What's Wrong with the South?

That's the question liberal pundits are asking following an embarrassing poll.

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Liberal bloggers are trying to understand a recent poll, above, that showed an alarming proportion of Southerners believe Barack Obama is not American or are unsure. Dave Weigel crunched those poll numbers to deduce that "the proportion of white Southern voters with doubts about their president's citizenship may be higher than 70 percent," though he concedes the smaller sample size would lead to a higher margin of error. A similar poll, to be released tomorrow, reports only 32% of Virginians believe Obama to be American.

The crazy South. Steve Benen wrote, "Outside the South, this madness is gaining very little traction, and remains a fringe conspiracy theory. Within the South, it's practically mainstream." Matt Yglesias suggested that Republicans are "trying to get non-southern whites to act more like southern whites." Salon's Alex Koppelman argued that Southern Republicans are inherently further right than the rest of the party, writing, "The Republican Party has a Southern problem: It's been largely pushed out of other regions, and has become dominated by Southerners who are pushing the party even further to the right in what's become a downward spiral."

Liberal pundits are frequently citing remarks from Republican Senator George V. Voinovich of Ohio as proof. When asked to identify his party's biggest problem, he pointed south. "It's the southerners," he said. "They get on TV and go 'errrr, errrrr.' People hear them and say, 'These people, they're southerners. The party's being taken over by southerners. What they hell they got to do with Ohio?'"

The South's complex history. The Atlantic's own Ta-Nehisi Coates referenced "the weight of white supremacy on white Southeners, and the problems of trying to erect a populist aristocracy." Coates argued that the poll results could be explained by the class history of the South. "I can understand why a disproportionate number of white Southerners (if not 70 percent) can't seem to accept what's happened," he wrote. "The peon is king. What does that make you?"

The regional echo chamber. Daniel Larison wrote for the American Conservative, "My guess is that the reason why the South as a region has so many more people in agreement with Birther nonsense or those who are "unsure" about Obama's citizenship is that it still has a much larger population of Republicans, and partisan hatred of the President is much greater there. This makes it more fertile ground for believing nonsensical claims about the President, because it is a region with a higher concentration of people willing to believe almost anything negative about a leading member of the other party."

Why are liberal bloggers hatin' on the South so much? If Andrew Sullivan is right that "the GOP is an almost entirely Southern party," and if the GOP is the mortal enemy of liberal blogs ... well, you do the math. NBC's Deputy Political Director Mark Murray suggested that the GOP and the South are increasingly the same thing, noting a "sharp divide between the Republican base and South versus the rest of the country."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.