Video of the Day: Why Is Mississippi So Conservative?

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Filmmaker Alexandra Pelosi heads to the Magnolia State to find out why the nation's poorest state doesn't want things to change.

Liberals remain befuddled by conservative voting patterns in the Deep South. They point out that Mississippi, for example, is the poorest state in the nation. Why would the Magnolia State want to "conserve" anything about the status quo?

In an attempt to answer this question, two bastions of liberalism -- HBO and Bill Maher -- sent Alexandra Pelosi (the daughter of House Minority Leader Nancy) south to investigate. There's a whiff of coastal elitism to the project, which goes so far as to call its subjects "rednecks." And some of what interviewees say confirms the worst negative stereotypes about poor white southerners (although it's impossible to tell how representative the on-camera characters are of the state as a whole): one man is unabashedly a white supremacist, another says he's never liked and never will Obama not because he's black but because he's a "half-breed," and a third avers that his qualm about the president is that a U.S. head of state ought to be "American, not Muslim."

But there are also some interesting exchanges. Filmmaker Alexandra Pelosi, the House minority leader's daughter, is willing to challenge her interviewees and they, with characteristic southern hospitality, are happy to chat. One man complains that government doesn't do anything for him. When she counters that he receives food stamps, he revealingly responds that he feels he deserves it, because he's unemployed. Another explains things succinctly: "We would rather go broke and die hungry than to give up our moral beliefs." It shows that Republican support in the south, though in some cases informed by the Nixonian "Southern Strategy" of playing poor whites against blacks, isn't that simple or cynical.

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David A. Graham

David Graham is a senior associate editor at The Atlantic, where he oversees the Politics Channel. He previously reported for Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, and The National.

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