Provincial conservative resentment isn’t just American by mattsteinglass
April 14, 2009, 9:03 am
Filed under: Conservatism, Europe

Yglesias and Sullivan both cite this poll by Research 2000 at DailyKos that shows that San Francisco, New York, France and Europe are well-liked everywhere in the US, by Democrats and Republicans, except in the South. Yglesias then writes: “It’s not really clear why you would think that “disdain for cosmopolitan cities and Europe” should be constitutive of conservatism, but it does seem to be a widespread element of the southern worldview, and it’s increasingly been adopted as the overwhelming posture of conservatism as such.”

The anti-cosmopolitan, anti-Europe "Black Hundreds" marching in Tsarist Odessa.

The anti-cosmopolitan, anti-Europe "Black Hundreds" marching in Tsarist Odessa.

But in fact disdain for cosmopolitan elites and Europe is constitutive of conservatism in a wide range of countries besides the US. Russia and its Slavophile proxies, obviously, but also the UK and Israel, most of the Muslim world, and, for that matter, Europe. In European countries, obviously, “Europe” means the EU, and antipathy to the supranational bureaucracy in Brussels is probably the single most coherent constitutive element of modern European conservatism. More generally, disdain for cosmopolitan elites and Europe has been at the core of conservatism since the dawn of nationalism in the 19th century, and it’s not surprising that it’s still at the core of American conservatism. What is surprising, I would think, is how locally concentrated such conservatism is in the US; it’s a sign that the rest of the US, apart from the South, is becoming quite encouragingly cosmopolitan.


19 Comments so far
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But what do we do with the base-of-the-Republican Party South? They are incredibly internecine, during times of relative calm and crisis both.

Comment by gggriff

And your statistical and/or factual support for this European/Israeli assertion is what exactly?

Son, a trip to Paris on Mommy’s and Daddy’s dimes and some grass in Amsterdam does not world opinion make.

Comment by So what

For what it’s worth, I have little use for the jet set/silver spoon crowd.

But I have even less use for punks who fire off missives without any meat to back ’em up.

Get the facts and ditch the one-man’s-opinion garbage.

Comment by So what


But “cosmopolitan” has a starkly different definition than its popular connotations, especially in America, and ESPECIALLY among “urban, liberal democrats”. Southern conservatism is a cartoonish and passe representation of conservatism now and, say, ten years into the future. The fact is, the new center of right-wing politics is shifting West to areas like Utah, Eastern Washington/Oregon/California, Idaho, and Montana; coinciding with the GOP shift toward being a purely “regional” party. If you want to understand the future of the GOP, don’t look to the Carolinas or the old South; look West.

Comment by Jesse


The center of the right-wing is in the west?

That sounds like a geometry problem.

The center of the right wing.

The west (i.e. the left when reading most maps) is the center.

So you’re maintaining that the right-wing’s center is actually left?

Sounds like neoliberalism and/or Milton Freidman Chicago School economics.

Comment by So what

No, I’m not referring to the “west coast,” I meant the inland west. In all three coastal states there is a strong ideological divide between the coastal sides (more liberal/democratic) and the inland sides (conservative/republican; also more agricultural). Call it the “mountain time” geographical zone.

I admit, I’m speaking in generalities here—and sorry for that. But some of the reddest, red-dog places I have ever been were in the southwest corner of Washington (my home state), the pan-handle of Idaho, and down through salt lake city and on to Arizona. And looking at the distribution of resources in the Southwest (Utah and Arizona especially) in terms of upcoming economic and legal issues of water and land rights (along with the racial undertones of border/immigration issues), and the inland region of the West really starts shaping up like the future lynch-pin of the GOP. Look at GOP narratives: they all appeal to the same American west mythology (Palin, while a laughably ironic caricature of that narrative, is an excellent example of its potency). Laugh all you (we) want, but that narrative continues to be an effective GOP election grabber; having “east coast elites” to deride amidst a recession only makes that narrative strategy more effective. I doubt the dems should be so foolhardily optimistic about temporarily gaining parts of the South to the ignorance of the dynamics shaping the West.

I’m not we’re ground zero for the new legion of doom, but the catalyzing properties of the West are incredibly relevant to national politics as a whole. Look at prop 8—I’d argue that in large part it was that very, ignorant “cosmopolitan” assumption of Western blue-ness that allowed such an upset to occur. Nor is it irrelevant that the upset was a purely social issue.

Comment by Jesse

There are still significant minorities from every other region that also dislikes those locations. There may be statistically significant more in the South, but a rigorous statistical test was not applied. We live in a heterogeneous country with people of varying beliefs living side by side and getting along. These stereotypes are intellectually bankrupt.

Comment by Joe


You’ve got real estate on the side of your argument, but not population and, hence, Electoral College votes. Save Texas, a Conservative stronghold, the number of votes to be found west of the Illinois and east of California remains rather few and far between.

Yes, I know Colorado, which seems to have gone to the Democrats as of late, and Nevada, which remains tied to the ups and downs of Vegas, counters that some, but all of those wide-open spaces remain wide open, and rather Conservative, because their populations remain on the slim side.

A nice party of the country to be sure, just not one that may be the most representative of the national viewpoint.

As potential evidence of my point, I see that Arizona State University has decided not to award Mr. Obama with an honorary degree when he speaks at the school’s commencement in the Land of McCain. Something about ASU officials maintaining that the Prez hasn’t done much yet in his life. Makes sense. I mean, since our founding, we’ve been electing new presidents just about every other day. Presidents speak at ASU so often it’s not even news anymore.

Comment by So what

Good points. I would express my comments with a grain of salt: 1) they lack persuasive demographic or strong empirical/statistical proof 2) their focus is more on “narrative” than the grander scheme of national politics 3) they appeal to an ideologically-reductive view of those in these parts of the West. The ASU thing is funny though: I think they can do whatever they darn well please, but there are equally invalid arguments out there that they are—despite the last umpteen universities to grant Obama honorary degrees—“obliged to” or “obliged not to” give him a degree. Talk about cable-media micromanagement. Might as well play safe and give it to the dog!

Comment by Jesse

Matthew Yglesias » Obama Lobbyist Policy Doing More Harm Than Good
It was, obviously, the man who wrote the program, Geithner, although Keating is prepared to put the then managing director of the IMF, … – 80k – Cached – Similar pages
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Comment by pversusnp

So Jesse, are you saying Western conservatives are less hostile to cosmopolitanism and to Europe than Southerners are? Or are you arguing that such attitudes aren’t quite as regionally concentrated in the South as the poll would suggest? I guess you’re saying the latter, right? I think I’d agree with you on the presence of lots of anti-cosmopolitan conservatives in the mountain West, and those numbers may be masked by the coastal/inland split in the West Coast states and by the presence of some highly cosmopolitan urban centers in other mountain states (Colorado, even Utah — Salt Lake City is majority Democrat). But I also think this is a very old phenomenon, and not necessarily, as you suggest, an indication of the “future” of conservatism. Anti-European anti-cosmopolitanism was pretty strong in WJ Bryant’s days in Kansas, and Nixonian red-baiting anti-cosmopolitanism was practically born in inland California.

Comment by mattsteinglass

Like I suggested, its over my head to make precise demographic arguments, so I just don’t want my positions detracting from the substance of this post. But yes, I’d argue the latter; with great humility, however, as I don’t have the information or experience with Southern politics to draw any worthy comparisons. I also wouldn’t over-emphasize—as a necessary part of the argument—the perennial, game-day antagonisms between cosmopolitan “elites” and regional “rubes”. But I would cite the American West as a strong surrogate for that kind of divisive rhetoric, which is exactly why that kind of political speech has such mobility and effectiveness out here. I mean the local post-election climate throughout the West is just insane in its extremity—pick up any innocuous, pastoral-looking local news rag, flip to the opinion page, and you just get floored by the inflammatory, anti-American views permitted and encouraged by local editors (many of whom are proxies of national, right-wing groups). I mean seriously. Factoring upcoming gun issues into the West’s ugly history of cults, fringe groups, and capitalist-abandon, and it makes for a volatile climate; and the GOP always benefits from that kind of volatility. Then factor in economics (the Mormon church and Halliburton control a majority of the infrastructure contracts throughout the southwest) in terms of increasingly scarce resources (water, energy, land, healthcare), and it only energizes the dynamic more. Plus, your inland Cali example might further the point, and perhaps offers the present as a window for a repetition of Nixon’s red-baiting (the prominence of Northern Cali secessionist movements—ie, “Jefferson staters”—provides a good example). While this argument for a inland/West-based GOP hinges on fringe or extreme groups, historically those groups have served an important and continual function in pulling more folks into the mainstream GOP. And that’s precisely why they are so abundant out here—they help actuate the Western sense of “space” into the domestic, exceptional myths of GOP policy (social/pro-life policy one immediately presumes, but I think foreign policy provides a better reflection of Western attitudes).

If this all sounds like a highly subjective argument, that’s because it is. Maybe. Still, there are at least some good indicators of the West as a surrogate and few—if any—indicators to suggest the contrary (New Mexico or Montana perhaps?). I’ve actually been quite amazed at the efficiency of the organization of rightwing groups since the election, in spite of the gains made by Obamacrats, congressional dems, and “liberal” policy in general. Bit of a Newtonian principle of equal and opposite reactions, I suppose. The mistake so far is that most do not account for the unique conflicts defining the West, tending instead to view Western politics as merely nationally-derivative in some regional context. But I doubt that perception will continue to yield any successful template for preventing or reclaiming GOP gains.

(My “two cents” just became like five dollars and change! Get this man a footlong!)

Comment by Jesse

Just realized I completely neglected the central role of tech in the West in terms of “cosmopolitanization,” which could provide a huge contradiction to my argument.

Comment by Jesse

Interesting. It does seem like the mountain West is one of the few areas that’s really contested by the Right and the Left, and where two very different and very American ideologies about nature butt heads.

Comment by mattsteinglass

[…] Provincial conservative resentment isn’t just American Yglesias and Sullivan both cite this poll by Research 2000 at DailyKos that shows that San Francisco, New York, […] […]

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I want to remind you, that Brussels just ruled out light bulbs and is a major driver behind cap and trade. So is it really so surprising, that a lot of European conservatives not so fond of Brussels? But of course also the European Left dislikes Brussels because its supposedly governed by evil multi national corporations and the atom lobby.

Also I wanted to note, that in Russia “cosmopolitan” is some sort of a “euphemism” for Jew. So when you say that in Russia somebody is against cosmopolitanism, then its not entirely clear what you mean.

Comment by Michael

A house divided will not stand.

Comment by Martin Musatov

earnhardt connection

Provincial conservative resentment isn’t just American | ACCUMULATING PERIPHERALS

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