Let’s Just Call Them ‘Values’

Over at Out of the Blue today, Tony Marks is talking about Tennessee Democrats as superheroes. It’s very lovely. Except this part: “First, I created ‘Tennessee Democrat’ to focus instead on what we do have, an identity rooted in the Southern values of hard work, fairness, community, and compassion.”

These are now particularly Southern values? If I go visit my parents, I’m going to find them lazing about the Midwest when they’re not punching their neighbors for no good reason?

Or, if they do value hard work, fairness, community, and compassion, are they “real” Southerners, even though they’ve never lived here, while I, their lazy, jerky daughter who does live here can never be a true Southerner because I’m an asshole?

Is it rude to at least note that turning around and valuing hard work, fairness, community, and compassion is a change of direction from the last 250 years?

It’s stupid and I should just get over it, I know. But I swear to god, every time I feel like Tennessee Democrats might finally be like “Our tent is big enough even for the weirdos like you,” there’s something, some action, some rhetorical flourish that reminds me that the velvet rope goes across the entrance way right before I get there.

And it still annoys me.

7 thoughts on “Let’s Just Call Them ‘Values’

  1. THANK YOU. “Southern exceptionalism” is just as annoying as “American exceptionalism”:.

    I like Tony and generally support what he is doing, but you raise a good point. Hell, I’ll still buy a T-shirt this weekend if he has a 4XL.

  2. At least he left out “caring for our families.” That’s the one that puzzles me most when it shows up in a list of virtues that We have and They don’t. Because evidently there are great regions of the country/parts of the world/relgions/political persuasions where, in negation of all human history and biology, people don’t do that.

  3. Yeah, I was feeling really good about the whole thing, like, hey, maybe we have a narrative that, even if it’s a little corny, kind of sums up how we see ourselves in a positive way. And I think, in general, it really does that. And I’m happy to see “this is what being a Democrat means to me” coming from outside the usual quarters and in a way that feels really vital.

    And then there was that. I think it’s just a misstep. I don’t think it prevents the overall approach from working. But it’s the kind of misstep that leaves a bad taste in the mouths of people who really would like to be able to say “Of course I vote Democratic” without then having to explain myself.

    Ha, I am people.

  4. I don’t see this as ‘Southern Exceptionalism’ as much as an appeal to the better angels of our nature for people born or living in the South. There is nothing wrong in finding merit in certain beliefs and customs and linking them to one’s heritage. After all, would you make a similar criticism of Irish American values? Or Kwanza celebrations of African values?

    We all need a sense of roots. We just need to prune out the bad and keep the good in perspective.

  5. Mark, are you trying to argue that “Tennessee Democrat” is an ethnicity? Because that’s going to make the hiring and firing process on the Hill pretty hilarious.

  6. Aunt B.,

    “Mark, are you trying to argue that “Tennessee Democrat” is an ethnicity?”

    With apologies, no. ‘Endangered species’ perhaps.

    My response was meant for Steve and his comment regarding “Southern Exceptionalsim”” and “American Exceptionalism.”

    If Marks is correct about TN Democrats as superheroes, who gets to be which character? That could be a good game.

    Which TN Democrat would best play:

    Mr. Fantastic
    The Incredible Hulk etc.

  7. To me, it’s just a response to the TNGOP’s rhetoric about “Southern values,” the “Southern character,” etc. And they, the Republicans, have already defined “Southernness” in these same sort of terms. So I think he’s trying to say that the Republicans don’t have exclusive rights to those “Southern” character traits.

    But of course those character traits aren’t exclusively Southern. They’re universal. Anyone who values family, community, hard work, whatever can be a Real Southerner (or a True Midwesterner or an Honest-to-Goodness Pacific Northwesterner or pick-any-region-and-watch-a-political-party-take-this-same-tack-erner), so goes the logic of this strategy. The TNDP has seen Southern pride work for the other party, so they want in on it.

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