LI will be erratic in this space for the next two weeks, as we are going to a Blue State for some much needed R & D.
We want to pick up on our freerider thesis. Some readers might think that we have gone nihilistic. We haven’t. Really, our point is simple. From the turn of the twentieth century to the 1970s, progressive thought in America was all about instituting progressive legislation at the national level. It so happens that this extended benefits for the working class to a whole region of the country, the South, which generated no autonomous progressive organizations. Between the Revolutionary War and today, I can think of only one Southern generated progressive movement: the Civil Rights movement. The Civil Rights movement, led by middle class blacks and peopled by working class and agrarian blacks, broke the back of the South’s pseudo-feudal system and opened it up to the world market. The South owes its prosperity to this act; and so, in gratitude, throughout the Snopesian South, from South Carolina to Mississippi, the Confederate colors were sewn into the state flag, where they remain today. Reminders that the Snopes leave no act of generosity unpunished.
The program we would like to see tried is retrenching progressive legislation on the national level and re-forming it on the state level, and in bonds between states. We’d like to avoid all the familiar suggestions made by the liberals at Slate, and re-think things from the bottom. Katha Pollitt, to our mind, comes closest to seeing the problem in this article in the Nation. But she sees it from a cultural perspective, rather than seeing how the culture has been organized and institutionalized.
We’d like to see a wholesale re-framing of the discourse of the Democratic party left. Instead of railing about Bush rewarding the rich, one has to ask: where do those rich live? The investor class mostly lives in the Blue states. It is time to encourage the flow of money back to those states. Only with that kind of tax base can those states start to replace the national social welfare system with one that is maintained by the civil society that has been encouraged in the traditionally Blue states on a state by state, or association between state, basis.
Bush, when looked at from a Snopes perspective, is so popular because he exemplifies the Snopes idea of an economic plan (viz, spending the family money on buying lottery tickets). The Blue states have a chance, however, in the midst of the Neronian negligence into which, on the national level, Bush has cast our fortunes. The next recession can and should hit the Red planet. We know that recessions are regional in this country. The recessions under Reagan hit, not coincidentally, hardest in those areas where Reagan was most unpopular, while the Sunbelt was not only spared, but flourished as streams of Defense money flowed in, and credit eased towards zero in the great S & L swindles. The downturn from the coming deficit caused crunch will unavoidably impact the equities market and spread pain in the Northeast – but the majority of that pain can be borne by the South if the Democrats adopt the simple expedient of acceding to the takedown of national progressive structures. The point is to strip the landscape of anything that distances the Snopeses from their debts. And when they cry out, the liberal impulse – to rush to the rescue of the seemingly needest – should be resolutely checked. There is a difference between the needy and the Snopeses. Tough love is called for.
The moral of all this is as simple as the odious children's story of Henny Penny. If Henny Penny's labor unions planted the grain, and Henny Penny's gay liberation baked the bread, and Henny Penny's Hollywood liberals cut the loaf, then Henny Penny's Blue states get to eat the bread, all of it, by themselves.
We have concentrated here on the South instead of the Midwest since, to our mind, the Midwest is not that important. From Kansas to North Dakota, the counties are losing their youth, and those that remain have only speed and hate crimes to amuse them in the long, tedious hours of watching the wheat grow. This is simple a wasteland, and we don't intend to devote much time to Nebraskan Snopeses. The Sunbelt is the thing.
This is why it is essential that progressives not obstruct the pipeline through which Bush insists on shuffling money to the Blue State investing class, but encourage it; similarly, encouraging such radical ideas as destructuring social security and replacing the income tax with a sales tax take on a different valence when considered as means by which the Snopes will, unconsciously, be put into a position where their freeriding is put at risk. At that point, traditionally, the Dems have taken on the role of both Herbert Hoover and Roosevelt, reigning in the deficit through paying for it while trying to preserve national progressive programs, like social security. The Snopes hate the Hoover thing – hate the idea of paying for something when they have figured out how to get it free. And of course they hate the Roosevelt thing of tolerance and enlightenment and blacks moving in next door and marrying their kids. But what they hate most is the idea that the progressives they are conning don't understand what is happening. The progressive harping on the ignorance or bad consciousness or brainwashing of the Snopes class has to stop. Far from being ignorant or unaware of their self advantage, they have had a free ride that has given them the luxury of being able to indulge in reactionary hate while being bankrolled by progressive legislation and opened up to the world through Civil Rights. Everything they hate has supported everything they love: credit cards, big trucks, big motor boats leaking oil over various federally funded dammed lakes, etc., etc. It is no wonder they feel like God's remnant on earth. They have the satisfaction of knowing who is conning who in the great progressive deal, and what they really can't stand is that the liberals that are being suckered don't know who is suckering them. This is the Snopes version of class consciousness. It is that resentment which is at the bottom of the conservative complaint that the liberals are “snobby”. What they mean is: we are screwing you, and you think you are so smart!
Take away the baubles from the Snopes. Rebuild a federal system that encourages progressive legislation. Let the South try, at some point, to generate its own progressive movements. But, basically – forget about em.