Opinion: The South isn’t a lost cause

Opinion%3A+The+South+isn%27t+a+lost+cause

Ella Adams

The American South has a reputation in the rest of the country for being backward, conservative and ignorant. Many Americans, particularly on the left, point at the South as the cause for the nation’s problems, such as racial inequality and higher rates of poverty. Yes, the region is haunted by its tumultuous history, but that doesn’t mean it’s a lost cause. Even though the region is historically conservative, the South is capable of progressive change.

In a 2017 special election, Doug Jones won the Senate seat for Alabama. Jones was the first Democrat to represent the state in the U.S. Senate in 25 years. Jones’ opponent, Roy Moore, faced sexual misconduct allegations. Moore’s scandals likely encouraged progressive voters to get to the polls, with 40.4% voter turnout in comparison to 18% turnout in  the Senate primaries earlier that year. Progessive voters showed up and Alabama flipped the seat. Alabama is a consistently-Republican state, and electing a Democrat was unthinkable. Jones’ election is a perfect example, demonstrating that the South can change. States the Republican Party considers safe, such as Georgia and Texas, are now swing states. An increase of young liberals moving to Atlanta, and the “Texas Five” gave both states a progressive edge. The South is actively voting for progressive change.

The South has a history of progressive political movements. For example, Appalachia’s mountain Republicans. The mountain Republicans were a group of people that lived primarily in central Appalachia — including western North Carolina. They emerged before the Civil War and opposed slavery and secession. Appalachia’s ties to progressive politics still exists today and its history of voting to the right is short-lived.

Problems that the South struggles with, including racial inequality, elevated levels of poverty and poor education, aren’t uniquely Southern problems: they’re American problems. These issues may be worse in the South than the rest of the country but they are not isolated to the region. When taking into account the destruction the South faced post-Civil War, it makes sense that it would be developmentally behind the rest of the nation. Granted, the South does share responsibility. The region’s traditionally-conservative politics have done nothing to aid in the fight against racial inequality or poverty. But, the North and the rest of the nation are not absolved of the United States’s difficult history by pinning the country’s problems on the South. 

The South can change and shouldn’t be seen as a lost cause. The region certainly has a lot of work to do and Southerners are voting for change. Pointing the finger while the exact issues exist in the rest of the country is hypocritical. It’s time the United States took a look in the mirror and stopped using the South as a scapegoat.