I first launched The Portly Politico on Blogger back in 2009. It was a different world back then, and I was a different conservative. I was probably still deep in my Randian-libertarian economic conservative phase: I sincerely believed neoliberal economics and mostly unbridled capitalism could solve almost all of the world’s problems, which meant I was fundamentally progressive in my outlook, “progressive” in the sense of taking a Whiggish view of human history—yes, some things are bad now, but they’ll inexorably get better as we expand free trade and free movement of peoples across borders. Heck, I even thought that, as a Christian nation, America should take in illegal immigrants!
Such are the follies of youth. Intervening years of lived experience—not to mention the increasingly overt radicalism of the Left—have convinced me that, as wonderful as free markets are, we’ve tended to sacrifice real lives and communities in exchange for cheap plastic junk. I’ve also considerably altered my views on immigration; at this point, I think America needs 150 milligrams of Deportemal (and a healthy dose of limiting legal immigration, too).
One thing that hasn’t changed: I still identify with the struggles and values of rural America. In this 2009 post, I pointed out the growing contempt for rural Americans that the Democratic Party now openly embraces. I think I was overly-generous to the author of the piece discussed herein, however; upon re-reading Kevin Baker’s essay “Barack Hoover Obama,” I’m chilled by how openly he argues for the usurpation of usual constitutional order and division of powers in order to push for “change.” I apparently missed it completely ten years ago, much to my current chagrin.
Back then, I remember conservatives having some mild optimism that President Obama would govern as a pragmatic moderate—left-of-center, to be sure, but reasonable. Then he forced through the Affordable Care Act on a purely partisan basis, alienating Republicans and contributing to the deep ideological divide in America today. His administration doubled down on identity politics, reopening mostly-healed racial wounds. Much of the cultural chaos we suffer today is the result of the twin evils of Senator Teddy Kennedy’s 1965 immigration bill and President Obama’s politics of racial grievance.
So, that’s my apology for my naivety as a young, portly man. That said, here is 2009’s “Rustics Have Opinions, Too“:
I’ve noticed something about the American Left, specifically those members who claim to be “cultured”: they share a distrust and even hatred for rural Americans. They constantly mock the values, feelings, and politics of this oft-derided constituency, framing them as stereotypical “rednecks” or “good ol’ boys” who spend most of their time polishing their guns drunk while watching NASCAR.
Let’s face it: stereotypes exist for a reason. Think of any offensive stereotype and there’s a kernel of truth to it. But that doesn’t mean we should go around judging people based on those stereotypes. Liberals are making that point all the time, and in this case they’re actually right. As usual, though, they fall back into their old, hypocritical ways when it comes to rural Americans. It’s “hate speech” if someone insinuates that an Asian is good at math, but it’s perfectly acceptable to laugh at someone who’s only skin pigmentation is on the back of his neck.
I’m not saying that having a sense of humor is wrong. Maybe white guys really aren’t as cool as black dudes when they drive. Dave Chappelle had tons of great material and Boondocks deals with race relations in the United States today better than any other show out there. I want to make it clear that I have nothing against humor. By laughing at stereotypes, we rob them of their power, rather than adding to it.
The same holds true for “rednecks” or “white trash” or whatever label one uses. If it weren’t, Jeff Foxworthy would be out of a job. The problem arises, however, when we start to marginalize those Americans because of the stereotypes that exist. Such marginalization of African Americans, for example, would be roundly denounced by the left, and rightfully so. Unfortunately, liberals often celebrate when such marginalization is applied to the rural white American.
In an otherwise excellent article in Harper’s Magazine entitled “Barak Hoover Obama: The Best and the Brightest Blow it Again,” Kevin Baker indulges in this marginalization to a sickening extent [Note–at the time of this writing, the full text of the article is only available to Harper’s subscribers]. The bulk of the article draws historical parallels between Presidents Herbert Hoover and Barack Obama. Baker’s research is impeccable and his understanding of an oft-maligned (and extremely intelligent) former president is refreshing. He implicitly challenges the more common “Obama-is-to-Roosevelt-as-Bush-is-to-Hoover” analogy and draws some pessimistic conclusions about Obama’s approach to passing many of his long-promised, radically liberal reforms.
A large part of Baker’s argument is that President Obama is proceeding with excessive caution and is relying too heavily on Congress to enact the changes he seeks for the nation (naturally, many conservatives would argue that the opposite is true, but suffice it to say that Baker is approaching Obama’s proposed reforms from the point of view of a liberal supporter–he actually thinks that cap-and-trade is a good thing). Baker maintains that congressional Democrats from states with small populations like Montana are stepping up after years of quiet service to challenge many of Obama’s efforts.
The language Baker uses to describe these representatives and senators is thick with disrespect. He talks about their states as filled with tumbleweeds and ignorance. He implicitly challenges the notion that these congressmen–and by extension their constituents–have no place in contemporary American politics and that they should be brushed aside and ignored, all because they’re impeding Ossiah’s democratic-socialist vision. This viewpoint is shared implicitly and explicitly by most liberals and leftists. The thinking is that because these states have small populations–and don’t have a good place to get sushi or gourmet coffee–they don’t deserve to have a place in the American political system (not to mention the fact that Baker is encouraging Obama to squelch dissent and open discussion, supposed bedrocks of modern liberalism).
What’s most disturbing about this reasoning is that it is anathema to the very structural philosophy of the United States Constitution. The Constitution clearly sets out to create a structure that gives states with large populations more power in the House of Representatives, while allowing states with small populations to maintain an equal footing in the Senate. The same theory exists behind the Electoral College. If our system was not balanced in this way, New York and California would always pick the next president and would exert a dangerous amount of control over national politics (with only conservative Texas able to balance things out a bit). Regional interests do not necessarily coincide with national interests, and what’s good for New York may not be good, and may even be bad, for Iowa.
Yet liberals consistently ignore this inconvenient truth and view it as a stumbling block to their pet projects, whatever they might be. At the risk of sounding like a blowhard conservative talk show host, leftists in America today have no respect for the Constitution except when it is politically advantageous or convenient. Now, I am willing to admit that there are plenty of conservatives who probably treat the Constitution in the same way, but they are much, much harder to find. This disrespect cannot endure for long, regardless of the side.
Therefore, I applaud what these rural Democrats are doing. Maybe they are dusty old relics of the party, but that’s for the Democrats to sort out themselves, and that should not invalidate what these men have to say. Maybe most of them are blowhards and are simply seizing their moment to be in the spotlight or to play to their base, but some of them have useful objections and suggestions. I don’t want to give liberals any additional aid, but it seems to me that they could use all the help they can get in the more rural parts of the country. Taking the interests of rural Democrats more seriously would be a great start.
Kevin Baker and his ilk live in a world of trendy green advertising and mocha lattes. They have no respect for hard working rural Americans–oh, heck, we’ll call them “rednecks”–who help make this country into the wonderful tapestry of ideas and cultures it is today.
Besides, who wants to watch Jeff Gordon race in a Prius?