Sam Irvin, the famous North Carolina Democrat who chaired the Watergate Committee, thought Southerners had a “certain peculiarity”. It stemmed from the fact that the South’s heroes were men who had failed. This enabled Southerners to separate winning from what is right. He referred to a line from a poem by Edwin Markham to make his point: “Defeat may serve as well as victory to shake the soul and let the glory out”.* This peculiarity might also explain a key difference in opinion between many Southerners and the Republican Party today.
The following quotes represent current Republican and even “conservative” positions with support of the right leaning media.
“Now, after a long year of bloodshed and sacrifice, the war has entered a crucial phase. Today’s hearing is an opportunity to review the current conditions of the war and its possible trajectory, and to discuss policy recommendations to help Ukraine win.”
Senator Roger Wicker, Mississippi, February 28, 2023
“Now with Ukraine bravely defending its sovereignty and eroding Russia’s capacity to threaten NATO is not the time to ease up.”
Senator Mitch McConnell, Kentucky, September 6, 2023
“We’re in a religious war here, I am with Israel. Whatever the hell you have to do to defend yourselves; level the place.”
Senator Lindsey Graham, South Carolina, October 11, 2023
The average Republican in America appears to support these statements. They clearly support these men. They are each senior senators and one leads the Senate. They are from Southern states so you would be forgiven for thinking that most Southerners support them.
The reality is that there is a deep divide. Many Southerners see Ukraine and now Israel as war efforts that are not aligned sufficiently with American interests. They bristle at war mongering statements like “level the place” while being disgusted by the barbarity of Hamas. Many believe that not enough was done to forestall the violence, especially in Ukraine. They believe that the incentives for federal representatives are aligned with war making and not peace.
Southern history plays a role too. While the elites scream about racist traitors, the Southerner thinks of the founding and real federalism. They think of Jefferson’s warning about “entangling alliances”. The status quo is failing. A different course is required. It is time to elevate these Southern conservative values and “let the glory out”.
*Forgotten Conservatives in American History, Page 158.