Saturday, February 14, 2015

Yo, Pundits! Here's What's Up With the Republicans

I find this map endlessly fascinating. Nominally, this
is a plot of counties that voted "more Republican" in
2008 than in 2004
In the earliest decades of this nation -- before this nation was even a nation -- four waves of settlers arrived from Britain. The first three waves landed in New England, the Southern Colonies and the Middle Colonies, respectively, and each defined the culture of its own region. The fourth wave came in mostly through the Middle Colonies, but it didn't stay there. Instead, it migrated inland, into the Appalachian mountain range. It spread south, then west, through the Tennessee River Valley. It crossed the Mississippi River into Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas. And because of its greater willingness to migrate, it's reached into almost every corner of this country.

The fact that this culture has, to a greater or lesser degree, influenced almost every part of America, doesn't mean that it is America. It's only one color in the mosaic. Yet it claims a monopoly on "American values," and incredibly, the media let it get away with that.
Here's why the media are wrong.

We have two dominant political parties. Each of those parties is built upon two of the four primary waves of migration from Britain that defined America in its earliest years. Historian David Hackett Fischer, in his book Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America, identifies these waves as:
  • Puritans, who settled in New England;
  • Cavaliers, who settled in Virginia;
  • Quakers, who settled in the Delaware River Valley; and
  • Borderers, who settled in the "backcountry," as Appalachia and the Highland South were termed back then.
These four waves weren't the only immigrants to bring their cultures to America -- there were also Dutch colonists and Jews in the Hudson River Valley, French colonists in Louisiana and Maine, Catholics in Maryland and Huguenots in South Carolina -- but they came to dominate American culture and politics, for two reasons. First, they held not just local power but regional power. Second, they migrated westward.

Through the 18th and early 19th centuries, politics revolved on a Puritan–Cavalier axis. The Civil War was fought, essentially, between Puritan abolitionists and Cavalier slaveholders. But in the late 19th century, the descendants of Quakers and Borderers settled the West, while the descendants of Puritans and Cavaliers mostly stayed east of the Mississippi River. Consequently, the balance of power began to shift, and the four cultures found themselves on more equal footing. Today, if anything, the Quaker and Borderer strains in our culture and politics are stronger nationwide than the Puritan and Cavalier strains. Since the political realignment of the 1960s, we have essentially had a Northern Party (the Quaker–Puritan Democrats) and a Southern Party (the Borderer–Cavalier Republicans), with the Great Plains and the Mountain West leaning toward the Republicans until just recently.

Knowing all this, we can begin to analyze what's going on in politics right now. Let's begin with an interesting artifact from the 2008 presidential election: READ MORE

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