Newsweek's Dickey Blames Bush for Georgia Crisis

August 14th, 2008 3:56 PM

The crisis in Georgia is all Bush's fault, the Republicans offered America a soft-pedaled version of George Wallace's racism, and Obama-voting Southern Democrats are intelligent, defiant people living in occupied territory. I learned all that from just one Newsweek column.

I may have to watch "The View" to earn back some I.Q. points.

Yes, Christopher Dickey enlightened Newsweek readers on "The Defiant Ones," his August 14 Web exclusive, the subheader of which noted that:

The Russia-Georgia conflict is yet another example of why a leader caught up in the romance of resistance should not rely on Washington. What Saakashvili should have learned from history--and the American South.

According to Dickey, the real problem is America and its ally, Georgia, a partner in coalition forces in Iraq, not Vladimir Putin's Russia.

So where does the American South come in? Dickey's thread ran from the nation of Georgia to the Peach State by examining the psychology of defiance (emphasis mine):

After my recent travels through Tennessee, Georgia and the Carolinas to assess the impact of Barack Obama's candidacy on the old Confederacy, my NEWSWEEK colleague John Barry sent me a note about his days reporting on the presidential campaign of George Wallace, the former governor of Alabama, back in 1968. Wallace's race-baiting populism eventually was sanitized and absorbed into the Republican Party's successful "Southern strategy," but Wallace himself was much rougher and more honest in his opinions than his mainstream emulators. He knew that what attracted Southern voters to him was not so much what he stood for, but the many things he stood against. "You got to understand," he told Barry one day as he gazed at the statue of a Confederate soldier in his home town, "All we've had is defiance."

That's it, I thought. That is what Yale professor C. Vann Woodward was saying when he wrote in the 1960s that Southerners were different from other Americans precisely because a century before, in the 1860s, they became the only white people in the United States to be conquered and occupied. All they had left was their attachment to defiance, which lingered for generations and remains among some Southerners to this day.

Defiance has ever been the sustenance of the weak and defeated, the overpowered, the demeaned and the enslaved.

Those overpowered, demeaned and enslaved Southeners of 2008,we find out later, happen to be defiant Southern Democrats who shine like blazing blue beacons in a sea of Southern red (emphasis mine):

In the meantime, a hopeful sign, perhaps, could be another current of defiance I found among Southerners I met on my travels who were proudly living Blue in the Red States. My 82-year-old cousin, Jean Dickey White in Murphy, N.C., said she was raised voting for Democrats, her people had always fared better under them, and, even though it was hard to vote for someone who seemed as different from everyone she knew as Barack Obama, she was going to vote Democratic this time around, too. Jay Srymanske, 58, who runs river trips on the rapids of the Cartecay and what's left of the Coosawatee in north Georgia, says he's "a yellow dog Democrat," who'd just as soon vote for that yellow dog on the porch as for a Republican. When I went up to Kathryn Heath and Sarah George at a Starbucks in a posh suburb of Charlotte, N.C., they had books piled high in front of them, exchanging favorite titles. They said they were Obama supporters. I said I thought that might be the case somehow. "You mean because we read?" said Heath, a corporate leadership consultant.

But one of the most memorable moments came in Spartanburg, S.C., after eating dinner with John Lane and his wife, Betsy Teter, who are pillars of the town's art and culture scene and who dare to put magnetized OBAMA '08 stickers on their cars. It was late. We'd been talking to a young waitress whose boyfriend is dying of cancer, and we were all moved by what she had to say about the need for better health care. And then as Betsy walked toward her car, she said, "It's gone," and we all knew what she meant: the Obama sticker. "Happens all the time," she said. "Wait." She started looking around the parking lot as if she'd dropped her keys. And sure enough, about 20 yards away, there it was on the ground. Somebody had flung it away like a Frisbee. Betsy just put it back on her car, in her quiet way defying the old defiance of the South.

Correction: Earlier posting had references to the Baltic Sea, which have been corrected. Georgia is bordered by the Black Sea.