The Southern Problem

November 27th, 2012 § 532 comments § permalink

Governor Romney’s loss of almost every battleground state to President Obama has sparked a flurry of debate over the future of the Republican Party.  Whereas the party was once able to rely firmly on support from moderate, “middle American” white males along with small government fiscal conservatives and the religious right, moderates in 2012 presented Republicans with a loud and clear referendum on their election platform.  Why have Republicans become so unpopular with the center?  Perhaps Alex Carpenter put it best in his post-election jab at the right, tweeting that any party must have serious problems when you hear “The rape guy lost,” and have to ask “Which one?”

Yet silencing its more extreme wings, though clearly called-for, is not the only issue on which the GOP needs to refocus. There is, as many have noted, the increasingly key Hispanic vote, of which Obama won seven of every ten who voted in 2012.  Even more frightening than the influx of liberal Hispanic voters, however, should be the Republicans’ loss of Virginia two elections in a row, and even North Carolina, which is now considered a swing state, in the 2008 election. It’s not the electoral votes of these states themselves that are cause for concern: Obama still would have won both elections either way. But rather, it is the prospect of liberalization of the once solidly conservative former Confederate states that, if continued, is almost sure to make the Republican Party nationally irrelevant.

The Southern voting bloc has long been a boon to Republicans, and not only because of the electoral votes that used to be guaranteed from these states. For nearly a full generation before Obama’s election, it would be nearly impossible for a Democratic presidential candidate to be elected if he wasn’t originally from a former Confederate state. This was simply because without any of the Southern vote, Democrats had a very difficult time garnering enough of the other swing states to overcome the Southern Republican machine. Bill Clinton, a native of Arkansas, and Jimmy Carter, from Georgia, managed to win the presidency largely thanks to the support of their home states and their sphere of influence in the South.

This phenomenon, advanced by political scientists as the “native son” theory of Southern politics, had a few important effects.  First, it handed several elections to the Republicans when the Democrats couldn’t find a strong Southern candidate and had to choose a candidate from another part of country. Second, it had a profoundly moderating influence on the Democratic party and a rightward influence on the nation as a whole, as Democrats who hailed from Southern states — Bill Clinton being perhaps the best example — presented themselves as moderates instead of than leftists.

Obama’s election seemed to turn this theory on its head. In the wake of public mistrust of Republicans for the Iraq War and the handling of hurricane Katrina, Virginia and North Carolina, two once-solid red states, voted for the Illinois Democrat. Furthermore, at least in Virginia, this voting trend stuck: the state voted blue in 2012 even after the anti-Republican sentiment of the late Bush years had quieted. Even more troubling to Republicans is that this change was the result of an expansion of the blue suburbs of Washington DC into the northeastern region of the state, which includes voters that are unlikely to turn back to voting Republican. For North Carolina to even be considered a swing state at this point in time represents a sizeable shift from its traditionally Republican history.

The increasing presence of Hispanics, especially in states on the border or near Mexico, threatens Republican control of the former Confederate states from their southern borders as well.  Projections for the 2016 election predict that, if Hispanics continue to vote as liberally as they did in the last election, Republican states Texas and Georgia could become swing states if not blue altogether. Much of this can also be attributed to the growth of cities such as Dallas and Atlanta, which, though the rest of the state may vote red, have seen rises in population and, consequently, voters likely to vote Democrat.  In fact, it is the growth of cities, particularly in the South, that is likely to hurt Republicans most if these trends continue

All this boils down to one reality for the GOP: it needs to re-establish its appeal to moderates, city-dwellers, and Hispanics. Moderating the Republican position on immigration is easy enough. Yet to have any chance in the 21st century South and its cities — not to mention urban areas in the rest of the country — will almost certainly require not just moderation, but abandonment of some of the GOP’s somewhat archaic positions on social issues. If the party fails to accomplish this or buckles under pressure from its extreme wings, it will not only continue to lose swing states; it will lose its most important geographical power base and any chance at national relevance.

 

Letter to the Editor

March 27th, 2012 § 493 comments § permalink

Oy!

St. Patrick’s day began as a holiday devoted to St. Patrick, an Irish patron saint, in celebration of his death.  The saint died on March 17th after a life devoted to…

Eh, forget it, let’s get to the drinkin’ already.

So, meself and a belly full o’ beer were walkin’ down the street a few weeks ago.

Nothin’ special, just trying to celebrate St. Patty’s day like a true Irishman, with the aforementioned belly of beer and a fifth of old Jameson in my hand.  Now, me and me buddies figured that a college town would be a darn good place to do some damage to our livers.  But what did we find?  A bunch of weak-kneed, codswapping tofu-munchers who I honestly couldn’t believe were anything but stone cold sober.

Yeah, good for you, you managed to do in a car on South U.  You know what we call that in Ireland?  A typical Friday night, ye pansies!  Speaking o’ cars, I did in a few car bombs myself just to wake up, but the most I ever saw anyone else do was but one.  Are you codswallopers joshing me!  Taking one Irish car bomb is like marryin’ a Scottish housewife: all the pain, none of the gain, and all of the shame.

Speakin’ of shame, me an’ me buddies also took a little detour down State Street.  Haven’t I never seen a more pathetic sight since me mother gave birth!  It was 10:00 in the morning an’ there were but two places drinkin’.  And though I have to admit that the dunk tank was a nice touch, it would have been better if ye had filled it with green beer, called it a drunk tank, and absorbed the sweet nectar of Irish life through yer god-given pores.

Look mates, if ye want to call yourselves real drinkers, ye need to step up yer game.  The throbbing in my forehead on Sunday wasn’t just the hangover – it was my embarrassment at how far this nation’s colleges and universities have strayed from their purpose: drinking until ye codswappers get sclerosis of the liver.  And to be perfectly frank, I doubt ye even killed a few liver cells on that excuse for a St. Patty’s Day.  I’ll be back next year, and I want to see me some improvement.

Farewell,

Connor O’Sullivan

An Irishman

An Exercise in Irrelevance (Part II)

November 1st, 2011 § 10 comments § permalink

There is no question that the city of Ann Arbor is a mecca of many things.  We have elements of a college town and those of a large city; a social scene that varies from the bars of Main Street to the bars of South University; and even such fixtures as the “violin monster” and the “harmonica guy.”  Perhaps less visible but no less in abundance, however, are the many rules — many of them unburdened by logic or reason — that seem to multiply in this town with every passing week.  Don’t get me wrong: many of them are quite funny in their own twisted way.  Unfortunately, their humor is slightly marred by the cold realization that the bureaucrats making them are in charge of the city we all call home.

Let’s begin with one issue that directly affects student life: the right to sell and purchase sexual merchandise.  A new law stipulates that only 50 percent of all merchandise sold by any downtown store can be sexual in nature.  If the question “Why?” is floating through your head, you are not alone — and yet ironically, it is perhaps the response to this new law that is more ridiculous than the law itself.  One store, entitled “Bongs and Thongs” restricts itself according to the law by strictly enforcing its policy of selling half its merchandise in the form of women’s underwear and the other half in the form of beer bongs, the latter of which, fortunately for the store, are not considered “sexual in nature” by city officials.  So much for creating a family atmosphere.

Legislators who were rejected one too many times during their college days are not the only problems Ann Arbor faces.  Apparently, the “car idling” that results when parents and students drop each other off has become such a problem that it requires a new law!  Now, if a police officer happens to be driving by, stopping your vehicle to pick up Dan could land you a ticket.  Though it is clear that the city of Ann Arbor is doing all it can to eliminate the mild inconvenience of this five-second pause for the cars behind you, however, it is unclear how effective the law is going to be.  After all, the police officer administering the ticket must stop you in the middle of the road for a far longer period, thus inconveniencing your fellow drivers further (not to mention your wallet) and making what problem there was far worse.  I suppose it’s the principle of the matter that keeps our legislators going.

Though we continue to observe these new, seemingly inane regulations, it would appear that we have also been missing some important ones.  For example, only recently in the city of Ann Arbor is it illegal to hit a pedestrian with your car.  Yes, you read correctly: a new rule stipulates that vehicles may not knowingly run over a pedestrian, even if the pedestrian happens to be jaywalking.  Thus, until recently, it has technically been only through the goodness of Ann Arbor drivers’ hearts that they chose not to leave you flat as a pancake on the pavement while they drove on their merry way.  So this Thanksgiving, let us give thanks to our city’s drivers — and to the city of Ann Arbor, which, now that it’s done messing with women’s underwear and car idling, has turned its attention to ensuring that students don’t die prematurely of Range Rover.

Though these laws and their effects seem — and often are — humorous, the kind of mentality that goes into creating them is a serious concern.  Just because you can make a new rule doesn’t mean you should.  Just because there’s a problem in a city, especially if it’s as small as car idling, doesn’t mean a law is always required to fix it, especially if it makes the problem worse.  And if they must make new rules, I encourage the city’s bureaucrats to address the real problems of its residents, such as pedestrian safety or perhaps the increasing number of muggings and attempted rapes that have occurred here recently.  If that means I have to wait a few seconds behind the car in front of me or endure the sight of a store filled with nothing but women’s underwear, so be it.

Of Politics and Culture

October 11th, 2011 § 10 comments § permalink

Unless you’ve had three tests and a paper recently, you have probably heard that Mitt Romney and Rick Perry are the frontrunners for the Republican nomination for president.  If you’ve watched the debates, you also know that this frontrunner status is perhaps the only thing they have in common.  The upper middle class-born Romney, a Mormon who attended Harvard and emerged from a successful private practice to govern the state of Massachusetts, couldn’t differ more from the Texas A&M yell leader who served as a fighter pilot and questions the tenets of evolution.  Indeed, perhaps the only thing they agree on is a strong and immediate opposition to any and every policy that President Obama supports.  And yet from a purely political standpoint, both may be more like Obama than they want to admit.

Romney, for his part, implemented a health care law in Massachusetts that looks strikingly like Obama’s.  Obama himself has conceded that the Massachusetts law played a pivotal role in writing Obamacare.  And despite Romney’s protestations that he would never consider implementing such a law at the national level, it doesn’t exactly speak to his hard-line conservative credentials that he would even consider a state solution to health care, at least not in today’s polarized political climate.  As for Rick Perry, he may look like a Republican to the core, but he identified as a Democrat for the majority of his political career before going on to become the longest-serving Republican governor in Texas history.  And his health care record?  He supported (wait for it) Hillary Clinton’s old health care plan, a plan that makes President Obama’s compromise-laden law look like Sarah Palin wrote it.

And yet somehow, the Republican base, most of whom support either Governor Romney or Governor Perry according to a recent Daily Caller poll, regard President Obama as only slightly short of the Antichrist.  Why?  The answer clearly isn’t political: after all, 80 percent of even the much-maligned Obamacare mandate was agreed to by both parties in the House and the Senate.  Rather, it has become increasingly clear that the reason for the partisan rancor is a cultural, rather than political, divide.  Look at the differences between the top Republican candidates and Obama through a cultural lens, and the differences — from background to schooling — are far more pronounced.

The clearest example of this is the contrast between the president and Governor Perry.  Whereas Obama was born in Hawaii (and we have the documentation to prove it), Perry was born on a farm in Texas.  Whereas Obama went to two Ivy League schools in the heyday of leftism that was the 1970s, Perry was a member of the Corps of Cadets at Texas A&M, an institution far removed from the coastal progressive movements.  Whereas Obama has appointed every establishment intellectual on the books to his cabinet, Perry was so anti-establishment that even George W. Bush expressed concern over Perry’s gun-slinging style of governance.  And although Romney is not as different from Obama as is Perry, the tenets of Mormonism and certainly a life in private practice will lead him down a very different path from the current president, who has spent no more than a year in the private sector.

Politically, Barack Obama is a moderate Democrat comparable to Bill Clinton.  But culturally, he represents something very different and very concerning to a lot of Americans: a new poster child for liberal University professors and out-of-touch “countercultural elites.”  This is why, if you examine Republican attacks on the president, you see a lot more about birth certificates and questions about his religion than you do about the specific details of his policies.  And this is why, at least for now, the political system and the voters will remain polarized: because Obama and his counterparts in the Republican Party are cultural, if not political, extremists.  To many voters including myself, this struggle is perhaps the factor that will determine one’s vote — perhaps even enough to overlook political disagreements we may have with both sides (evolution, really?).  If you believe, as I do, that it is high time the country was run by someone with private sector experience and a background that emphasizes the American tradition over pseudo-intellectual academia, you are likely to vote for Romney or Perry.  If you want people like one-time Harvard president Larry Summers running the government, you are likely to vote for Obama.  But whoever you vote for, a vote in this election promises to be much more of a personal statement than a political one.

The 10 Commandments of Freshmandom

June 9th, 2011 § 237 comments § permalink

1. Thou shalt not insult thy unfortunate pants by wearing them more than a foot below your waist. If thou disobeyist, thou shalt be smitten.

2. Thou shalt not stand in thy awkwardness during parties, nor shalt thou dismay thy fellow party-goers by serving as a human bar­rier between the aforementioned party-goers and their Solo cups.

3. Thou shalt not skateboard lazily to and fro be­tween classes, nor shalt thou unceremoniously bring thy clum­sy body loudly barging into these classes after their commencement.

4. Thou shalt never boorishly eat thy vanilla fat-free frozen yogurt straight out of the machine, in the manner of an uncouth hog, when dining in the dorms. Thou shalt obtain a cone, and patiently wait until the slow­poke in front of you finishes dribbling his yogurt into a “perfect” spiral.

5. Thou shalt wave vigorously to thy fellow Michiganders when thou passes them on the path, and thou shalt bow and make a noise if the aforemen­tioned Michigander is a member of MSA, the ruling class of the University.

6. Thou shalt not fight the oppressive environmentalist tyran­ny, but quickly and dutifully turn off thy lights and recycle thy water bot­tles, unless thou enjoyest dark rooms and shocks of an electric nature.

7. Thou shalt remove thy M-card from thy neck as well as put away thy conspicuous campus map following the conclusion of Welcome Week, unless thou enjoyest a slew of ridicule with a side of thy never-ending campus virginity.

8. Thou shalt never wonder, in thy ignorance, why thy school has attained a level of transcendence that allows it to al­ter time, but rather accept with open arms the 10-minute de­lay that will slowly but surely assert its dominance over your mind.

9. Thou shalt never pretentiously wave thy “pre-admit” to Ross label under the noses of thy hard-working mini-Madoff counterparts. In addition, thou shalt not be naive enough to allow the ridiculous thought that thou art good at econom­ics after taking the 101 variant of the aforementioned discipline to enter thy head.

10. Thou shalt realize that freshman are generally one of the most naive and disliked groups on campus, and that the only way to free thy­self from this miserable state as quickly as possible is to write for the Re­view, unless of course thou art not insightful or funny, in which case there are plenty of other publications here specifically designed for thou.

Party Patrol Ramps Up

April 8th, 2011 § 309 comments § permalink

It is often said that Ann Arbor residents sign up for the loud music and drinking associated with football Saturdays the moment they sign their leases. Unfortunately for prospective partiers, the Ann Arbor Police Department does not see it this way.

After a busy last season in which the department was known to give out a total of 70 to 100 MIPs and noise violation tickets over the course of just five hours, the official Ann Arbor “Party Patrol” will be ramping up operations for the coming football season. Next year, they will add several new officers and commit to beginning operations a full four hours before the game, in contrast to last year’s two hours.

Sargeant Craig Flocken, a veteran patrol member who headed up the team last year, believes the move is necessary, because last year’s patrol was not able to adequately cover all the necessary areas. As parties typically occur on State, Packard and Hill Streets, the department found patrolling them all to be near-impossible, a job which Flocken believes is necessary to maintain a decent quality of life for area residents. “This was not a problem 10 years ago or even five, but pregame parties recently have definitely become a quality of life issue for Ann Arbor residents, as well as a safety concern for those involved,” Flocken said.

The main focus for the officers on patrol are fraternity and house parties that get excessively large and create a significant disturbance due to either large congregations overflowing onto the sidewalks and street, loud music, or both. At the beginning of the year, officers visit the various houses and talk to them about staying at capacity during pregame. Parties that stay within the realm of acceptable noise levels and do not go significantly over their legal human capacity are unlikely to attract the attention of the patrol. “A good rule of thumb is that if we can hear your music from two blocks away, we’ll probably pay you a visit,” said Flocken.

Houses that are singled out by the patrol are shut down by a force of around six to eight officers, who hand out tickets for MIPs, public intoxication, and public disturbance, in addition to fining the house if it is over capacity. As for deciding which parties to shut down, Flocken believes they are “pretty lenient on most things,” and will not make a point of shutting down parties unless they are clearly violating one of the rules. “We’re not going to go in and cause any trouble unless a party draws attention to itself,” Flocken said. “We only shut them down when they’re clearly out of control—often with loud music that draws a big crowd which blocks the sidewalks or creates some other disturbance.”

Students have had mixed reactions to the news. Freshman Alex Fox, a member of Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity who currently works as their risk manager, was aware of the change early after communicating with the police department. “If you fill out the necessary forms and make sure things stay reasonable, the police aren’t likely to intervene,” Fox said. “Of course, it’s the responsibility of the hosts to ensure that their party doesn’t get out of control, but as long as things don’t get absolutely outrageous I’ve found that the police are pretty lenient.”

Other students were not so confident, however. Freshman David Niemann, who attended several pregame parties last fall, intends to hold back next semester. “I can’t control how big a party gets, but I know I don’t want to get a ticket just because someone let their party get out of control,” Niemann said. “I’m definitely going to be cautious about going to big pregame parties next semester.”

In addition to the daytime party patrol, the department also runs a nighttime patrol that has been operating for almost 20 years. Unlike the daytime patrol, which is adding more officers and longer hours next fall, the nighttime patrol will not change its operations. However, Flocken emphasizes that the nighttime patrol is more frequent in the fall than in the winter or spring. “That’s just when the greatest number of parties tend to take place,” he said.