Southern Liberals, Don’t Despair — It’s Always Darkest Just Before the Dawn

sunriseIt’s been a long, hard road for liberals and progressives in the Bible Belt and the rest of the red states. Year after year, we’ve watched our family and neighbors slap GOP stickers on their vehicles and head to the polls to vote against their self interests like mindless, racist drones. For those of you who have followed my page “Whiskey and the Morning After,” you’re familiar with the fact that I have lived in the South all of my life and that I am also an ex-Republican.

Being a moderate left progressive here isn’t easy. I’ve had to endure vandalism to my vehicle for having an anti-Bush sticker on it and even threats of physical violence simply for not being a conservative. As much as I’ve dreamed of picking up and moving to the friendlier atmosphere of a city like San Francisco, Seattle or another bastion of liberalism, it hasn’t worked out that way.

But here’s the good news for everyone else who has had to deal with the reality of being a liberal in the South – it’s going to get better. Almost every medium to large city here already votes blue in major elections and the tide is slowly turning against conservatism nationwide. Much of the demographic that turns out to vote every year for the Republican Party is slowly dying off. The younger generations may have been born into and indoctrinated with conservative ideology like I was, but with access to the Internet and ideas outside of the small towns we grew up in, that ideology can be traded for something new.

Even many of those people who have clung to the idea that Reagan was a monument of conservatism have begun to accept basic liberal ideas such as equal rights for the LGBT community, or have simply decided to mind their own business. Others have signed up for military service and gone off to Afghanistan and Iraq, only to find that watching their friends get wounded or die wasn’t worth the price in blood and money that funded the military-industrial complex.

Myself and others saw our friends come back from Iraq and Afghanistan as shells of the men and women who enlisted in response to the Al-Qaeda attacks on 9/11. I remember one friend who we had to repeatedly keep from attacking random people he thought were carrying suicide vests and would only calm down after blacking out from too much alcohol. Another one came home as a shattered alcoholic and hung himself in his mother’s closet on Thanksgiving Day in 2005.

Trust me, the South is slowly starting to grasp the big picture. The process seems slow – many still have not come to the realization that trickle-down economics doesn’t work or that shopping at Wal-Mart only encourages the overall degradation of their communities – but progress is being made. As future generations are born, immigrants arrive and the angry old Dixiecrats die off, the South will turn from red to purple – and eventually blue. We can look at Florida, Colorado, Virginia and North Carolina as examples of states that are about to flip to solidly blue within another decade. Georgia, Arizona and Texas will be there within about 20 years and the rest will follow suit. Look at the “Moral Mondays” movement in North Carolina and the rise of liberal Christianity. The tide is turning – now is not the time to write off the South as forever doomed to being the dead weight that holds us back as a nation.

I know the recent news of the incredibly backwards laws passed by Texas and other states to suppress women’s reproductive rights and voting access makes it seem like the Republican Party still has a stranglehold on power throughout the South. However, these are the acts of a desperate bunch to hold on to control for just a little while longer. They wouldn’t be trying to keep people from voting if their ideas were that great for their constituents.

So, Southern liberals, don’t despair. As the saying goes, “it’s always darkest just before the dawn.”

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  • Mark J

    I grew up in Colorado, which is somewhat at the west end of the Bible Belt (you couldn’t buy hard liquor or cars on Sunday, for instance) and I’m totally aware what you’re talking about. It used to be that all you knew about the outside world was what you saw on TV or in the newspaper, and the neofascist xenophobic lies that get told and repeated stood unchallenged. That’s no longer true: we can compare notes with others around the nation and across the globe. Lies tend to wither, dry up and blow away in the disinfecting sunlight of actual Truth.
    The other sign that makes me optimistic is the remarkable success of one of the greatest rock bands of all time in my estimation: Shinedown. They’ve sold tens of millions of albums of some of the best rock ever recorded. When I saw the initial official video to the song “Unity” it put tears in my eyes. These are the right words, to the audience that needs most to hear them, delivered by a band they’re likely to listen to. I’m optimistic that you’re correct and I certainly hope so.

  • Schmoozin

    Wow, can I RELATE!! You really hit the nail on the head in this article. I truly hope your optimism is accurate. I hate to think how much worst things could get if the GOP continues to mesmerize the Reality TV watching masses.

  • Lawrence Hartman

    Thanks for sharing. Your story is the same as mine, a moderate Republican in the likes of the first Republican President, Abraham Lincoln, and his two contemporaries; Teddy Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower. I also believe the extreme right element of the Republican Party are pushing their extreme agenda because they realize that they will become a small minority party in the near future. Thanks again for giving all moderate Republicans hope that we can again take our rightful place at the seat of government and at the political table.

    • LL11

      Teddy and Dwight would be called ‘RINO’s by today’s extremists. Eisenhower is the kind of Republican I have voted for in local and state offices. They are rare if not extinct.

  • Justin Hunt

    I’m afraid you are a bit of an optimist, friend.

    • SashaBlu

      Well with out optimism what are we??? DOOMED

      • Justin Hunt

        Well…we can be optimistic, but we shouldn’t be naive. My point was that the author is a bit naive. For example, North Carolina. The author cites North Carolina as a prime example of how the south is quickly becoming blue. Why? Because Obama won there in 2008? The author failed to mention that the state subsequently voted in one of the most bitterly conservative legislatures in any state in 2010. How they now have a horribly conservative governor and how they rejected Obama in 2012. Nor did he mention the types of hateful, bigoted and conservative legislation that has come out of North Carolina in the last 2 years. While I agree that as bitter old white people die, the south will eventually become a bit more purple. Assuming that it will be a liberal Mecca in 10 or even 20 years is a bit delusional. I know, I was born and raised in the south. That all being said, don’t give up hope. At the end of the day if things don’t work out you can vote with your feet and move.

      • SashaBlu

        You are right…we should not be naive. The naivete came, when after a win, there was too much celebration. If everyone had been paying attention they would have known that WE the people WERE NOT DONE. One win does not win a war. But, I digress, you pointed out that the very same state voted in ONE of the MOST BITTERLY CONSERVATIVE Legislatures in North Carolina. Because of my reasoning above. And bitterness is like a Gnarled vine it has to be CUT OFF at the Roots and STOP Watering so it will dry up, But never destroyed completely. I also grew up in the south, my parents grew up in the sharecropping time after the Civil War when it was Blacks chopping and picking King COTTON. My older sisters picked and chopped also. I grew up on and old plantation. The Big house is still there, even one of the old slave cabins. I am from the state that was the First to Succeed from the Union and the last to come back. I am connected to Mississippi on my daddy’s side. He use to take me and my little sister to the old homeplace. Red clay dirt everywhere. But he would take us to a certain spot everytime we went. He showed us where when he was a little boy a tree where the white folks would hang black men. And the spot in the town square where they would drag the body and dare the blacks to move it. He said the body would start to decompose and stink. My sisters where some of the first to be Integrated in to the white schools. My sister that is next to me still bares the scars from that time. We understand empathy for the Native American People. I can not give up hope. My hope rest in the Goodness… Why should I move…Mr. Spock says it so well…The Needs of the MANY out weight the needs of the Few.

  • This article was therapeutic; thanks so much.

    I moved from Michigan to south Florida six years ago. I come from liberal people – my stepdad helped the Reuther brothers form the UAW; he marched with MLK in Selma. It was difficult before and during the election, I honestly expected someone would yank me out of my car at a red light and beat me for my Obama sticker.

    Was at a tiki bar after the election and the biker to my left asked the man to my right how he was doing. (Turns out I was the liberal meat in a conservative sandwich.) The old guy responded “How do you THINK I’m doing. My daddy would die if he knew there was a (n) in the White House.” He took another swig of beer and said “What kind of asshole votes for a (n) anyway.” I raised my hand, expecting I would walk out to slashed tires; instead he nearly fell off his barstool and apologized profusely.

    On Facebook I joined a group for Florida Crackers – it’s a celebration of the people and the place . I love history and cultures and was fully enjoying it until it turned political yesterday. It got so ugly I left the group asking myself why I moved here.

    Then I remembered; it’s important to be where we’re most needed.

    • outofmi

      Michigan isn’t any better these days. Read the comments on the “Click on Detroit” website. OMG. I’m in NC and had to move from MI about a half dozen years ago. I had to stop myself today from buying a t-shirt that proclaimed the North was still the undefeated champs of the Civil War. I had to remind myself that I could not wear it outside unless I wanted to get the shit kicked out of myself before I got to my car in the morning.

      • LibertyBell

        What caused Detroit’s 47 percent illiteracy rate?

      • LadyeCatte

        Too many of your relatives living there.

      • SashaBlu

        People not caring, people that feel hopeless, the city dying or that area dying.

      • outofmi

        I began my education in Detroit, albeit some time ago, and finished in a rural area of Michigan, and was well ahead of my elementary classmates and I knew it. I was not and am not illiterate and graduated in the top of my class in high school and attended U of M.

      • outofmi

        And graduated Cum Laude from there.

  • Rufus McBoofus

    10 more fucking years of this bullshit? Get your goddamn act together, South, the rest of us are fucking sick of you slowpokes dragging us backwards at every step. Godfuckingdammit already!

  • iwannabeapirate

    As long as the graduation rate stays around 60%, you will have the same shit as you have now. Glad to be from the North!!

    • David K. Ward

      Well you do realize that in the Nirvana of Detroit, the public education system is still turning out 47% ILLITERATES? I am looking forward to the day when my Northern & Southern Brothers stop referring to everything as if it were Armaggedon and that everything they disagree with should be killed. When every issue down South doesnt generate a half dozen Black Helicopter Conspiracies. But i am also educated enough to know that there are many enclaves in the North that are no better. There is a joke in the USN about the worst rednecks on earth are from…Connecticut.

  • Jess Manuel

    It’s been dark in the South since forever. I wish 10 years is only 24 hours away….

  • southern belle

    I would so love it if you could match your intelligence with better grammar. It is a distraction when you use “myself” as the subject of a sentence. Thank you from a grammar Nazi…can’t help myself!

  • Ron Marotto

    Loved it! Thanks Manny, well done!!!

  • Rachel

    “The younger generations may have been born into and indoctrinated with
    conservative ideology like I was, but with access to the Internet and
    ideas outside of the small towns we grew up in, that ideology can be
    traded for something new.”
    I hope you’re right. Having grown up as you, in a hardcore conservative family (up north), I’ve seen through the lies and the stupidity. I’m the first of two who has, out of six. Those aren’t great odds, but that’s my family. The saddest part of course is hearing them and others in my circle (largely conservative) rail against their own interests. “Government spending” on things like educational grants is a waste of money (despite the fact that that’s how any of us, them included, got the opportunity for higher education); education itself is a waste (who needs that noise when you’ve got God and guns?); the same corporations that pay them minimum wage and take every advantage they can are the stalwarts of American economic freedom; and the people who want to raise the minimum wage, and enact measures that could actually help them? Well, they’re so full of Fox News poison, so convinced that those people are coming for their guns, planning to destroy America, etc., that they don’t even listen. If a Democrat suggests it, it’s evil. Period. If a Republican does and Democrats support it, it’s evil. If a Republican suggests and Democrats oppose it, well, now you’re talking.
    It’s downright depressing.

  • LadyeCatte

    While that’s great news for the Southern Libs, what about those of us up here in brain-dead Northern states? Do you have ANY idea what it’s like to be a lone black female working amongst 15+ “I Hate Obama Because He’s A Foreign-Born Socialist Muslim” white males every day?

    It’s enough to make a girl dress up like Aunt Esther and start swinging her purse at any fool who dares spout such ignorant drivel again.

    Stupid Wyoming with its ONE abortion clinic and jackass Senators Enzi and Barasso… WHEN will the light dawn?

    I think I need more purses.

    • SashaBlu

      Yes it would make you nasty… white men…it burns white men’ nuts to have a black man over them telling them what to do. Something about that just don’t seem right (in my best Gomer Pyle voice) or Donald Trump say it with a pout. Sad. I feel for you girl.
      But don’t go all Aunt Esther on’em…Secret white men like that. They either want to beat you because they want you or they want you to beat them because they want you. But they don’t like NO black man period. The same in reverse for white women. I think it has be indoctrinated in them that blacks are their competition.

      I think also that there is a fear of a black man, O.B., without a slave mentality. I believe that if your race has years, no generations of evil perpetrating it on others you would naturally fear retaliation or becoming the subordinate. But sexually they would not have it any other way so be careful my sister these are perilous times, not trying to sound like and alarmist, I have been around a while and have seen and encountered a lot of things in my life.

      We the people need to get out and Vote 2014 like we should have in 2010, but no need to cry over spilled milk. Let us look FORWARD, only people that are stuck try to go back. Don’t want to end up a pillar of salt, now do we??? Purses are nice.

    • openminded_montanan

      I can totally relate. I am in Montana…

  • Harvey Redgrandad Smith

    Thanks Living here in NC we are going through a neo Confederate hell

  • Abby

    This article gave me hope. Being from and still currently living in Texas, I’ve seen the hairy, slimy, ass end of the GOP at its finest. Thank god there’s still people who have hope and intelligence!! and thank god i don’t live in a small town…

  • B A Dragon

    Manny, If I ever move back south (I finally gave up and went well north of the Mason Dixon line), I will surely thank you. The last few years in the Carolinas have been too much. I got tired of being one of the three middle aged liberals in the state.

  • disqus_JO37VES70P

    It’s always darkest in the middle of the night or away from city lights!!!!!

  • tbxl

    I grew up in NJ. I now live in Huntsville, AL with my interracial family. This city has a really high level of education because of NASA & Redstone Arsenal. But, it is still Alabama. But, I have to grudgingly admit that things are getting better. I still spend many hours each week in “spirited” discussions with my co-workers defending my beliefs. It is much less now because they have learned that I am not one to back down & I am always willing to provide research backing my stance. So most have given up. But, there are a few moderates that come to me to have real discussions. There is also one diehard Black Conservative that continues to charge headlong into the breach spouting nonsense. He gets his feelings hurt often. But, he is a good soul & I have come to see him as a friend. There is hope.

  • Aimee Barfield

    Florida, by and large, only elected Democratic Governors and legislatures to consecutive terms until Jeb Bush. This is the longest our state has been under Republican control in good long while. The first time I was I was old enough to vote I helped elect the last Democratic Governor our state has had since, Gov. Lawton Chiles. We look to turn blue in the Governorship in 2010, since Crist is rumored to be declaring in November 4th, he out polls Scott in the double digits. It’s not going to take Florida ten years. We are well on our way, we’ve also gone blue for the presidency in ’08 and ’12. The Panhandle and a smattering of red counties won’t keep us down for long.

  • DONSOUTH

    After reading these comments, it’s easy to see why our nation is declining.