Friday, December 5, 2014

Two Nations Divided By Race And Culture

This article describes the new "Solid South" in the US. It turned completely away from the Republican Party after the Civil War.  There were not many new born males named Abraham in the South after the war.  The old confederacy remained culturally and politically conservative after the war, but it was represented by conservative members of the Democratic Party for generations.  That enabled the Democratic Party to exert enough power in Congress to pass the civil rights bill under Lyndon Johnson who rose to power in Texas as a democratic Senator.  Johnson correctly predicted that passing the civil rights bill would put an end to the Solid South represented by the Democratic Party.  The Republican Party now controls almost every state legislature and governorship in the South; it is also likely to replace the remaining democratic Senator in the South with a republican.  The incumbent democratic Senator made the mistake of voting for bills promoted by the national party headed up by a president that is despised by white voters in the South who almost unanimously voted against him in the national election. 

Richard Nixon was the first republican president to exploit religious and cultural issues to begin the republican conquest of the old confederacy.  He publically courted the popular Evangelist  Billy Graham and he capitalized on conservative backlash in the South to the anti-war protests of the Vietnam era and the "Hippie Culture'" that represented a threat to traditional "Family Values".  That formula has been very successful in the old confederacy which has had a strong tradition of militarism, evangelism and traditional values exemplified by the white majority.  It also works in rural states which have historically been represented by the Republican Party.  Unfortunately, the two major political parties in the US have been driven further apart by the exploitation of cultural divisions to gain political power.  The polarization that we see in Washington is not primarily about policy issues that can be debated and resolved by a somewhat rational process as it has been done in the past.  Polarization today represents cultural divisions that are being exploited to win elections.  Its hard to see how a nation so divided can reach agreement on the critical policy issues that we face today.  This does not auger well for the rest of the world that looks to America for leadership.

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