Supersonic Man

April 12, 2016

If not for the South…

Filed under: fun,Rantation and Politicizing,thoughtful handwaving — Supersonic Man @ 10:29 am

The reason Hillary Clinton has a delegate lead over Bernie Sanders is because she won big in Southern states — specifically, in the Confederate states. What if that weren’t a factor? What if we imagine, say, that the Confederacy had seceded peacefully, gone to hell in its own way, and left the United States to move forward without them?

Bernie would certainly be ahead of Hillary. Or would he? Since in this scenario, Bill Clinton would not be a United States citizen, Hillary probably would have married someone else, and found a completely different path onto the national stage (or not), and if she were still a public figure, her policy record and positions might well be entirely different from her present one. She might still have been part of the Obama administration… which would be more popular and successful than it is in real life, with the Tea Party being much smaller and weaker. But then she might have beaten Obama in 2008 without the albatross of having voted for a war in Iraq, and he could be running now to succeed her.

And Bernie? Without the South, neither George W. Bush nor Bill Clinton would have been President, which means we probably wouldn’t have repealed Glass-Steagall and deregulated Wall Street, and so wouldn’t have had a bank crisis in 2008, which means Bernie would never have had grounds to enter the race.

But wait — the Bush family probably wouldn’t have moved to Texas. If they stayed in New England, maybe W. and Jeb would still have public careers, and Junior might still have become president. There would have been no Al Gore opposing him. But if so, his presidency would be unrecognizably different from what we really got. The real GWB absorbed Southern culture in a way that completely shaped his outlook and political temperament; he’s the most southernized southern president we’ve had since the days when presidents owned slaves. So we can’t begin to guess what kind of politician he’d have been without that (aside from presuming that he wouldn’t be any smarter).

Reagan might still have had much the same sort of presidency that he had in real life, but George Bush the Elder might have failed to carry on after him. The Southern Strategy would not be there to bolster mediocre conservatives. So maybe the other Bushes would have stayed obscure. But the Democrat preceding Reagan wouldn’t have been Jimmy Carter, and might have left a more impressive record of Democratic accomplishment than Carter did, won a second term, and held off Reagan until he was too old to run.

But then, Reagan might have taken office in 1976, because without the Southern Strategy, Nixon would have had a tough time defeating Hubert Humphrey, and with no Watergate to embarrass it, a conservative surge would by that point have been overdue and probably unstoppable, especially if Vietnam became a Democratic embarrassment. If the Republicans managed to elect a successor to Reagan in ’84, we might still be right on time for a Clintonesque “triangulating” Democrat in ’92. But on the other hand, the odds of the right wing staying in office that long without producing a Watergate-sized scandal are probably not good, so we might have ended up with a more Carter-like figure by ’88.

The sixties counterculture would sure have looked different with neither the Civil Rights movement nor Nixon’s Vietnam policies to drive it. If Martin Luther King or someone had gotten a movement going in the South, supporting it from the North might well have been a patriotic position favored by conservatives. Maybe the Republican party would have remained the home of abolitionists and antisegregationists, what with the Confederacy now being a foreign threat rather than a domestic shame.

Kennedy’s successor wouldn’t have been LBJ, but then Kennedy might not have been shot. Hard to say. The Cuban missile crisis might have played out very differently if the Confederacy was the main area under threat — perhaps they would have taken the lead in anti-Castro activities, with the USA taking a secondary backing role. I assume that the USA and CSA would be allies in the Cold War, as both would abhor Communism. It would probably be the CSA pulling crap like the Bay of Pigs invasion.

The whole Cold War might have gone very differently, because we might not have had Eisenhower. He mostly lived in Kansas and his ancestry was Pennsylvania Dutch, but unfortunately he was born in Texas. Maybe his parents wouldn’t have moved there, but if they did, we would have lost the Republican party’s main voice for restraint at the time of anticommunist hysteria, and who knows what sort of belligerent asshole would have become president. We might even have ended up with Joe McCarthy in office. As a consequence, there might have been a huge backlash against conservatism, or on the other hand, there might have been a nuclear war and we might all be dead now.  Or maybe Russia would be a radioactive hell but the United States would be semi-intact, if we attacked before their arsenal reached a mature size, and they couldn’t strike back on the same scale.  Maybe Bernie would be running today on a platform of Russian reconstruction.

Before Eisenhower we enter a long period where the South had little overt influence on national politics, so it’s impossible to speculate any further on individual personalities or particular political races. Suffice it to say that the hypotheticals above are entirely facetious — they couldn’t be anything else, because everything would already have been different to such an unknowable extent that 20th century history might be completely unrecognizable. As early as 1900, the whole world might be so different that we might find nothing corresponding to the familiar crises and turning points of the century we remember, so no comparison could even be drawn.

But it is chilling to contemplate one particular possibility… that the Confederate States of America might well have joined the Axis, and neutralized the USA’s ability to fight Japan and Germany in WWII. You gotta admit, Hitler would have been delighted to invite them in. We might have had to spend all of WWII finally having that war between Northern and Southern states which we had avoided before. The Axis might even have won, and conquered the world. But if tensions had long been high between the USA and CSA, then the American war might well have happened earlier, with them taking opposite sides in WWI.

But since this is all facetious, let’s bring it back to the current presidential contest, and ask what the Republican side of the contest would look like. Well first of all, it probably wouldn’t have had seventeen candidates. No Rubio or Cruz or Jeb!, for starters. Fiorina and Carson might have lasted longer.  Kasich might have been taken more seriously.  There’s all kinds of ways it might be different…

But Donald Trump would be exactly the same asshole he is now. And he might well still be talking about building a wall on the southern border, but now he’d be claiming he would make the Confederacy pay for it.

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