Sunday, October 10, 2004

"Distinct from the North"

Last week I got a little hot under the collar, insisting that Americans make to much of the geographical party divisions and their possible roots in the Civil War. I reposted at Cliopatria (at Ralph Luker's request.) I also want to bring up the comments from Geitner Simmons of Reigons of Mind (emphasis mine):
One of the curiosities is that Southern Republicans exert such influence on the modern GOP even though the South is a relative newcomer to the party.

In the book, I'm going to write about how some academicians and politicians in the late 19th and early 20th centuries argued that the South and the West were de facto colonies of the "North." That was a theme that William Jennings Bryan sounded in his presidential campaign of 1896, for example. Although he lost, the Electoral College map shows that he nonetheless did carry both the South (not a surprise for a Democrat in that era, of course) and the West; an image of the map is here

As many people have noted, in an interesting switch, the states won by Republican McKinley in 1896 roughly mirror the base of Democratic strength in present-day presidential contests. Meanwhile, the states carried by Democrat Bryan are now bastions of GOP support at the presidential level.

Constructing a political alliance between the South and the West was only a pipe dream among certain politicians and intellectuals. But the theme of the two regions as distinct from the "Northern" norm is an important one that forms a central focus of my studies.

I should note that posters at Cliopatria mocked my phrase "yankee cracker", two terms which were the opposite of one another in the original context. As I admitted over there, I grew up in Los Angeles, and we complained about the Okies, a term which denoted refugees from the Dust Bowl, but which we used to describe anyone we considered to be insufficiently urban.


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