America`s Scotch-Irish And The Rove Rationale
THE STORY SO
Karl Rove is
constantly feeding the press the
storyline that George W. Bush will—Real Soon
Now!—make a historic breakthrough and convert vast
numbers of minorities into Republicans. It didn`t happen
in 2000 or 2002 and there`s
no evidence it will happen in 2004. Moreover, it
wouldn`t much matter to
GOP fortunes if it did. For example, according to
the Census Bureau, in 2000 the
much-hyped Mexican-American vote turns out to have
been only 1/27th the size of the non-Hispanic
So why is he
doing it? Can`t he count?
NOW READ ON:
One theory: Rove can indeed
count. But this line of chatter distracts the
pundits (who generally can`t) from noticing what`s going
actually quite interesting. But you won`t hear about it
much from a press hamstrung by its prejudice that some
voter`s votes aren`t
worth as much – morally – as others.
riding high now because George W. Bush has managed to
electrify and even seemingly embody one particular
ethnic group – a group with high standards of
self-sacrifice, to which Americans have
traditionally turned in perilous times. It`s not a group
you hear much about these days. In fact, it`s just one
of the four WASP ethnic groups that came to America from
in the 1600s.
modern multiculturalist America multiculturalism, the
old-fashioned regional ways of life brought to America
British colonists in the 1600s should no longer
matter, right? Yet historian David Hackett Fischer`s
book Albion`s Seed: Four British Folkways in
America documents in overwhelming detail (it`s 946
pages long) that cultural patterns laid down by
different groups of settlers before 1776 explain much
about today`s politics.
identified four "folkways" from Britain that spread out
across the continent westward at roughly the latitudes
at which their ancestors first settled. They remain
highly influential in American politics to this day.
Puritans, intellectual and moralistic, largely
originated in Eastern England. From 1629 to 1640, they
New England, and their descendents later spread
across northern tier states like Minnesota, Washington,
and Oregon. (The most famous representatives are the
aristocrats and their indentured servants from
class-ridden Southern England moved to the lowland South
George Washington and
George Wallace illustrate the South`s gentleman and
populist sides, respectively.
business-like Quakers and others from the North Midlands
of England and Wales settled Pennsylvania and the rest
of the Delaware Valley in 1675-1725. They invited German
Mennonites and others of compatible habits to join them.
Pennsylvanians spread out across the Middle West.
Although he was born in Boston,
Ben Franklin became their ideal.
bellicose folks from the violent Scottish-English border
region – and especially their descendents who had
Ulster – came to the Appalachian backcountry from
1718 to 1775. Their descendents spread west across the
upper South. The prototype: the
ferocious Andy Jackson. They`re typically called
"Scots-Irish," although Fischer doesn`t like the term
because it makes them sound as if they spoke Celtic
languages, when they actually spoke English and were
culturally quite different from Scottish Highlanders or
Southern groups have been the most belligerent. And the
Scots-Irish in a class by themselves in their taste for
raising hell – both at home and abroad.
Patriotism and physical courage are both central to
the backcountry tradition, as reflected in the very high
rates of military enlistment among the Scots-Irish. (Stock
car racing, which was originally dominated by
ex-moonshine runners like
Junior Johnson, is the backcountry`s signature
because of this culture of courage, the backcountry
Scots-Irish are the ethnic group that Americans most
look toward for Presidential leadership, especially in
times of foreign threat.
"The predominance of backcountry Presidents is
Fischer told me. "There have been more than from any
other British group." (All Presidents except Martin
Van Buren and
John F. Kennedy had a large number of British
ancestors.) Fischer discovered that 19 American
Presidents were descended in large part from Appalachian
"The family tree of George W. Bush is as close to pure
Yankee Puritan as any Presidential candidate`s in many
Brandeis professor observed. Dubya`s New England-raised
father, President George Bush, always had to battle
against "the wimp factor." Despite having been
the youngest aircraft carrier pilot in WWII, the captain
of the Yale baseball team, and a successful Texas
oilman, President Bush`s prep school mannerisms struck
many Americans as effete.
contrast, although racially Puritan, the second
President Bush is culturally mostly backcountry.
Although the younger Bush benefits from his family`s
powerful connections in the Northeast, his personal
style is radically different. "Bush has mastered the
idioms of the backcountry culture he grew up in down in
Midland, Texas," Fischer pointed out. "His
subsequent education at Andover and Yale didn`t seem to
much affect his down-home manner."
This style of speech and behavior, brought to the
Appalachian highlands by tough Protestant pioneers from
Northern Ireland and the Scottish-English border region,
has spread westward across the mid-southern latitudes of
the U.S. "There`s something about that style that
appeals well to other regions," noted Fischer. He
suggested that it struck Americans as unaffected,
masculine, and decisive.
turn, in 2000 Bush succeeded most impressively not with
any minority group, but in backcountry states. He beat
Al Gore in his
home state of Tennessee, took Bill Clinton`s
Arkansas, and won traditionally yellow dog Democrat West
Historian Walter Russell Mead recently proposed his own
Dixie Chicks for dissing him.
And, while many entertainment forms, such as rock, rap,
and movies, are aimed primarily at young people, country
fans come in all ages, including the heavy-voting older
cohorts. Being somewhat less educated and more
blue collar on average, though, they don`t always
vote. If they can be inspired to show up at the polls,
however, they can push a campaign over the top. That`s
exactly what happened last November.
However, there are at least three problems with this
theory of Rove`s motivations – let`s call it the Rove
- As I asked
last week, what would have happened without 9/11?
- How does the Rove Rationale reconcile with the White
House`s abandonment last year of GOP Senate Majority
Leader Trent Lott to appease very different groups,
including what I`ve called “The
Righteous Right“? This fascinating cultural coup
in effect displaced a Southerner, who typified the new
voters who brought the GOP to power, in favor of the
metropolitan elites and their values. Answer:
it doesn`t. This is a fundamental fault-line in
the current GOP hegemony.
- The American Scots-Irish are particularly patriotic.
But is their government standing by them?
For a long time, most
of them lived far enough north of the border for illegal
immigration to not have that much downward impact on
their blue collar members` wages. But they are
increasingly being driven out of California`s
Central Valley by illegal immigration. (See
Victor Davis Hanson`s excellent new book
aliens are finally moving
en masse to the upper South backcountry.
Scotch-Irish will look out not just for their country`s
interests abroad—but for their own interests at home.
[Steve Sailer [email
him] is founder of the Human Biodiversity Institute and