Sunday, May 9, 2010

The Conservative South and the US Politics

For the past two weeks I have been on the road and air. The first week, I took a plane from Philadelphia to Greenville, South Carolina and stayed near Seneca, close to the campus of the Clemson University. I returned on Friday only to take another plane last Monday to fly to Cleveland, Ohio. I stayed in North Olmsted in the outskirts of the city, returning again to my home on Friday.

Geographically speaking, in the context of the huge size of the USA, South Carolina is actually not too far from Ohio. The two towns are only about 650 miles apart – almost on the same longitude (82-83 degree West). But beyond the commonalities, there are some striking differences in ways Americans in these two regions view things and act. Southerners appear to be a friendlier, hospitable and relaxing kind of people who are serious about life-work balance. They are not easily pushed to compromise their easy-going lifestyle for extra dollar. This healthy attitude is often missing in the north where people are willing to work long hours, even on the weekends, provided they can make some extra money.

This is not the first time that I have been to the south. In the last three decades I had the privilege to visit many parts of this huge country. In my trips to the south, I have briefly stayed in many places of Texas, Louisiana, Tennessee, Florida and Alabama – the so-called Bible-Belt states. Their southern accent is very pleasing to the ears also. They are honest about their feelings and are willing to both express such views and stand for those. That is, they are less hypocritical than their counterparts to the north. They also seem to favor hot spicy foods. The abundance of churches in close proximity to their homes and businesses would remind any visitor from the north that he or she is in the south where people take religion seriously.

The drive from Greenville to Seneca takes about an hour; it is nearly sixty miles long. When I turned on the radio in the rental car, I heard the voice of Rush Limbaugh. Apparently, the previous renter was listening to that radio station. I have never been a fan of Rush, considering him more like a bigot and racist than an intelligent person. Not surprisingly, he was discussing the oil rig disaster as if it was a Godsend to him and his audience. I tried to scan other stations, but did not have much luck in finding either the NPR or some other channels away from the nasty polarizing talk show hosts. There is little doubt that such neo-conservative talk show hosts have had much to do with the changing political landscape of the south, making those states more pro-Republican than pro-Democrat.

The 2010 mid-term election is less than six months away. There is little doubt that some Democrats will lose their seats to more energized Republicans who see a ray of hope to their political comeback. After all, while the economy is recovering, not everyone is happy with the performance of the Congress. The Capitol Hill needs a change in both membership and leadership. A much coveted seat is the senatorial seat held by the Democrat -- Barbara Boxer of California. To many of her constituents she has been a dismal failure on many counts; Californians are tired of her and want a change. However, the in-fighting amongst the Republicans, especially the undue influence of the pro-Israeli lobby, has not made it any easy to find a stronger candidate to unseat the unpopular senator.

Since her election fiasco two years ago when she ran for the vice president ticket under John McCain, Sarah Palin has been claiming to speak for the Republican Party members and dissidents who are tired of career politicians. It is good to see that she has become wiser these days. She has endorsed Carly Fiorina, the Ex-CEO of Hewlett-Packard for the Senate seat in California. From the past remarks of Fiorina on the 2008 campaign trail that she could not imagine Palin would be qualified to be the CEO of a company like the H-P, she definitely wasn’t a natural pick to receive Sarah Palin's support. This endorsement of Fiorina is definitely a bold move by Palin given the fact that many of her supporters in the Tea Party movement favor another Republican candidate, Assemblyman Chuck DeVore. Palin's endorsement of Fiorina in the Republican primary is a pragmatic one. She entreated voters recently: “Please consider that Carly is the conservative who has the potential to beat California's liberal senator, Barbara Boxer, in November.” She is absolutely right there.

Given the wide support she enjoys not just amongst many Republicans, but also within many Democrats and independents, no one within the California Republicans has a better chance than Fiorina to unseat Boxer. Now it is all up to the California Republicans to nominate Fiorina for the real contest.

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