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October 14, 2013 1:32 PM Lind’s Southern Liberation Movement

By Ed Kilgore

It is very important to Michael Lind that everyone accept the “southern coup” hypothesis he has been offering as an explanation for American conservative excesses for going on twenty years now. I’ve stubbornly disagreed with Lind (e.g., here, here and here) on more than one occasion without in any way disagreeing with his hostility to the reactionary polices embraced intensively—if not uniquely or even originally—by southern conservative pols.

So I’m not particularly inclined to salute Lind’s flag when he again insists that the government shutdown is a product of southern hegemony in national politics. But I am interested in his agenda for nationalizing economic policies so that conservative policymakers wherever they appear cannot impose “low-road” economic strategies on their populations that undermine living standards and tempt emulation in competing states.

Relying on the federal government rather than the states to set minimum wages levels necessary for a decent living is a step Lind urges that makes abundant good sense, though I would go further and urge maintenance and extension of federally established refundable earned income tax credits as well (Lind perversely dislikes the EITC because it allegedly subsidizes low-wage employers, a point-of-view that logically should lead him to favor abolition of Medicaid as making it too easy for employers not to offer health insurance). He’s also right that allowing states to continue to set basic eligibility and benefit levels for Medicaid—and, thanks to the Supreme Court, for the Affordable Care Act—is an anachronism that should be addressed comprehensively instead of incrementally (BTW, Lind’s assertion that Ronald Reagan favored a federalized Medicaid isn’t quite right; his budget director, David Stockman, favored splitting Medicaid and federalizing the portion benefiting the aged, blind and disabled, as part of an overall deal that would have turned medical and income-maintenance benefits for the poor over to the states entirely).

It should go without saying that Lind’s right about a renewed national emphasis on voting rights—though again, it’s become as large a problem outside the South as within it. But I’m not so sure the perennial panacea of “nonpartisan redistricting” is the answer to anything; effective redistricting reform, IMO, may require more rather than less attention to partisanship in order to expand the number of competitive districts. Nonpartisan redistricting schemes have often backfired.

While I am sympathetic to Lind’s argument for abolishing the filibuster, the most immediate obstacle to that happening is the residual desire of largely non-southern Democrats to maintain the filibuster as a curb of potential future Republican majorities in the Senate. As for abolishing the debt limit, that’s a straight-forward ideological difference of opinion between Ds and Rs that will require either Democratic supermajority control of the Senate or the aforementioned abolition of the filibuster.

But here’s where I would put aside all my arguments with Lind past and present:

The true Southern patriots are those of us who want to liberate the diverse population of the South from being exploited as wage earners and from being disfranchised or manipulated as voters. Another term for the National Majority Rule Project might be the Southern Liberation Movement.

Amen to that, brother.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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