A federal judge in Alabama has struck down the state's ban on gay marriage, and by now a majority of the state's counties are complying.
I definitely would not have predicted Alabama to be the first domino to fall in the Deep South, given that Atlanta is one of the gayest cities on Earth. The waves of laissez-faire transplants flooding Atlanta also make it more deviance-friendly.
First I figured the federal judge must be some blue-state transplant to a college town, appointed by Clinton or Obama. But nope: she's Southern born and raised, went to college in the South, holds court in Mobile (a Gulf Coast redneck town), and appointed by Bush Jr. Her grandfather, Richard Rives, was a native Alabamian lawyer who furthered the Civil Rights movement during his tenure as a federal appellate judge.
You'd think if she were a lone voice, there would be greater resistance. But the counties caved in pretty quickly. Especially since the Chief Justice of the state Supreme Court said that the go-ahead for gay marriage was unconstitutional, and told his state's judges not to comply. That would have been a halfway decent source of plausible deniability -- just following orders from the state Chief Justice. Most local judges must not have felt strong opposition to gay marriage to begin with. "Finally, the chance to over-ride those braindead voters!"
I looked over the timing of when each county began to comply, and it looked like the area around Montgomery in the south caved quicker, and that there was somewhat of a cluster of hold-outs in the northeastern part of the state, although it wasn't a very strong pattern. The northeast part of the state is the most heavily Appalachian and the whitest, while the southern and western parts are more Deep South / Plantation, with a more balanced mix of blacks and whites, or majority black.
Perhaps we're seeing the trouble with otherwise conservative folks defending their values if they don't make up such a solid majority of the regional population. Most folks who've never visited the Deep South think it's just full of white rednecks who outnumber a tiny handful of blacks. (This false impression comes from viewing the entire South as a never-ending lynch mob.) But the Plantation region in the southeastern U.S. has been substantially or majority black for centuries, and whites have only ever been a dominant force in the hilly and mountainous parts at the southern end of Appalachia, like Birmingham and Atlanta.
Putnam's research on the sowing of distrust within ethnically diverse cities suggests that a similar pattern would work at the level of states and regions. The Plantation South is too deeply divided racially to withstand attempts to screw over the ordinary whites for the benefit of some other group -- blacks, queers, whoever.
Too-high levels of diversity make it hard for whites to stick up for themselves at a higher level than the personal. An individual white man in Alabama can stare down or hurl curse words at blacks. But if many whites try to organize to protect their own interests -- "Wow, seriously? Are we, like, back in the KKK era again?"
It doesn't matter which piece of their culture they're trying to protect -- prayer in school, statue of the Ten Commandments in the state Supreme Court building, ban on gay marriage, whatever. Those things are all highly distinctive of white culture, therefore an attempt to protect one is secretly an attempt to promote their ethnic group over the other one. They can't win.
Farther north in West Virginia, those same cultural elements would still be found among whites, but since there are no blacks around, they are not seen as distinctly white. So, protecting them up there is not seen as an attempt to promote one's own ethnic group against The Other.
I don't think federal pressure plays much of a role. White Alabamians don't give a damn what the federal gubmint thinks of them, nor do they care about the opinions of the Puritanical Yankees, corn farmers, or surfer fags. It must be a more regional concern, like a civil war could erupt within Alabama or the Deep South itself, largely on racial lines as it did during the Civil Rights era.
West Virginians don't have to worry about an ethnic civil war, since up there it's a matter of whether you're Scotch-Irish, Welsh, Border English, or German. Even "big" cities nearby like Wheeling or Pittsburgh would expose you to a more exotic mix of Hunkies, Polacks, Dagoes, and Wops, but that's about it. The city of 300,000 is 65% non-Hispanic white, and just 25% black.
Now, this is not to say that The Other side in Alabama is a big fan of gay marriage. Obviously the blacks are against it too. You'd think both races could come together and stand firm against the homo agenda.
But that ignores the climate of distrust, both within groups and between groups, that stems from a highly diverse population. This vacuum of willpower, organization, and evangelism will be filled by elite, organized outsiders (and some elite natives) pushing their own special interests.
Black and white working-class men couldn't unite for labor rights, so that collective bargaining has been abysmal, thwarted by Big Business interests. Blacks and whites worry about who would benefit more from a decent provision of government services, so that basic welfare, infrastructure, and education have taken a back seat to elite groups, who are only too happy to pocket that tax money for themselves and their cronies rather than spread the wealth around. And now we see blacks and whites failing to unite against gay marriage, so that a federal judge expressing a minority opinion can single-handedly expose the whole state to the epidemic.
More and more I'm coming to believe Appalachia and its neighbors to be the only hope for a cohesive white culture that is even halfway conservative. Recall from this earlier post that the only federal judge to give the thumbs up to state bans on gay marriage came from Cincinnati, benefiting the citizens of Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky, and Tennessee.
New England and the Upper Midwest is still highly white, which allows them to achieve their goals easily, but those happen to be liberal SWPL goals. No one will cry racism if some high school in Vermont wants to fund a ski team ("blacks don't ski! that's only for white folks!"). And the northern parts of the Mountain states are still pretty white, but they have more of a laissez-faire morality stemming from their anything-goes Frontier roots.
That leaves the region that cuts across many state borders, but stretches mostly from a northern pole around Pittsburgh through a southern pole around Atlanta or Birmingham (no coincidence that it's nicknamed "the Pittsburgh of the South"). The jury's still out on whether Atlanta will be saved on Judgment Day, since it's plunged headlong into the "do whatever" morality in order to grow as big as possible, as fast as possible.
In these most interesting times to follow, we ought to keep in mind how individual desires may not percolate up to a collective action, if the region is too ethnically diverse. Remember Putnam's most troubling discovery -- on top of a diverse area making people distrust those from outside ethnic groups, it also makes them distrust members of their own group. Without that basic level of trust, don't expect their shared individual desires to take collective form.