February 6, 2008

"Bleeding Kansas"

On the subject of Kansas, Obama, and Sebelius, it's useful to look at some maps. Early on in the blog, I mentioned how map-making is the first step to studying Florida politics. To look at the entire South, as I'm doing now in the introduction to the chapter on Chiles' first term in the US Senate, you've really gotta spend some time looking at old maps.

This map dates to 1865. The index for colors is missing but you get the idea of what is Union and Confederate when you think, "red states, blue states." Then there are those pesky yellow border states that are unpredictable. The Civil War tore Kansas apart; headlines read "Bleeding Kansas." Before the pundits enshrined it as forever "red," it produced some of the most radical-minded politicians of the 20th century. Thomas Frank discusses this in What's the Matter with Kansas?

A lot of people forget that West Virginia came into existence when the Civil War split greater Virginia in half; the mountain folk supported the Union. Even today, you find a political divide in the Appalachian states between the mountain populist tradition and the plantation conservatives. Gradually, the post-industrial economy is doing away with this. Asheville, North Carolina comes to mind first as a high-altitude political oasis in the South. I'm also reminded of U.S. Senator Jim Webb (D), who discusses mountain populism in his 2004 book on Scots-Irish politics in America: Born Fighting.

1 comment:

Amy said...

Scots-Irish. We're Scots, not Scotch. That's a tape and a drink. ;)