There is no accent quite like the southern accent, and there is no Southern accent quite like the Southern politician’s. Spend any time in the South–especially in the rapidly growing suburban and exurban South–and you’ll hear the drawl. The men sound just a tiny bit folksier, as if your doctor would be just as comfortable plowing a field as he would be reading an X-ray. The women just sound nice, so that the same words you hear in daily life across the U.S. somehow come off kinder and gentler.

But there is nothing–absolutely nothing–subtle about the Southern politician’s accent. No sir. To hear the Southern politician talk is to hear the backwoods come to the big city. Their past profession doesn’t matter. Neither does their upbringing. There’s something about runnin’ for office in the South that exaggerates that drawl and drops all those g’s.

At its heart, Southern politics is cultural politics. That’s because Southern politics isn’t just about the South as it is–representing its concrete economic and religious interests, for example–it’s also about the South as it sees itself. The idea of the South is very important to the people of the South, and it has been for a very long time.