The "New South"

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In the latest issue of Newsweek, the magazine's Paris bureau chief, Christopher Dickey, refers to the South as "the old Confederacy," "a land without closure, where history keeps coming at you day after day, year after year, decade after decade, as if the past were the present, too, and the future forever." In July, he flew back to the United States, and embarked on a driving tour of the region in which he was raised.

"Now this part of the country, where I have my deepest roots, feels raw again, its political emotions more exposed than they've been in decades," he writes. "George W. Bush and Barack Hussein Obama have unsettled the South: the first with a reckless war and a weakened economy, the second with the color of his skin, the foreignness of his name, the lofty liberalism of his language. Suddenly the palliative prosperity that salved old, deep wounds no longer seems adequate to the task."

As someone raised in the South, I too have seen the region change. In the last few years alone, struggling farmers, facing mounting debts and losing odds, bowed to big agribusinesses and federal crop buyouts. Just outside of my hometown, military contractors became mammoth, transnational corporations, exporting equipment and security personnel to Iraq and Afghanistan. And down the street from my childhood home, a calamitous case, brought by a crooked prosecutor against Duke University's lacrosse team, exposed racial fault lines in our community that we had ignored for years.

Dickey will join us today, in our second hour, to talk about the so-called "New South." And about Southern politics. Polls tell us that, for the first time in many years, states that have been solidly Republican, red, and conservative, are in play. If you live below the Mason-Dixon Line, what does the South look like? How is it different than it was five years ago? Ten years ago? Fifty years ago? And what do you and your neighbors make of the two candidates for president?

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The three of us white guys in our office are all for Obama. More than half of my friends are for Obama. While NC has traditionally been a red state, we are not afraid of change, nor a black president. Go Obama!

Sent by Todd in Charlotte, NC | 3:16 PM | 8-5-2008

Racism is alive and well in the South. Charlotte is a very cosmopolitan city but I hear remarks about Obama that are just excuses because some people just can't get over him being black. You can be as big a racist as you want to in the voting booth.

Sent by Dennis from Charlotte | 3:22 PM | 8-5-2008

I'm not from the south so maybe I'm irrelevant in this discussion but it appalls me people still think Obama is a Muslim and even if he was...what does it really matter? And so his name is not a traditional American name - GOD BLESS THE MELTING POT! GO Obama!

Sent by Stacy - Eastern Washington state (the really red part) | 3:27 PM | 8-5-2008

I am defintely for Obama as a white woman. I hope he picks Hillary as his running mate. I would say though, that Charlotte is a place that is very unpolitical for some reason. We do not voice our choices for national races, you don't see many campaign materials out there and we are not stirred up by political events. Most people are apathetic.

However, I think Obama stands a good chance of winning the state if he can sway Eastern NC. They run the state politically more than Charlotte does.

Sent by Jennifer in Charlotte, NC | 3:27 PM | 8-5-2008

I'm a native Atlantan, and grew up in Huntsville, Alabama. I cringe when I go back to the south outside of the centers of major cities and university towns now--it seems that regardless of better advice to the contrary, white Southerners will overwhelmingly vote Republican and this election year I believe they are less likely to vote for Obama based on his race. Obama will have to win this election without the states of the Old Confederacy. Thankfully, I live in Iowa now--a state that will likely give its Electoral College votes to Obama. I'll always be *from* the South (and love it from afar); I'll always be an Iowan from here on out.

Sent by Donald Baxter, Iowa City, Iowa | 3:27 PM | 8-5-2008

Gee it must all be racism. It couldn't possibly be anything else. Not the fact that Clinton and Obama were essentially tied in a viscous extended campaign. Nope it is always racism on TOTN!!!

Sent by SIM | 3:30 PM | 8-5-2008

It's shocking to hear that people think Obama is Muslim or that they won't vote because he is black or that his name is too strange...this is America the most advanced and richest and progressive nation?? Nations like India vote for a woman that is not even native born or belong to majority religion. In America, we fight about frivolous things instead of voting for a guy who is a breath of fresh air! Who cares what his name sounds like or what his skin color is! Look what Bush did, isn't that a wake up call?!

Sent by RK | 3:31 PM | 8-5-2008

I was born and raised in Birmingham, AL, but I now go to school at Bucknell University in Pennsylvania. I am home for the summer and I have noticed a drastic difference in my peer's opinions of Obama. It is not just the elderly southerners that are uneasy about Obama, it is young southerners as well. It is a shame that there is still a prejudice that is bleeding through this primary, and young southerners are not looking at the candidate's policy first.

Sent by Scott | 3:34 PM | 8-5-2008

I Believe there will be alot of whites in the south who say they won't vote for a black man, but once they get behind that curtain to vote they will vote for who they believe the right person is even if it goes against there family teachings

Sent by Jay | 3:36 PM | 8-5-2008

I'm taken back by Mr. Dickie's use of the word "Negro's in his recount of "what little boys in the south said to one another". I belive NPR should caution it's guests that the "N" word is in multiple forms including "Negro's".

Sent by Robert Henderson | 3:39 PM | 8-5-2008

Nader/Gonzalez has the interest of most Americans at heart. Neither of the other candidates do. They are representatives of special interests.

Ralph Nader and Matt Gonzalez are leaders. Leaders who are what is needed in National Politics now.

Sent by Carl | 3:39 PM | 8-5-2008

I am a 55 year old white female who was born and raised in the South. I currently live in Beaufort, SC, a small coastal town, after living for some years in other parts of the country. I believe that education of the individual voter will play the greatest role in the comfort level of whites, both Southern and otherwise, with Obama. I was raised by Southern parents who were not liberal politically, but taught us to respect all people and did not tolerate judgement based on race. I voted for Obama in the primary and will vote for him in the Nov. election. I am a social liberal, but a fiscal conservative, however I am more interested in the message of "change" that Obama will send around the world than anything else. ( I probably am voting for him more because he IS black....I would not have voted for Hillary.) I personally witnessed more racial unease living in the Mid-West than I have in the current South...it was just not discussed as openly.

Sent by Katharine | 3:48 PM | 8-5-2008

I must clarify that I am of Norwegian descent(white) and live in North Carolina. I will vote for Obama unless he really discredits himself, but what bothers me is that Blacks are voting for him simply because he appears Black. Is that not an issue? I am voting for him because he seems to be the better candidate not because his mother happened to be Caucasian.

Sent by Paul C.Baker | 3:50 PM | 8-5-2008

Maybe people in the cities feel like they have to make lame excuses but four of my co-workers and several family members have been quite straightforward: They support the Democratic party but they're staying home because they will not have a black man in the white house. On the bright side, I think Obama's support in SC has been generally underestimated. The coverage of our democratic primary missed the real story: in the most depressed parts of the state with the highest unemployment such as Orangeburg and Marion, voter turnout exceeded 40%.

McCain is also rather weak in the rural parts of the state because of his close ties to Lindsey Graham, who lost several important counties in his recent senate primary challenge.

Sent by George, Cheraw SC | 3:53 PM | 8-5-2008

In the late 60s during a meeting of an open housing group in a small west central Illinois city where black students were not well received a white student said she was "surprised" this attitude still existed. One of the black students simply said that he was "surprised that she was surprised". Apparently the more things change the more they stay the same.

Sent by Mike | 3:56 PM | 8-5-2008

I'm disgusted with the administration of the past 8 years and think it is time for a change. Obama is the best candidate. But I'm appalled at the lies being spread via email about him. Every day I get racist pictures and false rumors, and some are from close friends and family. I just keep telling these people that Obama's a mental giant compared to the current president. Besides, his mother was white and he is Dick Cheney's cousin, so we can claim him too. I'm just afraid that white folks in the South are going to vote their prejudices and fears. Why can't we get past this?

Sent by John | 4:13 PM | 8-5-2008

I think after reading many of the post here today that America is ready for a change and candidate Obama will winner the election not because of his race or supposed religion but because the represents America. We are a diversed nation

Sent by Cher | 4:22 PM | 8-5-2008

I'm an Atlanta native who ended up in a much smaller, very red -- and sadly, more representative -- Georgia town and remain stupefied at how little progress has been made in Southern thinking on race and related issues. Ideologically, the South truly does remain "The Sick Man of the U.S."

Sent by George | 8:59 AM | 8-6-2008

I am from eastern Tennessee and spent most of my formative years in the South. I moved to Portland, OR for several years and am now living in Europe. Although proud of the hospitality and outward friendliness of Southerners, I am quite despondent about the persistence of a clear racial divide and the hold of the Evangelical Christian movement. Unfortunately, it is not always a matter of education. I personally think it is a matter of environment. Outside of the division of black and white, it is very homogenous society. Not much of a melting pot; more like an Oreo cookie.

I would be thrilled to see our country elect Obama. And proud to be a Southerner if I see blue on that part of the map on Election Day.

Sent by Rebecca | 5:11 AM | 8-7-2008