It’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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