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Haupt’s Commentary: The Vanishing Heartland and the American Dream

“The American Dream can no more remain static than can the American nation. We cannot any longer take an old approach to new problems. We must emulate that pioneer quality in our ancestors that made them attempt new methods for a New World.” ~Eleanor Roosevelt

America’s rural Heartland has always played a vital role as the core provider of our natural resources, energy, food and fuel that has kept America’s economy running healthy and free from foreign intrusion.

The strength of the nation’s rural cities and states has been a key contributor to the success in keeping alive the American dream. Localized government and independently owned businesses have provided a way of life that could not be matched anywhere else in the country.

People actively participating in the maintenance of their communities and taking responsibility for their own lives are living proof that, “America is not just a country, it’s an idea.” (Bono Penn)

“The American Dream is a constant reminder that America’s true nature and distinctive grandeur is in promising the common man a better chance to succeed.” (C. Jillson) The Heartland of America is both the economic bellwether and the repository of our national identity.

It is the core of our Democratic Republicanism. This diverse region of farmers, country folk, industrial complexes, factories, and universities, is the heart and soul of conservative values. Rich in natural resources, talent, and labor it is the most desirable place in America to live.

shutterstock_36222505The Heartland is more than a city, a town and a state. It is a way of life. It is reliving the American dream every single day of your life.

The “heartland” is a generic term that refers to the states that used to primarily constitute the Midwest but now all states south of the Mason Dixon Line are now considered the “Heartland.” For years the Midwest was a haven for principled, controlled, religiously ethical government.

Their politics was cautiously guarded by conservatives because it was the only place left in America where “Someone could start with nothing and still achieve the American Dream.” (R. Cruz)

But, in the last few decades, the geography of our heartland has been shrinking faster than Bill Clinton can catch an intern. And now the South, especially the Bible Belt, is the new leader in conservative republican values. Since the Midwest has refused to fight industrial globalization and competition from foreign capitalist gigantism, they are losing ground.

Their landscape of shuttered factories, desperate laid-off workers, family farms consumed by agribusiness, has destroyed once great cities like Cleveland and Detroit. Suburbanites are complacently surviving next door to rural slums haunted by welfare recipients and undocumented workers. “Slums may well be breeding grounds of crime, but middle class suburbs are incubators of apathy and delirium.” (C. Connolly)

Midwesterners were once church going people of principle whose religious values helped maintain their commitment to freedom and their work ethics. But as the years progressed and they distanced themselves from religion and became disenchanted with politics things changed. They became sluggish, less skilled, and used to mediocrity.

They continued to coalesce around their obsolete industrial-age dreams of job security, indifferent to education and failed to defend their political turf. As a result of this, the political and cultural makeup of the Midwest became “bluer” with each election.

With the capricious fluctuation of the political climate their economic future became more clouded each year. That stagnated growth and their ability to maintain their identity.  The Mecca where the American dream was king is now an unpredictable imbroglio of uncertainty.

“When the uncertain future becomes the past, the past in turn becomes uncertain.” ~Mohsin Hamid

The US Southern Heartland is an anomalous region inside our country with a unique political and cultural milieu birthed by the intersection of deep religiosity and puritan work ethic. Consisting of the eleven former Confederate states, along with Kentucky and Oklahoma it was once considered the epitome of moral and political righteousness.

The Bible Belt formed one of the most consistent, reliable and cohesive political foundations for true democratic republican values. Their cultural and political influence on the rest of the United States has been immense.

shutterstock_213654217And the driving force behind this fabled success story is the people and their benevolence, warmth, patriotism and generosity.

Author Michael Lee West once remarked, “There was another thing I had forgotten about the South: It was the one place on earth where an unsuspecting person could get killed by kindness.”

The South headed into the 21st century with the look and feel of prosperity, but events that took place in other parts of the nation had a dramatic effect on the Southern Heartland.  “Regardless of your faith, you can never escape uncertainty.” (S. Alder)

As the national economy continued to erode and the federal government became more dysfunctional, people throughout the North started fleeing their blue, over-governed, over-regulated, and mismanaged states. They flocked to the sanctity of the South like snowbirds from Canada; except for one minor detail: They never returned home in the summer.

And the resulting culture conflict and the introduction of foreign political ideologies have brought a sense of pessimism and uncertainty to the Southern Heartland. 

“The South can be a dangerous place, especially for those who don’t understand it.” ~S. Celebi

As the over reach of the federal government continues to explode, lack of respect for the tenth amendment grows. Although much of this is highly praised and graciously tolerated above the Mason-Dixon Line, it is not taken lightly in what is left of our Heartland. The independent, dignified Southerners are not used to being subjected to over rule, over regulation, and over control of their lives.

It is not just about politics, it is about values, culture, religion, and individual entrepreneurial opportunity. The overarching demographic challenges facing the South and the uncertainty facing our nation as well have created a challenge for all states in the Heartland. With this continuing culture transformation “Nobody knows what will happen after five minutes later!” (Mehmet Murat)

shutterstock_70783081The changing face of the United States is largely a Heartland story. Although it remains a positive influence on the conservative political makeup of America, it is in danger of losing not only its unique identity but its culture, economic freedom and even its religious integrity.

Government programs like Common Core, Obamacare, and green carbon tax credits are tempting many of our governments to think twice about implementing these directives.

What would have been totally unacceptable a few years ago is now being considered a possibility by many lawmakers. The offer of federal money to those with their hands out is becoming too great a temptation to resist. There is a growing concern that, “The only way to get rid of temptation is to yield to it.” (Oscar Wilde)

If we lose the Heartland, we lose the American dream. An ounce of discipline now will be better than a ton of regrets later. We must continue to protect the last remaining arteries that feed our democratic republic. Taking federal money leads to servitude. “Serving one’s own passions is the greatest slavery.” (T. Fuller)

As Plato said, “States are as the men, they grow out of human characters,” and “A good decision is based on knowledge and not on numbers.”

William Haupt III

William Haupt III is a retired professional journalist, citizen legislator in California for 40 plus years, and author. He got his start working to approve prop 13.

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