Saturday, December 1, 2012

Southern, progressive, redneck?

I'm really tired of the perception and portrayal of rural, working class people by the political and social elitists. The disdain and condescension towards those of us who'd rather drive a pickup truck than a Prius has got to stop. There are many people who would be on the side of progressive politics more often if it wasn't for the feeling that they're being looked down on by the self appointed party elite.

Yeah, it's easy to poke fun at tobacco-spitting, gun-toting country folk that drive trucks with big tires and listen to country music instead of the bands only known to subscribers of Pitchfork. Those of us who live outside the suburbs have a sense of humor about our way of life but using the cliche stereotypes to repeatedly bash us to make a point about red states, it ain't cool. Don't like guns? That's fine, but don't lump those of us who do in with Neo-Nazi separatists, militia members and other nutjobs. Don't like country music? I don't care much for it either, but why insult something people grew up with and enjoy? Whether it is food, music or other parts of someone else's culture, mocking it is like talking bad about their family or kicking their hunting dog. It shows a lack of maturity, cultural understanding, and security in your own lifestyle or socio-political identification.

I've spent half my life in the city, and half in the country. I milked cows, shot snakes, and slaughtered pigs and chickens as a kid. I grew up with an outhouse that you had to outrun an angry bull to get to and then spent nearly all of my adult life in the city until just a couple years ago when I went back to the rural life. There's so many people in the country that could support things like marriage equality, reasonable gun restrictions, green energy, etc. However, they're turned off by the perception that party elitists think they're backasswards, cousin-touching, inbred toothless rednecks. As a result, every November, they pull the lever for the folks who at least pretend to identify with them.

When are you going to stop this? When will you as a political and social media movement stop portraying every rightwinger as an uneducated redneck? There's plenty of rednecks, educated or not, that I know voted for Obama in both 2008 and 2012. There's far more that could have possibly turned some red states blue but they're still convinced that liberals think they're stupid and want to take their way of life away. Rednecks are the backbone of America, they're the working class, and they vote. The two bearded guys wearing overalls and trucker caps who hold hands when they think nobody is watching, they'd probably vote a Blue ticket more often if they could be sure progressives supported more than just their right to love each other.

The point of this rant is...stop it. If you want to win again in 2014 and beyond, stop belittling the rural folks and automatically writing them off as automatic GOP votes. Start trying to identify with them and show them how your policies will benefit them instead of sitting on your perch of perceived cultural superiority. Stop turning up your nose at college football, camouflage shirts, boiled crawfish and pickup trucks. Nobody is saying you have to embrace it, just try to understand it.

For people who bitch about Republican class warfare and elitism, you sure do a goddamned lot of it yourselves. Knock it off.


  1. I have a comment...I remember you said that you too once was a homophobe...when was this? When you lived in your rural surroundings? And when did you see "the light", when you moved to the city? Just a question, because if you answer like I think you will then it kind of proves the elitist point. that many rednecks stick to the rural surroundings because they are uncomfortable with anything different

  2. Yes, I was at one point. It was part of my rural, sheltered childhood. I became tolerant as I grew older but it wasn't until my little brother came out as gay that I became a complete supporter of LGBT rights.

  3. Thank you for this excellent post. It happens on both sides per say and it stinks. It has to stop. There is a stereotype that anyone from a red state is ignorant/uneducated that I see as equating the stereotype that liberal blue states are full of Godless people who hate America. I am a liberal (-proudly), raised by middle and lower class divorced parents. I am married in my 40's with 3 kids and we are a working middle-class family. I go to worship and have a close relationship with our pastor and love my country. Genuinely love it. My husband was in the USMC when we met. I believe in the Constitution and our system of government of , for , and by the people. I see our system as the best one, with the humble recognition that we can constantly strive for better. I hate the sentiment of "if you don't like it get out." that is the beauty of America. If we the people don't like it - we have the power to change it. This to me is not weak but a very strong patriotism. I also don't think telling people who vote republican/ conservative that they are just wrong or stupid is right or effective. Remember we attract more flies with honey. In this case the honey is just simple listening, understanding, practicing the tolerance so many preach. If we can all stop pigeon holing one another and start to say we aren't this group or that but that we are all Americans trying to come to the best middle ground we can. FDR said "you can please some of the people all the time, all of the people some of the time, but you can't please all of the people all of the time" so with that thought we should understand tha twe will all be compromising at some point and that is ok- god in fact. It's part of the beautiful and effective salad bowl of this country that is embodied by and united by increased tolerance and awareness of our fellow countrymen. If my stubborn self can happily survive 20 years of a split party marriage and look forward to another 20 then I think the rest of the country can pull it together- listen to and accept the other guy and move us forward too.

  4. I'm sorry Whiskey, but this simply is not true. The Democratic Party was dominated by northern liberals from the 30s to the 70s as well (Roosevelt, Stevenson, Kennedy) and the South supported the cause. It was the racist-baiting "Southern Strategy" by the GOP that caused the flip of the south. Nixon, Reagan, Bush, Gingrich, they all contributed to race-warfare in politics that caused the racist mentalities of many southerners to deliver the states into the Republican column. I've lived most of my life in Texas, and I have seen it extremely well here. I live in the state of Lyndon Johnson, Sam Rayburn, and Lloyd Bentsen, all liberals, but the party fell out of favor because now the rural voters only care about dumb social issues like abortion and gay marriage, rather than economic mobility or what not.

    1. "The Democratic Party was dominated by northern liberals from the 30s to the 70s as well (Roosevelt, Stevenson, Kennedy) and the South supported the cause. It was the racist-baiting "Southern Strategy" by the GOP that caused the flip of the south. Nixon, Reagan, Bush, Gingrich, they all contributed to race-warfare in politics that caused the racist mentalities of many southerners to deliver the states into the Republican column."

      Just so, Noah. Part of the strategy of the Republicans to demonize the Democratic party was to cast it as the party of academic and intellectual elites. They drove a wedge between blue collar workers (presumably not college-educated) and white collar workers (presumably college-educated).

      This strategy was successful on many levels. Many blue collar workers came to believe that the values of college-educated, white-collar Democrats were in opposition to their own. Moreover (and sadly), many white-collar Democrats bought this line as well. People like Rush Limbaugh picked up the ball and ran with it, telling their listeners that the white collar elites thought them stupid and racist. Moreover, blue collar workers were constantly told (and apparently believed) that their economic prospects were poor due to immigration and civil rights legislation, demonizing anything that smacked of "diversity," thus casting blue collar workers as racists and xenophobes.

      So, yes, Democrats need to stop it. And "rednecks" need to stop believing the crap they're told by the Republican party and the likes of Rush Limbaugh. Rednecks could do a lot for their public image if they stop listing to Rush Limbaugh, for one thing.

  5. I sympathize with your experience. I've a similar one but kind of in reverse. I grew up in urban and suburban settings punctuated with extended (a few months) stays in rural America and rural South America which I assure you is a whole 'nother level of "country". In my mid-twenties I moved to rural Virginia and was treated to all of the stereotypes about my race, gender and my urban background that I could stand; and then some. Then I moved to far Western Maryland right on the border with West Virginia. The experience was similar, but much more impolite. People steroetype each other and it's even worse when they have no tangible experience to draw on. It happens and it's going to continue to happen. Get a helmet.

  6. My first time here, and I'll be back. I'd just like to add that stereotypes exist on all sides here, but with a little contact/communication/experience - such as this blog - we'll be able to see beyond them.

  7. srsly? I'm a country girl and have no idea wtf you're talking about. I campaigned for Obama in NH - those scaliwag Libertarians own the place. Wanna see my chain saw?

  8. It cuts both ways. We urban middle-class liberals get pretty tired of being told that we're not "real Americans" and the like, even though America is (and has been for more than a century) much more urban than rural. "Rednecks are the backbone of America," really? No. Americans are the backbone of America, and "American" means "someone who lives in America," no more and no less. We're all in this together.

  9. Nate Silver: “Gun ownership rates are inversely correlated with educational attainment”
    Not only is there an inverse relationship between gun ownership rates and educational achievement, interestingly – people who are unaffiliated with religion are more likely NOT to own a gun. ...

  10. If the spokespeople of your party want to repress women, glorify guns, and exploit the poor they don't appear to be concerned for regular working class Americans. You can even see that they are only "pretending to identify" with you. People like Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh who stoop to name-calling, like "slut" and "retard" come off like grade school bullies. Rush, a grown man, called Chelsea Clinton "the new dog in the whitehouse" when she was fourteen. How self conscious are girls at that age? How insensitive and mean-spirited would a man have to be to attack an innocent girls looks because her father is president? That's why a lot of people think they (Republicans) are "stupid." Ie "The stupid party."
    Name calling on either side is damaging, exhausting, and clouds the issues by distracting.
    You should take a good look at both sides and start choosing based on what is best for you rather than based on what someone appears to be. Look a little deeper.
    I'm a humanist and don't consider myself republican or democrat. I choose what is best for humanity, and treat others the way I would like to be treated (with respect, and like an adult capable of making adult decisions)-I vote based on those principles.
    When somebody lies to you to manipulate you, they are not showing you any respect. "Pretending to identify" is manipulative and dishonest, and no one who believes a liar is ever rewarded with anything but disappointment.

  11. I get so very frustrated with all the stereotyping. I grew up in small town Wisconsin, own guns, and proudly know how to use them, have two daughters serving, one Marine, one Sailor, married for almost 25 years and we are middle class. And I voted for Obama! I get asked all the time how I can be pro military and pro guns and still be a democrat. Easy, its about people.

  12. The uneducated unwashed vote against their self-interest because the right wing owns the mass media, not because the educated elite looks on them as being easily manipulated.

    Educated urban liberals look on uneducated rednecks as being racist, hateful dolts because that's exactly correct, in many cases (if not in all).

    I grew up in rural Kentucky, back when the state was part of the Solid (Democratic) South.

    And then LBJ signed the Civil Rights Act.

    My Little Town was settled two hundred years ago by a few families moving West from Maryland. There has been essentially no immigration since that date, so almost everyone who was born within a few miles of that town since that day are descended from all of the founding families.

    We're more inbred than the British Royal Family.

    Plus there is the fact that the smart kids go away to college - and they don't come back.

    Thus the population is being selectively bred for stupidity.

    I moved away for law school and I will never move back.

    They elected Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul.

    My state elected Barbara Boxer and Diane Feinstein.

  13. When WE stop letting those who control the media (6 companies own 95% of all media in America)... When WE stop acting and re-acting based on how we're told to feel about issues that genuinely affect us...when WE acknowledge that there is far more UNITING us than dividing us...when WE stop accepting the lies (the ones we know - in our heart- aren't true)...when WE start learning to question the lies that get repeated non stop until they become the conversation THEY want us to have...When we stop being afraid to proclaim that the emperor has no clothes! Or Iraq had no WMD's! Or Benghazi was a random horror...THEN we will stop letting the media tell us how we're supposed to feel, who we're supposed to hate and what we're supposed to think and start acting like citizens of the United States of America. Until then, they will continue to divide and conquer. Which side are you on?

  14. I'm all for mutual respect and I don't like regional stereotyping. However, to my mind you sound like Ronald Reagan who also blamed "liberals and elitists" for the problems of the U.S. while he appealed to the "angry white men." You do remember that, don't you?

    It would be more productive to address the "rednecks" and ask them why they persist in voting against their own class interests, against the interests of women and children, against people who are LGBTQ, and against communities of color. Soul searching is necessary for all of us, but blaming the devil in other people instead of looking at the devil in our own head will not advance the cause for peace, justice and sustainability one whit.

  15. Wow, how did I not know about Pitchfork and doesn't your admission that you know about them counter your arguement? :)