Friday, November 05, 2004

What’s wrong with this picture?

I hope you didn’t think that an election would go by without some Deep Thought! As some of you may have guessed, I vote conservative. I don’t call myself a conservative, because (as I have said elsewhere) that comes with a huge list of “conservative=” assumptions that don’t fit me. I have a list of issues, some more important than others, that guide my voting. Conservative parties tend to meet me on the ‘most important’ list, liberal on the ‘less important’ list, so I vote conservative.

I am also a bit of an amateur statistician (loved the college coursework, use it at work, think its kinda’ fun. No, really). Looking at the exit polls and then reading what the ‘pundits’ write, I notice something interesting. This is something most conservatives would say ‘well, duh’ to, but to which most liberals would react with a ‘that’s not true!’.

The liberal leadership, including its pundits and apologists, don’t understand the average American.

Now, I am certain they care for the average American (hereafter just ‘Americans’), mainly because they want to care for everyone. And they think they understand Americans. And they try to speak to Americans. But they obviously failed.

Exit polls here are very interesting. Thos e who regularly attend church overwhelmingly supported Bush. Those who rarely or never go supported Kerry in roughly equal numbers. And while the “Catholic vote” was split, I have a guess – of those who call themselves Catholic, about half attend regularly, about have attend rarely or never. In other words, it was church attendance, not denomination, that mattered.

In America more people live in suburbs or rural areas than in urban areas. People in suburban and rural areas are more likely to be regular church-goers. So the ‘average American’ is a suburban/rural person who attends church on a regular basis – the people who just elected George Bush. Regular church-goers tend to oppose gay marriage, be pro-life, and to place moral issues over economic ones – even when economic conditions aren’t that good for them personally.

Its not just cut-and-dried, though. Many of these non-urban Americans are also deeply concerned about the economy, the war in Iraq, etc. – the issues focused on by Democrats. The Democrats obviously and specifically hoped that they could convince enough people that they were right on these issues to draw them into voting for Kerry. Although there was some success, it was far from enough. I think the main reason is that the Democratic Party is more ideologically rigid than the Republican Party.

While many on the Left assail the Republicans as close-minded authoritarians the fact is that there is a great deal of dissent within the ranks of the Republicans. From the large numbers of legislators who do not actively support pro-life issues or directly oppose things like stem-cell research to the Log-Cabin Republicans, a group of openly homosexual politicians and ideologues, the Republican party has members and leaders who openly disagree with the Party’s ‘core issues’.

The ‘open-minded’ Democratic Party, on the other hand, tends to dismiss or quash dissent very effectively. There is no room for pro-life Democrats within the party; Bob Casey, then the newly-reelected governor of Pennsylvania, was not allowed to speak at the 1992 Democratic National Convention because of his pro-life stance. At that same convention, however, there was time for 6 pro-choice Republican women to speak, including one who had worked in the campaign against Governor Casey. Democratic politicians are ever-vigilant to oppose any judicial nominee who has not stated specifically that they support pro-choice laws (Estrada’s only ‘failing’). And the group Democrats for Life is routinely excluded from any gathering of Democrats.

A current bit of political wisdom is that the once-formidable “Catholics vote” is gone; now Catholics vote like everyone else. But this is wrong. In the key battleground states of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Ohio, Iowa, etc. the Catholics there were much more likely to vote for Bush than for Kerry. In Minnesota voters as a whole were 56% likely to vote for Kerry. But Catholic voters were 60% for Bush – in short, the only reason Minnesota was a battleground state at all was because of the Catholic opposition to Kerry.

Catholics in Minnesota are, according to other polls, pretty darn Liberal (like the state as a whole). The key issue that aimed them at Bush was abortion with gay marriage a catch-up second place. While Democratic strategists claim that ‘people who vote Republican because of abortion would vote that way for a whole list of other reasons’ are lying to themselves. Poll after poll indicates that many would vote for Democrats if the Democratic Party would just discuss pro-life concerns. Not support them, not endorse them, just talk about them. This poll from the University of Michigan was released before the 2000 election – and ignored to this day.

And this election provides more evidence. Ohio is suffering from a serious economic downturn and massive job-loss. But a lot of people there voted for Bush and a lot of them based their vote on “moral issues”. In other words, abortion and gay marriage. One Missouri voter, a life-long Democrat, stated specifically that he thought Bush’s economic policies would hurt him and his family but he felt compelled to vote for Bush because of his concerns for the unborn.

In short, a number of Americans; non-urban, churchgoing Americans; are willing to see their families suffer economically to oppose abortion and gay marriage. That is pretty damn serious. And that is a voting bloc that is committed in ways that transcend issues like whether or not explosives went missing, or who was a ‘real’ war hero. So a lot of the efforts of the Democratic Party to paint Kerry as a compassionate, intelligent man who would help them get and keep jobs meant almost nothing to a large number of average Americans.

How committed is the Democratic Party to pro-choice? It maintained a link from its web page to the very small group Catholics for a Free Choice despite a well-run boycott and letter-writing campaign by the Catholic Defense League to remove it. Why? Catholics for a Free Choice is pro-choice. At the same time, the repeatedly refused to post a link to the webpage of Democrats for Life because they were pro-life. Willing to endure a ton of negative publicity in an election year to show any form of support for a tiny pro-choice group, they were unwilling to show any support for a Democratic group that was pro-life.

That seems pretty clear. This is a refusal to admit that there are people that agree with a majority of ‘liberal’ issues yet vote conservative over one or two “key points”; so-called ‘single-issue voters’ or ‘litmus test voters’. Liberals both decry single-issue voters as ignoring larger issues (read any liberal commentator over the last 2 years) and support single-issue items (Kerry’s promise not to nominate a judge that wasn’t pro-choice, for example). Liberals (a broad, sweeping generalization, I admit) see their opponents whole cleave to a single issue as having overriding importance as close-minded, yet see themselves as dedicated to truth, justice, etc. when they do the same.

This myopic view extends up and down the chain. Writer Byron Williams writes “Fear and [a concern for moral] values trumped the majority [of voters] who felt the country is headed in the wrong direction, the possibility that the Supreme Court could take a major shift to the right, [and] the global communities overwhelming disapproval…”. Byron is symptomatic – if a majority of voters selected Bush based on moral values or fear of terrorist attacks, how can he claim that “the majority” feel that the country is headed in the wrong direction? Bush has been in office for four years promoting pro-life views and aggressive military actions; the majority of voters re-elected him; who the heck is Byron talking about?

He is, of course, talking about the people he associates with. In the same article he mentions that America is a red nation with blue on the edges (not his exact words). The heavily liberal areas are also heavily urbanized. There are Democrats in rural areas – lots of them (look at Minnesota, a largely rural state). But the often have different values that urban Democrats. Again, Pennsylvania is an example – many Dems in Pennsylvania are rural, and many of them are pro-life. Who within the Democratic Party considers them important, let alone speaks for them?

Many other liberal pundits wail that the economy and the war in Iraq are moral values (My favorite is Ellen Goodman). No doubt about it, the economy and war are morals-based things. Period. But they are all missing something – people who are worried about keeping their job voted for Bush even though they feared he could (or would) make job-loss more likely. People who oppose the war in Iraq voted for Bush even if they thought Kerry would end it faster and less violently. What they miss is that to a great many Americans issues of abortion trump money and war; that judicial changes to the definition of marriage (in defiance of laws passed by legislators elected by the people) are seen as more critical than the amount of taxes paid by the top 1% or incomes in America.

So why the heck to the liberals miss this? Why do these pundits and strategists, so eager – even desperate – to reach as many people as possible with what they feel is the truth, not realize that many people who vote conservative could easily vote liberal if the Democrats relaxed their white-knuckled grip on an all-out support of abortion on demand paid with tax dollars? I don’t like the conclusion I’ve reached (although I reached it some time ago). I believe it is because of a combination of arrogance and contempt of those who disagree with them.

In the same article Ellen Goodman lumps pro-lifers, those who oppose gay marriage, and Creationists into a single category, a category she contrasts with people who “…see poverty as a moral issue”. She doesn’t consider for a moment (in the article at least) that pro-lifers, those who oppose gay marriage, and Creationists might be different groups with different goals. Also: newsflash for Ellen – the majority of outreach to the poor and activism against poverty comes from religious institutions, often very conservative religious institutions.

Columnist Paul Krugman states that those who are pro-life and pro-family are implicitly anti-minority rights. That’s right, he assumes that if you are pro-life and oppose gay marriage you oppose equal rights for Blacks, Hispanics, etc. Never you mind that 75% of Black Georgian voters opposed gay marriage. Or that a stunning majority of Hispanics are pro-life. See, opposition to any equals opposition to all in Mr. Krugman’s mind. Many of the liberals I know (and I know a whole lot of ‘em) automatically assume that those who disagree with them need to learn more – that all opposition to their own worldview is borne of ignorance or hate. People who hold such views can never reach a rapproachment with their opponents; they are, by definition, inferior.

This arrogance and condescension is seen and understood by many ‘average Americans’ and the Republicans exploit it. The ‘liberal elite’ is not a myth; the web page Democratic Underground has some insightful commentary on this, pointing out that a large number of Democratic leaders and strategists are wealthy professionals from affluent families from the Northeast of Left Coast that have almost no experience interacting with average folks. When they focus on economic issues (which the Democratic Party has done for a long time) there is a sense of noblesse oblige, a feeling that “those people” should be grateful for the help.

I found one author that admits this, Jeanette Batz Cooperman. She admits to feelings of intellectual superiority and tries to overcome them. The article, of course, implies that those who disagree with her aren’t actually stupid, they are just genetically unable to grasp complexity. At least she’s moving in the right direction.

I find myself in an interesting position. Although I far prefer to not talk too much about my personal beliefs, I find that no one speaks for me and few want to speak to me. I am the opposite of Jessie Ventura and Arnold the Governator, I am the quintessential devout Catholic: socially conservative and fiscally liberal. Yet Republicans don’t care for me for my support of welfare programs, broad reform in healthcare (and contemplation of how a national health care system would work, and well), and belief that aggressive progressive tax rates (including stiff estate and capital gains taxes) would benefit the country.

Evangelical Christians don’t want me. In addition to being Catholic, I think evolutionary theory is pretty solid science. And Democrats also don’t want me. So why do I end up voting conservative? Because while conservatives don’t like some of my positions, there are plenty of Republican politicians who support tax breaks aimed at low-income families, the minimum wage, healthcare reform, etc. In short, I can be a conservative and dissent. But Democrats tell me I am anti-woman (I oppose abortion), a homophobe (I am against gay marriage), and irrational (I am religious). In short, I face more hate speech from the left. Because they are more ideologically rigid.

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