27 SEPTEMBER 1969, Page 4


The Southern stigma


Charleston, South Carolina—The old Con- federacy has a strikingly better record than the Northern states where the recent history of civil disorders, race riots, strikes and crime is concerned. Southerners can point to a steadily improving pattern of inte- gration in their public schools, a patriotically high rate of unemployment despite continu- ing investment and modernisation, a dramatically rising per capita income and also to some of the few really imaginative welfare and rehabilitation schemes in the entire United States. They are somewhat resentful, therefore, at the way in which the North persists in regarding them as half- crazed cornpone rednecks who are unfit for responsible public office.

Indignation is at present focused on the Senate's treatment of President Nixon's latest nomination to the Supreme Court, Clement Haynsworth, from South Carolina —the first Southerner to be so appointed since the war. But it is seen as part of a much larger conspiracy by the North— commercial, as well as political—to keep the South as a vaguely disreputable junior partner in some sort of Comecon satellite status.

Conceivably, there is an element of paranoia in this, but the depth and intensity of the attack on Haynsworth—a highly respected Southern moderate—cer- tainly support the theory that to the Northerner all Southerners are by definition either racialist or otherwise unenlightened. Senate critics have dug up a case in 1963 where Haynsworth passed judgment in a labour dispute without standing down on the grounds that he was a major shareholder in an automatic vending concern which supplied refreshment to another firm which had a controlling interest in one of the firms involved in the dispute. From this somewhat rarefied indictment has emerged the more general suggestion that Hayns- worth is therefore to be seen as 'Mr Textile Interests', which Southerners point out to be completely unjustified and also to come badly from a Senate which smiled benevolently on the appointments of Arthur Goldberg and Thurgood Marshall in other days. There can be little doubt that Hayns- worth's real crime is to be a Southerner, and for the first time the South is beginning to feel a little self-righteous about what has come to be known here as the 'Southern stigma'.

It is true that political commentators inter- preted President Nixon's appointment of Mr Haynsworth as part of his increasingly successful Southern strategy, whereby he has already weaned an enormous number of Southern voters from the Democrat camp in both Presidential and Congressional elections. Much of his success here might be attributed to normal electoral reaction against the Johnson administration, and much to the increasing industrialisation of the South, but a certain amount must also belong to the 'law and order' issue in a political climate where law and order have become a euphemism for anti-welfare aril anti-negro policies. But the administratirn does nothing to allay Southern suscepti- bilities by its denials that it is embarked on any such thing as a Southern strategy. Even Mr Spiro Agnew fell into the trap recently when challenged about the administration's Southern strategy: 'How could someone seeking to court the forces of reaction pro- pose a welfare programme of the magnitude and scope the President has just proposed?'. So the gentle, civilised South, where necks are far less red these days than they are in New York, Washington or Boston, learned yet again that it was characterised by the forces of reaction.

Whether it is the result of President Nixon's Southern strategy, or whether it is just further evidence of the way John Brown's soul goes marching on, the most significant political development in the South has been the gradual emergence of a two-party system for the first time since the New Deal. Influential Southern Democrats, like Terry Sanford, the former Governor of North Carolina, welcome this as a healthy development, hoping that the redneck vote will alternate, perhaps swinging regularly against whichever party forms the admini- stration and leaving the field clear for constructive political debate on other matters.

Whatever the reason, there is a spirit of moderation sweeping the South which is in direct contrast to political developments in the North, and which reached a historic landmark last week when the thirty-fifth conference of Southern Governors passed a resolution officially endorsing 'a non- discriminatory education for every child' in their public schools. This resolution was passed by nine votes by three, with only Governors Williams (of Mississippi), Lester Maddox (of Georgia) and Brewer (of Alabama) opposing it.

This resolution was only one of many to be passed, including one which called for curbs on textile and shoe imports and another condemning North Vietnam for 'inhumane treatment of American prisoners of war', but it is nevertheless historic in that it marks a final retreat from one of the most unshakeable fronts of the South's earlier stands against integration—the moral certainty of the segregationists. Hereafter, everything boils down to a matter of manoeuvre and timing—the outcome is accepted.

An element of paranoia was never far. away from the conference. Governor Williams made an emotional speech describ- ing the damage wrought in Mississippi by Hurricane Camille, but he-caused his greatest impact when he pointed out that President Nixon's tour of the devastated area marked

the first time a President of the tin' States had set foot in Mississippi since 19 And outside the conference, one can paranoia building up like a race riot. of the cruellest manifestations of Soothe baiting is seen to be the present campai!, entirely North-inspired—against ei ;tar• smoking.

Two staples of the Southern econom% textiles and tobacco growing. The 1 requires some sort of tariff or quota p tection, the second requires governor guaranteed prices whereby the govern buys in every consignment of tobacco L,11 fails to realise the price determined. government assessors. Both of these entirely subject to political decisions m in Washington, so it is scarcely surpm that politics and commerce tend to oierl Add to this the peculiarly American sys whereby local government appointmen even for the post of forest ranger or garb collector—are liable to be influenced political considerations and it beco plain why Southerners are now becom paranoiac. Every packet of cigarettes already has to bear a caution about health hazards of smoking. There is n heavy pressure—clearly identified Southern minds as emanating from North brewers and distillers—to forbid cigar advertising on wireless, television or newspapers. Cigarette manufacturers % then be left with little postcards in s windows, but it is not this they mind much as the slur of peddling an imm product.

Already the giant Reynolds Tob, Corporation of Winston Salem (*Winst `Camel', 'Salem', etc.) has started diver% ing into frozen food and packaged eaties horrible to list. Tobacco auctions. ah started last week in Winston Salem. still as colourful and as incomprehensible ever, but there is a sort of pre-Trafal hysteria about the auctioneers and buy and growers as they dance between the b• of tobacco, chanting like Benedictine mu The old order changeth and meanwhile citizens of Winston Salem, where cigar-L. are cheaper than anywhere else in the Un are reduced to smoking for victory. had a race riot two years ago, but blacks and whites work together, put' away like steam engines in defiance of health hazard dreamed up by North liberals and whisky manufacturers.

Industrialisation has already begun arrive, and with it come highly-paid blue white collared workers from the North vote Republican and disapprove of government. With it, also, many of the n ambitious Negroes have tended to be dr' towards the black ghettoes of the No If the old Democrat tradition of the 5 was kept alive by the South's reliance u Federal subsidy—no matter how conse tive in other matters the southern polio tended to be—then it begins to look at the days of the monolithic Den ascendancy in the South are in numbered.

All that remains to be seen is wh, President Nixon's Southern strategy the short-term expedient of stirring up tobacco farmers and textile workers whether he takes the longer-term view lets these admirable fellows go to the to see the South emerge, in the end. Republican stronghold in the even ideological confrontation between 11 and conservatives which everybody expects.