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?