Southern complaining picks up steam

SOUTHERN COMPLAINING PICKS UP STEAM…. The Politico had a fairly long piece this week, noting that Barack Obama’s cabinet was pretty diverse, but lacked Southerners. The piece suggested there was some grumbling in political circles over this, but it quoted a grand total of two people complaining — both anonymous Hill staffers, one of whom doesn’t even work in Congress anymore.

In the ensuing days, however, the complaints about Obama having “snubbed” the South have picked up steam.

The South may have inched toward Democrats in November, but that progress isn’t showing in President-elect Barack Obama’s Cabinet selections. Obama hasn’t nominated a single Southerner among his 15 Cabinet secretaries. […]

The disparity isn’t an accident — critics already are calling it a snub — and that perception could slow the pace of recent electoral gains Democrats have made below the Mason-Dixon line.

“Southerners need not apply,” said Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Ga. “It’s hard to believe that there wasn’t anybody qualified for something from the South.” […]

Dan Carter, a political historian at the University of South Carolina, said the shortage of Southerners among top White House aides is highly unusual and could invite criticism.

Well, sure, I can think of a lot of things that “could invite criticism.” The point here is whether this warrants criticism.

For that matter, why on earth is the Associated Press telling readers that the lack of Southerners in the cabinet “isn’t an accident”? It isn’t? How does the AP know that? Is the wire service prepared to argue, in a news story, that Obama is deliberately slighting an entire region?

But it’s Jack Kingston’s whining that’s especially jarring. Kingston and his fellow conservatives have argued for years that employers should consider merit when making hiring decisions — and nothing else. No quotas, no affirmative action, no regard for diversity. But the moment Obama picks qualified people for his cabinet, we have a Southern conservative running to the media to cry, “What about people like me?” Indeed, to say that Southerners “need not apply,” suggests that Kingston not only believes his region has been slighted, but also that his region is literally being discriminated against.

This is patently ridiculous. As we talked about the other day, various groups want a seat at the proverbial table, but since when are Southerners an unrepresented minority? Will other regions start questioning whether they’ve been snubbed, too?

Support Nonprofit Journalism

If you enjoyed this article, consider making a donation to help us produce more like it. The Washington Monthly was founded in 1969 to tell the stories of how government really works—and how to make it work better. Fifty years later, the need for incisive analysis and new, progressive policy ideas is clearer than ever. As a nonprofit, we rely on support from readers like you.

Yes, I’ll make a donation