Yankees, Please …

Like Charles Blow said in his column this weekend, and as I say regularly again and again, Southerners do not find caricature endearing.

That’s a nice way of saying, we don’t much appreciate some short-vowelled Yankee wrinkling his nose up against the air like a bad smell, coming amongst us and assuming we all start the day by slapping a tub of lard on a skillet and frying everything in site for breakfast. Or assuming that we all say “Y’all” or even knowing the difference between “y’all” or “all y’all.” Or even thinking we all sleep with our guns or believe that Jesus rode a dinosaur. (Actually, I have it on good authority that he was partial to riding around in a red 1975 Camaro, but I’m waiting until I see the next gullible Yankee in order to try that one out.)

We don’t like our brethren in the North or even those so privileged to live in the Left Coast assuming that we’re all just dumb and feeling they have to pander to us in a peculiar way. When the Red Yankees come down from the North – people like Mitt Romney – they like treating us like little children and think we’ll be just so happy to know that they like to eat grits right along with the other po’folk sitting in that 1930s-style diner. Hell, they might even follow those grits up with a mess of fried green tomatoes. Yum, yum.

All for a vote. Then there are the other types who come down amongst the rural poor and tell them all kinds of nightmarish stories about black people and welfare and illegal aliens and Muslims … some people they scare with that shit, and the Red Yankees snicker behind their hands and slither off like snakes to start counting all the votes they think they won. When the Blue Yankees hear such shit as this, they look at each other, screw their little ferret-faces up and remark chokingly, “See, I told you they weren’t worth the bother … now where do I find a skinny latte in this town?”

I really do hate to break it to all y’all Yankees. but not all of us in the South are dumb, inbred, uneducated, gun-loving or even Christian. Some of us, more than you’d care to admit, are even Democrats.

For example, Yankees, did you know that Virginia – yes, the Commonwealth, itself – elected the first African-American governor way back at the end of the 1980s, when Derval Patrick was probably still in short trousers and Bob McDonnell was thinking women should be barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen … some things never change.

And did you know, Yankees, that – with the exception of Roosevelt and Kennedy – every Democratic President in the 20th Century was a Southerner? Mondale and Dukakis tried and failed miserably, and even Al Gore, the Southerner who did lose (and that’s debatable) still won the popular vote. As a matter of fact, one of Jeff Davis’s great-great-great grandsons is sitting in the Oval Office, probably talking to the British Prime Minister right now. If you’re wondering whom I mean, I’m talking about our 44th President, who’s descended from old Jeff from his mamma.

It’s bad enough that the Republicans come sneaking around the South every four years trying to pretend that they’re cartoon Southerners, themselves. They’re after the votes, and they get what they want. It’s even more riling that the Democrats come down too, but only to reinforce their own stereotypes so they can decide to let the South stew in what they reckon to be its own fetid juices just that much more.

Recently, the Democratic polling organisation, Public Policy Polling, popped up down South and started asking leading questions of certain Southern Republicans – not just any questions, but questions designed to reinforce certain established and very stereotypical ideas about Southerners, which lots of Yankee Progressives find comforting enough to allow them to continue with their prejudices.

Writing about this in The Daily Beast, fellow Southerner Michelle Cottle says:-

The raw numbers to emerge from this poll have caused a stir on their own. In Alabama, they tell us, 45 percent of respondents think Obama is a Muslim. In Mississippi, the number is an even more scorn-inspiring 52 percent. As for evolution, 60 percent of Alabamans aren’t buying it, compared with 66 percent of Mississippians. The views on miscegenation aren’t quite so jarring—only 21 percent of Alabamans and 29 percent of Mississippians think interracial marriage should be illegal—but are sneer-worthy nonetheless.

Now no one appreciates the absurdity of the South’s retrograde conservatism more than I. For all its many charms, the “real America” that Sarah Palin et al. so mythologize sports its fair share of warts, zits, and infected boils.

That said, I do get my back up when people seem to be taking cheap shots at my tribe. And this PPP report has all the earmarks of a poll taken with the specific, if perhaps unconscious, goal of confirming all of the nation’s very worst biases about the South.

So an average of one in four respondents still can’t get with that whole ebony-and-ivory thing. Appallingly racist? You betcha. But can someone please explain to me what this has to do with the current Republican presidential race? Discussions of gay marriage I understand. But interracial marriage—since when is this a relevant topic in American politics?

Similarly, why do we need to know respondents’ views on evolution? Last time I checked, not even Santorum was waving the creationism (or intelligent design) banner in this race.

Which could explain why, when I went back and looked through the rest of PPP’s polls from this year, I couldn’t find any other states that were asked about evolution. Ditto questions about whether Obama is a Muslim. And in only one other state did I see voters being asked about interracial marriage: South Carolina. (Surprise!) I suppose it’s possible I missed one or two. But let us concede that these sorts of questions are in no way standard fare.

Indeed, for the most part, PPP’s Republican POTUS polling has focused on the sorts of electoral nuts and bolts you’d expect: what is your opinion of candidate X? The area of policy you most care about is Y. Do you worry more about ideological purity or electability?

You know something, for these kind of Yankees to stand up and talk about how backward, how bigoted and how just plain damned dumb everybody in the South is in their opinion, it just seems -well, backward, bigoted and just plain dumb of them.

Lord, lord … I can’t speak for the people who show up at Mitt Romney’s rallies or who want their children home-schooled like Rick Santorum. I just keep talking to them about what the President’s done and what the Democrats want to do for them – hell, for us and our kind. That’s all I can do, but then I know these people better than the Yankees of either stripe who still think we’re caught up in an endless maelstrom of continuous Civil War.

If you can’t come South with an open mind … Yankees, please … stay home.

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