Laura Ingraham Disturbing Views About Culture

There has been a deluge of responses to Laura Ingraham's recent diatribe about culture and immigration, but I want to look at her rhetoric from a different perspective. The perspective I want to look at is statements by Ingraham about cultures changing over time and the implications in regards to policies about these changes.

There has been a deluge of responses to Laura Ingraham’s recent diatribe about culture and immigration, but I want to look at her rhetoric from a different perspective. To be sure, the overall response that Laura Ingraham’s rhetoric is racist is in my view correct. When one looks at her statements about immigration, both legal and illegal, and its effect on culture and when one looks at the numbers it is hard not accept the claim that it is not about race/ethnicity. Most immigrants in the latter half of the 20th century and the 2000’s onward have been non-European/Canadian; that is most immigrants are not white. How one can think these comments are not racially motivated is hard to believe.

The perspective I want to look at is statements by Ingraham about cultures changing over time and the implications in regards to policies about these changes. Namely this quote,

“In some parts of the country it does seem like the America we know and love doesn’t exist anymore,” Ingraham continued. “Massive demographic changes have been foisted upon the American people. And they’re changes that none of us ever voted for and most of us don’t like. “Now much of this is related to both illegal and, in some cases, legal immigration that of course progressives love,” she added.

Here is the video itself,

This statement is wrongheaded in several ways, besides the racist element in Ingraham’s rhetoric noted above. The idea that culture is “foisted” on us is utter nonsense. Culture is part of the world we live in and it is the product of the interactions of people in said culture. The idea of it being foisted on “us” is a category error. It is like saying weather is “foisted” upon us. And that cultural changes are something we can vote on is as daft and stupid as the idea of voting economic decisions like how many cars to make. Culture is another example of an unguided process and emergent behavior. That is, there is nobody in charge of culture. Nobody “owns” culture. Culture is always changing and evolving and it changes and evolves via the interactions of those people in the culture and often via the interaction with people from other cultures. So in a sense Ingraham is right, yes the American “culture” is going to change from what it once was. Ingraham is completely blinkered to think that it is something we can control let alone it is something we should vote on.

In fact, I would argue that trying to exert control over culture could lead to disastrous outcomes. Imagine trying to “preserve” one’s culture. To do so you’d have to prevent those interactions that do not preserve that culture. And how do you stop people from doing that? I suppose you could ask them to not engage in those interactions, but they might decide to do so anyways. The only way to prevent such interactions is through coercion and even violence. Which is exactly what we are seeing from the Trump Administration. The Administrations “zero tolerance” policy is having a law enforcement organization go out into the general population and using coercion take people who are here illegally and send out of the country. And the more people are out there doing things that are perceived as having a potential to “change the native culture” the more one will have to clamp down via coercion and violence. And culture is not just simply activities like crimes they are attitudes and views, that is thoughts. So we’d probably see a shift towards thought policing and there could very well emerge a “snitch culture” within society as people are encouraged to “snitch” on their friends, family and neighbors for daring to engage in activities and expressing thoughts that are not in accord with the culture that is being “preserved”.

Further, the very notion of voting on something like this should be seen as an alarm by everyone that belongs to a minority in the U.S. If you are Jewish, black, Hispanic, Muslim, maybe even Catholic, etc. When people vote, the outcomes tend to reflect the views and attitudes of the majority. Indeed the outcome in simple one dimensional elections reflects the views of the median voter. If you are on the “wrong side” of the median voter you are in trouble. If you are a member of a minority Laura Ingraham’s statements could be read as an existential threat to said minorities. And given the way demographics are going (white people no longer being a majority in about 25 years) it is not that unreasonable to see this as yet another in a long line of statements that have more than a whiff of white supremacy to them.

An additional concern about “voting for culture” is what exactly is “American culture”? Is there a list of the elements that comprise “American culture”? No. So how do we decide what is American and what is not from a cultural standpoint? What if 50.1% of Americans do X and 49.9% of Americans do not do X? What then? Do we force those not doing X to do X? If we don’t, then what if the numbers are 51% to 49% or 55% to 45%? Where exactly is this cutoff? Or, do we elect of group of people who decide what is and is not “our culture”? Would that group be subject to the influence of special interest groups and those with money? Do we put this kind of power in the hands of the President. I hope people who are on both the Left and the Right can see a problem with this. “Your guy” is not always going to be in the Presidency.

Lastly, culture is not something that be “frozen in amber”. We can preserve culture in a historical sense. We can put artifacts, descriptions, etc. in museums so that we can go and see what our culture was like at various points in time and see how it changed and evolved over time. But we cannot stop that process. To stop that process could very well kill that culture. Cultures that insulate themselves from the world and interactions with other cultures get left behind. There is more to culture than what people look like. Cultures that are not open to new ideas do not benefit from those new ideas. A culture that is walled off and using force and violence against its own members to prevent cultural change will likely see that pernicious effect spread to other areas such as the economy. Is coming up with a new labor saving innovation viewed as antithetical to that culture? If yes, then that culture will become increasingly poor.

Laura Ingraham’s views are nothing short of extremely disturbing. Not only are they overtly racist, in my view, these views also represent a type of thinking that, again in my view, are simply un-American. Ingraham’s views are anti-liberty, anti-diversity, and in the end will turn America into something Americans will no longer recognize. It will be a step closer to fascism.

FILED UNDER: Borders and Immigration, Race and Politics, US Politics
Steve Verdon
About Steve Verdon
Steve has a B.A. in Economics from the University of California, Los Angeles and attended graduate school at The George Washington University, leaving school shortly before staring work on his dissertation when his first child was born. He works in the energy industry and prior to that worked at the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the Division of Price Index and Number Research. He joined the staff at OTB in November 2004.

Comments

  1. HarvardLaw92 says:

    Fox’s product is pandering to and exacerbating white anxiety. This is nothing new. It’s just a little (and I stress a little) more overt than what they usually spew.

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  2. tess says:

    You might ask all the famous Black people who write articles, have talk shows, etc how they feel. I have yet to hear any one of them scream Trump is a racist, or Laura is a racist.

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  3. James Pearce says:

    I’m not really sure Ingraham’s monologue deserved to go viral…

    That said, one thing bugs me about her response:

    Furthermore, as I have said repeatedly on this show, merit based immigration does wonders for our country’s economy, our way of life and how we define our country – I even said that in my opening thoughts last night.

    Who are they kidding? The Trumpies don’t believe in merit based immigration either.

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  4. Mister Bluster says:

    @tess:..racist

    I am an obscure caucasian who has never been published but I did call Alan Colmes once when he had his own nationally syndicated radio talk show.
    You can eMail me your phone number so I can call you and scream that Trump is a racist right into your ear.

    misterbluster@getbent.com

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  5. Mister Bluster says:

    I’m not really sure Ingraham’s monologue deserved to go viral…

    How are you going to stop anything from going viral on the internet?

  6. Yank says:

    Who are they kidding? The Trumpies don’t believe in merit based immigration either.

    If it just for immigrants from Europe then they are fine with it.

  7. An Interested Party says:

    I have yet to hear any one of them scream Trump is a racist, or Laura is a racist.

    They don’t need to…it is quite obvious to anyone who is sentient that these two are racists…

    If it just for immigrants from Europe then they are fine with it.

    Well, Northern Europe…

  8. gVOR08 says:

    In my opinion Ingraham is making a basic, and typically conservative error.

    A few years ago I read Russel Kirk’s The Conservative Mind because it was supposed to be the great book on conservatism. I recommend it to anyone who wants to understand conservatism . It’s informative. Not in any way Kirk intended, but informative. (I also recommend reading the first few chapters, then skimming a lot. Stealing a line from Catch 22, Kirk’s prose is too prolix, And he’s highly repetitious.) Kirk blamed enclosures, industrialization, and urbanization on liberals. I have called this “Kirk’s Fallacy”, blaming all change one doesn’t like (which for conservatives is most change) on political liberals. You see it today, LBGT rights were really driven by culture, not politics. Democrats adapted to it, but Democrats didn’t drive it.

    Conservatives confuse culture and politics. George Lakoff says they view the world through a framing of simple morality. If a bad thing happened, someone must be to blame, and we can fix the problem by punishing whoever’s to blame. There must be a villain, and it’s probably “libruls”, and minorities, and furriners. That’s really what elected Trump. They think MAGA means bringing back the white protestant culture of their dreams.

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  9. James Pearce says:

    How are you going to stop anything from going viral on the internet?

    I didn’t even know Ingraham said something stupid until I saw all the tweets, many of them with the clip embedded. No doubt they were all shining a light on stupid ideas, as Steve does here, but I also can’t but think…maybe they’re kinda spreading them too?

    I don’t know about you, but I watched Master Chef Wednesday night. Didn’t even know Ingraham was on.

    If it just for immigrants from Europe then they are fine with it.

    Eastern Europe.

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  10. Blue Galangal says:

    @James Pearce: You claim to be extremely knowledgeable and technologically conversant, yet you also claim not to understand the phenomenon of “going viral,” which you (literally) just defined:

    I didn’t even know Ingraham said something stupid until I saw all the tweets, many of them with the clip embedded.

    [emphasis mine]

    I grade this concern troll post a 70/100 on execution but a solid 92/100 on subtlety.

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  11. Slugger says:

    Culture is Art, Science, Literature, Music, and stuff like that. These things are actually not located in fly-over country, and the practitioners are Jews, Negroes, and Asians. For instance, American culture is exemplified by world leadership in music, and without question the vigor of American music flows from the African diaspora. There would be no Elvis without Africa. Where would American sports be without Blacks? Ms. Ingraham is not talking about culture; she is just avoiding explicit racial invective. As Lee Atwater famously said you can’t say N***** anymore; thus she says Culture.

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  12. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @James Pearce: It’s certainly a dilemma, true enough. There is a solution, though. It’s called ignorance.

  13. MBunge says:

    Ingraham did not say culture was being “foisted” on the American people. It’s right there in the excepted quote. She’s talking about demographic changes. IT’S RIGHT THERE.

    If you want to call her views racist, go right ahead but at least have the integrity to criticize what she actually said and not refashion it into some Manichaean pablum.

    Mike

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  14. JohnMcC says:

    I was struck immediately with Ms Ingraham’s claim that the horrible changes she experiences are one that ‘we never voted for’.

    Actually, congress voted for them. I am assuming that her complaint is that large numbers on non-Americans becoming Americans and importing their ‘culture’ is what she’s talking about, of course. And that limiting or abolishing large numbers of immigrants would have been better policy. (I’m being way too kind to the lady, I suspect, but let me go on….)

    The present laws date from 1965. Prior to that there was a hodge-podge of laws governing various nationalities that controlled immigrant numbers from this country and that, beginning with the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. Pretty much anyone from eastern- or southern-Europe, from Asia or Africa was S-O-L. In the early ’60’s three countries accounted for 70% of immigration. You guessed right; they were Germans, Britons and Irishmen.

    In the context of a world-wide conflict with Communism, this appeared to be a bad deal even to Dixiecrats.

    So the very foundation of Ms Ingraham’s rant is false, ignorant and reveals slovenly thinking.

    Shocking!

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  15. An Interested Party says:

    She’s talking about demographic changes.

    OK, what she said is still racist…problem solved…

  16. Steve Verdon says:

    @An Interested Party:

    Indeed, her “demographic change” is where there are more non-white/non-christians moving into America…and it either scares her or she cynically is using this “fear of the other/unknown” to support her blinkered agenda.

    The solution is not to stop immigration, but to ensure our institutions are such that they cannot be altered by such demographic changes. These institutions should favor liberty, innovation, trial-and-error, personal responsibility, a reasonable degree of prudence, and openness to new and different concepts.

    The idea of directly intervening in the economy or even worse our culture will not achieve that above ideals. If anything it will work against them.

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  17. Steve Verdon says:

    @Slugger:

    I think it is wrong to say that our “culture” is not located in fly over country. You really should not be so hardhearted. Listen to the EconTalk podcast with Chris Arnade, look at his photography from “fly over” country and elsewhere.

    http://www.econtalk.org/chris-arnade-on-the-mexican-crisis-tarp-and-american-poverty/

    It is like you learned absolutely nothing from Hillary Clinton’s loss in 2016.

    I really, really urge you to listen to that podcast. Chris Arnade worked on Wall Street during the Mexican Bailout (read “bailout of Wall St.”) and also during the 2008 meltdown. He had serious crisis as a result of those bailouts and the corruption they entailed and left. Since then he has been travelling around the U.S. and talking to people in “fly over country” it is not what you seem to think it is.

  18. Steve Verdon says:

    @MBunge:

    Ingraham did not say culture was being “foisted” on the American people. It’s right there in the excepted quote. She’s talking about demographic changes. IT’S RIGHT THERE.

    WTF are you drunk? It is literally right there in the quote.

    “Massive demographic changes have been foisted upon the American people.”

    If you are not drunk, high, or in some other state that renders your ability to reason suspect I can only assume you are simply denying reality….which is not good. You should seek professional help.

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  19. Steve Verdon says:

    @James Pearce:

    I’m not really sure Ingraham’s monologue deserved to go viral…

    I disagree. I think it shows what many Trump supporters are actually thinking. And as such, seeing in a widespread viral video is good. It shows everyone the ugliness that this Administration has emboldened.

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  20. Gustopher says:

    @James Pearce:

    I didn’t even know Ingraham said something stupid until I saw all the tweets, many of them with the clip embedded. No doubt they were all shining a light on stupid ideas, as Steve does here, but I also can’t but think…maybe they’re kinda spreading them too

    The alternative to publically identifying the racists who spew their racist hate is to just shrug and hope they go away, or give up on a broad swath of the population.

    Weren’t you chiding everyone in a previous thread for giving up on Louisiana, Kansas and like?

  21. @Lava Land: Yeah! Whatabout Sarah Jeong? Let’s change the subject.

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  22. Gustopher says:

    @Slugger:

    Culture is Art, Science, Literature, Music, and stuff like that. These things are actually not located in fly-over country.

    Bullshit.

    I’ll take Dock Boggs and Ollabelle Reed over any rap any day of the week. Johnny Cash, Doc Watson, the Carter Family… there’s some been some serious culture coming from the middle of the country. Dolly Parton. Prince. They’re in a bit of a dry spell, but if you’ve listened to modern music from the coasts, they aren’t the only ones.

    Professional Wrestling is a modern interpretation of traditional morality plays. NASCAR taps into everyone’s existential dread of traffic circles.

    And the fine folks of Florida have gathered together to provide the rest of the country with what I desperately hope is some kind of performance art.

    There’s lots of culture coming from the middle of the country. You just choose to ignore it.

  23. Gustopher says:

    @Lava Land: you missed the Sarah Jeong post? Well, I think you should go hunt it down and read it.

    Once you’ve found it and read it, then come back and join the conversation. But as it is now, you are entirely out of your depth. Best to just go away until you find it.

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  24. Gustopher says:

    Laura Ingraham does, in her own racist way, bring up an important point — the United States has had several large waves of immigration, with a fair bit of pushback from conservatives in each instance, generally with warnings about culture, and race, and sometimes Papists.

    We’ve had Italians, Germans and Irish, and in each case they were viewed as not “white” until suddenly they were. I find it hard to understand why anyone thought the Irish weren’t white, when they are the whitest things on the face of the earth, but I digress.

    So, this brings up a few questions:

    – How do we rid ourselves of this racist underbelly of society?

    – What has to happen for Hispanics to be suddenly declared white by this racist underbelly and be considered as American as Pizza, Pasta, Hot Dogs and –um– Cabbage?

    – Is this wave actually larger than the previous waves? Is there actually something special about the current environment that makes this different?

    – Chinese Exclusion Acts… racist as fvck, right? Let’s not do that again…

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  25. Neil Hudelson says:

    @Gustopher:

    They’re in a bit of a dry spell,

    Unless you count Eminem, Kanye, Common, Lupe Fiasco, Chance the Rapper, Foxygen, Houndmouth, the unending tidal wave of music coming from Nashville–all bands either at the height of musical influence, or with the fastest growing popularity.

    I would argue that the Midwest/Plains states do not lack for culture, but rather have just the right amount of culture in ratio to our population.

    We’re pulling our load, culturally speaking.

  26. Slugger says:

    @Gustopher: I gave you an upvote for NASCAR and professional wrestling references.

  27. Kylopod says:

    @Gustopher:

    We’ve had Italians, Germans and Irish, and in each case they were viewed as not “white” until suddenly they were. I find it hard to understand why anyone thought the Irish weren’t white, when they are the whitest things on the face of the earth, but I digress.

    A lot of that had to do with religion: most of the new immigrants from Europe in the early 20th century were Catholic or Jewish.

  28. Kylopod says:

    In the 1920s a Congressional report included the following quote: “The great mass of aliens passing through Rotterdam at the present time are Russian Poles or Polish Jews of the usual ghetto type…. They are filthy, un-American and often dangerous in their habits.” In other words, Stephen Miller’s ancestors.

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  29. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @tess:

    I have yet to hear any one of them scream Trump is a racist, or Laura is a racist

    That’s because in your blinkered sheltered little world, you don’t have to listen to them.

  30. JohnMcC says:

    @Kylopod: Just a little note from the old history major that lots of other things were going on in the 1880’s to 1920’s. The 2d generation Klan achieved mainstream status (filling Madison Sq Garden, marching in D.C. in tens of thousands). Reconstruction was ended in 1876. Union activity was met with Pinkertons and Militias that opened fire on crowds and burned villages. “Scientific” books were written about the inferiority of non-whites and the cultural backwardness of Catholic Europe (Max Weber – Protestant Ethic & the Spirit of Capitalism). The Daughters of the Confederacy were busily hoisting heroic statues throughout the land.

    I could go on and on. (My children tell me I did and do.) But Ms Ingraham is only the latest in a long and ugly thread that partially defines America. Her rant should be a warning like the Nazis in Charlottesville.

    They are us if we let ourselves become them.

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  31. James Pearce says:

    You claim to be extremely knowledgeable and technologically conversant

    I don’t claim anything but a viewpoint different from yours. (My middle name is Contrarian.)

    It shows everyone the ugliness that this Administration has emboldened.

    I can appreciate that, sure, but I just think the fact that the ugliness has been emboldened is enough to be somewhat wary of this approach. The white nationalist right is going through this “respectability” thing, with Ingraham on TV spewing their nonsense, and maybe the best course is to give them very little.

  32. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    (My middle name is Contrarian.)

    Don’t worry, as you mature, you’ll grow out of it.

  33. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Gustopher: @Neil Hudelson:
    Of course flyover country generates great cultural artists. Virtually all of whom use their first royalty check to get the hell out of flyover country and move to LA or NYC.

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  34. Kylopod says:

    @JohnMcC: What fascinates me is the way some of the anti-immigrant hawks today are themselves the descendants of immigrants who were once treated with similar scorn by the WASP establishment. Ingraham herself is a Catholic whose maternal grandparents were Polish immigrants. The stuff she’s saying now about demographic changes being foisted upon the American people is virtually identical to stuff that was once said about people like her grandparents.

  35. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Kylopod: How quickly we forget. I speak as a third generation Italian-American.

  36. Steve Verdon says:

    @Gustopher:

    – How do we rid ourselves of this racist underbelly of society?

    – What has to happen for Hispanics to be suddenly declared white by this racist underbelly and be considered as American as Pizza, Pasta, Hot Dogs and –um– Cabbage?

    – Is this wave actually larger than the previous waves? Is there actually something special about the current environment that makes this different?

    – Chinese Exclusion Acts… racist as fvck, right? Let’s not do that again…

    Answering in order…

    I have no idea. Continue to react negatively to those who display bigoted behavior and language? I will say this, when people from two different cultures interact there is bound to be frictions. But I would say those frictions are necessary to “smooth off the rough edges”. So whatever can be done to encourage such interactions is also good. I don’t know how to do that either.

    No idea. It will likely happen after assimilation which typically takes about 5 generations. After about the 5th generation people of a given ethnic group usually stop referring to themselves as being a member of that ethnic group. This is one reason by research on assimilation is tough. Around the 5th generation it is harder to study members of that ethnic group because they no longer identify with that ethnic group and tend to be missed and all people end up looking at are those who have been here for fewer generations…hence the “they won’t/don’t assimilate” claims.

    Current immigration is larger in absolute terms, but then so are populations so one would have to look at the relative size say, immigrant numbers vs. native population. Is it larger? I don’t know. But we have gone through periods of considerably high immigration and it was not a disaster and in fact it likely changed the culture of this country into what Laura Ingraham recalls with her rose tinted glasses.

    As for the Chinese exclusion act, indeed.

    @Kylopod:

    Indeed and the rhetoric was pretty much the same as we have today, they are lazy, intellectually inferior, they breed to fast, despite being lazy they apparently work for low pay (ironically this brought about the first minimum wage laws/arguments), they are criminals, they won’t assimilate, they won’t learn English, etc.

    With regards to Asians it was pure racism in terms of rhetoric and also including an almost magical quality to Asians. That the Asian could live on a mere handful of rice each day whereas a “white man” needed meat to survive hence if something is not done, the Asian’s will displace white men and without work and an income the white race could soon go extinct. They even had a term for it, “Race suicide”. That if you did not hold back these masses of Asians who could live on a mere handful of rice why soon there would be no more white people left.

    But as I noted above they do assimilate, they do learn English and soon they stop referring to themselves as Polish, or German, or Italian, and simply say, “I am an American.” This type of behavior is called “ethnic attrition” in research literature. The biggest driver is inter-marriage with people who have been here for 5+ generations and refer to themselves simply as Americans.

  37. Steve Verdon says:

    I did not address Laura Ingraham’s utter dishonesty in my post, but will do so here as a comment.

    Ingraham’s use of particular cases of Bad Things™ happening that involved immigrants is utterly dishonest. If you have a large number of people it is inevitable that some of them are going to do bad things. If we took 1,000,000 of her precious white Americans whose families have been here for 5 or more generations a subset of them will be murderers, rapists, drug dealers, drug users, etc. Indeed some will be child rapists…which according to her should never happen! So lets lock up all Americans? That is what she is implying with her despicable rhetoric.

    If we had magic we might be able to tell ex ante who is going to be an awful criminal and do awful things. But we don’t live in a world with magic so we can’t. And to punish those who are not going to do awful things by excluding them from a better life in America is indeed quite bad.

    And we do have millions of people coming here from Europe and Canada….how come none of her examples included any of them. They clearly must be out there.

    No, Laura Ingraham is nothing but a despicable racist.

  38. grumpy realist says:

    @Kylopod: That’s why it’s so hilarious to read Pat’s fulmination about Those Evil Immigrants–100 years ago the exact same thing would have been said about Pat’s ancestors.

    Sort of equivalent to the pro-lifers who go off and get abortions: “oh, but MY abortion is acceptable because I’m a pure and chaste woman who just happened to get into trouble, not like those sluts over there getting abortions.”

    (Sorry, Pat, you’re still a slut.)

  39. Kylopod says:

    @grumpy realist: Who is the “Pat” you’re referring to? Pat Buchanan? He certainly would fit in this category (a German/Irish Catholic).

  40. Monala says:

    @Michael Reynolds: Prince remained based in Milwaukee. Elvis continued to live in Memphis.

  41. An Interested Party says:

    The white nationalist right is going through this “respectability” thing, with Ingraham on TV spewing their nonsense, and maybe the best course is to give them very little.

    Actually, it is the idiot in the White House who is giving the white nationalist right “respectability” but, of course, we should completely ignore his tweets…

  42. Joe says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    I was thinking of the same point as Monala, but Prince stayed and died in Minneapolis. Jeff Tweedy still lives in Chicago, as did Steve Goodman. I am sure we can identify many others. People, successful people in particular, get to go where they want.

    If only all musicians were forced to write in the idiom of the Polka, the Polka would be a lot more popular. Unfortunately, popularity and not the Polka, is the measure. Sorry, Laura. You want your culture to win out. Get them to be more popular – an not by legislation.