Thursday, May 7, 2015

Muskogee OK: The Power of Red-State Values? A Catastrophe Is More Like It

They didn't smoke marijuana in Muskogee in Merle Haggard's heyday. This
police photo tells a very different tale of Muskogee today. In a Nelson-Haggard
video, "It's All Going to Pot," it seems times have changed for Merle, too.

The Baltimore riots were latched onto by conservative pundits to demonstrate how Democratic policies have failed in big cities with majority-black populations, with their union-controlled public schools and out-of-wedlock black, single mothers living off welfare and Obama phones. With the likes of John Nolte and Laura Ingraham, we could expect no less.

Thomas B. Edsall, occasional NY Times commentator -- yes, generally from the left but always spot on with his well-researched insights into political and social issues -- quickly pointed out the fallacy at the heart of such conservative criticism:
Today Muskogee, Okla., a city of 38,863, has nine drug treatment centers and a court specifically devoted to drug offenders. A search for “methamphetamine arrest” on the website of the Muskogee Phoenix, the local newspaper, produces 316 hits.
In 2013 just under two-thirds of the births in the city of Muskogee, 62.6 percent, were to unwed mothers, including 48.3 percent of the births to white mothers. The teenage birthrate in Oklahoma was 47.3 per 1,000; in Muskogee, it’s 59.2, almost twice the national rate, which is 29.7.
Muskogee County voted decisively for Ronald Reagan in 1984 and for Republican presidential candidates in the last three elections. In 2012, Romney beat Obama 57.4 to 42.6.
In the Republican bastions of fly-over country -- or the "Heartland," if you prefer -- an equally unsettling catastrophe have been developing among its predominantly white population as they lose their grip on jobs, homes, and the so-called family values of red-state America.

Reagan country is now methamphetamine country, with an ample supply of unwed (white) mothers, as well. Who's telling that story? Not evangelical conservatives. If they honestly told it, what would we find?
Insofar as conservatives identify the erosion of the traditional family as a cause of civic disorder, the erosion is not limited to minority communities in Democratic cities. These trends are increasingly characteristic of white communities in red states.
The highest rates of white teenage pregnancy in the 30 states with available data are in red states. While the national white teenage pregnancy rate in 2010 was 38 per 1,000, white rates were at least 10 points higher in nine states: Oklahoma (59), West Virginia (64), Arkansas (63), South Carolina (51), Alabama (49), Mississippi (55), Tennessee (51), Kentucky (59) and Louisiana (51). Each of these states cast decisive majorities for Romney in 2012.
The high pregnancy and birthrates among white teenagers in states where the Christian right and Tea Party forces are strong reflect the inability of ideological doctrines stressing social conservatism to halt the gradual shift away from traditional family structures.
Red states, with their legislature-mandated abstinence-only sex education, have been plagued with higher teen pregnancy rates than more liberal-minded blue states. But you'd never hear about that in the echo chambers of conservative media. And don't forget, with the proliferation of laws impeding abortion availability in red states, an awful lot of unwed teen mothers are left to try to construct fatherless families with just as grim prospects as the black welfare moms conservatives rail against in their anti-liberal screeds.

Typical home in white rural America? Yeah, and a Muskogee meth house to boot.

Read the Edsall article with its charts and motherlode of information on the failure of family values in Palinville USA. The other failure is by American mainstream media, totally unable to penetrate the dominance of both network news and Fox-style dissembling.

Urban America has its problems, no doubt. But the rural midsection is, perhaps, a larger, far-flung Armageddon unfolding off the radar screen.

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