Features September 2022
The Old South shall rise again
On the economic system of Silicon Valley.
We naturally assume the Confederacy was defined by slavery. Of course, the secessionist nation of eleven Southern states was born of, fought for, and died mostly over that peculiarly heinous institution.
So it seems heretical even to suggest that the Confederate model could possibly help explain the increasingly deranged pathologies of contemporary blue-state America, given its ostensibly progressive agenda. Yet, mutatis mutandis, the methodologies, values, and guiding ideology of the Old South can help us fathom the strange paradoxes of our twenty-first-century progressive blue-state model, most notably in California—and especially Northern California’s Silicon Valley. The latter has become a modern version of the single-crop antebellum King Cotton economy and culture, whether we look to the staggering accumulation of wealth in the Bay Area or the plethora of homeless people and service workers living in trailers and campers parked near the tech hubs of the world.
Under both systems a tiny elite assumed that its wealth and power were a result of superior wisdom and morality, and so naturally felt entitled to establish social mores and public policy in general. Their resulting orthodoxy protected the wealthy and privileged at the expense of an underclass while driving out the middle and working classes.
To give an example, the conditions of the roads and freeways of some of the current wealthiest states such as California, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York nonetheless rank in many surveys among the poorest ten in the nation. That disconnect is eerily reminiscent of the antebellum South, whose shipments abroad accounted for over 60 percent of the value of all U.S. exports, while the region lagged far behind the North in railroad, turnpike, and canal mileage.
The antebellum Southern economy prompted general economic and social stagnation for the non-elite and vast economic, social, and cultural inequalities, as the tech economy does today. The plantation owners of old and today’s woke California oligarchs apparently found the resulting pyramidal feudal system preferable and politically useful. Of course, the neo-feudal systems of the Old South provoked much criticism among contemporaries. Currently, urban geographers and journalists such as Joel Kotkin and Edward Ring have argued that California’s utopian and globalist agendas neglect freeways and water storage, the modern version of antebellum “internal improvements” so often resisted by the South. Contemporary California’s policies instead reflect the power and globalist concerns of Silicon Valley and the coastal tech and investment wealth that is less focused on the dire housing, transportation, and workplace needs of a shrinking middle class living near them.
The neo-feudal systems of the Old South provoked much criticism among contemporaries.
Apologists for the Southern system, like today’s Silicon Valley promoters, offered various schemes to rationalize their static social arrangements. So it is useful to classify these rationales into two models, the “hard” and the “soft.” The hard model justifies the extreme wealth of the oligarchs by appealing to the beneficial effects of global free trade in goods and a large supply of contracted foreign workers to reduce labor costs. Tariffs and other forms of economic protectionism will drive up costs to consumers, they argue.
The soft model argues that with their nearly unlimited assets, oligarchs can provide paternalistic care to those embedded within the logic of their system. In the nineteenth century, this feudal-like paternal care was to be provided directly to a servile class by their masters. Now, the usual argument is for governmental intermediaries to augment contracted workers’ compensation with various health and welfare programs.
The formerly conservative pundit Bill Kristol, in a 2017 panel discussion, inadvertently summed up elements of both schools of thought by emphasizing the advantages of a two-tier society. In such a feudal system, the native-born middle classes were seen as expendable or rather replaceable through the perpetual revolving-door importation of less expensive immigrant labor:
Look, to be totally honest, if things are so bad as you say with the white working class, don’t you want to get new Americans in? . . . Basically if you are in free society, a capitalist society, after two or three generations of hard work everyone becomes kind of decadent, lazy, spoiled—whatever. Then, luckily, you have these waves of people coming in from Italy, Ireland, Russia, and now Mexico, who really want to work hard and really want to succeed and really want their kids to live better lives than them and aren’t sort of clipping coupons or hoping that they can hang on and meanwhile grew up as spoiled kids and so forth.
It will be useful to examine in detail some of the many parallels across time and space between what might be termed the South Carolina system of the old slave South and the California social-economic model of Silicon Valley today.
A striking parallel between the two systems is their remarkable fixation on racial essence, particularly the use of racial pedigrees to adjudicate political and social status. One of the most important milestones in the development of slavery in the South was Bacon’s Rebellion of 1676–77, in which the mostly white indentured servants of Virginia rebelled (among the rebels were also some enslaved blacks). In the aftermath, plantation owners began to prefer to import black slaves from the Caribbean and Africa and passed slave statutes to formalize a racial distinction between temporarily indentured white servants and permanently indentured black slaves. The effect was to support the power of established plantation owners over the poor of both races.
A striking parallel between the two systems is their remarkable fixation on racial essence.
Contemporary affirmative action and diversity programs ironically mimic Southern racial rules in a variety of unfortunate ways. Race often became a construct divorced from the realities underlying its supposed importance. In the South, being labeled “black” among the non-slave class because of a single black great-grandparent might mean the loss of social status or the inability to find a career commensurate with one’s talent or training.
In contemporary America, conversely, the ability to establish “minority” status, even when neither appearance nor class offers any such indication of economic oppression, can be of clear benefit in admissions and hiring. Such ambiguity explains why those without African-American or Native-American lineage still believe that they can claim minority status by simple assertion, as the fraudulent cases of Ward Churchill, Rachel Dolezal, Shaun King, and Elizabeth Warren attest.
Note the racialist paradox: in the South, those of mixed lineage sought to “pass” for being white to ensure privileges. Movies like Pinky (1949) or Band of Angels (1957) assumed as near normal the now strange idea of those of mixed heritage going to great efforts to “pass” as white.
In the twenty-first century, the same obsessions are applicable for similar privileges and career advantages, but with the races switched: those of mixed lineage now seek to pass for being non-white. Philip Roth, in his 2000 novel The Human Stain, subsequently made into a film of the same name, revealed the ironies and paradoxes of contemporary racial obsessions, as a “black” professor who grew up passing for “white” is attacked decades later and then destroyed by black students as a white racist. One of Roth’s many lessons is that while radical changes in racial stereotyping occurred over decades, the same generic fixations on race endured.
The half-black actress Halle Berry once appealed to a court to embrace the neo-Confederate one-drop rule in a child-custody fight with her white former boyfriend. She felt that her one-quarter black daughter should be considered black—and thus raised by the black Berry and not her boyfriend. As Berry herself put it, “I feel she’s black. I’m black and I’m her mother, and I believe in the one-drop theory.”
Like Southern-state record-keeping, current U.S. census forms keep close tabs on racial status.
Like Southern-state record-keeping, current U.S. census forms keep close tabs on racial status. And likewise U.S. Census Bureau findings indicate much in the way of fraudulent claims of minority status. Yet even the most ardent supporters of racially enhanced contract set-asides, admissions, and hiring have as of yet failed to establish a coherent system of racial identification and classification, either because to do so would sometimes have no real correlation with appearance, current discrimination, or clear claims of prior victimization, or because the resulting labyrinth of rules would be redolent of the worst apartheid systems of the past from the Third Reich to South Africa.
Such a system of elaborate rules favors large companies that can afford well-staffed human-resources departments over new startups that cannot. Not surprisingly, many large Silicon Valley enterprises, themselves only a few years removed from being startups, are now the most vociferous proponents of this racial-classification system that disadvantages their smaller competitors.
Until the 1852 election, slavery was not always the central issue of American presidential elections. Yet in that seminal year, the Whigs nominated General Winfield Scott, a close associate of the noted abolitionist Senator William Seward—and lost almost all states in the South (and many others besides). Prior to that election, Southern states had split their votes fairly evenly between the Democrats and Whigs. For example, the winning Whig candidates William Henry Harrison in 1840 and Zachary Taylor in 1848 both carried many Southern states. Slavery, however, became an increasingly important issue as slave-based cotton exports grew to become the chief source of national export income and as the nation acquired new territory after the Mexican–American War, much of it felt to be conducive to slave-based plantationism.
The Whig Party collapsed finally over its internal divisions on the issue of slavery before the 1856 election. Its successor, the new anti-slavery Republican Party, was essentially a Northern regional organization with no support in the South. The remnants of the southern Whigs later joined the Democratic Party, creating a Southern one-party state. Afterwards, aside from Reconstruction (1865–77), there were only a few exceptions to the notion of a Democratic “Solid South” in national elections, at least until Eisenhower carried Texas in 1952. The Democratic Party remained a minority in the North until the advent of mass immigration in the late nineteenth century.
Pro-slavery and segregation ideologies explain much of the South’s century-and-a-half allegiance to Democratic Party politics. Yet broader economic interests also played a large role during this period and are crucial to understanding the heyday of slave-based plantations in the 1850s.
The Whig Party collapsed finally over its internal divisions on the issue of slavery before the 1856 election.
Before the Civil War, cotton plantations were the most important economic entities in America. It is often forgotten that America only became a significant industrial power starting in the late 1860s and especially in the 1880s. The period from 1845–60 saw a huge percentage of the U.S. gnp attributable to cotton agriculture. Policies governing the transportation, finance, and agricultural-supply sectors throughout the South were determined by their effect on cotton exports. These additional issues help explain why most Southerners came to support a one-party system, even though there were only 393,975 actual slave-owners in the fifteen so-called slave states by 1860, or about 4.75 percent of the free slave-state population of 8,289,782 citizens. Not surprisingly, the health of the slave-based cotton economy was critical to Southern politicians.
In contemporary America, California is perhaps most emblematic of contemporary one-party politics. Currently, Democrats have supermajorities in both houses of the state legislature. There is not a single Republican statewide officeholder. The last Republican governor, the politically centrist celebrity Arnold Schwarzenegger, left office in 2011. His tenure ended the prior Republican control of the California governorship for thirty-one of forty-four years between 1967 and 2011.
Both of California’s U.S. senators are currently Democrats. Indeed, the last Republican senator, John Seymore, left office thirty years ago in 1992. Only eleven of the state’s fifty-three congressional seats are currently held by Republicans.
In California, statewide officeholders reflect little actual diversity. For three decades, the state’s three most powerful national officials were Nancy Pelosi, now Speaker of the House, and Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer. All three women lived within a twenty-mile radius of each other in the San Francisco Bay Area. Senator Kamala Harris’s replacement of Boxer meant that the radius was even smaller—essentially just tony San Francisco neighborhoods, since Boxer had at least lived in Marin County.
The current governor of California, Gavin Newsom, a former relation by marriage of Nancy Pelosi’s, lived in the same San Francisco neighborhood as the state’s other prominent politicians and is emblematic of the new one-party, Bay Area political overclass—as incestuous and powerful as the three to four hundred thousand plantationists of the Old South. The recent creators of a new one-party state, fueled largely by one industry’s unimaginable wealth—Jerry Brown, Boxer, Feinstein, Newsom, Pelosi—have all enjoyed wealth and power, often through inherited money or family brand names, marriage, or the leveraging of political influence to secure lucrative business with the Chinese. Yet the rest of the state has lived a world away from their enclaves in Grass Valley, Kentfield, Lake Tahoe, Napa Valley, Pacific Heights, or Rancho Mirage.
Big tech/big cotton
How did the San Francisco Bay Area come to dominate the Democratic Party and California so completely, especially in the twenty-first century? One possible explanation is provided by a recent list of the ten most valuable companies in the world. Half of them are Silicon Valley tech companies (Apple, Alphabet/Google, Tesla, Nvidia, and Meta/Facebook).
Such workers are in some sense indentured to the company that provides them such certification.
Silicon Valley companies depend heavily on a supply of engineers with H-1B visas from China, India, and Europe. Such workers are in some sense indentured to the company that provides them such certification, since they can in theory be deported if they try to leave that company and work elsewhere without reapplying for a new visa. Consequently, foreign tech employees tend to be predominantly single men willing to put up with inadequate, very expensive housing and long commutes in exchange for American wages and the possibility of freedom in the future (that is, a precious permanent-status green card allowing them to work at any company). As in the cases of Apple, Nvidia, and Amazon, American companies have come to depend on low-cost manufacturing in China, with labor practices that would be forbidden in the West, extending in some cases to actual forced labor.
Consequently, the political-action committees of these tech companies have invested very large sums in the Democratic Party and its Bay Area nexus, so as to ensure that their economic goals are supported by government policies. As with slavery in the antebellum era, these policies have attracted opposition from citizens harmed by them, particularly American workers and middle-class professionals, among them American-born entry-level engineers. In the last decade these companies have chosen to focus their near limitless financial resources on dominating a single party and ensuring its electoral success, instead of trying to appeal to a bipartisan political establishment. Elite enmity toward Donald Trump only consolidated this approach.
Such concentrated wealth means that California has counted on ample revenues from these trillion-dollar businesses and mostly adopted the ethos and values of those who own and run them. And the Silicon Valley elite have certainly exercised their enormous powers of persuasion. Mark Zuckerberg, of Facebook fame, alone directed $419 million of his own multibillion-dollar fortune into the 2020 election campaign. That infusion gave grants to state registrars in key precincts to ensure greater left-wing mail-in and early-voting turnout.
Besides the economic issues that concern them directly, the Silicon Valley elites fund their own cultural obsessions—much like how the old plantation aristocracy supported its romantically imagined classical and medieval nostalgia for dueling, feudal paternalism, Aristotelian natural slavery, and gentlemanly leisure.
The modern versions of such obsessions range from later-term abortion on demand and identity politics to radical government efforts to halt supposedly man-made global warming, defunding the police, strict no-growth zoning, transgender advocacy, and arcane rules to limit growth and development deemed antithetical to elite definitions of the natural and man-made environment. Culturally, these elites have a deep suspicion of religion, especially Christianity; they demand strict gun control, embrace racial reparative hiring and admissions, and are often anti-military.
Besides the economic issues that concern them directly, the Silicon Valley elites fund their own cultural obsessions.
The net result of what we might cynically label the feudal politics of the new plantationists has been a limitation of affordable housing, an overregulation of small business, an increase in fuel and power costs, and a neglect of traditional infrastructure such as roads and bridges. Put another way, our new plantationists, like their predecessors, worry mostly about the supply and viability of an underclass to provide needed labor. Likewise, they resent and deter the upwardly mobile aspirations of an increasingly inert middle class.
As in the politics of the one-party Old South, the way to seek change or find government help is not to offer alternate political visions and candidates in hopes of electing the out party. Many businesses and organizations instead seek exemptions and concessions from Democrat officeholders, largely in exchange for pledging them their financial and political support. And just as the power and wealth of the plantationists of the South came to control the entire Democratic Party beyond the South, so too the wealth and power of progressive California and East Coast elites have transformed the entire contemporary Democratic Party into a reflection of their own interests. The Democratic Party is now unrecognizable from that of Bill Clinton, just thirty years ago.
Concurrently, millions of middle-class Californians—Ronald Reagan, George Deukmejian, or Pete Wilson’s gubernatorial voters—left the state, exhausted by exorbitant income, gas and sales taxes, burdensome regulations, and soaring housing costs. They gained little in return for their taxes, as crime increased, infrastructure ossified, and schools worsened. Similarly, in the static and postbellum South, thousands of the non-elite left for new opportunities in the homesteads of Oklahoma—the nineteenth-century version of the massive flight from high-tax blue states to low-tax red counterparts.
One-party politics has resulted from decades of both internal migration and foreign immigration, much of it illegal, into the United States, as well as the polarizing effects of globalization. A mostly global free-trade area, established by the United States after World War II to win the Cold War, opened huge markets to Silicon Valley tech companies, Hollywood media corporations, and New York financial institutions. Silicon Valley—with $8 trillion in market capitalization—has emerged as the single richest enclave in the history of civilization, or at least since the cotton fortunes of the 1850s South.
Elites with globally marketable skills and appeal—in corporate business, finance, law, insurance, media, and academia—saw their market explode to nearly eight billion global consumers. Yet those engaged in muscular work—assembly, manufacturing, resource production, and farming—witnessed many of their industries and labor forces outsourced abroad. The resulting hollowed-out red- and purple-state interiors were considered almost culpable for missing out on the global financial extravaganza of the twenty-first century.
Like the Democratic Party of the Old South, the Democrats today of blue-state America are the party of the rich.
Globally lucrative skills then helped to diminish the middle class, creating feudal binaries of winners and losers. This gravitation to a feudal political system, again so reminiscent of the Old South, is seen best in California’s continued devolution into two classes of the very rich and the very poor, with an embattled and shrinking middle class. Like the Democratic Party of the Old South, the Democrats today of blue-state America are the party of the rich, whether measured by the nation’s wealthiest zip codes and congressional districts, or by party registration compared with income. California’s growing manorialism reflects these increasing divides and indeed fuels levels of inequality not seen in the United States since the plantation system of the antebellum South.
State-by-state rankings of inequality, based on use of the so-called Gini coefficient that purports to quantify income inequality, usually ranks highest blue states such as New York, California, Illinois, and Massachusetts, along with Southern and former Confederate states such as Mississippi and Louisiana. In some Gini models, progressive California and New York rank forty-ninth and fiftieth respectively in the nation in terms of regressive inequality.
Legal and illegal immigration has brought some thirty million foreign nationals into the United States over the last thirty years. Indeed, over twenty million residents are believed currently to be living in the United States without legal status. About half of all illegal immigrants over the last forty years gravitated toward entitlement-rich California. Currently, nearly fifty million American residents and citizens were not born in the United States. Over a quarter of the resident population of California was not born in the United States.
Over a quarter of the resident population of California was not born in the United States.
Politically, states such as California, Colorado, Nevada, and New Mexico have flipped from purple or red electoral status to blue in part because of massive immigration. The Left triumphantly celebrated these radical changes as “the new Democratic majority” with catchphrases like “demography is destiny.” Those who objected to such overt subversions of immigration laws were libeled as white supremacists clinging to “great replacement” conspiracies.
First-generation Latinos and those eligible to vote through various legal and de facto amnesties were until recently predictably progressive constituents, largely due to Democratic support for open borders, expanded entitlements for the poor, and identity politics. Their fealty to progressive politics explains some but not all of California’s wild gyration from purple to solidly blue status.
Another neo-Confederate characteristic of progressive states is the embrace of states’ rights, a once-taboo notion that conjures up memories of racist segregationists such as George Wallace standing in the doorway of the University of Alabama in an attempt to exempt Alabama from federal civil-rights legislation. Whereas Southerners believed that an intrusive federal government had no right to interfere with and disrupt states’ unique and morally superior culture, so too blue states feel Washington has no business in impeding their progressive agendas.
There currently are more than 560 “sanctuary-city” jurisdictions. Their reason to be is that they feel federal immigration law is ossified and certainly contrary to the values of their individual states, counties, and cities. Furthermore, they believe they are morally superior to their federal government and therefore have not just the right but the duty to nullify any federal statute they choose—with the proviso that less enlightened states elsewhere should exercise no such usurpation of federal law.
The rationale is similar to South Carolina’s nullification acts of federal tariff laws in the 1830s.
Accordingly, a county in Utah or city in Wyoming has no legal right to set its own gun-registration rules. Nullificationists oppose any who would ignore the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulations governing temporary ponds on private property. They would not tolerate renegade counties violating the federal Endangered Species Act during construction projects.
The rationale is similar to South Carolina’s nullification acts of federal tariff laws in the 1830s, or the takeover of federal property within Southern states from 1860 on, or, again, the effort to render inert civil-rights legislation of the 1960s. In all cases, past and present, a small rich elite feels it is wiser and certainly morally superior to the federal government and thus has the right to pick and choose which national laws to obey.
Like denizens of the antebellum Southern states, the blue-state leftists believe that the federal government—although they so often control both its elected and nonelected offices—no longer delivers the political results that their ideologies demand. And like the old Confederates, their moral smugness prompts dreams of a blue-state secession from the Neanderthal majority.
Just as Southern senators and governors bragged that King Cotton was the indispensable global commodity, that their static pastoral societies were more humane and avoided the crass exploitation of labor found under Northern industrialism, so blue states see their high-tech economies, the plethora of Ivy League and marquee universities located in their coastal strips, and their integration within the cultural and economic folds of the European Union and Asian economic powerhouses as far superior to a retrograde nation of gun-clingers, deplorables, irredeemables, and chumps. A visceral hatred of red-state America and what it supposedly represents matches the zeal of the Confederate loathing of the supposedly Northern-dominated Union during the 1850s.
Melinda Byerley, a Silicon Valley ceo, in Hillary Clinton fashion explained why the 2016 election has crystallized her own and the general blue-state hatred for their red-state counterparts:
One thing middle america [sic] could do is to realize that no educated person wants to live in a s—thole with stupid people. Especially violent, racist, and/or misogynistic ones. When big corporations think about where to put call centers, factors [sic], development centers, etc., they also have to deal with the fact that those towns have nothing going for them. No infrastructure, just a few bars and a terrible school system.
The onetime “Calexit” leader Shankar Singam celebrated the mostly white flight of the middle class from California. He bragged that, in fact, the United States “should be thankful for” immigrants: “In regards to the middle class leaving, that’s a good thing. We need these spots opened up for the new wave of immigrants to come up. It’s what we do.”
Singam’s idea of California is ultimately, like the Old South’s idea of itself, race-based. Minnesota is one of a few blue states clustered around the Great Lakes and claiming an affinity with coastal culture. In 2015, its governor, Mark Dayton, in the fashion of Southern governors in 1861 who wanted Yankee critics gone, dared the unsophisticated to leave his state if they did not meet his moral (and apparently intellectual) standards:
If you are that intolerant, if you are that much of a racist or a bigot, then find another state. Find a state where the minority population is 1 percent or whatever.
In a February 2021 Nation essay, “The Case for Blue-State Secession,” Nathan Newman displays an eerie neo-Confederate zealousness reminiscent of Southern demands on the Union in roughly 1830–60:
We face a mounting constitutional crisis—one that, in turn, amplifies the crises of voter suppression, racial and economic inequality, and climate change—with a majority will that is repeatedly thwarted by minority rule in every aspect of policy. Ultimately, building a serious blue-state threat to secede is the only way to end this crisis and create a nation based on equal representation for all.
Or, as Kevin Baker put it in The New Republic (“It’s Time for a Bluexit”),
We’ll turn Blue America into a world-class incubator for progressive programs and policies, a laboratory for a guaranteed income and a high-speed public rail system and free public universities. We’ll focus on getting our own house in order, while yours falls into disrepair and ruin.
Baker’s hubris is reminiscent of the infamous antebellum “Cotton is King” secessionist speech of James Henry Hammond. In 1858, Hammond argued that the nation and indeed the world simply could not exist without the wealth and talent of the South:
Without firing a gun, without drawing a sword, should they make war on us we could bring the whole world to our feet. The South is perfectly competent to go on, one, two, or three years without planting a seed of cotton. I believe that if she was to plant but half her cotton, for three years to come, it would be an immense advantage to her. . . . What would happen if no cotton was furnished for three years? I will not stop to depict what every one can imagine, but this is certain: England would topple headlong and carry the whole civilized world with her, save the South. No, you dare not make war on cotton. No power on earth dares to make war upon it. Cotton is king.
In each of the systems, the beneficiaries had little inkling of both their vulnerability and the widespread hostility to their smug worldviews. On September 30, 1859, Abraham Lincoln stated in an address in Wisconsin:
It is said an Eastern monarch once charged his wise men to invent a sentence . . . which should be true in all times and situations. They presented him with the words: “And this, too, shall pass away.” How much it expresses! How chastening in the hour of pride! How consoling in the depths of affliction!
Despite such fantasies of Confederate-like secession, marquee blue states such as California, Illinois, New Jersey, and New York are losing populations and seeing their middle classes calcify, shrink, or leave. They are becoming states of a few rich and many poor. In that regard, their arrogance, combined with social and economic inertness, resembles the delusions of the Old South, whose citizens felt underappreciated, unfairly treated by their inferiors, trapped by unjust and ungenerous dictates of the Constitution, and yet so vital to the survival of the United States that their absence would likely lead to the collapse of the country or ensure its remnants descended into poverty and irrelevance.
Despite static or falling populations, crumbling infrastructure, mounting debt, high taxes, poor public schools, overregulation, and income inequality within blue states, there is talk in these states about demanding constitutional reform and radical changes in American custom and practice to address what they feel is underrepresentation in the federal government.
Today’s blue-staters feel bullied by a majority that does not share their own supposedly enlightened views.
Such talk of an unsalvageable red-state America and the need for divorce from its toxicities was only furthered by the election of Donald Trump in 2016 and has accelerated during and after his tenure. Like antebellum Southerners who came to hate Northern Unionists, today’s blue-staters feel bullied by a majority that does not share their own supposedly enlightened views. The American Left resents bitterly that their inferiors sometimes beat them in national elections.
The election-losing Hillary Clinton, oblivious that her infamous “deplorables” rant may have cost her the Electoral College, grew furious that red-state America had somehow denied her the presidency:
If you look at the map of the United States, there is all that red in the middle, places where Trump won. I win the coasts. I win Illinois, Minnesota, places like that. What that map doesn’t show you is that I won the places that represent two-thirds of America’s gross domestic product. I won the places that are optimistic, diverse, dynamic, moving forward.
Despite the current Democratic Party control of the presidency, the House of Representatives, and the Senate, the Left’s complaints about the American system are many. And these whines have only grown louder after the 2000 and 2016 elections that saw victories by Republican presidential candidates who did not win the popular vote.
Ending the constitutionally mandated Electoral College became an obsession of the leftist activist class after George W. Bush’s 2000 election. But the clamor intensified once the hallowed “blue wall” of Democrat-controlled “swing states” crumbled in 2016.
The Left sees the 180-year-old Senate filibuster—widely used by Democrats during periods of Republican dominance—as an obstruction to progressive agendas when Democrats control Congress. Given the number of rural states such as Iowa, Ohio, and Wisconsin that are turning increasingly conservative and often deep red, the Democrats find unfair the idea that each state deserves two senators. Thus many want the Senate proportionally recalibrated to resemble the makeup of the House—although without reference to the fact that in recent years the House has often come under Republican control.
Even the blue states’ dominance of technology, media, and finance has been threatened by the terrible conditions their policies have wrought. Finance companies are abandoning New York for Florida, tech companies are leaving California for Texas, and movies are being made everywhere but in Hollywood because of absurd new restrictions on the private contractors that are ubiquitous in Hollywood.
One almost feels like the blue states are in danger of going the way of Shelley’s Ozymandias, who asked those passing by to look upon his works, of which nothing but ruins remained. Or, to put it another way in an ironic fashion, the obdurate blue-state North is reminiscent of the mulish Old South, while the red-state new South is beginning to resemble the dynamic old North.
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This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 41 Number 1, on page 4
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