Nobody Here But Us Populists!

reagan-neshoba-county-fair.gif It’s Cultural!

politico-header.gif A Politico “Senior Political Writer” has read the entrails of the Krugman Reagan=Racist debate, rejects the thesis, and wanders even further back in the Huffington Post to find the Republicans pretty much blameless going back to the Twenties.

While claiming Reagan’s appeal wasn’t racist, David Paul Kuhn [author of The Neglected Voter: White Men and the Democratic Dilemma] makes the bizarre argument that if Northern white males voted Republican it somehow absolved pols and white Southerners of racism.

And he tries to make the case that Republican Southern gains were due to a host of factors:

“Twenty years earlier, when both parties mostly ignored the plight of blacks, Republicans won half the South. The 1928 Democratic nominee Al Smith was a Catholic running in the Protestant South. But it was more than that. Smith was against Prohibition. The GOP successfully painted him as a big city politician who had little culturally in common with the Southern everyman…In short, the first significant Republican success in the South was based on an entirely non-racial culturally populist appeal.”

“Populist” is a broad church, but to draw sharp distinctions between racism and attacks on the big cities, their swarthy ethnic inhabitants and their libidinous ways is an interesting defense.

Kuhn has a following. The ludicrous Joe Klein breathlessly asked Time‘s readers recently, “Does Merle Haggard Speak for America?”

Klein recalled his working class youth singing along to “Okie From Muskogee” and melding the aging country icon with Kuhn’s musings about living right and bein’ free.

Haggard haggard.jpg

We don’t let our hair grow long and shaggy, Like the hippies out in San Francisco do.”

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