A Return to “Midwestern Values”?

George Will thinks Americans need to return to “Midwestern values.”

What does this mean? I have many listeners from the Midwest, and they are all great people, but I don’t think any of them would identify with how Will defines “Midwestern values.”

To Will, like all Straussians and neoconservatives, “Midwestern values” rely on the Lincoln myth of America.

Will makes this clear in this Washington Post opinion piece.

You see, Midwesterners avoided the lash of slavery and righteously fought for the Union. They also grew a lot of corn to feed crusading Union soldiers singing His Truth is Marching On.

This is a clear distortion of the real underpinnings of Midwestern culture, namely the South and Jeffersonian America.

We have to remember that Southerners obtained the Midwest for the United States–George Rogers Clark–and Southerners, at least initially, settled the region. The Northwest Territory was at one time called Augusta Co., Virginia.

It wasn’t until later that Yankees started showing up, and coupled with outcast German revolutionaries, changed the dominant political makeup of the region. But I would argue not the character.

Midwesterners have been primarily rural people, Jeffersonian to the core. The “Midwestern values” that Will trumpets are in fact, Southern.

Slavery had nothing to do with the cultural norms of Southerners. As David Hackett Fischer has shown in Albion’s Seed, slavery did not create Southern culture. Nor did “racism,” which was a feature of American life North and South for generations.

Southerners defined America for much of the antebellum period. New Englanders like Charles Sumner knew it, which is why they tried desperately to foist their version of America on the rest of the United States.

Will is really suggesting that America needs to be saved by “Yankee New England” values, something we already have. Just look around.

The United States is governed by California and New York, and not the good parts of either State.

But as usual, a bad George Will column makes for great Podcast fodder, so I hammer his faux “Midwestern values” on Episode 757 of The Brion McClanahan Show.

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