Racism Isn't the Reason Southern Whites Have Abandoned Democrats

Much has been written about the Democrats' drastic decline in the South since Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu was trounced by Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy in their runoff election last Saturday. Most liberal commentators are pointing to a precipitous falling off in support for the party from white voters. Their simpleminded computation: White + Conservative + Southern = Racism. The formula has the advantage of fitting in nicely with the narrative that the left has developed that paints all southerners as goober-chewing, tobacco-spitting, bible-thumping, gun-worshiping yahoos.

It doesn't matter if they believe it or not. It's an easy sell to their coastal strongholds, where they are successful in stoking white guilt and portraying Republicans as a cross between Bull Connor and a rope-toting Kluxer.

Former U.S. editor of The Guardian  Michael Tomasky thinks that Democrats would do well to write off the South entirely. After portraying the hapless Landrieu as a "blind, toothless dog" who needs to be euthanized, Tomasky lets loose a tirade against southerners that's shocking in its ignorance and brutality:

A toothless dog is a figure of sympathy. A vet who takes pleasure in gassing it is not.

And that is what Louisiana, and almost the entire South, has become. The victims of the particular form of euthanasia it enforces with such glee are tolerance, compassion, civic decency, trans-racial community, the crucial secular values on which this country was founded… I could keep this list going. But I think you get the idea. Practically the whole region has rejected nearly everything that’s good about this country and has become just one big nuclear waste site of choleric, and extremely racialized, resentment. A fact made even sadder because on the whole they’re such nice people! (I truly mean that.)

With Landrieu’s departure, the Democrats will have no more senators from the Deep South, and I say good. Forget about it. Forget about the whole fetid place. Write it off. Let the GOP have it and run it and turn it into Free-Market Jesus Paradise. The Democrats don’t need it anyway.

Note the not-so-subtle comparison of southerners to Nazis, as in a vet "who takes pleasure in gassing" the helpless dog. Could it be that Tomasky's attitude toward southerners is Exhibit A in the case against racism being the primary reason Democrats have fallen off a cliff in the Old South?

The fact is, Tomasky and his fellow liberals advancing this theme rely on the rather ridiculous but widespread belief that the further north you travel, the less racism there is. Since the end of Jim Crow in the South, there has been a  chest-thumping sense of superiority on the part of northern whites, suggesting that they've outgrown racism, and only ignorant southerners are still afflicted with it. It's a convenient narrative to advance but totally false. Justice Clarence Thomas caused a firestorm last year when he said in a speech that northern liberals are more racist than southern conservatives:

“The worst I have been treated was by northern liberal elites,” he said. “The absolute worst I have ever been treated. The worst things that have been done to me, the worst things that have been said about me, by northern liberal elites, not by the people of Savannah, Georgia.”

Thomas is not alone among black Americans to believe this. It is difficult to think anyone can quantify the level of racism based on ideology, but it should be clear to all but the most willfully self-deluded that racism knows no geographical or ideological boundary. To posit the notion that one region of the country is more racist than another -- or, as Tomasky seems to be saying, that only one region of the country is so racist it should be cast out by Democrats -- ignores history and reality. In Chicago, just as there are areas where a white person should never walk, so, too, are there neighborhoods where blacks take their lives into their hands if they enter.