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DeMint's Valhalla Syndrome

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You do have to say this for South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint: he represents the unmediated subconsciousness of contemporary conservatives, coming right out and saying things that others probably just think.

That's certainly true of his rather novel explanation for the decline of Republican fortunes in the northeast, highlighted by the Specter defection. Here's DeMint via CNN's Political Ticker:

Appearing on CNN Tuesday, DeMint, a hero of the conservative grassroots, denied that his party has tilted too far to the right.

"I don't think many Americans are going to agree that the Republican party has become too conservative," he said. "If you look at our record of spending, our record on every issue, the problem I think we have is Americans no longer believe that we believe what we say we do."

DeMint says he isn't worried. He denied that the GOP has become a southern party, attributing Republican losses in the northeast to some northern voters who have left the region and moved south hoping to avoid labor unions and "forced unionization." He said Americans will eventually come back into the Republican fold because of growing alarm about the size of government and President Obama's fiscal policies.

Let's get this straight: southern Republicans haven't conquered the GOP; GOP voters have just moved South, and eventually, those poor union slaves they left behind will wake up and vote Republican as well, so long as the party doesn't do anything right now to directly appeal to their current benighted views.

DeMint is carrying dialectical reasoning to levels that would have impressed Karl Marx. Losing is winning, and winning means making no conscious effort to win.

Aside from that interesting perspective, which applauds the shrinkage of the GOP as necessary to its ultimate victory, DeMint's geographical analysis of partisan fortunes is a fascinating variation on the ancient conservative conviction that economic growth depends on a "business climate" with no unions, low wages, low taxes on high earners and capital, and little or no regulation. According not only to DeMint but to most Republicans and (unfortunately) a fair number of Democrats in the South, keeping the Union Devil down or even out has attracted untold numbers of jobs and highly productive people from the socialist northeast and midwest.

If that hoary moonlight-and-magnolias theory of economic development were true, of course, then Mississippi would be the economic dynamo of the whole world, and DeMint's own South Carolina wouldn't be perpetually trailing most of the country in key economic and social indicators. (Despite its Eden-like business climate, SC's unemployment rate according to the latest statistics is third worst in the nation, at 11.4%, rather notably higher than that of union-bossed and Democratic-governed PA at 7.8%).

But turning to the political side of DeMint's argument, it's highly reminiscent of the 1990s theory (dubbed the "Valhalla Syndrome" by California-based urbanologist Joel Kotkin) that prosperous white folks fleeing California's crime, taxes and people of color were turning the Rocky Mountain States bright red even as California itself turned blue. Turns out the second half of that trajectory has panned out as predicted, but not the first, as major Democratic gains in the Rockies became one of the huge political stories of recent years.

So recent history doesn't exactly reinforce DeMint's theory that people in the northeast, somehow prevented from escaping the economic prisons of their anti-business homelands, and looking south with yearning eyes, will at some point start voting Republican, hoping to turn desperately poor states like Maryland, New Jersey and Connecticut (ranked first, second and third in median household income) into mirror images of South Carolina (ranked 41st) or Mississippi (ranked 50th).

People do undoubtedly move or stay south for all sorts of reasons, ranging from climate and recreational opportunities to the culture, food, and sociability of the population. But for good government by the likes of DeMint or his colleague SC Gov. Mark "Herbert Hoover" Sanford? Probably not so much.

This item was originally published at The Democratic Strategist

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