October 23, 2004

Correct, sort of...

James Webb has a piece in OpinionJournal about the "Scots-Irish," one of the important groups of settlers that formed America, and their importance in American politics. But his tone and his facts seem a bit off, like someone looking down on his subject from a height.

The Scots-Irish are derived from a mass migration from Northern Ireland in the 1700s, when the Calvinist "Ulster Scots" decided they'd had enough of fighting Anglican England's battles against Irish Catholics.
Actually, the "Scotch-Irish," their common name in our history, are better described as North British borderers. Only a minority of them came from Ulster. The book to read is David Hackett Fischer's splendid Albion's Seed. And the bit about they'd had enough of fighting Anglican England's battles sounds like an attempt to impose the stupid Vietnam template (which really doesn't even fit the Vietnam War) on the Ulster protestants...who only migrated to America if they were younger sons who had no land. Otherwise they were as willing to fight Catholics as their American cousins were to fight Indians.

* Note comments section--Scott Chaffin thinks I may be wrong about Webb...

Webb also seems kind of tone-deaf when writing about George W Bush:

...Speaking in a quasirural dialect that his critics dismiss as affected, W. is telling his core voting groups that he is one of them. No matter that he is the product of many generations of wealth; that his grandfather was a New England senator; that his father moved the family's wealth South just like the hated Carpetbaggers after the Civil War; that he himself went North to Andover and Yale and Harvard when it came time for serious grooming. And as with the persona, so also with the key issues. The Bush campaign proceeds outward from a familiar mantra: strong leadership, success in war, neighbor helping neighbor, family values, and belief in God. Contrary to many analyses, these issues reach much farther than the oft-discussed Christian right. The president will not win re-election without carrying the votes of the Scots-Irish, along with those others who make up the "Jacksonian" political culture that has migrated toward the values of this ethnic group....
Webb, I suspect, picked up his "facts" from other Democrats in his literary circle. So. let's dissect this paragraph:

Speaking in a quasirural dialect that his critics dismiss as affected,
I love that "critics dismiss" formula. What's your opinion, Mr Webb? In fact, Bush talks like most people from his part of Texas.
W. is telling his core voting groups that he is one of them.
If you actually asked those core groups, they would tell you this is patently true.
No matter that he is the product of many generations of wealth; that his grandfather was a New England senator;
This is misleading. The Bushes have never had Rockefeller-type wealth, they've all needed to work. Prescott's father earned his money in Ohio. Prescott was successful on New York's Wall Street and was in middle-age before he entered politics.
that his father moved the family's wealth South just like the hated Carpetbaggers after the Civil War;
This is a deceptious sneer. Each generation of Bushes seems to move somewhere else. And George HW Bush moved to Odessa Texas to make money, not spend it. He didn't move the "family," or its wealth, just himself and his young bride...and not very much money. And Odessa (and its suburb Midland) was an oil-patch full of fortune hunters from all over the country. The "Carpetbagger" sneer is totally inapplicable.
that he himself went North to Andover and Yale and Harvard when it came time for serious grooming.
I went to college in Berkeley. Did that make me a long-haired peacenik? No, because you are where you grow up. Bush went off to school in New England, but he remained a Texan (including carrying a paper cup to class at Harvard to spit tobacco juice into) and always went back to Texas as soon a possible. And married a girl from...Midland.
And as with the persona, so also with the key issues. The Bush campaign proceeds outward from a familiar mantra: strong leadership, success in war, neighbor helping neighbor, family values, and belief in God. Contrary to many analyses, these issues reach much farther than the oft-discussed Christian right. The president will not win re-election without carrying the votes of the Scots-Irish, along with those others who make up the "Jacksonian" political culture that has migrated toward the values of this ethnic group
Correct, sort of. But tone-deaf. The Scotch-Irish culture IS the Jacksonian culture, and other American groups have migrated towards it.

Webb uses terms like "familiar mantra" as if he assumes that political campaigns normally fake common American values out of cynical calculation. He must be a Democrat. They love to imagine that Bush is a New England elitist just faking his Red-State values, because that is exactly what Kerry is doing right now--and looking like an elitist fool.

Posted by John Weidner at October 23, 2004 9:00 AM
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