If you’re looking for some interesting (and occasionally infuriating) liberal commentary on the South’s political and cultural influence, I recommend this diary from OpenLeft, this article from Salon, and this entry from the Democratic Strategist.
Here’s a provocative excerpt from the Salon article:
Today the division is no longer between slave and free states, or agrarian and industrial states, but between two models of industrial society — the Northern model, based on adequate public service funding and taxation and unionization, and the Southern model, based on low-tax, low-service government and low-wage, non-unionized, easily exploited labor. If the industrial North and the industrial South compete for global capital investment, then the industrial South is likely to prevail, because Northern advantages in the form of a skilled workforce and superior public services are unlikely to overcome the South’s advantages of low wages and low taxes and state and local tax subsidies. The result, sooner or later, will be the Southernization of the North and Midwest, as states in the historic middle-class core of the U.S. are forced by economic pressure to emulate the arrangements of Alabama and Mississippi and Texas.
The alternative to the Southernization of the U.S. is the Americanization of the South — a process that was not completed by Reconstruction and the New Deal and the Civil Rights era, which can be thought of as the Second Reconstruction. The non-Southern states, through their representatives in Congress and the executive branch, and with the help of enlightened Southerners, need to use the power of the federal government to put a stop to the Southern conservative race-to-the-bottom strategy once and for all.