base that it comes across to me as ill-will. Assuming the least understandable rationale and scoffing at the assigned motivation.

                I recognize that this is required assumptions of my own, to at least some degree, which is why I wanted to back off a little of my criticism of you and of what you specifically said.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Will Truman says:

                Ahh, the ‘it could always get worse’ comment. Sure. I could see how you’d think that was a dig. (Is that what got your engine racing?) Well, maybe that’s my bad, for not being clearer. I meant that in a general sense, as part of the concept of privilege and not as applying to Appalachians specifically. That is, maintaining privilege is always in the interest of the privileged. That’s how things can always get worse, even if you don’t have very much. So the concept of privilege would apply to racist Appalachians in just that way.

                Does that clear things up a bit?Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Will Truman says:

                Oh! Well, maybe we should just leave the topic then.Report

              • It’s a rather sore point with me that we lost West Virginia and Kentucky to the South. If I weren’t packing for Vegas, I’d write a post on the whole thing.Report

              • J.L. Wall in reply to Will Truman says:

                Will, I am interested in hearing your thoughts on KY and WV at some point. (I assume that by “we” you mean Yankees? Or at least non-Southerners?)Report

              • JLW, I’ll see if I can put something together in the next week. It’s probably as much visceral as thoughtful, though.

                What I meant by “we” is an interesting question. Because I am a southerner. I guess I mostly mean the type of people who recoil at particular aspects of the South.Report

              • Chris in reply to Will Truman says:

                I don’t think “we” every had West Virginia or Kentucky (I too am a southerner, by the way). They may not have had the reflexive hatred of the party of Lincoln, but they were still southern. Kentucky had more post-war lynchings than some former Confederate state (North Carolina, Virginia, and South Carolina). Both states had Jim Crow laws on the books, including school segregation. They’re both socially conservative, and always have been. Kentucky is among the most religious states in the country, in fact, and West Virginia is in the second quintile I think. West Virginia’s only real deviations, I think, are that at one point it had a lot of immigrants (my Italian grandfather grew up there — I don’t think any of my Italian relatives live there anymore, though) because of the coal mines, and also an active labor movement because of the mines.

                I probably don’t need to mention that West Virginia had a former klan member as one of its Senators for 50 years. A Democrat, too.Report

            • sonmi451 in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

              “That is to say “THEY” are getting what “WE” should have.”

              Doesn’t that imply superiority anyway? WE should have those things instead of THEM because we’re white, and they’re not.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to sonmi451 says:

                Thanks for saying that.Report

              • sonmi451 in reply to Stillwater says:

                You’re kinda already said it better, but I didn’t read it before commenting, hehe. Sorry!Report

              • Tom Van Dyke in reply to sonmi451 says:

                That’s a misreading, Sonmi. Relax—you’re “we.” I’m “they.” It’s white people code, and some folks is even whiter than me.Report

              • Kimmi in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                this is your best comment in a while. 😉Report

              • Ryan Noonan in reply to sonmi451 says:

                I don’t think it implies superiority at all. I want my favorite sports teams to win all their games, but that’s not really about superiority. It’s about the fact that they’re MY teams. You can call it selfish if you like, but if your lot in life is grinding poverty, I’m willing to overlook some amount of selfishness. Heaven knows it’s easy for me to look down my nose at all those yahoos grasping for advantage when I have never in my life had a serious worry about making ends meet.Report

            • agorabum in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

              So a sort of “he’s black, black people are urban, he’s going to do things the black and urban way, oh how I hate him so”?Report

              • Ryan Noonan in reply to agorabum says:

                I hate to be Tom Van Dyke or something here, but Barack Obama isn’t JUST black. He’s also a pretty good stand in for a certain culture. The Northern, urban, educated, elitist culture. For Pete’s sake, do people not remember the “clinging to guns” comment?

                Don’t get me wrong. *I* am a Northern, urban, educated elitist myself, and for the life of me I have no damn idea what people see in guns other than their own sublimated penis issues, but it’s worth considering that as offensive as I find their culture, they probably aren’t super keen on mine.Report

              • Kimmi in reply to Ryan Noonan says:

                guns are good for shooting rabid racoons, before they git your dog, or your neighbors.Report

        • J.L. Wall in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

          Yes, I suppose it very likely (most certainly) would fall under the general rubric of racism. But, if nothing else, it has a different history than “Southern” (slavery-CSA-Jim Crow) racism AND northern, urban racism (in its cuddliest, most de-fanged form, Archie Bunker). I changed the words around to try to draw that distinction out.

          I think where TNC and I differ a little more is that I see race as potentially being a visual signifier of other, non-race specific attributes. I think he sees race as pretty clearly signalling race. Which is a good thing to point out, lest pointy-headed academia-dwellers like me start trying to count angels on pinheads so desperately that we lose sight of that basic fact.

          I’m not necessarily persuaded that any feeling of “racial resentment” must, by definition, qualify as racism — but refusing to vote for someone because of that resentment is, yes, racist.Report

          • Kimmi in reply to J.L. Wall says:

            Coates has less experience with rural people than a lot of writers on a place like kos. I think it was Devilstower that noted, for all rural people’s prejudice against cityfolk, they do tend to give ya a good look, the first and second time.
            You get the people all in a tizzy over a Black Person moving into town, but a week later talking about “they seem like our type of people.”
            The odd thing about rural people is they don’t generalize that, as much.Report

      • Will Truman in reply to J.L. Wall says:

        I think that there is a lot to discuss here, but half of the conversation typically becomes seen as apologetics for racism, and so in that sense, I’m not sure how much there actually is to talk about. When half of the dialogue is unacceptable, there is no dialogue.Report

      • Tom Van Dyke in reply to J.L. Wall says:

        I’m not saying TNC’s wrong, JL, but that his argument is mushy. I dunno what the exit poll in question said. What we do know is Obama’s having trouble with white Democrats, so that’s its own kettle of fish.

        No Democrat has won the white vote nationally since LBJ in 1964 anyway, so there’s definitely a disconnect between Democrats and the white vote regardless of Obama being the nominee.

        And to Mr. Stillwater, all I can say is I wish the GOP had Cory Booker and I’m glad it has Allen West and you can have Colin Powell, who may or may not want you, because he’s mugwumping again, withholding an Obama endorsement as of yet. [He endorsed him last time.]

        As for the “Southern Strategy” litigated ad nauseum here and elsewhere, it was 50 years ago, and today, whatever racism there is on the right is easily matched among blacks on the left, a third-rail fact always left unspoken. In the least, whatever votes Barack Obama has lost by being black, he’s more than made up for by virtue of being black.

        In my eyes, it’s a push, and tells us nothing about whether Barack Obama’s or Mitt Romney’s is the best vision for our country’s future. And since we don’t have any black social conservatives of national stature, we have no control for our experiment on a candidate’s blackness vs. his leftism.

        For I’m obliged to repeat that the Dems have lost the white vote ever since 1964. It’s not all about Obama’s blackness, and this is the nuance completely missing from TNC’s argument.

        Indeed, come 1968, the Democratic Party had veered quite left toward the three A’s [acid, amnesty and abortion, ironically a phrase come to fruition in 1972, first used against George McGovern] , and the civil rights movement itself—even the “moderate” MLK—was way past political equality and into more progressive social programs, opposition to Vietnam and that side of the left agenda.

        That the South turned right did not require race qua race.

        To return to JL’s and TNC’s subject—West Virginia, Kentucky and Arkansas, where Obama is losing 40% of the Dem primary vote to protest candidates—we are getting a new rap on racism, and IMO, via a very fuzzy if not lazy argument. Afterall, the racists in question are Democratic primary voters!Report

        • J.L. Wall in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

          I don’t have county registration numbers on hand (so help me God if I have to willingly deal with more webpages than is absolutely necessary — they turn me into one of those cranks who sends angry notes and phone calls to low-level staffers with no power to affect anything I complain about), so forgive my especial fuzziness here.

          Yes, those in question are Democratic primary voters. KY as a whole is, as noted about 56-37 D-R in registration. Louisville and Lexington roughly mirror that percentage. Western Kentucky and the Cincy suburbs/northern, non-mountain counties are disproportionately Republican. So the counties in question — those highlighted in red on the map — are, let us say, at least 2/3 registered Democrats. Knowing the state backs this up — this is COAL and UNION country, and the only counties outside of Jefferson (Louisville) to vote for Kerry in 2004 are found among them. They’re the counties that picked Jack Conway (a Louisvillian!) over Rand Paul in 2010. It’s a region of the state that, in 2008, voted against Mitch McConnell.

          This is all to say that, in the counties in question, drawing a conclusion about Democratic primary voters isn’t all that different from drawing conclusions about registered voters, or residents. I wouldn’t be as intrigued by the shift from Democrats/Obama if these voters, in 2008 primaries and generals, hadn’t self-reported at about a 25% clip that race was a major factor, with almost all of these reporting that they did not vote for Obama.

          I’m more out to understand this possible resentment, and what causes/caused it, not to condemn it and just walk away, but because I’ve long been of the opinion that Appalachia is a region that has been done wrong by this country and, particularly, the Commonwealth of Kentucky. I have a great deal of affection for it; my paternal grandmother and her siblings huddled in the fireplace to hide from bullets as children in the 1930s in Harlan County.Report

          • Kimmi in reply to J.L. Wall says:

            Obama seems… uppity(using that word in a raceneutral context, midn). In the same way that they lost all their smart kids to the city, and are kinda bitter about it. He seems like the nail that sticks up, and in the end is gonna leave and never come back.
            You always see smart farm kids, smart hayseeds. They get out, find a better home than the Hills (Quaker country generally sounds good to them — a little more free-spirited, anything-goes).Report

        • Kazzy in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

          “…whatever racism there is on the right is easily matched among blacks on the left, a third-rail fact always left unspoken. In the least, whatever votes Barack Obama has lost by being black, he’s more than made up for by virtue of being black.”

          Please offer some sort of substantiation for either of these points.Report

          • Chris in reply to Kazzy says:

            Because white racism towards black people and black racism towards white people are precisely the same thing, in the way that video games and carrots are precisely the same thing.Report

            • James Hanley in reply to Chris says:

              Umm, as a one time victim of black racism (at least I think the words “get the white guy” and the subsequent repeated kicks to the head probably indicate some degree of racism), I must dissent. They truly are not quite the same thing, contra TVD (racist blacks can’t quite constrain white opportunity the way racist whites can constrain black opportunity–sheer numbers at work there), but they’re rather more alike than video games and carrots.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to James Hanley says:

                There’s also a historical as well as contemporary difference which might motivate what are equally carroty racist beliefs, no?Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                That’s fair. Ginger is an overlooked, maybe even oppressed …. vegetable?

                (Oh God I’ve only made things worse.)Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Stillwater says:

                {{{Mental note: click on images before responding to clever comments}}}Report

              • North in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                For the record it is completely false to state that gingers have no souls. In truth gingers have a freckle for every soul they’ve stolen.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to North says:


              • Kimmi in reply to North says:

                *cackles with glee*Report

              • Mr. Blue in reply to Stillwater says:

                Black racism isn’t just directed at whites.Report

              • Chris in reply to Mr. Blue says:

                That is true. On the other hand, white racism isn’t just directed at black people.Report

              • Chris in reply to Chris says:


                Hopefully this works. It was the top story — the top fishin’ story — today. Just seems apropos of our conversation here, for a variety of reasons.Report

              • Mr. Blue in reply to Chris says:

                Sure, but I was responding to Stillwater who was implying black racism was more justified than white racism. Against whites, maybe. But it doesn’t limit itself to where it’s justified. People often just lash out at whomever is convenient, nearby, and different.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Chris says:

                Mr Blue, Insofar as racism is ever justified (I don’t think it is) then US blacks are holding all the chips. And yet, it seems to me that blacks are significantly less racist than whites.Report

              • Chris in reply to James Hanley says:

                Oh James, I don’t mean to imply that racist attitudes towards white people can’t be harmful, physjically or mentally. I just mean that, well, you were attacked, but you’re not going to have a more difficult time getting a job, or credit, or contracts, or housing, or much of anything because of black racism. Yeah, they’re not even remotely similar.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to Chris says:

                I would call attempts to physically injure, perhaps kill, someone based solely on their race “remotely” similar.Report

              • Chris in reply to James Hanley says:

                Oh, I’d say it’s similar to one effect of white racism. It’s not similar to all the others. That’s my point. It is undeniable that a black people can physically harm outnumbered white people in a specific place at a specific time, just as white people can physically harm black people in a specific place at a specific time. What black people can’t do, no matter how racist they are, is create systematic disadvantages for white people throughout the country. They can’t do this because a.) they’re a minority (and no longer the largest one, even!), and b.) they’re not in in power the way that white (men) are.

                So yeah, I’m sorry that happened to you. It sucks, and I wish it hadn’t happened. You’re a nice guy, it seems to me, and you definitely didn’t deserve it (not that anyone would). And I don’t doubt that it was prejudice and bigotry that caused it. But still, it ain’t the same thing, not even close.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to Chris says:

                I’ve agreed that there’s a whole lot of other difference. But I’m astounded that you don’t see that the rock bottom worst thing racists do–attempt to physically harm or even kill people because of their race–is identical. That means that both racisms are very similar in their most serious and dangerous expression–how can that be “not even close?”

                And of course the things you’re focusing on–while real, as I’ve agreed–are solely about opportunity, not intent, motivation, will, and desire. Change the proportions of whites and blacks in America tomorrow, and all those things would be what blacks do to whites, rather than vice versa.

                Look at this the way cops investigate crimes: Means, motive, and opportunity. The motive is precisely the same, the means are frequently the same. What differs is opportunity.

                Yes, the effects, in sum, are vastly different. But the racisms themselves? Not so different at all.Report

              • Chris in reply to Chris says:

                I’m not sure it even makes sense to say that it’s the same thing mentally, because it’s different in cause, structure, and content as well as in effect, but that’s a much longer conversation. For this one, I’ll just say that I’m not sure physical violence is the worst thing that racists do. It may be the worst individual act of racism, but the worst thing that racists do is oppress an entire group of people because of the color of their skin. Physical oppression is just part of that.

                Look, I’m not trying to minimize what happened to you. It’s really bad, and completely wrong. But it doesn’t mean that white racism and black racism are even in the same category.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to Chris says:


                The issue isn’t really about what happened to me, at least not on a personal level. I know you’re not minimizing it, but let me–I’m just an example here. It’s so long ago now that in a sense I’m not a living breathing person in that example–I know I had emotional responses, but I can’t really recall them in a meaningful way.

                But as to having different cause, structure, and content, I’d argue that for each those categories overlap. And at bottom, one of the crucial causes is just the human tendency toward tribalism, the definition of in-groups and out-groups, and the maltreatment of the outs. That’s not all that’s going on, of course, but that’s a crucial root.

                So again, my point is not that they’re the same, but to say they’re as different as two things that are so categorically different they don’t even belong in the same realm? I just don’t think you can analytically sustain that analogy or what it implies.Report

              • Chris in reply to Chris says:

                James, I agree with most of what you say here, except that they are the same thing. The reason I said they were different in the first place is the reason I say they’re different now: the effects are dramatically different. There’s just no way around that. If black people held the same attitudes they do today, and they were in power, and used them to oppress white people or whatever other group they were prejudiced against, it would be the same. Until then, it’s radically different.Report

          • Tom Van Dyke in reply to Kazzy says:

            Please offer a rebuttal instead, sir. Are you this lazy in bed?Report

            • Stillwater in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

              I take it you meant that for me? If so…

              No I can’t offer a rebuttal. You’re in the realm where there cannot ever-in-principle-no-matter-what-on-any-condition-whatsoever-irregardless-of-the-evidence-because-outcomes-exclude-intent-and-intent-can’t-be-proven-to-demonstrate-racism place where it’s impossible to even suggest there’s any racism in the GOP or conservative community.

              But you seem really comfortable attributing not only reverse racism to Democrats, and racialism to Democrats, but just plain old inarguable front-line no-hood-involved racism to Democrats.

              So, no, I can’t rebut anything.Report

              • How can you not know me after all these years? All things being equal in 2008, I’d have voted for the black guy meself just because of our shameful racial history. [Plus McCain was no treat. Dude’s off, and picking Sarah Palin was his first and thankfully last executive decision.]

                By the time you get done caricaturing and strawmanning me, I look a lot more like you than I look like me. Let’s bail on this, no good can come of it.Report

        • Mo in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

          If you look at the Dem primary from 2008, you can see that in KY and WV, about 20% of voters were willing to tell a random pollster that race was an important factor when they voted. Those that thought race was important voted for Obama at 1/3 the rate that those that didn’t.

          As for your point re: blacks voting disproportionately for Obama, it’s not that big a difference. Obama got 95% of the group in 2008, John Kerry got 88% in 2004. Blacks disproportionately voted for Obama because they disproportionately vote for Dems. BTW, do you plan on calling out Mormons who vote disproportionately for Romney?

    • Stillwater in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

      No, ignore the constellation of other factors that don’t fit the racism narrative…

      The thing is Tom, you (and I mean TVD) can talk about non-racial factors all you want, and you know what? Racism remains a factor. That’s what I just don’t get: the claim is that racism is a factor in conservative politics. Not the one and only determiner of conservative politics.Report

      • “Conservative” politics? Racist Democrats are on the firing line here unless somebody wants to do the tabs on the polling data—which nobody has.

        See prev arguments. A difference that makes no difference is no difference. We don’t have any data to prove that white Republicans in a WV, KY, or AK wouldn’t support an Allen West just because he’s black. As JL Wall allowed above, “black” when it comes to American electoral politics carries a lot of baggage. Going back to Martin Luther King’s turn from racial civil equality to the Alinsky/left agenda around 1966, “black” politics has come to mean Democrat-left-progressive politics, and bigtime.

        The Associated Press
        Tuesday, November 2, 2010; 10:28 PM
        NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. — South Carolina voters on Tuesday elected the first black Republican to Congress from the Deep South since Reconstruction.

        State Rep. Tim Scott easily defeated perennial Democratic candidate Ben Frasier and five third-party candidates to win the 1st District seat left vacant by the retirement of Republican U.S. Rep. Henry Brown.</blockquote.

        Could a Rep. Tim Brown happen in WV, KY, AK? It happened in OK, the honorable JC Watts.

        The 45-year-old Scott swamped his opponents in fundraising, spending almost $725,000 during the election cycle to less than $20,000 for his November opponents. The conservative businessman, who owns an insurance agency, picked up the endorsements of tea party groups and former GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin.

        In 2008, Scott was elected to the Legislature, becoming the first black Republican lawmaker in the state in more than a century. He said his candidacy shows how the state has evolved over the years.

        He served 13 years on Charleston County Council and was honorary chairman of one of political icon Strom Thurmond’s Senate re-election bids. Raised in poverty in North Charleston, Scott’s single mother, Frances, worked 16 hours a day raising Scott and his brother.

        After winning a nine-way Republican primary, Scott became the heavy favorite to win the seat in a district that has not elected a Democrat in 30 years.

        In the primary, Scott defeated Carroll Campbell III, the son of the late popular South Carolina governor and then, in the runoff, defeated Thurmond’s son, Paul.—ibid.

        Black man beat Strom Thurmond’s son. Is that cool or what?Report

      • Stillwater in reply to Stillwater says:

        Egad, Tom. OK. I give. There is no racism in the country, and if there is, it’s only among Democrats and not Republicans. Democrats are not only the “real” racist, they’re just the … well … racists.Report

        • Sorry to see you quit your marginally defensible position so easily, with so hollow a mockery. I don’t get it. I always give you a shot at me and never scorch your earth even when I could. Within 24 hours you’re back at my throat. I will never get it, man, this I admit.Report

          • Stillwater in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

            Well, look, it’s not like your innocent in that. If I am, then I take my share of the blame (in fact I take all the blame at this point since I oughta know better, whatevs), but you do you’re best to dodge the point of attack on your own end.

            But this racism debate, as far as you and I go, is useless at this point. You’re gonna deny that there are conservatives motivated by racism, and I’m gonna continue to argue that there are.

            Why not let it go? I’m done arguing with you about it. I don’t think you’re a racist, but I’m not gonna argue with you anymore about whether other conservatives are.Report

            • OK, Still. This is the land of the Hatfields and McCoys. We don’t like them because they don’t like us. It’s not really much deeper than that. We vote Democrat because everybody knows the Republicans are anti-black. And so on and so on.Report

  2. Dan says:

    One thing that people seem to be overlooking is that these areas in for lack of a better term the out south (not just Appalachia) have been turning republican in the last 3 presidential election. Clinton won all these area strongly in 1996 Gore lost most of them in 2000 and they’ve been turning more republican ever since. I’m not sure why this has happened, I have difficulty believing it’s based on race because I don’t think people would suddenly get upset about the Civil Right Act 36 year after it was signed(West Virginia went blue in ’64 ’68 ’76 ’80 ’88 ’92 and ’96 every year that republicans won less than 49 states). If it were just coal mining areas I’d say it was environmentalism that was driving it but it seems to be happening in areas that don’t have any coal mining.
    On other note is while this has happened the Dems been doing much better in southern metropolitan area recently, Obama won both Harris County (Houston) and Dallas county in 2008.Report

    • agorabum in reply to Dan says:

      It’s called people dying.
      The older generation more strongly identified the Democratic party with FDR and the Kennedys; with prominent democratic leaders that made a lot of significant changes in government to help their lives and with people who really focused on Appalachia.
      Now it’s the people who came of age during Reagan. They may have still registered as democrats, but have identified more and more with the national republicans, and became more and more accepting that democrats in other states are these poncey urban elites, not salty union / country folk. Then you have Gore badmouthing coal, and Bush singing its praises while waiving the bloody shirt.Report

  3. Mike says:

    I appreciate the attempt to separate Appalachia and look at it separately away from the lens that the South is exposed to regularly. However looking from outside what we are seeing is resentful white working class. I’m pretty sure they see themselves as just working class.Report

    • Kimmi in reply to Mike says:

      When you’re in the midst of getting poisoned, because of something the news (run by GE, the people what caused the problem) won’t even report is a problem, your government won’t report is a problem, and you halfway believe isn’t a problem yourself except the kids aren’t right anymore…

      Yeah, there’s a reason to resent someone.Report

  4. Sean says:

    It might be worth pointing out that the map that accompanies the post (I believe it’s the map that shows Obama’s 2008 results vs. Kerry’s 2004 results, though I could be wrong) shows that Obama underperformed Kerry not just in Appalachia, but west into west TN, AR, and OK. So, the idea that KY and WV are different from the deep south seems compelling. However, what makes those Appalachian states similar to Arkansas and Oklahoma (and Louisana and the Florida panhandle), which certainly aren’t Appalachian? What would this post look like if it were written by an Oklahoman rather than a Kentuckian?

    (Sorry if this is a derail — this lurker enjoys reading your site. I’m not from any of those areas I mentioned, btw.)Report

    • J.L. Wall in reply to Sean says:

      It’s a good question — and if it weren’t for E.D.’s tyrannical demands that we include images with our posts (when I’ve ignored it, they’ve just APPEARED!) it wouldn’t be there — from more than my general reluctance to scrounge for images, that is. I hesitated to associate it with this post precisely because of what you said. I don’t know what’s going on with Oklahoma; I don’t know a thing about Oklahoma. Louisiana I think we can at least partially chalk up to the aftermath of Katrina. West TN I’m not so sure about; Arkansas I’ll give very slight credit to the Ozarks, but I suspect it has more to do with the Clintons.

      But the reason I’m willing to take race-as-a-factor seriously enough to write a post on w/r/t KY/WV is because there is, in fact, data that indicates race as a self-confessed factor there. If it were just a delayed swing to the GOP, it would make more sense. My suspicion is that there are local factors for why certain counties/regions resisted the general trend toward the Dems that year — there’s red in MA, too, which I suspect has to do with NOT having Kerry on the ballot. What I find curious, I suppose, is that the “local factor” in Appalachia is, by 20-25% of the voters’ own confession, race.

      Don’t worry, not at all a derailing — you got me to scratch out what I suppose would have been a lengthy introductory footnote/caveat if this weren’t a blog post.Report

      • Tom Van Dyke in reply to J.L. Wall says:

        JL, that’s why I don’t mainpage much—I dunno what a natural law looks like.Report

      • Chris in reply to J.L. Wall says:

        I suspect that if you were to develop some measure of cultural similarity, you’d find that, while Appalachia is weird (it just is — seriously, go hang out in Huntington and tell me it’s not), but much of the rest of the states in question: Middle and Eastern Tennessee, Northern, Central, and Western Kentucky, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and northern Florida, are as or more culturally similar to each other than they are to South Carolina, Georgia, middle and southern Alabama, and Mississippi. Also, in some ways, much of Louisiana outside of the New Orleans area is flat Appalachia.Report

        • Kimmi in reply to Chris says:

          East Tennessee is Hill Country.
          West Tennessee and Middle Tennessee aren’t.
          Venture to say that Missouri is a better analog to a lot of western Tennessee.

          And don’t forget appalachia hits southern New york and Erie.Report

  5. Mike Dwyer says:

    I haven’t been following this closely but has anyone mentioned that Kentucky is a closed primary state and the Undecided option is new? Also, by the time the voting gets to KY the races are usually already decided so our primary votes are really just symbolic. If you are a registered Democrat this is the first chance you have ever had to let people know during the primaries that you have no intention of voting for the Democratic nominee. I chalk the 40% up to that.

    Of course this begs the question of why rural Kentuckians vote Republican. That’s more complicated and I can’t really add much to what J.L. has already said.Report

  6. JL: You write in one of your comments above that:

    I’m more out to understand this possible resentment, and what causes/caused it, not to condemn it and just walk away, but because I’ve long been of the opinion that Appalachia is a region that has been done wrong by this country and, particularly, the Commonwealth of Kentucky. I have a great deal of affection for it; my paternal grandmother and her siblings huddled in the fireplace to hide from bullets as children in the 1930s in Harlan County.

    As good as your OP was – and it was fantastic for even going down this road to begin with – I would love to see you go into a lot more depth on this in another post or series of posts if possible. I suspect there’s quite a bit of import there. If Mr. Dwyer were to pitch in with his thoughts as well, I think it would do a world of good for everyone here.

    IIRC, about the only time I’ve seen anyone even attempt to touch this issue in recent years in the public sphere was an opinion piece written by Senator Webb from Virginia.Report

    • “As good as your OP was – and it was fantastic for even going down this road to begin with – I would love to see you go into a lot more depth on this in another post or series of posts if possible. I suspect there’s quite a bit of import there. If Mr. Dwyer were to pitch in with his thoughts as well, I think it would do a world of good for everyone here.”

      I’m down.Report

  7. Kimmi says:

    It would appear that the “paris of appalachia” (pittsburgh) plus Erie nicely balance out East Tennessee…
    How much more of Appalachia are you missing? Ohio’s appalachia isn’t dark red. Even the more midwestern parts of WV aren’t deepred.
    The darkest and most consistent red on your map is Arkansas. Which means you’re better off talking about the Borderlanders.Report

  8. Kimmi says:

    Hope that someone’s gonna read this…

    Appalachia is unique — and we can look back at Scotch-Irish culture to see why Obama gets so under their skin. It’s that he’s not trying to blend in, not trying to be “one of the folks” — almost defiantly urban, urbane, and definitively black.

    This is a culture that openheartedly welcomes Vietnamese wives, has welcomed Indians and blacks… but the demand was always “fit in.” If you act like one of us, that’s how we’re gonna treat you (and eventually, we’ll just call you white).

    Obama acts… fancy. He talks big, and eloquent — like a Jew or a Black man. Appalachian culture just isn’t that way, and it rankles.

    To top it all off, he’s got these funny ideas that the coalmen don’t like. To be honest, he’s really not out to represent WV’s economic interests as They Now Stand.Report

    • George Turner in reply to Kimmi says:

      Kimmi, if you’re not a native to the region, you’d sure pass for one. 🙂

      BTW, I’m from Bell County KY (near Harlan County), and my uncles were all coal miners.

      Race is generally an unimportant factor in Appalachia because the place is about as white as New Hampshire. Since we didn’t fit into the narrative of the rich white oppressor, we escaped the racial-guilt industry’s attentions and thus don’t have the automatic reflex (or flinch reaction) to do or say anything to avoid appearing the least bit racist. It could well be that we’re that last whites in America who will answer a race question honestly instead of evading, tap dancing, or reciting an answer from the Liberal Reformed Catechism of socially acceptable thoughts.

      This raises a fundamental paradox about polling. How can you determine differences in people’s views if there’s a measurable difference in how they’re willing to answer a polling question about those views? Yet the region’s views on race might in fact be quite unique. Years ago I talked to an old hill farmer who’d spent time in Detroit during WW-II, who’d witnessed racial diversity first hand and realized that although both Frenchmen and Germans were good workers, mixed offspring of them (French-German children) weren’t worth spit, and the two races should not intermarry. I don’t think his view is entirely common in Appalachia, though it may have been accepted wisdom in fancy urban cities like Detroit. Yet he had no qualms about telling a complete stranger about the utter worthlessness of Franco-German hybrids, and where else in America would people still tell you this so forthrightly?

      Another factor in Obama’s poor showing is that the people of the region are very, very aware of the long-term effects of big government welfare programs, having been helped to death since the 1930’s. We’ve also had bitter experience with rich, elite, liberal Democrats swinging through the region to use the muddiest kids as poster children to justify increased welfare spending on their own constituents, especially their pwn inner-city captive minority voting blocks. At best, elite liberals put more Appalachians on welfare and then pat themselves on the back for a job well done. We’re the place Kennedys go when they need photo-ops and the Calcutta Carlton is all booked up, but even the Kennedys didn’t plot and scheme to throw us all out of work.

      It would be hard for anyone from the hills to avoid the conclusion that we are what Obama thinks is wrong with Americans, that our jobs are what Obama wants to close down, and that our beliefs and culture are what Obama wants to change (eliminate). We are the peasants and he wants to play king, jetting off to his stream of endless Hawaiian golf outings and $30,000 a plate Hollywood dinners, believing he’s entitled to take all our money because of some nebulous claims of racial oppression and family lineage, and we know he would never lower himself to share so much as a hot dog with any of us. We know he’ll exploit us as poster-children for a campaign backdrop, using us as an excuse to give more money to Chicago blacks, to be distributed by his rich elite buddies who will take a big slice of the funds, and then he’ll work tirelessly to shut down all our coal mines to make us really poor and dependent. We didn’t have this feeling with Bill Clinton.Report

      • Kimmi in reply to George Turner says:

        Been living in Pittsburgh for the past ten years, and my Dad’s from Uniontown, which had gobs of coal miners in the day.

        Down in Washington, PA, a family about scared the socks off the progressive canvasser, when they said “I’ma vote for the n!gger.” Canvasser forgot that some people know who’s got their back… 😉

        Yeah, people in WV and wherenot seem to be a bit more… direct. Less PC. Don’t mean there isn’t racism other places, and a lot of them worse than the Hills. (There’s a couple of indian reservations that the rural whitefolks treat as private rape preserves out West. filthy horrid business, that)

        Helped to death? far from it. you want me to pull the pictures? I can pull you ones on sad irons, on polio, on plenty of kids with barefeet, walking through the mud. I can tell you what poor is, and what poor’s gonna be when gas hits $10/gallon. Which it’s gonna.

        Show me the money, eh? There was a specific program in the Stimulus, just to get high speed internet to rural schools. Things like that are real, not hokus pokus “he ain’t like us, so he’s gonna screw us over.”

        Yeah, I know what you guys are like. To win a battle, one must know the ground one fights on (might as well be Longstreet’s saying). Obama’s got a big battle to win there — I just hope he damn well shows up to fight.Report

      • Kimmi in reply to George Turner says:

        I got me some big ears, I listen to Carnaki
        I listened to grannydoc
        Her diaries about going down to the dump to talk with old men were very moving.

        I try to keep an eye out, because I know you guys got it loads harder than I do.Report