It is astonishing and cannot go unremarked that Mississippi’s Gov. Frank “Boo” Burnham, the conservative who won a 2011 landslide, gave an interview Friday in which he demonstrated all that is wrong in American politics—all its division, its intolerance, its ignorance and sickness. Burnham damned and removed from the rolls of the respectable everyone in his state who is pro-choice, who is for some form of gun control, and who supports gay marriage. In a radio interview marked by a tone of smug indignation and self-righteousness, Burnham said “extreme liberals” who are “for abortion, who hate guns, who want homosexuals to marry—if that’s who they are they’re the extreme liberals, they have no place in the state of Mississippi because that’s not who Mississippians are.”
The problem with this kind of statement, obviously, and whatever your politics and wherever you’re from, is that a great and varied nation cannot function like this, with its own leaders declaring huge swatches of voters anathema and suggesting they should go someplace else. It is an example of the kind of government-encouraged polarization that can do us in. Democracy involves that old-fashioned thing called working it out. You don’t tell people who disagree with you they’d be better off somewhere else. And you don’t reduce them to stereotypes; you address them as fully formed people worthy of respect. You try to persuade them.
(Peggy Noonan, Who Is ‘Boo’ Burnham?) This if from Noonan’s blog, so there shouldn’t be a paywall if you want to see “the rest of the story,” including the media outrage from the left.
James Taranto quotes a West Virginia professor’s rant from a week ago:
A week ago Eric Waggoner, “chair” of the English Department at West Virginia Wesleyan College, took to the Puffington Host to deliver a declamation, which began:
To hell with you.
To hell with every greedhead operator who flocked here throughout history because you wanted what we had, but wanted us to go underground and get it for you. To hell with you for offering above-average wages in a place filled with workers who’d never had a decent shot at employment or education, and then treating the people you found here like just another material resource–suitable for exploiting and using up, and discarding when they’d outlived their usefulness. To hell with you for rigging the game so that those wages were paid in currency that was worthless everywhere but at the company store, so that all you did was let the workers hold it for a while, before they went into debt they couldn’t get out of.
Waggoner writes of this rant that “it wasn’t rational or cogent,” but the excerpt should be sufficient to demonstrate that it was both heartfelt and historically sweeping. A native of Charleston, he evinces a genuine affection for his fellow West Virginians.
Since I know that Taranto doesn’t lead with something like that without some big Snark on the way, I wondered what he was going to say that wasn’t an implausible defense of the “greedhead operators.” Well:
(That said, we would be remiss if we failed to note the irony that the professor himself is a representative of a predatory and lightly regulated industry that markets itself via appeals to economic insecurity, thereby inducing millions of young Americans to take on often-crushing debt.)
Touché. Or tu quoque. Or tooo-something.
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“The remarks made in this essay do not represent scholarly research. They are intended as topical stimulations for conversation among intelligent and informed people.” (Gerhart Niemeyer)