Southern Heritage and the 2004 Presidential Election
April 25, 2004
"The South." The mere mention of that term can stir up powerful emotions in just about anyone. For those whose knowledge of American history is limited to a government school indoctrination, the term may be provocative, conjuring up images of fat, lazy slave owners sipping mint juleps or buck-toothed rednecks waving the Confederate flag at a KKK rally. For those who have lived in the South, or who at least have the gift of independent thought, the term can be more evocative, bringing to mind a people rich in culture, history and heritage.
The American South is more than just a geographical location. From food to music, from sports to politics, the South is in many ways the very heart and soul of this nation of states.
For example, American literature wouldn’t be what it is today without the works of Southern writers like Margaret Mitchell, William Faulkner or Mark Twain. Our music would be lacking if it weren’t for Southern musicians like Hank Williams, Charlie Daniels or Elvis Presley. Imagine how bland American cuisine would be without the culinary contributions of Edmund McIlhenny, Justin Wilson or Paul Prudhomme.
And let’s not forget our nation’s humble beginning. A great number of our founding fathers were Southerners – men like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, James Madison and Richard Henry Lee, to name a few. Another Southerner, George Mason, wrote the Virginia Declaration of Rights, which was used as a model for our current Bill of Rights.
The greatest threat to Southern heritage today is the infectious spread of political correctness. One cannot pick up a newspaper without reading about another attack on historic Southern symbols. "Offensive" school mascots are being retired. The playing of "Dixie" at sporting events is discouraged, if not forbidden. The Confederate flag – in fact, any variation of the star spangled St. Andrew’s cross – is being removed from public view. With all that is facing the people of the South, what impact might this year’s presidential election have on the effects of PC intolerance?
As November approaches, Southerners – Southern conservatives in particular – find themselves at a crossroads. Most have resigned themselves to the fact that their hopes and dreams hinge on whether a Republican or Democrat sits in power in Washington; they believe they must decide which of these two parties will have the least negative impact on Southern culture and heritage.
Right now, George W. Bush would appear to be the candidate that best represents the interests of the Southern people. In fact, many Southerners have used the " Blue-and-Red" map of the 2000 presidential election to demonstrate that Republican conservatism thrives in the land of Dixie.
However, Bush has been anything but a friend to the South. In the late 80s, as part owner of the Texas Rangers, he championed a sales-tax hike and land-grab scheme to help build the team’s new stadium. Adding insult to injury – as if he hadn’t exploited hard-working Texans enough – he went on to make a fortune when the team was sold for a considerable profit in 1998.
As governor of Texas, Bush shied away from controversial Southern issues. In the midst of the national debate that raged over the flying of the Confederate flag atop the South Carolina Statehouse, Bush only offered a weak, compromising statement, saying, "It’s the right of the state of South Carolina to make the decision on the flag." In his home state, Bush went so far as to oversee the removal of Confederate memorial plaques from the foyer of the Texas Supreme Court Building. Is that what passes for a defense of Southern heritage today?
It is also wise to note that the Republican Party in general has been rather hostile to Southerners. Look at what happened to Trent Lott. The Mississippi senator, speaking at Strom Thurmond’s centennial birthday celebration, noted that the country might have been a better place had Thurmond been elected president in 1948. Without ever bringing up the subject of race, Lott was branded a racist – he was seen as the embodiment of Southern bigotry – and his Republican colleagues retreated from him faster than Burnside ran from Fredericksburg.
There is no room in the GOP for true Southerners. The Republican Party always has been and always will be the Party of Abraham Lincoln. Many Southerners might remember him as the president who waged an unconstitutional war against his own countrymen that claimed over 600,000 lives. They may also recall how he single-handedly destroyed our founding fathers’ dream of a nation of free and independent states. Is that the legacy Southern conservatives want to pass on to their children?
Maintaining the status quo hasn’t worked. Since 1865, the federal government has been an enemy of states’ rights and the Constitution. It has grown far beyond what the founders could have imagined, and the election of a Republican president in 2000 has given us a bigger, more oppressive and more expensive federal bureaucracy.
Southern culture and heritage can only be preserved if the people themselves take up the challenge to stand and fight. If history is any indication, no help will come from those in government. We must be prepared. We must vocal. We must be ready at all times to stand up to any assault.
To those who value their heritage, let me say this: don’t be afraid to vote according to your conscience this November. Consider supporting a candidate who actually represents your interests. If that means "wasting your vote" on a third party, so be it. At least your principles will not have been compromised. Besides, if voting for one of the two major parties has only proven to be detrimental to this union of once free and independent states, you have nothing to lose except the effects of 140 years of government growth.
Is the independent spirit of the Southern people alive and well or isn’t it? Brave Southerners stood up once before in defense of their homeland and heritage against overwhelming odds. Why not now? Surrendering without a fight is not characteristic of the South I know.
– Lee R. Shelton IV
Copyright © 2004