Redneck Progressives

12 posts / 0 new

Recently I viewed a program on PBS concerning a historical event that I had not previously been aware of. It concerned something known as “The Redneck War” or “The Battle of Blair Mountain.” For five days in late August and early September of 1921, an army of between 10,000 and 15,000 union coal miners who sought to unionize the coal miners in remote, southwest West Virginia did battle against an army of police and strikebreakers who were well armed--including machine guns and bombs dropped from aircraft and backed by mine owners. This took place in Logan County, West Virginia. They were finally beaten back, unfortunately. The miners, in order to tell who was union from the mine-owners army wore red bandana’s (or other red cloth) around their necks. The press deemed them “Rednecks” because of their neckwear. This provided an alternative to the old meaning of the term “redneck,” which generally refers to outdoor-working, reactionary, bigoted, loutish white men—generally from the south. These mine workers were probably closer, politically, to today’s progressives. To learn more about this event look up “The Battle of Blair Mountain” in Wickipedia at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Blair_Mountain , “The Redneck War” in Bits of News at: http://www.bitsofnews.com/content/view/6074/ and/or do a Google search on these topics.

Many of rank and file right wing tend to see today’s progressives as soft, intellectual elitists. This is a problem for a good number of the republicans, even if they aren’t slways in agreement with the party line, because their self identity and ego depends on them seeing themselves as tough, macho, ordinary, Joe-Six-Pack kind of guys (and gals) and they don’t want to be identified with what they picture as soft, effete, frivolous elitists. I believe they lack a model with which to identify. G. W. Bush (or maybe it was Carl Rove… ) understood this very well and that Connecticut preppy set out to and did remake himself with the image of a “Texan.” I believe it is time that those of us in the progressive left who either work in or are oriented to the outdoors or other related pursuits claimed the title of “Redneck.” “Redneck Progressives” perhaps? Wear red neckwear to show ones leanings, perhaps? The Republican machine has been very adept at appropriating the succesfull methodology of the Left. It’s time we took back some of the fire and gave those who cling to the right largely because of their self image a model with which they can comfortably identify.

Marc Hurlbert's picture
Marc Hurlbert
Joined:
Jun. 14, 2010 9:55 pm

Comments

I wasn't where I could write down the guy's name, but he was the candidate from the Mountain Man Party in W. Virginia's Governor debate. (It might have been Senate). What I do remember is him calling in to Randi Rhodes when she was laughing about The Rent is Too Damn High to describe what he is doing with a Third party effort.

It is a brilliant organizing strategy, and this guy had it all down to a tee. He is calling for solar in W. Virginia, and for coal to be used in ways other than burning it. He is deep green because it is about the economy too. It is about the people. He was wonderfully articulate and informed. He has a great sense of humor, and he is doing a very creative piece of work directed at the specific form of dysfunction that is W. Virginia.

Bobby Kennedy saw the W. Virginia Appalachia politics as moral and effective. Michael Harrington's great book led the way. I think we can reconnect.

DRC's picture
DRC
Joined:
Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm

Are most Progressives really friends to working people?

Thom is, I know. But most others? I'm worried at the way that many Progressives are willing to hurt Teamsters, for example, with too-rapid changes in emissions regulations.

So the idea about changing identifications is a good one, but it needs to be tied to more concern for jobs, and reducing other costs that weigh heavily on working people. At the moment it seems that they are giving away their votes much too cheaply. Don't want to make this worse.

Coriander's picture
Coriander
Joined:
Oct. 8, 2010 9:32 pm
Quote Coriander:

Are most Progressives really friends to working people?

Thom is, I know. But most others? I'm worried at the way that many Progressives are willing to hurt Teamsters, for example, with too-rapid changes in emissions regulations.

So the idea about changing identifications is a good one, but it needs to be tied to more concern for jobs, and reducing other costs that weigh heavily on working people. At the moment it seems that they are giving away their votes much too cheaply. Don't want to make this worse.

Who have you been getting your information from--Fox News??? How have teamsters been hurt by too-rapid changes in emissions regs??? These changes came about all too slowly! It may have cramped the profits of some of the business owners a little but it didn't hurt the teamsters! (It has saved lives, though.) Do you want to reduce costs that weigh on working people? Then let's get the absurdly wealthy to pay their fair share of the taxes so they don't weigh so heavily on the working people. The Republicans have been doing everything they can to keep this country from doing things that will help working people get back to work. I think you need to quit listening to right-wing opinions and start looking up some facts. By the way--I'm a working person!

Marc Hurlbert's picture
Marc Hurlbert
Joined:
Jun. 14, 2010 9:55 pm

Marc wrote: "Then let's get the absurdly wealthy to pay their fair share of the taxes so they don't weigh so heavily on the working people."

poly replies: Probably one way to do that would be having financiers and bankster paying for their own bailout rather than imposing austerity programs on the majority.

The preference seems to be socking it to the poorist. Congress recently reduced Food Stamp distributions.

Someone has to pay for the $11.4 trillion in bailouts and derivative player guarantees. It isn't going to be done by placing a hefty tax on billion dollar financial bonuses or taxing Wall Street sales.

Why not reduce Social Security and increase Medicare premiums as viable alternatives to taxing those who created the mess? Sell off a few National Parks and remaining public utilities...privatize a few miles of the Interstate System. Turn them into toll roads. They should be worth something.

Taxing finance is an absolute no no. Finance needs every dime it can muster to create another bubble. Expecting them to pay for their own disaster is off the table.

Retired Monk - "Ideology is a disease"

polycarp2
Joined:
Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm

I've been looking for a good definition of progressive. "Redneck progressive".... Hmm. that sort of distinguishes progressive from the "liberal class" that died because it rolled over and was consumed by the conservatives. It's also not a "Tea Party" which has not much to do with tea or helping the working class defend itself from the cloying corporatocracy, which includes Murdock's Fox "no spin zone" washing machine version of News, and the Koch Bros financially imbued libertarian version of freedom into it's helpful astroturf organizing of Tea Party events.

.ren's picture
.ren
Joined:
Apr. 1, 2010 7:50 am
Quote Coriander:

Are most Progressives really friends to working people?

Thom is, I know. But most others? I'm worried at the way that many Progressives are willing to hurt Teamsters, for example, with too-rapid changes in emissions regulations.

So the idea about changing identifications is a good one, but it needs to be tied to more concern for jobs, and reducing other costs that weigh heavily on working people. At the moment it seems that they are giving away their votes much too cheaply. Don't want to make this worse.

Emissions wouldn't be as much of a concern for teamsters if they used biodiesel. Anyway, I also agree that these changes have come too slowly - not rapidly enough. As for hurting them - I can't think of many jobs worse than trucking. It's stressful, bad for your health, and often dangerous. If you're not unionized, your company will probably exploit you by making you drive too many hours for too little pay, and if you are with a good company and earning a good wage, you're probably disgruntled about your unfair tax burden. I don't think progressives want to hurt teamsters - I don't think teamsters think progressives want to hurt them, either. If you're against protecting the power of corporate billionaires, you're the teamster's friend.

MsL's picture
MsL
Joined:
Sep. 16, 2010 8:27 pm
Quote Marc Hurlbert:

Many of rank and file right wing tend to see today’s progressives as soft, intellectual elitists. This is a problem for a good number of the republicans, even if they aren’t slways in agreement with the party line, because their self identity and ego depends on them seeing themselves as tough, macho, ordinary, Joe-Six-Pack kind of guys (and gals) and they don’t want to be identified with what they picture as soft, effete, frivolous elitists. I believe they lack a model with which to identify. G. W. Bush (or maybe it was Carl Rove… ) understood this very well and that Connecticut preppy set out to and did remake himself with the image of a “Texan.” I believe it is time that those of us in the progressive left who either work in or are oriented to the outdoors or other related pursuits claimed the title of “Redneck.” “Redneck Progressives” perhaps? Wear red neckwear to show ones leanings, perhaps? The Republican machine has been very adept at appropriating the succesfull methodology of the Left. It’s time we took back some of the fire and gave those who cling to the right largely because of their self image a model with which they can comfortably identify.

This reminds me of another thread - one about simplifying the progressive message to reach "ordinary Joe" conservatives. I think you've brought up the heart of the issue, though - it's not about communication, it's about image. I think a "Redneck progressive" is someone the "ordinary Joe" could identify with and trust enough to listen to the Redneck's message.

However - it does have "red" in the name. That could be easily used by opposition in anti-progressive slogans to conjure images of grimacing KGB officers.

But I like the overall idea - and I think that kind of "average man" image needs to be strongly projected. An image with the rough-around-the edges, man's-man demeanor of Larry the Cable Guy and the God-fearing devotion of Glenn Beck.

I hope this image change wouldn't bring in people that would belittle the values that cause progressive to be labeled "soft" or "intellectuals" though - whether that be gun control, or avoidance (or prevention) of war, programs for the poor and vulnerable, or higher education and cultural diversity and awareness - in the public mind, conservatives are usually thought of as masculine, and liberals as feminine. I would hate to see the positive "feminine" attributes of progressive politics be marginalized just to try to be more inclusive.

These are just some of my thoughts. I always go back and forth with the pros and cons of any idea, but overall I like this one and think it's very practical.

MsL's picture
MsL
Joined:
Sep. 16, 2010 8:27 pm
Quote MsL:

This reminds me of another thread - one about simplifying the progressive message to reach "ordinary Joe" conservatives. I think you've brought up the heart of the issue, though - it's not about communication, it's about image. I think a "Redneck progressive" is someone the "ordinary Joe" could identify with and trust enough to listen to the Redneck's message.

However - it does have "red" in the name. That could be easily used by opposition in anti-progressive slogans to conjure images of grimacing KGB officers.

But I like the overall idea - and I think that kind of "average man" image needs to be strongly projected. An image with the rough-around-the edges, man's-man demeanor of Larry the Cable Guy and the God-fearing devotion of Glenn Beck.

I hope this image change wouldn't bring in people that would belittle the values that cause progressive to be labeled "soft" or "intellectuals" though - whether that be gun control, or avoidance (or prevention) of war, programs for the poor and vulnerable, or higher education and cultural diversity and awareness - in the public mind, conservatives are usually thought of as masculine, and liberals as feminine. I would hate to see the positive "feminine" attributes of progressive politics be marginalized just to try to be more inclusive.

These are just some of my thoughts. I always go back and forth with the pros and cons of any idea, but overall I like this one and think it's very practical.

I like MsL's thoughts here. Obviously this person "gets" it. Good on ya! As for some of the objections--I don't think "red" is a problem. First of all, I think that most folks think of a reactionary conservative when they think of redneck. Also, the way that the press has been characterizing the republican voters and states is "Red." Another point is that ones' Republican opponents will always sieze upon anything they can, whether it makes sense or not, to try and make you look bad.

I don't think I can agree with the "god fearing devotion of Glen Beck." I think that it's extremely important to get away from fanatical dogmatism here. Besides, can you really believe Glen Beck's devotion? He has stated publicly that what he really is--is an entertainer. 'Nuff said.

I don't see this as an image change. I see it rather as an addition to the whole liberal/progressive approach. I think that we might put forth concepts like the idea that knee-jerk, reactionary attitudes are soft because these folks won't or can't do the hard work of identifying facts and using reason. Their strident emotionality can be seen as the approach of one who is too soft--cowardly, in fact--to stand up to the fear-mongering of the right wing. That they don't have the guts to stand up and do the right thing when political activists, the press and politicians are telling them to "Be afraid--be very afraid!" I have in mind a couple of models of the kind of person I think of as perhaps being iconic of the Redneck Progressive. One is my father-in-law who spent his career as a forester. He fought in the army in the Pacific in WWII. He also liked to hunt and was somewhat of a "gun nut" who was constantly involved in buying and selling hunting arms. The other side of him was that he was always a democrat, a liberal and a believer in organized labor. Further, he would stand up against anyone who claimed that US govt. didn't have the right to regulate firearms. I have known a good many people very much like him in my lifetime. Another example of the Redneck Progressive type that I am thinking of was a relative of mine who was a fighter pilot in the USMC and also fought in the Pacific in WWII. He was also a social liberal and, during the Vietnam War gave a locally televised speech in Portland, Oregon against this armed conflict. He said that he lost more friends on that one night than in all the rest of his life. He did it and said damn the personal consequences because he believed it was the right thing to do. It is not my intention that any ideals be given up or even marginalized just to be more inclusive. What would be the point?

As for simplifying the message, I think that all too many liberals and progressives fail to line up their goals with their actions. When one is involved in an election in these times it is just too very important to remember that the goal is to win. All those great ideals that we love to talk about until folks' ears fall off don't have a ghost of a chance of coming to fruition if we don't win elections. I think it's time we paid more attention to psychology as well as philosophy.

If you're looking for more ideas on this concept, then you might look up Eisenhowers speech, "A Chance for Peace" that he gave on April 16, 1953. He'd be considered a raving progressive by these right wing nuts today.

Marc Hurlbert's picture
Marc Hurlbert
Joined:
Jun. 14, 2010 9:55 pm

There are many good reasons for the "common people" to resent the educated classes. Particularly as the means of social mobility have been reduced to the Lottery odds, those 'stuck' in their credit card debt and mortgages are the lucky ones, just not the extremely lucky few.

When the "lucky ones" are barely holding on and seeing people just like them falling overboard into the oceans of homelessness, being lucky is full of fear and anxiety. Being unlucky is to experience a desperation and despair that is totally new.

The fact that the victims did not cause the problem that damaged their lives is why this is about luck instead of effort and merit. Too often, the latter have been mocked by the corrupt process and stupid financial distributions. Then there is the observable fraud from the top.

I never bought into the selling of education as the way to a good job. It short sheets the mission of the academy, but it also makes the educated more equal than the less educated for reasons of dubious merit. Education ought to be more than an increase in personal power to obtain personal rewards. It is supposed to include some attention to creating common wealth and public responsibility. They see Wall St. and the Gecko line about Greed, and a lot of people naturally adopt a defensive position based in taking care of oneself and practicing the "successful" strategy in life.

A lot of our "redneck" dropouts stick with resentment instead of thinking. But those who do think have a very interesting perspective on corporate and empire that cuts to the chase better than those who work inside the system. Most of the blue collar workers I meet and deal with have fairly sound takes on what is going on, but where the FAUX juice is drunk, one can only accept the given intoxication.

What liberals and "professionals" do need to remember is that people are not stupid even if they are being conned. It is hard to con a really stupid person because they don't understand the temptation. Conning smart people is not that hard if you get them to think that the idea they are working on will really be good for them. There were very bright people putting Supply Side together and convincing themselves that it would really work. I wish they had only been cynical thieves looking to suck a steady "entitlement" from their market scams. It took "the Brightest and the Best" to believe that they could do what had never been done, that they could win what had never been won. They could create new realities instead of having to obey reality.

Learning to listen to your secretary or the janitor about how to get the job done is essential. High science research teams can be taught by the department secretary who asks a question about what is being said for her notes. When we try to cure or solve the problems of society, do we involve those on the ground as those who know the problem best, or do we bring our latest sociology and models of reform?

I think Progressives have been evolving into good community organizers and advocates of bottom-up power and design. The Right refuses to deal with Progressive ideas because it needs its "Big Government Socialists" to cover its own projection of authoritarian order. Its rhetorical advocacy of small government, personal responsibility and family values stakes claim where Progressives live. To allow Progressives to be seen in this meme undercuts the ideological frame of the Right. To have to come and reason together about practical solutions to real problems would expose their strawman attacks on Progressives. Democracy is not really their game.

DRC's picture
DRC
Joined:
Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm

DRC is right when he states that "Democracy is not really their game." in reference to the right wing. More accurately, democracy is no longer the game of the Republican Party in general. These people are not actual conservatives. The only real conservative we've had in office since Jimmy Carter has been Clinton. I know. I grew up in a family of true conservatives. They were people with whom, even if you didn't agree with them, you could at least respect. These crazies who have taken over the Republican party are actually radicals of the worst sort. It's my opinion that their "philosophy," if it can even be termed such, is that which drives the worst of adolescence. In other words, mostly nothing more complex than "You can't tell me what to do!!!" Where did this come from? I think that our history tells the story: Basically, these folks are angry, southern, confederate leftovers. Thanks to Richard Nixon's "Southern Strategy," which took note of the voting results of Goldwater's campaign, (Au-H2O did take much of the south.) The south went over to the Republican Party and so, I believe, terribly insecure at having given in and joined the party of Abe Lincoln, were driven to take it over and thoroughly imbue it with their particular, malevalent, deep-south, point of view. Where else would this inane hatred of "the government" come from in a country where the government is supposed to be, by law--of, by and for the people? To the southerners, then, and to a very large extent, now, the government meant the hated yankees. It has been (in the Southeast...) repeated over and over again that "The south shall rise again!" Well folks, it has, and this time it looks like the south may be dangerously close to winning. This simple-minded, malicious hatred of "the government" and the attempts to tear our institutions down may well be little more than revenge by a bunch of bigoted, southern, confederate, loosers. In a sense, we are fighting the Civil War over again. Most sadly, the corporate-aucracy has seen this wave of lunacy as something to be used to gain control of our system of law and regulation for the purposes of concentrating more and more wealth in the hands of the greedy, sociopathic few and is pouring huge amounts of money and other support into the hands of the right wing radicals. The deep south, the confederacy, is dangerously close to winning this struggle and then, stupidly, handing it over to their corporate handlers.

Yahoo! You betcha, Jimmy-Bob--we're really gonna have us some a' that there liberty then!... . . . . .

Marc Hurlbert's picture
Marc Hurlbert
Joined:
Jun. 14, 2010 9:55 pm

Nicely put in the vernacular. The larger point is that there is no "winning" for the Southern version of the American Century. The Liberal version suffered mortal wounds in Vietnam, and Reagan's blessing of the Southern Myth was what Morning in America was all about. The triumphalist South took the loss of the American Century franchise on the Left as the validation of their own story. Wrong. It ought to have been a warning about the American Century as a failed myth instead.

I don't think the South or the GOP can consolidate any "victory" they achieve in the period of reaction and instability. Abandoning all pretense of democracy and enforcing a police state in public would be a move away from real power. The managed consent and compliant public they have 'enjoyed' gets harder when it is exposed. I think the power of their myth has faded significantly since Reagan and dealing with reality is not going to make it easier to restore.

As you point out, "government" has meant the Yankees, not really their own elected representatives. Sectarian communities are defined by lacking power in the dominant system. Their moral superiority to that society where they are not fully human is attested by their internal conduct, so personal morality replaces civil conduct as their measure. The moral issues of political power begin with resistance to "secular values."

This is why their agenda when they come into political power is about the bedroom instead of the boardroom or civil government. Taxes have never been spent to benefit them, so they hate taxes. (They do ignore the roads and dependable power sources and bridges that don't fall down). They hate the public schools because it taught civility and pluralism--like being good neighbors, and that alienated their children from their sectarian world view and the Southern myth. Things like science get in the way.

One of the bad scenarios is the Rule of Fear if the Tea Party people actually were in positions of power rather than just image. I don't think it would last very long. I think corporate handlers have had the confederate "victory" in their strategy for a long time. But it is a "victory" that works better to discredit politics in general than it would if it took power. Reality is their worst enemy.

DRC's picture
DRC
Joined:
Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm

Currently Chatting

Green World Rising

In two previous videos narrated by Leonard DiCaprio and available over at GreenWorldRising.org, we’ve seen the dangers that global warming and climate change present for our planet and the human race.

Powered by Pressflow, an open source content management system