Appalachia, in contrast, transplanted a culture
formed in a state of near-constant warfare and upheaval,
characterized by a warrior ethic and a deep commitment to
personal sovereignty and individual liberty. Appalachia has
shifted alliances based on whoever appeared to be the
greatest threat to its freedom; since Reconstruction and,
especially, the upheavals of the 1960s, it has been in
alliance with the Deep South in an effort to undo the
federal government’s ability to overrule local preferences.
The Tea Party agenda – reduce federal power, taxes, social
services, and environmental, labor, and voting protections – may
perfectly match that of the Deep Southern oligarchy, but it’s a
tough sell in the sprawling nation of Yankeedom (a.k.a. Greater
New England) where the freedom and wellbeing of the community
have taken precedence over individual interests since the days
of the early Puritans. These regions cut across state
boundaries—the north of Ohio, for instance, was settled by
Yankees, its middle by Midlander Quakers and Germans, and its
hilly south by Appalachian Scots-Irish.
This week’s elections bolstered this argument, with Tea
Party-backed initiatives having been reversed by chastening
margins by Yankee voters in Maine and the Yankee-settled Western
Reserve of Ohio. Mainers overturned a new law that would have
ended same-day voter registration (despite the fact that its
Republican backers could find no evidence of voter fraud) 60-40,
chastening Tea Party-backed Gov. Paul LePage. In Ohio, all ten
Yankee counties voted to overturn a new law that denied
collective bargaining rights to public sector workers, in a
measure that went down 61-39 statewide.
But the really interesting development in the Nov. 8 vote was
that the people of Greater Appalachia appear fed up with Tea
Party excesses as well, at least in so far as they infringe on
workers’ labor rights or the ability of citizens to elect U.S.
Senators. Thirty-nine of Ohio’s 41 Appalachian counties voted
for the repeal, with a margin of 60-40, compared to 64-36 in
both Yankee and Midlander Ohio.
n Kentucky – all of which lies in Appalachia – voters sided with
Democratic incumbent Steve Beshear 55-35 over self-declared Tea
Partier David Williams, who wanted to repeal the 17th amendment
and make the selection of U.S. Senators the purview of state
legislators, not voters. That Williams had defeated a more
radical Tea Partier, Phil Moffett, in the GOP primary added salt
to the Kentucky movements’ wounds. Democrats swept the other
statewide offices as well, including the Secretary of State
position sought after by another Tea Partier, Bill Johnson, who
garnered less than 40 percent of the vote.
That’s not to say Appalachia has ceased to be socially
conservative. On Tuesday, Mississippi voters defeated a measure
that would have amended the state constitution to define
“personhood” as beginning at conception by a wide margin.
Conspicuous in their dissent were the state’s seven Appalachian
counties: every one voted for the measure by double-digit
margins, most of them by more than 20 points.
But if a large majority of voters in the Midlands and Greater
Appalachia have begun to doubt the wisdom of the Tea Party’s
Deep Southern platform, 2012 could be very rough going for the
candidates who’ve embraced its agenda