Thursday, November 27, 2008

Last Refuge of Finger-Pointers

It's been decades since I've heard friends or business colleagues openly express racial or sexual prejudice. (My universe is America, not the middle-East or Al Qaeda.) Even ethnic jokes are rare. With one significant exception: WASPs, especially southern evangelicals and white conservatives, north or south. They're called "rednecks" or "hillbillies"--Sarah Palin drew both--and epithets against them are excluded from their definition of assault, prejudice, hate speech, and the expanding list of what "not funny."

University of Washington student and columnist Russ Wung sees conservatives as less biased, but not free from flack for "fly-over country":
People on the East and West Coasts tend to think of themselves as superior to everyone else. I am part of this imaginary "master race," as are most of us at the UW. We are given to imagining ourselves as more sophisticated, more tolerant, more world-wise and, essentially, above the ignorance of the hillbillies that inhabit the rest of the country.

Many coastal inhabitants wish they could get rid of such people and become the United Municipalities of Portland, Seattle, San Francisco, Boston and New York -- minus those Bush-voting hicks on Staten Island.

This is not a political attitude, it is a cultural one, and one that afflicts people of all political persuasions in varying degrees.

These biases came through briefly for us conservatives in our treatment of Mike Huckabee during the primaries. Though what was really bothering us was his harebrained economic populism, some of us were sometimes prone to mocking his Southern Baptist mannerisms and those of his supporters instead of really articulating our concerns. We should have challenged Huckabee on the issues instead.

For the other side, there was Sarah Palin, the most abused person in the 2008 election. . . The McCain campaign had a good quarterback but made the wrong plays; it overemphasized Palin's humble origins and personal traits while failing to capitalize on her successful record as a corruption-fighter and governor. This unfortunate dumbing-down played into the stereotypes fostered by regionalist bias -- she doesn’t talk like us, likes guns, doesn’t agree with our politics and comes from a rural background; ergo, she’s a stupid redneck. More than anything else, this gut hatred of a certain segment of our country drove the anti-Palin hysteria.

Even so, it’s time to pat ourselves on the back for a moment; we coastal snobs, conservative and liberal, have at least managed to largely overcome our innate racial and gender prejudices. However, given the political baggage that the overly simplistic and wantonly polarizing "colored state" dichotomy has created, we’re going to have a tough time overcoming our regional biases.
Few using terms like "Confederate hick" and "evangelical ayatollah" personally know many southerners or cultural conservatives. Rather, they learned all about them from the New York Times, Washington Post, etc. Yet that's enough to blame "them" for practically everything, even if few finger-pointers can articulate exactly how they've been harmed.

Don't give anyone, left or right, a free pass. Next time, call them on it.

(via Instapundit)


Anonymous said...

Maybe instead of challenging Huckabee the only GOP candidate I ever even considered voting for, maybe somebody in the party should have been asking Willard Romney when did he become a conservative?

Assistant Village Idiot said...

I recommend the comments section after Wung's essay. It starts out with a lot of people essentially saying "but it's not prejudice, because those people really are awful and stupid." They get put in their place quickly.

OBloodyHell said...

> Don't give anyone, left or right, a free pass. Next time, call them on it.

Never Have.

Carl said...


Mitt always was a conservative. Just not a Reagan conservative; I agree that his re-invention was less than convincing. Still, the election would have been a lot more interesting had Republicans chosen a candidate, like Mitt, who knows something about business and economics.


Good tip; the back-and-forth is quite interesting.


You're brave.