Thursday, July 26, 2018


Writing for Time magazine, National Review's David French exults in the South's strong sense of cultural identity:
The idea of the South is very important to the people of the South, and it has been for a very long time.

In 2018, the South sees itself as economically advanced but culturally traditional. It’s proud of its industry and technology, but it’s also proud of its faith and its families. The majority of the people don’t hunt or fish or farm, but they feel connected to people who do. A Tennessee lawyer may never leave a paved road, but he’ll drive a truck that can haul hay. Even people who don’t own guns value the South’s gun culture. They may not have a firearm, but they will not tolerate a government that restricts their ability to defend themselves.

That’s the idea of the South in 2018. Southerners love God. They respect the traditions of faith and family–including manners and respect for elders. Southerners are connected to the land. They despise elitism. They’re suspicious of government but not averse to its help. And they are definitely proud of their region and its way of life–even if its day-to-day reality is no longer so distinct.

Ideologically, it’s a mess. Culturally, it’s coherent.
Does this accurately describe the South? I think it comes close to describing the white South. I don't know if other Southerners care quite as much about performing Southernness.

But that's what you have to do if you're a politician in the South, French says.
And so the smart Southern politician “culture signals,” sometimes to comically absurd excess. The GOP nominee for Georgia governor, Brian Kemp, made national news when he ran a primary-campaign ad that featured him “blowing up” government spending with an actual explosion, brandishing his pump-action shotgun to show his love for the Second Amendment, firing up a chain saw to “rip up” government regulations and starting his “big truck” just in case he needs to “round up criminal illegals and take ’em home myself.”

In another ad, he holds a shotgun as he makes a kid portraying his daughter’s boyfriend recite elements of his platform. And what were the two things that were most important if the kid wanted to date one of Kemp’s daughters? “Respect, and a healthy appreciation for the Second Amendment, sir.”

Kemp’s opponent, Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle, was caught on tape complaining that the primary had devolved into a contest over “who had the biggest gun, who had the biggest truck and who could be the craziest.”

Cagle was wrong. And not surprisingly, he lost to Kemp in a July 24 runoff. The contest isn’t over who can be the craziest. It’s over who can be the most Southern, the most proudly traditional and the least politically correct.
What's amazing is that French, with a straight face, can say this is about not being "politically correct." What he's describing is a rigid code of behavior that pols and civilians alike feel compelled to master. Anyone who deviates from this code -- who expresses skepticism about effectively unrestricted gun ownership, for instance, or doubts the primacy of Bible Belt Christianity -- is made a pariah by the enforcement of these norms.

What is that if not a rigid form of PC, conservative style?

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