Red State Hypocrisy

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The big moralizing about Mark Sanford has begun–I mean, the kind of typically American penchant for reading Large Meanings into the latest celebrity example of old-time human frailties (cf. Simpson, O.J.). Who can resist?

Certainly  not the moralists of the New York Times. On Saturday, there was liberal statistics op-ed guy Charles Blow with some charts showing that it’s not just Sanford who’s hypocritical but the preponderance of states that tend to vote Republican. That is to say, when it comes to rates of divorce, teen birth, and subscriptions to online porn, it’s the red states that cluster up at the top, the blue states towards the bottom. Then today comes Ross Douthat, the Times‘ fresh-baked conservative, with a little pop sociology claiming that it’s the middle Americans who go in for romance and adultery and disorderly lives, not the hard-charging meritocrats.

Actually, they’re both pretty much saying the same thing. The elites who drive the blue states talk libertinism and practice Puritanism while the ordinary folks who dominate the red states fail to practice what they preach. What gives?

Take their religion, please. As anyone who has lived in the South knows, it’s a region that is, as it’s always been, typified by a lot of bad behaving and a lot of moralizing religion. That’s the whole point. The religion is there to keep the bad behaving in line, and every now and then it manages to. Read this account of the spiritual boot camp the Sanfords hosted at the executive mansion in May. The governor wasn’t so much a hypocrite as a backslider. Stuff happens.