REVIEW - WELCOME TO THE HOMELAND
Mann, Brian, Welcome to the Homeland: A Journey to the Rural Heart of America's Conservative Revolution. Steerforth Press. Hardbound. 288 pages. $24.95.
This reviewer's first reaction to former Sitkan Mann's book was dismay. Very bad timing for a book on the reason for the triumph of U.S. conservatives just after mid-term elections that showed their eclipse. However, like all thoughtful and well-researched writings on politics, this not only explains the ascendence of the right wing of the Republican party, but goes a long way towards defining the reasons why they recently suffered a crushing defeat.
The author uses his very conservative small town brother, whom he also respects and loves, as the spokesperson for the angry, because they feel overlooked and ignored, the Homelanders.
For anyone who grew up in small towns and tries to remember truthfully, all places and people are a mix of liberal and conservative beliefs. It is as dangerous to label someone who believes in the right to abortion, the current form of Social Security, and all war is immoral is liberal in all other ways, just as it's nonsense to believe a fervent church-going civic booster who believes in the right of the corporate world is conservative in all ways. Somehow, as Mann points out, far too many reporters have accepted this fundamentally flawed view.
There really is no such thing as Red/Blue states. When looked at closely, measles affect a Blue State while ponds dot a Red State. The real divide is between those whom Mann labels Homelanders and Urbans to avoid the tired labels of Conservative and Liberal; those who feel that small towns and rural areas are the real United States and those who feel the same about cities. The clever operatives of the Right have exploited the resentment of hardcore social conservatives and used this vote ultimately to redistrict Congress in their favor, thus insuring federal dollars support large bureaucracies in sparsely populated states. The Electoral College also contributes heavily to the dominance of rural areas. He notes homelanders are made to feel endangered and therefore must vote in lockstep, while the truth is most people are moving to the suburbs, carrying their prejudices with them.
He also observes that the redistricted areas contain razor-thin homelander margins. A major issue, such as the perception that Congress is corrupt or antagonism to the war in Iraq can easily tip the balance.
As the author shows,( although the book was published before the recent election), its result should not surprise anyone. Most people are centrists; extremism of either right or left makes them uneasy.
In all, a most interesting book to read if you're interested in national politics, or even politics as a science. A wake-up call to the cocky socially conservative and the defeatist liberals alike. The Permanent Republican Control is just as ephemeral as the old Permanent Democrat Control of the past.
Buy a copy for the political wonks in your life, but read it before you hand it over.