Gene Expression

Normally I don’t blog politics since I don’t know shit really. I generally subscribe to 2-3 political feeds which I regularly rotate to keep me “hooked in.” Today I saw something so so shockingly stupid, or, brazenly mendacious, that I had to take note. Red Massachusetts?:

…And a Scots-Irish war veteran as the Republican nominee complicates predictions about whom Kennedy Country will support come November.

Most of the commentary seems fine, if disputable; I might not agree, but it’s political pundrity, about as rooted in reality as sports predictions. James Kirchick graduated from Yale with a degrees in history and political science, so I assume he knows something and has the processing power to engage in a fair amount of rigorous ratiocination. The reference to “Kennedey Country” has to do with the fact that Massachusetts is demographically dominated by Irish Americans and their political culture. This is not identical to Scots-Irish, who are customarility Presbyterian. Additionally, in the southern highlands some of the Scots-Irish regions were often redoubts of Unionist-Republican sentiment during the long Democratic hegemony (ergo, the creation of West Virigina). Nor are these two groups similarly distributed across the nation.

i-9fed952c3c99759bcebd4bd2d4fbf3d3-irish.jpg

i-b88e3d07f41aea801d019b9eabf493a5-scots.jpg

If you read Albion’s Seed you know that the Scots-Irish are one of the Four Folkways from the British Isles which established themselves in the American colonies before 1776. They were not always immigrants from Ireland, and in particular the counties of Ulster. Rather, a substantial proportion were economic refugees from the Scottish-English borderlands These people also did not necessarily perceive themselves to be Celtic, as evidenced by the cultural isolation of the Gaelic speaking Scots from the Highlands who settled on the Cape Fear peninsula.1 Finally, if you follow something called the news you will know of The Troubles which emerged from the faction which divides the Protestant Northern Irish, often of Scots ancestry, and the Catholic Northern Irish, who identify as indigenous sons of the soil (the reality is a bit more complex considering the frequency of travel between Dalriada in Scotland and Ulster).

The Irish of Massachusetts on the other hand are descended in large part from the massive waves of emigration out of Ireland in the wake of the Great Hunger. Unlike the Scots-Irish, who were attached to radical Protestantism first in the form of Presbyterianism and later in the United States to the Methodist & Baptist revivals, the Irish immigrants were only recently Anglicized and staunchly Catholic. They were the proto-typical “white ethnics,” racially identified with the American majority but culturally retaining their distinctiveness in large part because of their Roman Catholic religion. Irish Catholics in the United States exist at some remove from Scots-Irish, their own interaction with the WASP majority has been with the diverse traditions of the Middle Atlantic and the Yankee ascendency of New England.

I feel a bit retarded repeating this, but I want to make clear what my understanding is so that people can point out what I got wrong and how I missed the subtly of Mr. Kirchick’s argument. My own suspicion is that Kirchick knows all this, but he was trying to fool the readers of TNR, something that failed as one can see by the 3rd comment on his post. But it makes me wonder, how idiotic are the readers of political punditry that Kirchick thinks he can get away with such blatant misrepresentations? Perhaps blogging for Commentary has made him a bit blase about the necessity of factual support for arguments?

Note: Unfortunately the maps above do not reflect the county level populations. So the spikes in Irish American numbers in the Great Plains do not entail that these regions are as significant toward the creation of an Irish American identity as South Boston. Additionally, I’m pretty sure that the Census underestimates the number of Scots-Irish for three reasons. First, a substantial minority probably simply put “Irish” as their ancestry because of a weak ethnic self-identity. And, many also put “American” as their ethnic identity, a common trend in the south. Finally, I did some work with the 2000 Census back in college and I can assert honestly that there was a strong tendency for white Americans to put their most “exotic” ancestral contribution for their ethnicity; so if someone was 3/4 English and 1/4 German, they would put German.

1 – The Gaelic aspect of Scottish identity has been over emphasized over the past few centuries for romantic reasons. As is well known the Scottish nation emerged from the melange of Gaelic and Brythonic Celts, Picts, Vikings and Northumbrian Anglo-Saxons. The last probably had the strongest representation in the cultural orgin of what we called the Scots-Irish.

Comments

  1. #1 chezjake
    March 20, 2008

    First of all, there was a poll out yesterday showing McCain tied with Obama in Massachusetts.
    http://tpmelectioncentral.talkingpointsmemo.com/polltracker/mapres/

    Second, I regret to say this, but here in the northeast I have observed more outright prejudice against African-Americans on the part of blue-collar Roman Catholics than from all other groups combined. That’s not just the Irish, but also Italians and Polish. This is, I believe, the main reason that McCain also does well in polls against Obama in Pennsylvania and Ohio.

  2. #2 razib
    March 20, 2008

    right, i said the rest of the post was fine. you read that right?

  3. #3 gcochran
    March 20, 2008

    “My own suspicion is that Kirchick knows all this”

    I suspect he doesn’t.

  4. #4 diana
    March 20, 2008

    If Kirchick is stupid, then I am too.

    Kirchick specifically qualified his prediction: “with a moderate Republican nominee and Barack Obama as the Democratic candidate.”

    If Clinton (who whomped Obama in the primary by a huge margin, despite the Kennedy endorsement of Obama) were running, I suspect Kirchick would change the prediction.

    I think he’s right, esp. in the wake of the Wright debacle.

  5. #5 razib
    March 20, 2008

    diana, can i repeat, did you read my post???

    i said, “Most of the commentary seems fine, if disputable.” yes, mccain may put mass. in play. but not because of an affinity between scots-irish and irish which doesn’t exist.

    again, i’m disputing an obviously false fact, not the general conclusion.

  6. #6 TGGP
    March 21, 2008

    From what I know of Kirchick, I would have said he was an idiot even before this. This just further confirms my previously held opinion.

  7. #7 Danny
    March 21, 2008

    Wow, lots of Irish in America. Is this because relatively lots of people who are only partly Irish identify as such?
    Stuff White People Like says:

    Most of the time, white people consider celebrations of European heritage to be racist unless they omit large swathes of the 16th through 20th centuries. But since the Irish never engaged in colonialism and were actually oppressed it is considered acceptable and encouraged to celebrate their ancestry. For this reason, 100% of white people are proud to claim that they are somewhat Irish.

  8. #8 diana
    March 21, 2008

    OK OK, chill. You’re right.

  9. #9 pconroy
    March 21, 2008

    Danny,

    I suspect it’s complicated, but both. Yes, there was a massive inflow of Irish in the 1840. I’ve read somewhere – can’t find the reference – that at that time, Britain had a population of 12 million, Ireland 9 million and the US 13 million. Over a 10 year period about 2 million Irish transferred to the the US – mostly of the peasant/small-farmer class, mostly illiterate, mostly Catholic. They would initially, for a number of generation, continue to have massive numbers of offspring. I think it was in Ellis Island museum, I saw an estimate of 55 million people of Irish descent in the US – circa 1995 – second only to those of German descent, at 70 million.

    But just as there was an outflow of assimilated Irish from the community, there are many part Irish who claim Irish as an identity. I’ve personally found this especially true of those who are Irish-German, who almost always emphasize the Irish part of their inheritance. My ex sister-in-law is 1/2 German, 1/4 Swedish, 1/8 Scottish and 1/8 Irish, yet she identifies as Irish.
    Likewise there are many people in the US with names like Rogers, Kane, Bird, Brown or Fox – all anglicized versions of Irish names, who pass as WASPS?!

  10. #10 razib
    March 21, 2008

    just a note, i recall surveys which shows that most people who claim “irish ancestry” are not catholic. this suggests an inflation due to people who are part-irish identifying as such.

  11. #11 pconroy
    March 21, 2008

    Raz,

    Could be, or also could be that as Irish people assimilate they go from Catholic to Episcopal to whatever, over time…

  12. #12 RKU
    March 21, 2008

    Yeah, what makes this *really* stupid is that so many of the Scots-Irish who immigrated to the U.S. were either Ulstermen or their close cousins. So maybe McCain’s a distant relative of Rev. Ian Paisley.

    Since Paisley’s now retiring from N.I. politics, maybe McCain can persuade him to come campaign for him in America, and organize “Orange parades” to help “turn out” the Boston Irish vote.

    Betcha there’d be a really BIG Boston Irish “turn out” if he did that…

  13. #13 eoin
    March 21, 2008

    “First, a substantial minority probably simply put “Irish” as their ancestry because of a weak ethnic self-identity”

    Yeah. If you look to the distribution there it does not make sense as to where people have traditionally celebrated St . Patrick’s day and where Irish people – in the Republic – know their relations come from – mostly the cities ( Chicago, New York, San Francisco, Boston, Savannah), There was some large migration to Montana too, Butte mostly. Irish immigration was, primarily, migration to the cities.

    ” Over a 10 year period about 2 million Irish transferred to the the US ”

    i think a million is the accepted figure. Most of the growth in the US population was the ethnicities pushing west – resources there were plenty. I think this accounted for most of the US population growth, in fact, from 1800-1900. Not immigration. Despite the reluctance these days to admit to English heritage it was common in the early part of the 20th century for U.S. politicians to use white and anglo-saxon interchangeably, or talk about the US as an anglo saxon culture.

    So, I dispute the massive offspring claim. Remember the cities had much higher mortality rates, and in Ireland fertility rates collapsed after the famine. I suspect the number of people claiming to be Irish are Scott’s Irish. I mean 55 million is about equal to all the Catholics in the US.

    “Second, I regret to say this, but here in the northeast I have observed more outright prejudice against African-Americans on the part of blue-collar Roman Catholics than from all other groups combined. ”

    I imagine it broke your heart to say it, but there you did it anyway in a comment that can only be described as totally orthogonal to the original post. Broke. Your. Heart.

  14. #14 patrick
    March 22, 2008

    The original Scots-Irish of the early 17th century were mostly people from the Scottish Lowlands and Borders (and northern England). They were settled in Ulster by the British crown to help bring Ireland under British control and defend the frontier against rebellions by the Catholic Irish Celts.

    Many of the original settlers were members of Border clans who made their living by stock-raiding, extortion and smuggling (the Border Reivers). The British government saw the Plantation of Ulster as a chance to solve both the “Irish problem” and the Anglo-Scottish border problem at the same time. Further settlers came from the Scottish Lowlands throughout the 17th and early 18th centuries.

    The Ulster Scots tended to be strongly Presbyterian, and supported Cromwell in the English Civil War. They were hostile to the Anglican church, which they regarded as crypto-Catholic.

    Rather than Gaelic, the Ulster Scots spoke Scots or Geordie dialects of English. As Lowland Scots, they were probably as hostile to Gaelic-speaking Scottish highlanders (many of whom remained Catholic and resembled the “wild Irish” in their way of life) as they were to Irish Catholics.

    In fact, the Highland Scots who settled in Georgia and North Carolina after the Scots’ defeat at Culloden mostly followed their clan chiefs in supporting the British in the American Revolution, while the Scots-Irish backcountry settlers were among the most enthusiastic supporters of the Patriot cause.

    Many Highlanders who fought for the British in the Revolution left the new United States for Canada. Thus, many Americans of Scottish rather than Scots-Irish ancestry are descended from Highland Scots who emigrated to the US in the 19th century, or Scots-Canadians who moved south in the 19th or early 20th centuries.

  15. #15 pconroy
    March 22, 2008

    Eoin said:
    I suspect the number of people claiming to be Irish are Scott’s Irish

    What does that mean – did you even look at the maps at least??

  16. #16 eoin
    March 22, 2008

    “What does that mean – did you even look at the maps at least??”

    It means what it says. indeed i looked at the map. There is too much green in flyover country. As I said most Irish catholics migrated to the cities. There is generally little migration from cities to countryside, it goes the other way. Germans,,and northern Europeans, did migrate to the rural mid-West, and mountain areas. The scots-irish and anglo-saxons would have already been there.

    I doubt the people in country are descendants of the Catholic irish. As I also said inhabitants of the US in 1800 were, for the most part, the ancestors of the people there in 1900, and immigration had less effect than people think. So a lot of Americans are not making the distinction between irish and Scots-Irish, and why should they?

    You claim 55 million people of Irish descent. the CIA world factbook says the US is 23% Catholic – which is about 65 million. The 2000 census states that 35 million people are hispanic, which leaves 30-35 million for other Catholics if most hispanics self-describe as Catholic – Irish, Polish French, Italian, Fillipino and other ( even Anglo!).

    I cant really be assed to rigorously work out the number of people who describe themselves as irish are Catholic but given what I already posted I estimate it to be probably about 10-15 million. About 5%.

  17. #17 Flip
    March 22, 2008

    I think that many people who identify as Irish are the descendants of Scotch-Irish Protestants who settled in the Upper South rather than the descendants of indigeneous Irish Catholics (think Andrew Jackson vs. John Kennedy).

  18. #18 Mark
    March 22, 2008

    Second, I regret to say this, but here in the northeast I have observed more outright prejudice against African-Americans on the part of blue-collar Roman Catholics than from all other groups combined

    The reason why there is so much “prejudice” against African-Americans is because of the high black crime rate. Since blue-collar whites are more likely to live near blacks than more affluent whites, they are more morely likely to experience black crime first hand.

  19. #19 pconroy
    March 23, 2008

    Eoin,

    Your problem is you’re conflating Irish with Catholic, they’re not synonymous you know?!

    Many Irish immigrant were not Catholic, especially those that came first. Many more Irish assimilated to the US norm and are now protestant – that’s where you went wrong.

  20. #20 pconroy
    March 23, 2008

    The only Irish relatives I have in the US, settled in Idaho in the 1870′s, and cleared a farm there – they are listed as some of the states first settlers.

    Boise, Idaho is the US city with the greatest percentage of Irish to this day.

  21. #21 eoin
    March 23, 2008

    Pconroy, the debate is about the difference between Scots-Irish, and Irish Catholics. Religion is pertinent to that debate. Some Irish Catholics may have converted to Protestantism, but given they refused to do that in Ireland and endured the anti-Catholic penal laws i think it unlikely ( but I don’t know – convince me :-) )

    I mentioned Montana as a top place of Irish Catholic immigration, there was some Irish immigration to Idaho too, I’m sure but wikipedia says “The top 5 heritage groups in Boise are · German – 19%[2] · English – 16% · Irish – 11% · Scottish – 3% · Norwegian – 3%” and we have to take into account that people underestimate their English heritage, and Irish could mean Scott’s Irish ( or not). Anyway not quite your figures.

    last comment from me :-)

  22. #22 pconroy
    March 23, 2008

    the debate is about the difference between Scots-Irish, and Irish Catholics.

    It’s NOT – again Irish =/= Catholic…

    Some Irish Catholics may have converted to Protestantism, but given they refused to do that in Ireland and endured the anti-Catholic penal laws i think it unlikely

    Irish Catholics in Ireland did convert to protestantism – get over it! I knew many protestants with Irish lastnames in Ireland…

    Irish could mean Scott’s Irish
    First off this is the second time, you referred to Scots as Scott’s – the word has one t, and no apostrophe – get it right. Second if you believe that Irish could mean Scots Irish, then you are clueless. Enough said.

  23. #23 razib
    March 23, 2008

    Some Irish Catholics may have converted to Protestantism, but given they refused to do that in Ireland and endured the anti-Catholic penal laws i think it unlikely ( but I don’t know – convince me :-) )

    i’m pretty sure the logic on this is wrong eoin. sometimes tolerance is a better acid than intolerance….

  24. #24 j mct
    March 25, 2008

    Per the Irish protestant and the Irish Catholic stuff, in the US the only Irish that self identify as Irish, at least on days other than March 17, well when everyone is, even Razib if he wants, are the Catholic, at least in an ethnic sort of way, ones. I don’t dispute that there were Church of Ireland immigrants who would have became Episcopalians when they got here, but such people don’t identify as Irish, in the US.

    Per Scots-Irish, Scots-Irish is a word only used by history professors or one’s with lots of education, Scots-Irish, when asked there ethnicity will generally say ‘American’ or “I don’t know”.

    I’d bet there are at least some Irish who vote for McCain just because he has a Mc in his name, most Irish Americans don’t know that there are lots of descendants of Ulster Protestants running around, as these descendants don’t themselves know who they’re descended form.

    As for stupid Ivy League graduates, yes they do exist, even when they’re not legacies.

    How did we get an outpost in Nevada. That’s as interesting as that Jewish enclave in Idaho I saw on some map Razib posted a while ago.

  25. #25 pconroy
    March 25, 2008

    I should mention as a final note, that the name Kennedy is a common Irish name, but the name is also found in Scotland, as an uncommon name.

    There are some people of Scottish descent who like to claim the Kennedy family as Scots who converted to Catholicism – as how else could Joe Kennedy have been so good with money… not that I agree with them.

  26. #26 Name Withheld
    March 25, 2008

    Regarding, “James Kirchick graduated from Yale with a degrees in history and political science, so I assume he knows something and has the processing power to engage in a fair amount of rigorous ratiocination.”

    As a rather frustrated mentor, I am fast coming to the conclusion that he does not.

  27. #27 Salamander
    March 26, 2008

    A lot of people do not make the distinction between Irish and Scots-Irish, assuming that the latter means Irish with some Scottish thrown in for good measure. I would guess that most American Protestants who claim Irish ancestry are probably Scots-Irish, especially if their “Irish” ancestors came over before the mid-19th century and settled in the South or Appalachians — though there were a few Irish Catholics who came to 18th-century Virginia as indentured servants, like my many-times-great-grandfather Enoch McCarty, of County Cork.

    The Scots-Irish, who emigrated in large numbers in the early to mid-18th century, were referred to as “Irish” by their contemporaries. And why not? They had, after all, been living in Ireland for a hundred years or more.

    It wasn’t until the Irish Catholic potato-famine victims began arriving in the 1840′s that the Scots-Irish felt it necessary to play up the Scottish angle, in order to differentiate themselves from the newly-arrived and commonly-despised “wild Irish.”

    For the record, my own ancestry includes Scots-Irish, Scottish and Irish, among a myriad of other things. Around here (Boston) a red-haired, freckle-faced girl like myself is just sort of assumed to be Irish Catholic, and I don’t really bother to correct people even though I am more Hungarian than anything else…

  28. #28 dzd
    March 31, 2008

    About the only worthwhile thing Kirchick ever did was to unearth Ron Paul’s thirty years of racist newsletters. Other than that he’s completely terrible.

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