Just Above Sunset
March 6, 2005 - On Dealing With Those Who Think "Tolerance" is a Dirty Word

Home | Question Time | Something Is Up | Connecting Dots | Stay Away | Overload | Our Man in Paris | WLJ Weekly | Book Wrangler | Cobras | The Edge of the Pacific | The Surreal Beach | On Location | Botanicals | Quotes

At SouthNow last weekend, Jon Bloom interviewed political strategist David “Mudcat” Saunders on how the Democrats can win back votes in the South.


There’s only one prescription and that’s tolerance. I’m a white, southern male who hunts. I’m a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, which has two black members, by the way. I don’t know how many northern Democrats who have tolerance for my kind.


The Sons of Confederate Veterans, we don’t say the wrong side won the [Civil] War. Everybody knows slavery was wrong. We say give us our culture.


Intolerance is becoming rampant. It’s culturally and socially unacceptable to be a white, southern male and a Democrat. If we can get past that, we can kick ass.


You get the idea.


The reaction was not long in coming.  Here are two representative reactions from last week, both with my emphases -


From Digby at Hullabaloo there’s this -


Bill Clinton, Al Gore and Jimmy Carter were all southern white males, and we blue staters voted for them without a second thought. Before that, Lyndon Johnson won the blue states in a landslide. As I recall, we rather liked their southern roots. Let's just get this one thing straight. The theory that non-southerners are intolerant of "his kind" is indisputably wrong. We have happily voted for southern white males many times. It's southerners who refuse to vote for anyone who comes from anywhere else.


But, just being happy to vote for southern white males isn't good enough, is it? We don't properly get into macho, good ole boy culture. Ok. Let's try that. I have absolutely no problem with a born again, cowboy hat wearing president from a southern state who hunts and drives fast cars and even, dare I say it, engages in the most macho sport of all - clearing brush. He can tie on a six-gun and practice quick drawing in the rose garden for all I care. I am not offended by any of those things.


But again, that's the problem, isn't it? It is not enough to be tolerant. We must adopt both their style and their policies before they are happy. Everyone must be a NASCAR fan. If you are not, they will take it to mean that you disrespect their love of NASCAR. Everyone must hunt. If you don't, then you are being intolerant of their love of hunting. If you don't talk about religion the way they talk about it, you are not properly religious. Rappers must wear cowboy boots, Hispanics must speak English, we all have to drive American trucks with confederate flags on the back and drink Jack and be exactly like these macho, southern white men before they will feel secure enough to vote with us.


And let's not pretend that we will not also have to tell the various constituencies in the party who find their right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness to be contingent on being allowed to control their own bodies, marry whom they choose and practice or not practice the religion of their choice that they are shit out of luck. That's part of the deal.


Let's face facts here. The answer to this problem is that in order to get the macho white southern male vote we all must become macho white southern males and that is just not humanly possible. We can certainly try to engage them with an attitude of intense interest in their culture if that's what it takes. But, I doubt it will make much of a difference.


Mudcat may look at a white southern male Republican and see a Democrat trying to get out, but I just see a bunch of insecure white guys who think everybody else ought to be just like them. And if you look at the leadership of the Republican Party they've got exactly what they want. Why would they change?


From Amanda Marcotte at Pandagon there is this -

Bubba's in the hot seat again


My initial reaction to Digby's post about how futile it is to try to get Bubba to vote for the Democrats was, "Right on!"

Bubba can't catch a break, but my pity for him is small compared to my pity for those who are hurt worst by Bubba's love for our brush-clearing, horse-fearing President. It's nice to see someone call bullshit on the idea that you can find middle ground with someone whose view on diversity is, "You or me, but not both." One of the most frustrating things for those of us who observe things through the lens of sexual politics is trying to get our fellow liberals to understand that for some of our opposition, compromise is weakness and nothing but total capitulation from the left will satisfy.


Digby's right that we need to write off those on the right who think "tolerance" is a dirty word. People who stand against sex ed, reproductive rights and other signs that not everyone chooses the same sexual path as they do obviously aren't happy to let us partake of the pill, abortion and sex toys in Alabama, even though we on the side of sin are all too happy to let them avoid birth control and The Rabbit all they'd like.

Anti-gay marriage activists seem believe that if gays and lesbians can marry, straight marriage will disintegrate, meaning they sincerely believe that it's just not possible for people to have to peaceably share the same rights. And now we have people that seem to be positive that if a young woman doesn't dress like all the other young women in her class, then something very bad will happen.


Trying to woo people who seem to believe that if they aren't oppressing someone else, then they will be oppressed is a fool's errand and I hope that the Democrats won't be tempted to try it. However, I think there are a couple misconceptions about Bubba that need to be cleared up.


The people who vote because they've been whipped into a frenzy over fears that tolerance of people different from themselves might actually put their own lifestyles in danger are a surprisingly diverse crowd. It ain't just Bubba. In fact, many a Bubba could care less what you do, as long as you don't do it in his backyard. I know a surprising number of fundamentalist Christians who believe very firmly that I'm going to hell, but they aren't too hot on the idea of passing laws to save me from sending myself there with my pill pack in one hand and my copy of Backlash in the other. And many a Bubba thinks this whole gay marriage/abortion/boobies on TV stuff is utter nonsense, but he still voted for Bush and would do it again. And not necessarily to spite urban liberals, either.


So, I think Digby's right that compromise with some is impossible, and I would add that trying to compromise with people who'd rather we just disappeared off the face of the planet will probably just bring the Democrats down another notch in the estimation of the Bubbas that are inclined to be sympathetic to the social politics of tolerance. The people in our democracy who see the voting system as a way to inflict their beliefs on others are still not a majority; Bush won this last election in a squeaker, and that's only because they blanketed people's homes with the message that their choice was Bush or death by terrorist attack. It was scary and even I had a moment of doubt about voting for Kerry, even though I knew damn well that all the security stuff coming from the Bush camp was all lies.


It seems to me that the Republicans have cobbled together a rather uneasy alliance between the rich who control the party and use it to inflict class warfare on the rest of us, the intolerant who are willing to be used as tools as long as it means they can exert control over their neighbors' sex lives, and a whole bunch of people that are sitting on the fence. The fence-sitters either don't know how many liberties of theirs the Republicans are actively working to dismantle or simply think that they have to put up with these lost liberties in order to be safe from terrorism. This is the group that the Democrats need to focus on in order to get more votes.


Interestingly, the key issue seems to be tolerance.  And is it true that the people in our democracy who see the voting system as a way to inflict their beliefs on others are still not a majority?  Really?  Isn’t that what voting is all about?


One side says, just hypothetically of course, that birth control is murder just like abortion, that Christianity is the only true religion and the our country was founded on that obvious fact, and thus it should be officially promoted, that movies with barely clad or unclad people using bad words should not be seen by any citizen, that the death penalty is necessary to show what we as a moral people will not tolerate, that being gay is a choice one makes and should not be allowed, and those that do make such a choice have no rights against discrimination, – and so on and so forth.  They say these are core beliefs.  They will compromise on lots of things, but not on these.  And then the other side doesn’t buy into this.


Now what?  One side votes, say, on one issue - to elect people who will restrict what can been seen in the media and printed in magazines - and then the other side votes to allow anyone to print and film and distribute what they wish, assuming if you don’t want to see that stuff you’ll walk away and do something else.


The problem is defining what is open to compromise.  Folks on both side are saying less and less is ever open to compromise.


One side or the other ought to leave now.  In answer to Rodney King’s question – Can’t we all just get along? – the answer is apparently not.





Copyright 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
The inclusion of any text from others is quotation
for the purpose of illustration and commentary,
as permitted by the fair use doctrine of U.S. copyright law. 
See the Details page for the relevant citation.

This issue updated and published on...

Paris readers add nine hours....