I urge every one of the visitors to this site to read Ryan Grimm’s excellent article in The Intercept assessing the recent GOP victories in heretofore blue Virginia.
While you are at it, commit this term to memory: “cultural traditionalists.” This is the segment of voters very likely to comprise the hinge on which American electoral fortunes will turn over the next decade.
Bear in mind, too, that the article, albeit unconsciously on Ryan’s part, confirms some of the points I have struggled to make over the last generation about the future of the South within the larger American cultural and political matrix.
It may come as news, maybe even a shock, to some of my readers, but the fact remains that Abraham Lincoln won – not only the Civil bWar but also the struggle for American identity, certainly in terms of which side of the great political division that emerged during the 1788 constitutional debates would get to impose its indelible mark on this country in how it regards and governs itself and how it defines citizenship.
I have mentioned before that while I chose to label this website within the larger context of American identity, I remain a rather unrepentant Southern nationalist, though, I should stress, a maverick one.
More than a quarter century ago, I attended the founding meeting of the League of the South and was also a founding member of Southern Party as well as author of its inaugural document, the Asheville Declaration.
I don’t regret my initial association with those organizations, though I do possess regret, a deep well of regret, in fact, over the turns both organizations ultimately took. They confused low-hanging fruit for political reality and they have paid an egregiously high price for this tunnel vision.
They cast their lot with a segment of the population that is becoming increasingly more marginalized and even reviled by the national elites: for lack of a better term, Confederate memorialists.
Consequently, the League and the Southern Party effectively have been consigned to political oblivion, banned from social media and figuring prominently on left-wing watch lists, widely regarded, if they are even noticed, by many, if not most, rank-and-file Americans as white nationalist fringe groups.
As I have argued before on this forum, it didn’t have to be this way. The League of the South started out with good intentions. It aspired to function as a reservoir of intellectual talent – a think tank, of sorts – as well as a rallying point for contemporary Southerners interested in articulating a regionalist/nationalist vision for the 21st century.
It was not preordained to travel down the neo-Confederate track, and with twenty-plus years of hindsight, I am more convinced than ever that avoiding this option would have placed both efforts onto a solid political trajectory toward significant success.
The handful of academics who conceived the initial League of the South effort were spot on in one assessment. They perceived even then that the country already was in a parlous state, rife with political and cultural divisions that have since mutated into the intractable impasse that many pundits on both ends of the spectrum now characterize as Civil War II.
They should have capitalized on that; in fact, they should have focused entirely on that. It is now the pink elephant in American life that no one can ignore any longer, not even the so-called Legacy Media. Indeed, the full embrace of this hard reality a generation ago would, certainly by now, have ingratiated the movement with a much wider demographic. They would have occupied moral high ground not all that far removed from Churchill, who had expended so much political capital in the 1930’s warning about the Nazi threat.
Yet, both expended most of their precious political capital for a mess of political pottage – Confederate heritage and restorationism – fretting about heritage violations and dredging up elements of the Lost Cause canon when they should have been concentrating on the here and now, crafting a political vision for the present-day South, one fully cognizant of the changes that have swept over the region over the last 150.
All Southern partisans of whatever ideological stripe must face up to the fact that Lincoln left an indelible imprint on both American and Southern identity and culture – period. There is no getting around that and this forlorn hope of restoring the Confederacy within the defeated 11 Southern states is entirely that – a forlorn hope.
This is why if the South rises again it will occur within a distinctly American context rather than a Confederate one. To express it another way, the South will rise only when enough cultural traditionalists of whatever ideological stripe conclude that the South constitutes the only solid ground on which the American Experiment in self-government and individual liberty can be sustained.
That is why I have advocated for the last 20 years to put Confederate Lost Cause ideology aside and to build a self-determinist movement constructed from the things that define the 21st century South. The success of any future Southern regionalist movement will hinge on his well it articulates and expresses growing concerns about the fissures forming on the country’s cultural and political landscape.
Indeed, success will rest in large measure on how well such a movement assesses and acknowledges the cultural and political change that has swept across the South over the last century and a half. Such a movement will take root and thrive only when millions conclude, however painfully and reluctantly, that the South represents the American Experiment’s only viable cultural lifeboat.
Only on this foundation can we begin to build the elements of a new Southern indentity drawing both from facets of its past as well as the unavoidable realities of its present and future.
Incidentally, Ryan’s article in The Intercept constitutes a very good basis – a primer – for articulating that vision.