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Tilting at Windmills

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June 15, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

LIBERALS vs. CONSERVATIVES....Ezra and Matt (and Ezra again) are pinging back and forth on the question of why, in general, modern political parties that represent economic liberalism also tend to represent social liberalism, and vice versa. (I'm using "liberal" in the American sense here.) At first glance it's odd. After all, the two things seem to be pretty unrelated, and there's no special reason why you can't be, for example, economically conservative and socially liberal. But that's libertarianism, and there's no place in the world where libertarians are more than a tiny minority. The opposite ideology, economic liberalism plus social conservatism, is a little more common (think rural populism), but generally doesn't command widespread support either. In most places, the major parties are either all conservative or all liberal.

Why? Fact-free speculation is what blogging excels at, so here's my take. Most of the major parties in today's western democracies were fully formed before the middle of the 20th century, during a time before the current culture wars were even a twinkling in anyone's eyes. So regardless of how and why they were originally founded (the Republican Party, for example, was originally associated with the anti-slavery movement), by the 1950s they were primarily associated with purely economic positions. They either represented the working class (Democrats, Labor, Social Democrats, etc.) or else they represented big business and the rich (Republicans, Conservatives, Christian Democrats, etc.).

So the question is: when the 50s and 60s dawned, why is it that it was mostly the economically liberal parties that supported the emerging social revolution? This strikes me as a pretty easy question to answer: it's because the founding principle of most liberal parties was economic egalitarianism. When the postwar era rolled around and the current crop of social issues became important, it was only natural that economic egalitarianism morphed into social egalitarianism, and that in turn led to support for civil rights, feminism, and gay rights. Support for things like affirmative action, criminal justice reforms, and abortion rights were obvious corollaries.

This doesn't explain everything. Nothing explains everything, after all. Environmentalism, for example, is something that I suspect everyone naturally supports unless they have some reason not to, and the main reason not to is that it interferes with business interests. So opposition to environmentalism comes mostly from conservative, pro-business parties, while everyone else supports it. It has nothing much to do with egalitarianism.

Ditto for some other social issues, like gun control and school prayer, which are slightly mysterious. They might be associated with the urban bias of liberal parties, or they might just be an artifact of tribalism. After all, once you've drunk enough of the Kool-Aid on either side, you tend to drink the rest.

But a commitment to egalitarianism probably explains most of it. If you're committed to breaking the stranglehold of the ruling classes, that just naturally leads you down certain roads. Likewise, if you think the current hierarchy works pretty well, that leads you down other roads. Economic justice and social justice are two sides of the same coin.

POSTSCRIPT: Is egalitarianism the underlying principle that guides everyone's political beliefs? Of course not. Libertarians, for example, just want government to leave them alone, which leads them naturally to support social liberalism and economic conservatism. The problem is that human beings are social creatures, so "leave me alone" has never attracted a huge following as a guiding principle.

As for the rural populist types (socially conservative/economically liberal), I'm not really sure what motivates them. Whatever it is, though, it seems to have a relatively limited base these days.

Kevin Drum 10:03 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (98)

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Any political spectrum analysis that doesn't include a pole for nationalism is missing a big part of the story. It takes some remembering, but you really have to factor in what a big deal the international anti-capitalist socialist movement was, from the 1880s on at least, and how that infused economic egalitarianism with an aura of internationalism that naturally left nationalism and economic "conservatism" (meaning in this context laissez-faire inegalitarianism) on the other side. Or, if you prefer, that allowed capitalists to paint economic egalitarianism as "foreign" and internationalist, and hence to use nationalism to defend their own interests. To explain why reactionary nationalism is pretty closely tied to social conservatism, you don't need to go much further than the Hegelian vision of the family as the basis of the state.

Posted by: mattsteinglass on June 15, 2007 at 10:29 PM | PERMALINK

"in general, modern political parties that represent economic liberalism also tend to represent social liberalism, and vice versa."

'Liberal' and 'Liberalism' are bad terms to use in this context. Substitute progressive and progressivism.

Other than that I mostly agree with you, though I think the social conservatives' fear of the power of government to change social hierarchies should be called out more explicitly. That's why social conservatives and the business class are so firmly wedded in this country.

Posted by: Fred on June 15, 2007 at 10:32 PM | PERMALINK

And the party on the left,
Is now the party on the right.
And the beards of thought grow longer overnight
--Pete Townshend

Posted by: Quotation Man on June 15, 2007 at 10:32 PM | PERMALINK

Populism can be explained as communitarianism, with the community supporting individuals and individuals respecting community standards. It's a factor in the Democratic Party, and not just rural -- older union-member New Deal Democrats are often that way.

I'm convinced that a fundamental principle of conservatism is the belief that some people have it coming to them and deserve to suffer. They might be criminals, they might be lazy, they might be lacking in IQ and talent, they might just be unlucky. But when bad things happen to them (including poverty or HIV), it shows that the world is as it should be. (This is a how you get professional gamblers and wild and crazy oil boomers into the same party as Christians. The first group believes in the law of the jungle, and the second believes in sin and punishment.)

Whereas liberals and social democrats think that punishment should be a last resort, and that poverty and HIV are just bad things and not punishments sent by God.

Posted by: John Emerson on June 15, 2007 at 10:35 PM | PERMALINK

Business interests are liberal interests, whether they know it or not.

It's corporate interests that are evil.

Posted by: cld on June 15, 2007 at 10:39 PM | PERMALINK

But when bad things happen to them

Rephrased in the active voice, you might say, "When their behavior incurs certain predictable results."

Posted by: Homer on June 15, 2007 at 10:52 PM | PERMALINK

Socially conservative / economically liberal is more than rural populist. It is Catholic to a "T". Although lay Catholics are all over the place. And Catholics and rural populists often have somewhat different beliefs about unions.

Life is complex.

Posted by: Joe S. on June 15, 2007 at 10:52 PM | PERMALINK

A conservative automatically does, Homer, regardless of any facts.

Posted by: John Emerson on June 15, 2007 at 10:54 PM | PERMALINK

Socially conservative / economically liberal is more than rural populist. It is Catholic to a "T". (Although lay Catholics are all over the place, politically.) Catholics are not quite the same as rural populists. They often have somewhat different beliefs about unions, for example.

Life is complex.

Posted by: Joe S. on June 15, 2007 at 10:55 PM | PERMALINK

I dunno Kevin.

First, it's unclear which kind of "liberalism" you are referring to. Second, comparing the party systems of the United States and Europe is kind of apples and oranges. There're lots of ways to quantify political parties more precisely, and the Laver-Hunt scale is just one of them. When consulting Laver-Hunt, you can see that parties do exist which are on different 'sides' of the lib-con spectrum for economic and social issues. Hell, in the UK it was the socially conservative party which first established social welfare. In Germany, the CDU/CSU has more similarities with some social democratic parties than the Republicans in the United States.

You should read Alan Ware's Political Parties and Party Systems (1996) for a pretty good review of the literature on parties and party systems. Larry Diamond and Richard Gunther also write at length about party typology, and Giovanni Sartori is a pretty good for party systems.

This all is not to say that there are no similarities between parties and party systems cross-nationally, or over time, but to ask "why are parties of the right always conservative on both counts" assumes that that is the case, which it is not.

Posted by: Everblue Stater on June 15, 2007 at 10:58 PM | PERMALINK

No, Homer, "their behavior incurs" is the passive voice. "Bad things happen to them" is the active voice.

Posted by: mattsteinglass on June 15, 2007 at 10:59 PM | PERMALINK

Wow -- You are just wrong on this one! History did not begin in 1950 -- historically, bottom up economic populism and social conservativism have co-existed quite nicely in this country.

For example:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Jennings_Bryan

Also consider the early years of the democratic party under Andrew Jackson - expanding sufferage and oppressing Indians.

What does it mean about your veiw of the world that this is such a blind spot for you?

Posted by: Adam on June 15, 2007 at 11:06 PM | PERMALINK

Wow -- You are just wrong on this one! History did not begin in 1950 -- historically, bottom up economic populism and social conservativism have co-existed quite nicely in this country.

For example:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Jennings_Bryan

Also consider the early years of the democratic party under Andrew Jackson - expanding sufferage and oppressing Indians.

What does it mean about your veiw of the world that this is such a blind spot for you?

Posted by: Adam on June 15, 2007 at 11:08 PM | PERMALINK

I agree with Joe S. that the socially conservative / economically liberal group is much larger than Kevin suggests. And not just Catholics. I believe a decent chunk of Protestants are deeply suspicious of and hostile to corporations and concentrations of economic power, but are also socially conservative. Most of them are Republican, but if there were a socially conservative / economically liberal party, these people would very quickly abandon the Republican party. I also have the impression that a large chunk of young people are strongly libertarian. So I think Kevin is making a mistake in thinking that the Americans who don't fit the current political parties are small in number. I remain puzzled why the political parties have evolved as they have.
--RiMac

Posted by: RiMac on June 15, 2007 at 11:10 PM | PERMALINK

"Socially conservative / economically liberal"..sounds like a typical Islamic Republic.

Posted by: wren on June 15, 2007 at 11:12 PM | PERMALINK

Ehh, this whole post seems rather rambling. What do you mean by "most places"? The US and how many out of 160 countries? Are you sure you know enough to talk about "most places"? As for "when the 50s and 60s dawned ..", this doesn't seem to account for example for the Christian Democrat type parties in Europe, who were socially conservative but at least until the 70s or so economically much more left than the left in the US. As for gun control, the issue doesn't even exist in most other countries as you can't control nonexisting guns. (Ok, now I have to be careful about "most countries".) Anyway, I am not sure if we can derive grand theories from a few western countries between 1980 and today. As for libertarianism, I suspect most people outside the US don't know it even exists - I heard about this bizarre phenomenon only after entering the US and after 15 years it still seems just weird.

In summary, I don't see much of a pattern beyond the US and maybe a handful of countries.

Posted by: TS on June 15, 2007 at 11:13 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, I'm surprised that you haven't picked up on the psychopolitical aspect of the liberal/conservative divide.

The common thread that binds economic and social conservatism is fear. Fear of "others" and fear of change. Everyone and everything different generates an angst in the conservative psyche that can only be assuaged by authoritarian control of everything in the social/political/economic environment. So conservatives look to "strong" authoritarian political, religious, and buisness leaders - the strong father syndrome - to give them a feeling that someone more capable and powerful than themselves has things under control. The don't want to understand the environment in which they live; they only want to believe that a stronger power understands the problem and is looking out for them.

There are plenty of authoritarians "leaders" who are willing to fill this role. Unfortunately, too many of them are quite literally sociopaths who are expert at manipulating authoritarian followers. We see in the Republican party and the Bush administration a perfect example of how this is accomplished. The first step is to instill fear. Fear of terrorists, fear of illegal immigrants, fear of gays, fear of intellectuals, fear of Big Government. If you know where to look there's an unlimited supply of thing to fear.

Then you convince you followers that you uniquely understand the threat and are willing to wage the noble battle to defeat it - whatever it is.

Big Government is a threat because your authoritarian leaders say it is. Big Democratic Government is especially bad because in democracy there isn't necessarily a strong leader to look up to. In fact, the American system of checks and balances promotes the exact opposite. Democracy is inherently chaotic, controlled by the vagaries of elections and consensus. That's scarry.

Big corporations are good because they are hierarchical organizations controlled by a powerful CEO who is smarter than everyone else. Otherwise why would he (and it had to be he) be paid so much money.

It should be clear at this point the liberals have the opposite world view from conservatives. They aren't afraid of change, and they don't see "different" as threatening. Since they don't feel threatened they don't look for simple answers provided by authority figures to make them feel in control.

Of course (almost) no one if purely conservative of liberal. But the degree to which most of use tend toward one of the other side of the spectrum is strongly influences by our inherent psychological makeup, a significant part of which is nature rather than nurture.

aa

Posted by: aaron aardvark on June 15, 2007 at 11:19 PM | PERMALINK

Since Kevin is talking about the alignment of the political parties, not the population at large, objections that "a lot of people" are socially conservative and economically liberal are not relevant.

Posted by: mattsteinglass on June 15, 2007 at 11:26 PM | PERMALINK

"Socially conservative / economically liberal"..sounds like a typical Islamic Republic.

Not really. Few Islamic states are economically liberal. Saudi Arabia, for example, has a state-owned oil company at the top of the pyramid and oligarchic businesses with close state ties all the way down. The more economically liberal states, like the UAE and Lebanon, are also the more socially liberal ones.

Posted by: mattsteinglass on June 15, 2007 at 11:29 PM | PERMALINK

I thought I made this clear in the post, but maybe not. What I'm talking about here is the left-right divide solely after WWII. Before that parties divided up quite differently on social issues. After WWII, however, you see a pretty general pattern of economically left parties supporting what we now think of as social liberalism and economically right parties generally resisting it. It didn't have to happen that way, but I suspect the egalitarian difference on economic matters made it a lot more likely than not.

Posted by: Kevin Drum on June 15, 2007 at 11:47 PM | PERMALINK

@ mattsteinglass

Whatever. And I'm answering that political parties in american history have often mixed social conservativism with economic populism.

Patting ourselves on the back and creating Grand Unified Theories of Our Own Saintliness is silly and counterproductive.

The fact remains that our embrace of social liberalism alienates groups that otherwise would be in our camp on economic issues.

Posted by: adam on June 15, 2007 at 11:49 PM | PERMALINK

I watched the McLaughlin Group this evening and they showed a poll which had Giuliani and Clinton significantly ahead in their party races.

It's very confusing to me. In both cases there are a lot of people who say they detest these folks. So, who IS supporting them?

Supposedly Giuliani and Clinton are Conservative and Liberal (though those labels hardly fit them). The thing I notice about them which stands out the most is some kind of pop culture charisma and star quality -- though it's almost entirely made from the stuff of modern television and public relations campaigns. I mean, what does "America's Mayor" really mean? And, what difference does it make to us to have a woman (and former First Lady) as candidate for president? Do Republicans even know Giuliani is Pro-Choice on abortion while his party is distinctly Pro-Life? Why is there no disconnect? And, was Bill Clinton THAT great, so that his wife has to be considered an automatic shoe-in? I really don't see how that makes sense after we've just seen how George W. Bush was so clearly different than his father George H. W. Bush. Haven't we noticed each individual is different?

How does that play into the way the electorate picks a party or a candidate to put into power?

To focus more narrowly: I also wondered about the race between Clinton, Obama and Edwards. Why is Clinton ahead in this poll? How do Clinton and Obama different from John Kerry? Just what is it which distinguishes these folks? Are there any differences? And, why is the American electorate picking candidates so far to the Right when they say in survey after survey that they want us out of Iraq and they want Social Security and health care reform and all kinds of more Liberal things? Why is the candidate they vote for to the Right of their governance position? Can they not distinguish Clinton & Obama from other more lefty candidates? Do they all blur together, so that only the party labels and the candidate's appearance & presentation distinguish them?

Can only a rock star politician win?

Are Americans brain-washed into thinking that only a candidate the media turns into a star is really capable of winning or governing? If they do they're certainly putting the power to select our leader into the hands of the media (spelled M O N E Y).

I'm beginning to think there is the party of money as represented by those whom the media promotes and the party of everybody else.

When does the public get to have the governance they really want?
.
.

Posted by: MarkH on June 15, 2007 at 11:54 PM | PERMALINK

@mattsteinglass

Stick to one definition of liberalism. You can't use the US popular definition of liberalism (favoring government intervention in the economy)one moment and then contrast egypt's state directed economy with classical liberalism the next.

Posted by: Adam on June 15, 2007 at 11:54 PM | PERMALINK

As noted above, European Catholic parties and Christian Democratic parties counter your theory. Interestingly, several of these parties imploded after the fall of Communism, most spectacularly in Italy. Anti-communism was a certain type of glue that reconciled and joined socially conservative and economically social supporters together.

Posted by: gfw on June 15, 2007 at 11:55 PM | PERMALINK

Libertarians, for example, just want government to leave them alone, which leads them naturally to support social liberalism and economic conservatism. The problem is that human beings are social creatures, so "leave me alone" has never attracted a huge following as a guiding principle.

Libertarians want strong restrictions on government powers, but they get involved in plenty of social organizations. Libertarians, like free marketeers, recite examples of work that the government does more poorly than voluntary groups.

consider "It takes a village to raise a child." Lots of libertarians agree with that, but object when someone turns it to "It takes a government to raise a child." Similarly with the objection to a government edict that the Boy Scouts need to accept overt homosexuals in order to qualify for tax exemption. The government edict does not make the Boy Scouts fundamentally "more" social. This is especially so when gay bars are permitted to exclude overt heterosexuals and lesbians. Part of the right to associate freely is the right to exclude.

My objection to libertarians is that they always agree to some government restrictions (such as traffic control lights, regulation of weights and measures), without clearly identifying any standard by which some such restrictions are OK and others are not.

Posted by: MatthewRmarler on June 15, 2007 at 11:56 PM | PERMALINK

"Political tags--such as royalist, communist, democrat, populist, fascist, liberal, conservative, and. so forth--are never basic criteria. The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire. The former are idealists acting from highest motives for the greatest good of the greatest number. The latter are surly curmudgeons, suspicious and lacking in altruism. But they are more comfortable neighbors than the other sort."

-Robert A. Heinlein writing as "Lazarus Long"

Anybody trying to make it a lot more complicated than this is trying to hide something--probably their real motivations.

Posted by: harry on June 16, 2007 at 12:02 AM | PERMALINK

I, for one, find a nice analogy with alignment in D&D.

Republican:Lawful Evil
Libertarian:Chaotic Neutral
Democrat: Lawful Good
Anarchist: Chaotic Good

You can go on from there...

Posted by: bdelloid on June 16, 2007 at 12:04 AM | PERMALINK

If you're committed to breaking the stranglehold of the ruling classes, that just naturally leads you down certain roads. Likewise, if you think the current hierarchy works pretty well, that leads you down other roads. Economic justice and social justice are two sides of the same coin.

Where Democratic voters slide into the ditch is their belief that the Democratic Party has nothing to do with ruling classes. If you think Ted Kennedy, Edwards, Kerry, or the rest are at all egalitarian, check your glasses prescription and look again.

Posted by: helmuth on June 16, 2007 at 12:08 AM | PERMALINK

There ought to be a desert where we can abandon people who quote Heinlein.

Posted by: Adam on June 16, 2007 at 12:14 AM | PERMALINK

There ought to be a desert where we can abandon people who quote Heinlein.

Wherever that desert was, it would probably be one of the few places in this world where you wouldn't have to worry too much about having your freedoms taken from you.

Posted by: harry on June 16, 2007 at 12:32 AM | PERMALINK

Excellent post. Please go further on this topic.

By the way, I had to look up egalitarianist but it is exactly what I am.

Cheers.

Posted by: jharp on June 16, 2007 at 12:32 AM | PERMALINK

The word "egalitarianism" covers a lot of territory. For example, the idea of legal egalitarianism is completely different from economic egalitarianism.

Posted by: harry on June 16, 2007 at 12:42 AM | PERMALINK

@Harry

What are these freedoms? From whence do they derive? Who is threatening them?

Is somebody making you clean your room?
Did you get a speeding ticket?
Can't get into an R-rated movie?

What gives?

Posted by: Adam on June 16, 2007 at 12:44 AM | PERMALINK

There ought to be a desert where we can abandon people who quote Heinlein.

There is. When's harry going to join up and go?

If you think Ted Kennedy, Edwards, Kerry, or the rest are at all egalitarian... what they are personally is irrelevant. As legislators they come down on the egalitarian side, more often than not and that's what matters.

What's missing from this discussion is a mention of the fiction you can hear on Rush or Savage, or many of their imitators, that the liberals are the ruling elite and that white male Republicans are an oppressed minority. There are people who believe that shit and are fooled time after time into voting against their own best interests. Because everyone knows that Barbra Streisand has a lot more influence than anyone on the board at Halliburton, right?

Posted by: thersites on June 16, 2007 at 12:45 AM | PERMALINK

One way of looking at interior vs. exterior views of human nature. Conservatives see human happiness as a consequence of innate, interior qualities, and liberals see human happiness as a consequence of external causes -- culture, society, economic systems. Of course, most people agree that its a mix of the two, but the disagreement is on which one to emphasize.

What's really revealing about this is that if you favor interior causes, you won't make an argument from exterior causes in favor of your position. Take terrorism, for example -- the idea that terrorism is caused by fundamentalist religion is an argument that only liberals like Christopher Hitchens make. Instead, conservatives make the argument that terrorists are innately evil, and following a non-Christian religion is just another manifestation of this inherent evil. Disagreeing about the innateness of evil is what makes Democrats unserious on foreign policy, in their eyes. Sometimes you do find conservatives making seemingly exterior arguments -- like single motherhood and divorce is caused by society's decay. But what caused society's decay? Individuals who have turned away from God and the Bible.

Liberals tend to make arguments from both exterior and interior causes, and this just means that American liberals are not that liberal. They argue for gay rights on the basis that people are genetically gay, but real leftist thinkers like queer theorists argue that gender and sexuality is culturally constructed (exterior causes), so they actually oppose gay marriage.

This is kind of 1960s thinking is ridiculous, but many of today's liberals, especially younger ones, integrate both interior and exterior viewpoints, since it turns out that for any given problem, both viewpoints are probably valid and we need to include them both.

Obama gets it:

"on the question of inner-city poverty and dysfunction, Obama proposes a suite of orthodox solutions -- early childhood education, after-school and mentoring programs, efforts to teach young parents how to be parents. But he also emphasizes personal responsibility: "The framework that tends to be set up in Washington -- which is either the problem is not enough money and not enough government programs, or the problem is a culture of poverty and not enough emphasis on traditional values -- presents a false choice."

Posted by: mike-2 on June 16, 2007 at 12:58 AM | PERMALINK

What are these freedoms? From whence do they derive? Who is threatening them?

"Freedom" has as broad a meaning as "egalitarianism," and a serious discussion is too much for this venue. On the larger side, the freedoms our Founders described are based on the concept of individual rights. This is often forgotten.

On the more trivial side, it would be nice not to have light bulbs made illegal, to have a choice on trans-fats and smoking in bars, to be able to get a decent flow from my shower head, and to not have my life micromanaged every way from Sunday.

It's said, somewhat accurately, that the problem with Republicans is they won't stay out of your bedroom. The problem with Democrats is that they won't stay out of everyplace else in the house and outside it.

Posted by: harry on June 16, 2007 at 1:04 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin says: I thought I made this clear in the post, but maybe not. What I'm talking about here is the left-right divide solely after WWII. Before that parties divided up quite differently on social issues.

Maybe you've read different history books than I have, but my interpretation of history is that economic and social conservatism/liberalism have always gone together. The parties flipped positions, but the psychology remained the same. Sure, the Dixiecrats were segregationists, but that was only through inertia left over from the Civil War. The Republicans had long since abandoned civil rights and had made their bed with the big business elite. Truman integrated the military, while Eisenhower choose to ignore the budding civil rights movement. And of course, the Dems had been the pro labor party for decades.

Admittedly, the final consolidation between conservative economics and social conservatism didn't really reach its full fruition until the Reagan era, but by that time social conservatives were already mostly Republican thanks to the infamous Southern Strategy (which also had a lot of appeal outside of the south).

aa

Posted by: aaron aardvark on June 16, 2007 at 1:13 AM | PERMALINK

"As for the rural populist types (socially conservative/economically liberal), I'm not really sure what motivates them"

Dam, that is a good and quite significant question.

I live in central Indiana.

Posted by: jharp on June 16, 2007 at 1:20 AM | PERMALINK

. . . The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire. The former are idealists acting from highest motives for the greatest good of the greatest number. The latter are surly curmudgeons, suspicious and lacking in altruism. But they are more comfortable neighbors than the other sort."

Heinlein was wrong. The true idealists believe that most people will do the right thing most of the time when left to their own devices and don't need to be controlled. Liberals tend to be idealists when it comes to personal behavior. Conservatives, particularly social conservatives, believe people are inherently bad (as in the concept of original sin) and need a strong authoritarian social and legal stricture with to keep people from doing bad things.

aa

Posted by: aaron aardvark on June 16, 2007 at 1:27 AM | PERMALINK

I'm beginning to think there is the party of money as represented by those whom the media promotes and the party of everybody else.

When does the public get to have the governance they really want?
Posted by: MarkH on June 15, 2007 at 11:54 PM
---

Where Democratic voters slide into the ditch is their belief that the Democratic Party has nothing to do with ruling classes. If you think Ted Kennedy, Edwards, Kerry, or the rest are at all egalitarian, check your glasses prescription and look again.
Posted by: helmuth on June 16, 2007 at 12:08 AM
---

It sounds like Gore Vidal's comment about Dems and Repubs "being the left and right wing of the property party" is being validated here. MarkH, it does seem like the "contenders" are groomed and picked by the media, in an odd way like teams and players wind up in the World Series to maximal media effect.... no snark.. it *really* does seem eerily unnatural.

Posted by: Doc at the Radar Station on June 16, 2007 at 1:44 AM | PERMALINK

Perhaps some day Kevin can get around to explaining why respecting other people enough to leave them alone is, in his view, an inherently anti-social position.

Posted by: Will Allen on June 16, 2007 at 1:50 AM | PERMALINK

I agree with the first half of that Heinlein quote--that there are two basic classes, those who want to control and/or be controlled, and those who don't.

I disagree with the second half--where he says the first half are idealists with good intentions. He seems to be implying here that the control-freaks are the liberals. It's exactly the other way around.

For any political issue you can think of, if there's a position that's for reducing the differences in power, wealth or privilege between the better-off and the worse-off, then that's the liberal side, and if there's a position that's for maintaining or increasing such differences, then that's the conservative side.

It's all about power, dominance, hierarchy, and zero-sum games. Conservatives aren't happy unless some people are identifiably winning and some people are losing. Liberals are fine with winners winning less so that losers can win more, because that evens out the difference between winners and losers.

Kevin's basically right. Generally speaking, if you're the sort of person who wants everyone to be equal, then you probably want them to be equal both economically and socially. You may feel more strongly about one or the other of them, but you're probably not going to be a strong supporter of economic freedom and a strong opponent of lifestyle freedom, or vice versa... it's just not consistent.

Posted by: Evan on June 16, 2007 at 2:07 AM | PERMALINK

Quite an interesting subject but I find it impossible to become involved. What exactly does "I'm using 'liberal' in the American sense here" mean?

I obviously don't understand because "in general, modern political parties that represent economic liberalism also tend to represent social liberalism" is to me contradictory to the observed facts. Does he mean that economic liberalism, by the US definition, is really economic socialistic policies allied to open acceptance of individual differences, or is it that the professed social libertarianism of the right that manifests itself in narrow mindedness and pernicious prejudices is aligned with free markets?

One of the problens with speaking USian is that all the words mean exactly what too many writers want them to mean, neither more nor less.

Am I exposing my survival to an existential threat?

Just kidding!

Posted by: notthere on June 16, 2007 at 2:13 AM | PERMALINK

Quite an interesting subject but I find it impossible to become involved. What exactly does "I'm using 'liberal' in the American sense here" mean?

I obviously don't understand because "in general, modern political parties that represent economic liberalism also tend to represent social liberalism" is to me contradictory to the observed facts. Does he mean that economic liberalism, by the US definition, is really economic socialistic policies allied to open acceptance of individual differences, or is it that the professed social libertarianism of the right that manifests itself in narrow mindedness and pernicious prejudices is aligned with free markets?

One of the problens with speaking USian is that all the words mean exactly what too many writers want them to mean, neither more nor less.

Am I exposing my survival to an existential threat?

Just kidding!

Posted by: notthere on June 16, 2007 at 2:15 AM | PERMALINK

Apologies. I was getting a "page not found" message.

Will Allen, because no man is an island?

You drive a car? Shop at stores? Have a bank account? Pay taxes? You use and accept all the conveniences of present day society? Then you want to be free of controlling norms? Perhaps you'd like to explain your inconsistent and anti-social position?

Posted by: notthere on June 16, 2007 at 2:24 AM | PERMALINK

notthere, stop me if I'm repeating what you already know, but "liberal" in the US means someone who supports government safety net programs (pension, unemployment insurance, minimum wage, aid to poor families, etc.), strong government regulation for the public good, and progressive taxation, while not believing in state ownership of much of the economy. It thus means close to the opposite of what "liberal" means in continental Europe and, I think, Britain, where liberals are those who support deregulation, flatter taxes, smaller government safety nets, and a more laissez-faire approach to the economy. A "liberal" in the US sits pretty much where a Labor Party supporter would sit in the comparable Anglo-European political spectrum.

I have a vague sense that this difference has something to do with a 19th-century context of Anglo-European liberals like Mills arguing for loosening the grip of historically tight state control over the economy, where in the US there wasn't so much state control over the economy to start with. But I could be totally wrong about that.

Posted by: mattsteinglass on June 16, 2007 at 2:36 AM | PERMALINK

Thanks for your kind help, mattsteinglass, but that is what I'm objecting to, where a label assumes a new meaning. Of course, in the UK they had a Liberal Party for quite some time, but not all their policies were "liberal". In the same way conflating Democratic Party policies with "liberal" is a deliberate and successful ploy used by the Republicans to sully the very word.

About as confusing to me that a Republican state is a Red state. Go figure!

I here Mao and Lenin spinning.

Posted by: notthere on June 16, 2007 at 2:49 AM | PERMALINK

here/hear !?

Posted by: notthere on June 16, 2007 at 2:55 AM | PERMALINK

Well, notthere, if you read the Wikipedia article on "liberalism", you'll see that the sense of the term as used in the US is not illegitimate at all, and may actually be rooted in an older construction of the term than the current European one. Liberalism has always, in Europe and the US, been about guaranteeing choices and equality of opportunity to individuals. Starting in the 1910s through the 1930s, this became associated on both continents with advocating more government economic intervention to restrain the power of giant corporations and to smooth out catastrophic ups and downs in the market. It looks like the current understanding of "liberal" in Europe dates from the postwar period, when socialism or social democracy became the neutral-left "Labor Party" position in Europe, leaving liberal parties as the anti-statist ones -- because they opposed state ownership of the economy. In the US, where socialism never really got anywhere, that didn't happen, so liberalism stayed on the left of the spectrum. Liberalism almost underwent a rightward shift in the late '60s when the New Left started attacking it from the left; but the laissez-faire von Hayek position ended up being occupied by American conservatives rather than liberals because of Goldwaterism/Reaganism, which really has no counterpart in continental Europe. Though Thatcherism is pretty identical. Actually it seems to me the split in meaning of "liberal" is more Anglo-American vs. European; nobody would call Thatcher a "liberal", and the anti-statist position in Britain has been occupied since the '70s by the Tories, not the Liberal Democrats. (Perhaps that's changing at the moment, with the conversion of the Tories to environmentalism? Who knows?)

Posted by: mattsteinglass on June 16, 2007 at 3:09 AM | PERMALINK

BTW, this history also shows that Kevin seems to have the question backwards. Liberalism has ALWAYS been about individual freedom to pursue one's own vision of "the good life", whether that includes hallucinogens and gay sex or not. So it was a given that "liberal" parties would be open to the lifestyle changes of the '60s. The contingent and unstable factor was those parties' economic policies, which have shifted frequently depending on the current understanding of what policies do the best job of protecting individuals' ability to pursue their vision of "the good life".

Posted by: mattsteinglass on June 16, 2007 at 3:24 AM | PERMALINK

Yesterday, commenter Maynard Handley at Matt Yglesias' blog said: "I have long thought that this deep split is between people who have an "expanded" view of "us" and people who have a constricted view."

After thinking about it overnight, I agree with that. Conservatism divides "my tribe" from "all those people out there that I don't like," promoting the former over the latter. Liberalism increasingly sees the world as its tribe, and is concerned about the well-being of mankind as a whole. (It's so true, it's been a cliche for a couple of generations now.)

Corporate interests are more naturally allied with the tribal parties for a few obvious reasons: (1) the more global party is going to object to corporations prospering at the expense of the people, wherever it happens; (2) the tribal party isn't going to complain if the corporate interests are exploiting persons outside their tribe; and (3) the tribal folks are easily distracted from even thinking about corporate exploitation of their own by the usual array of tribal us-v.-them issues.

Posted by: low-tech cyclist (formerly RT) on June 16, 2007 at 7:33 AM | PERMALINK

What Kevin euphemistically describes as egalitarianism most folks would describe as an abdication of personal responsibility. It's easy for college students, lawyers, acedemics, therapists, social workers, etc. [i.e. the Democratic base] to see individuals as pinballs bounced around by corporate or ruling class forces. For the majority of people over 25, however, stories of your bad luck or brutal potty training just don't cut it when your asking for another hand-out or clemency for your crimes. That's what defines swing voters, Reagan Democrats, "rural populists" [in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn] etc. - in short, the natural Republican majority that is rapidly being rebuilt by Reid and Pelosi.

Posted by: minion on June 16, 2007 at 7:46 AM | PERMALINK

I'd add demographics to the mix of fact-free speculation. With increasing population and especially the baby boom the age mix changed, skewing towards youth. Rich people and people who run businesses tend to be older. As well as already comfortable with the existing social order.

Posted by: larry birnbaum on June 16, 2007 at 8:33 AM | PERMALINK

Opponents of environmentalism are not limited to business interests. Environmentalism and the environmental movement has an urban bias as well. Urban areas rely upon rural areas for natural resources. To oversimplify, urbanites divide the world into work and play areas. The city is where they work, farms is where their food is raised and the rest of the country is where they play. Upon these play areas is imposed a Garden of Eden "wilderness myth" Anyone who works in "play" areas is a despoiler of nature and if rural dwellers oppose the imposition of environmental ideology they are quickly dismissed as "Business interests" - In some case this is true and it may in fact be purely exploitation of nature, but not always. Out of touch urbanites can't tell the difference.

Posted by: chowderhead on June 16, 2007 at 9:01 AM | PERMALINK

Minion has the kernel of an idea. Without putting too fine a point on it, the rural population has a deep distrust of the urban, and a not altogether irrational fear of becoming urbanized. Charity that that they wouldn't think twice to extending to members of their own community becomes unnecessary handouts to doubtlessly lying, shiftless city folk. I hasten to add that I myself have these tendencies, and I don't want this to sound like like a denigrating parody. Thus economic fairness, which they understand, comes hand in hand with social "conservatism," or 'don't give us any of those city-values.' I myself don't go that far, but I understand the phenomenon.

I think it telling that the progressive movement took root in rural America after it became abundantly clear to everyone that rapacious urbanites were to blame for the universal degradation of rural livelihoods, and that these problems were insoluble from within their communities.

Posted by: jhm on June 16, 2007 at 9:12 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin gets it wrong from the jump: "Nothing explains everything, after all."

Nonsense. Immigration explains everything.

First, you have the fact that just as in physics where they keep searching for the Grand Explanation of Everything, in politics it is supplied by immigration: the Unified Field Theory. You can test this (and fail to disprove it) with the observation that there are NO political issues in the US that lack an immigration component.

Think about it: Abortion? Chinese refugees fleeing the one-child policy. Taxes? US citizens who renounce their citizenship for tax purposes. The environment? The root of most anti-immigration groups isn't racism, but Malthus. The elites out of touch, the role of unaccountable and ideological foundation grants on the Left, of money in politics?

The list goes on, but I'll spare you. Immigration is as ubiquitous as taxes, but unlike taxes the exercise of political power over immigration is directly over people rather than money and capital. So it is much subtler and more dialectic.

Second, the essence of AMERICAN immigration is that 'they' become 'us', and that who 'we' are, as in We, the People, changes and expands to include 'em.

That's why it is the dynamic over immigration that explains, well, everything.

The last Lincoln Republican was Teddy Roosevelt, who was the first to apply the word "Americanization" to immigrants, and it was TR's program that his nephew FDR used to build the modern Democratic party in the 30s, largely on the Americanized children of the early 20th century immigrants.

Even the core economic debate over zero or plus sum economics (viz, who cares if the rich get richer so long as the poor get richer, too?) is more essentially reflected in immigration issues: conservatives believe it DILUTES America that foreigners can become citizens; progressives don't.

Ahh.... but the Unified Field Theory of politics is a complex system. Progressives, being progressives, are more idealist than practical, and get suckered into the same mistake the Democratic Party always makes: Democrats were willing to tolerate slavery to save the union. FDR made common cause with Jim Crow Democrats (like Harry Byrd, Sr.) to build the New Deal. When white ethnics (i.e., Reagan Democrats) vote like FDR's coalition, Democrats win (Clinton), but when they forget what FDR taught 'em, we lose (Nixon, Reagan, Bush).

And isn't Senator Kennedy willing to gut family- and employer-based immigration and build a German model for immigration to replace Ellis Island (a whole generation before they get to vote, if ever), in order to get a bad amnesty?

Just try to come up with a better example of what's wrong with our politics than the PROCESS (never mind the substance) of the pending immigration bill. Written in secret by lobbyists and a 'core group' of Senators, rather than in public by a Senate Committee? Debated over symbols and ethnicity, instead of the actual legislation?

Ya see? Immigration explains EVERYTHING.

Posted by: theAmericanist on June 16, 2007 at 9:32 AM | PERMALINK
Environmentalism, for example, is something that I suspect everyone naturally supports unless they have some reason not to, and the main reason not to is that it interferes with business interests.

But environmentalism fits into an egalitarian frame, too. Thom Hartmann frequently points out that the essence of business is externalizing costs and internalizing profits - pushing the cost of producing something onto others while reaping the benefits. As a part of the commons, our environment (from an egalitarian perspective) belongs to us all and should therefore be looked after. From the conservative perspective, it is merely the sewer that (like everything else) properly belongs to the elite, for them to exploit in whatever way most benefits them.

Posted by: Carl Manaster on June 16, 2007 at 9:44 AM | PERMALINK

It's difficult if not impossible to break the stranglehold of the ruling classes when you're borrowing so much money from them.

Posted by: comment101 on June 16, 2007 at 9:46 AM | PERMALINK

There are mostly liberals and conservatives because the Democratic Party is an economically liberal Party held hostage by socially liberal interest groups, such as NARAL, and the Republican Party is (at least it claims to be) economically conservative Party held hostage by socially conservative interest groups, such as the Moral Majority.

Posted by: brian on June 16, 2007 at 9:54 AM | PERMALINK

For the majority of people over 25, however, stories of your bad luck or brutal potty training just don't cut it when your asking for another hand-out or clemency for your crimes.

If they didn't want to be raped and murdered for their land, they should have had the good sense not to be born in Darfur. Most Americans have lower incomes than their dads did, despite 30 years of economic growth -- ooh, poor babies! They're obviously just lazier and stupider than their dads were. One-sixth of Americans lack health insurance, while 0 French people do? Americans are obviously just lazier, stupider, and more irresponsible than French people are.

I'm sorry -- "systemic"? What does that word mean? I'm afraid I'm too lazy and stupid to understand it.

Posted by: mattsteinglass on June 16, 2007 at 10:00 AM | PERMALINK

> Supposedly Giuliani and Clinton are
> Conservative and Liberal

Giuliani is a Radical Right Authoritarian. Clinton is a moderate (country-club) Republican. That might explain some of the confusion.

> I agree with the first half of that Heinlein
> quote--that there are two basic classes, those
> who want to control and/or be controlled, and
> those who don't.
>
> I disagree with the second half--where he says
> the first half are idealists with good
> intentions. He seems to be implying here that
> the control-freaks are the liberals. It's
> exactly the other way around.
> [...]
> It's all about power, dominance, hierarchy, and
> zero-sum games. Conservatives aren't happy
> unless some people are identifiably winning and
> some people are losing. Liberals are fine with
> winners winning less so that losers can win
> more, because that evens out the difference
> between winners and losers.

I agree, but I think you have to mix the desire for authoritarianism in there too. The committed Republicans just seem to have an inbuilt need to have a strong, punishing Father Figure to be In Charge(tm) of everything, and _also_ to have Block Committees that monitor and control personal behavior on a community level. The talk unceasingly about "freedom" but they don't actually think anyone other than themself and the Strong Father should _have_ any of that freedom.

Cranky

Posted by: Cranky Observer on June 16, 2007 at 10:01 AM | PERMALINK

> Without putting too fine a point on it,
> the rural population has a deep distrust of the
> urban, and a not altogether irrational fear of
> becoming urbanized.

Which is why they have been moving to the cities in increasing numbers since 1840, with the rural areas now getting close to being depopulated. (please look up the Census Bureau figures before counterattacking; they are available on the first page of the appropriate Google search).

Cranky

Posted by: Cranky Observer on June 16, 2007 at 10:05 AM | PERMALINK

McCain says he will fight Clintons PORK, the Dumb Azz needs to start fighting his own partys PORK BARREL spending before he concerns himself with the Democrats, McCain is just like the current administration DELUSIONAL.

Posted by: Al on June 16, 2007 at 10:11 AM | PERMALINK

But why would being for the working class lead to sympathy for suppressing gun rights? Just remember, there are actually four good reasons to have firearms:
1. Hunting (which I only excuse if game is eaten.)
2. Self-defense against criminals
3. Self-defense against an overarching government (And liberals should acknowledge that such can happen and should be opposed.)
4. Self-defense against an overarching aristocracy
(This is the one you don't hear much about, but it's probably the best reason of all...!

Posted by: Neil B. on June 16, 2007 at 10:21 AM | PERMALINK

Al at "apurser2004 at yahoo point com" - Is this now the "real" Al, not the "fake" Al/s of none@none.com?

Posted by: Neil B. on June 16, 2007 at 10:24 AM | PERMALINK

This is the real Al know nothing about none@none.com

Posted by: Al on June 16, 2007 at 10:50 AM | PERMALINK

There are mostly liberals and conservatives because the Democratic Party is an economically liberal Party held hostage by socially liberal interest groups, such as NARAL, and the Republican Party is (at least it claims to be) economically conservative Party held hostage by socially conservative interest groups, such as the Moral Majority.
Posted by: brian on June 16, 2007 at 9:54 AM

Interesting point that I generally agree with. You could also re-write what you said like this and it would also make sense (perhaps not as much-especially for Republicans):

There are mostly liberals and conservatives because the Democratic Party is an socially liberal Party held hostage by economically liberal interest groups, such as [Unions], and the Republican Party is (at least it claims to be) socially conservative Party held hostage by economically conservative interest groups, such as [Corporations].

The economic liberalism (especially trade unionism) in the Democratic party was killed in the '80's by the ideology of neo-classical economics and they became *neo-liberals*. In many ways this created a loss of identity for the Democrats and allowed the "social side" of the equation to take over resulting in the culture wars we see and Republican hegemony of the political landscape. Economics (especially behavioral economics) is beginning to put the neo-classicists on the defensive and there is a new opening for the Democrats to regain their former economically liberal identity they used to possess. With that re-established they could once again be an effective and formidable opposition.

Posted by: Doc at the Radar Station on June 16, 2007 at 11:23 AM | PERMALINK

Much of the Econ Right Social right fusion was a conscious orchestration of Frank Meyer. This is why it also incorporates something Drum (tellingly) left out-the Cold War Right.

The Old Right, about which Drum seems not to know, or care, or care to know, was reflexively anti-war, and anti-federal government. This is why the New Right inherited-to some degree-small government views.

Also Kevin Drum forgets that his pet social programs like modern feminism (read-abortion), gay rights and affirmative action are givens. They were revolutionary measures and remain deeply controversial even today. In the 1950s, when the New Right started to take over the Old, they were unheard of. It required an intensive campaign of social conditioning to bring these ideas into the mainstream. What would any conservative want with social engineering campaigns? It is highly consistent with disdain for economic interference.

The more interesting question is how the Left shifted from standard Communism to the modern multicultural bizzaro-left of today. The Right has always been consistent: resistance to the Left.

Posted by: BC on June 16, 2007 at 11:39 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin:

I recommend you read George Lakoff's book, Moral Politics: How Liberals and Conservatives Think and then bounce your ideas off of his theory of the Strict Father and the Nurturant Parent moral models in order to reach an understanding as to why people think and act as they do. You may find it to provide an understanding of both the historical aspect and the psychological aspect of why we are what we are.

Posted by: tbaum on June 16, 2007 at 12:04 PM | PERMALINK

Why so many insane freaks on this thread? Did somebody link to this post at Townhall or Malkin?

Posted by: mattsteinglass on June 16, 2007 at 12:31 PM | PERMALINK

I was really enjoying the comments here up until mhr put his last two cents in. What a macaroon.Talk about knowing no history. I'm afraid child social egalitarianism had it's roots at a much earlier time than 1789. Figure it out if you can.

Posted by: Gandalf on June 16, 2007 at 12:47 PM | PERMALINK

minion: For the majority of people over 25, however, stories of your bad luck or brutal potty training just don't cut it when your asking for another hand-out or clemency for your crimes. That's what defines swing voters, Reagan Democrats, "rural populists" [in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn] etc. - in short, the natural Republican majority that is rapidly being rebuilt by Reid and Pelosi.


"Americans give the GOP their most negative assessment in the 2-decade history of the WSJ/NBC survey - 49% to 36% say the Democratic Party more closely shares their values and positions on the issues."

- Wall Street Journal 6/14/07

Posted by: mr. irony on June 16, 2007 at 1:45 PM | PERMALINK

Minion, Mr. Irony got there first, but one of my partners-in-(thought)-crime did a very thorough job of fisking every point you just feebly attempted to make.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on June 16, 2007 at 1:55 PM | PERMALINK

Global and Mr. Irony.

Love you guys but I beg to differ. If you were correct the Dim Bulb from Searchlight would have an approval rating above 19% [tied with Scooter Libby] and Congress might be more popular than Jorge Arbusto.

Posted by: minion of the right wing on June 16, 2007 at 4:01 PM | PERMALINK

Minion, don't be deliberately obtuse. Comparing congressional and presidential approval ratings is apples and oranges. You know that full well. We have been over this ad nauseum.

Congress always gets a low rating - but when asked about their own representative and senators, they are doing a fair job - it's those other 532 polecats that are terrible.

If that myth were based in reality, incumbent advantage would be non existent.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on June 16, 2007 at 4:21 PM | PERMALINK

Actually, Blue Girl, I do think Minion has something of a point. The Congressional approval rating took a real hit after Democrats backed down on insuring troop readiness and putting in a timeline in the face of Bush's opposition to these measures. So Minion, you're right if you believe that Congress has to take tougher steps to fund the end of the Iraq war in order to regain public support.

Going back to the actual question as opposed to the RW troll thread hijacking comments, I think part of it is groups working together start to identify with each other.

Posted by: JoshA on June 16, 2007 at 4:43 PM | PERMALINK

"[I]t was TR's program that his nephew FDR used to build the modern Democratic party in the 30s . . ."

For the record, TR was Eleanor's uncle, not Franklin's. FDR was a distant cousin of both.

Posted by: Henderstock on June 16, 2007 at 4:46 PM | PERMALINK

I agree the Repubs are on the ropes right now - if the election were held today even I would probably vote for Obama. But I disagree with the argument that generic Dem vs. Repub polls are as significant as those with real people running against other oxygen beathers, though. In those polls even at our low point Rudy or McCain beat Hillary. If I could script the future I'd have Fred Thompson and Condi Rice beat a Hillary/Obama ticket, serve one term to finish our purge of the judiciary, then let a more seasoned Obama try to move the pendulum back in the progressive direction.

Posted by: minion on June 16, 2007 at 4:46 PM | PERMALINK

here's your future movement explained:

http://www.amazon.com/Blessed-Unrest-Largest-Movement-Coming/dp/0670038520

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Hawken

revisiting the 1880s Supreme Court decision making corporations legal persons would surely help our world NOW.

Posted by: slanted tom on June 16, 2007 at 4:53 PM | PERMALINK

Oh I know that Congress overall took a hit - and I was kind-of glad to see it. Maybe we got their effing attention. I hope those who have a rep who "voted wrong" made their wrath felt. I live in the bluest congressional district in my red state, and my AME minister Representative voted correctly: i.e. a resounding "NO".

In practice, I am one of those who bitches loudly about Congress in general, but am four-square behind Mayor, er, Congressman Cleaver.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on June 16, 2007 at 4:54 PM | PERMALINK

I disagree with this talk about the Democratic Congress not accomplishing anything. It's been six months and they have raised the minimum wage to over $7.00!!! And they named a post office after Rush Limbaugh in your fair state, BG.

Posted by: minion on June 16, 2007 at 5:37 PM | PERMALINK

Not the odious gasbag on the radio - his grandfather. Rush Limbaugh Sr. was a respected attorney in a part of the state where they consider us Yankees and I have never ventured.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on June 16, 2007 at 5:41 PM | PERMALINK

i don't think it's as much an issue an issue of ideological consistency as it is politics. the party that represents the economically disposessed would seem to have an interest in social egalitarianism. the economically disposessed also tend to be discriminated against socially. once minorities are a part of political coalition, they might lobby for the party to take a progressive position on social issues. and party leadership would have an interest in accomodating it, since they risk losing part of their coalition if they don't.

however, people in the coalition who don't favor social egalitarianism might be put off by these demands, and flee to the pro-business party since there's no other alternative. hence the pro-business party's rather strange assemblage of interests.

all that's kinda abstract- a greater familiarity with the party development would probably settle the question.

Posted by: mattl on June 16, 2007 at 5:46 PM | PERMALINK

mattl...

Everybody here seems to be forgetting one of the most major forces shaping modern politics: the Cold War.

Vietnam splintered the Democrats to the point where the Cold War Liberals were routed by the Progressives between the 1968 Convention and the nomination of McGovern in '72.

Nixon took a hard Cold War stance and played for the support of Working-Class Whites who had been driven from their communities by highly unpopular Johnson initiatives, such as housing projects and bussing. He also courted the South, playing to their resentment of losing their grip on white supremacy.

McGovern basically turned a deaf ear to the concerns all of these constituencies, namely: working class whites, Cold War Liberals, and segregationists. The party could have probably disowned the segregationists and survived, but McGovern's Kum-Ba-Ya nonsense and his softness on crime during the worst crime spree in the history of the country up to that time cost the Democratic Party its military and police power credibility, while his rejection of non-segregationist working class whites forfeited the countries largest political bloc.

Carter's various debacles only reinforced the Democrats' image as incompetent on Defense issues.
Meanwhile, the Republicans built coalitions with Pro-Lifers and other social conservative constituencies, who had been initially courted and betrayed by Carter. This was not the source of their mass appeal. That came from tough stances on crime and foreign policy, further cemented when Reagan was able to take credit for the collapse of Communism.

Note how the Democrats kept Congress throughout this period, further reinforcing my argument that there were large numbers of voters who sympathized with Democrats on Domestic issues, but wanted a strong executive Foreign policy concerns manifest themselves in executive politics, not legislative ones.

The newfound competitiveness of the Democrats is attributable to Bush the Elder's killing of the Republican Party, setting up the model for Bush Jr. Nobody on the Left seems to notice that the demise of the Republicans is largely at the hands of the idiocy and knavery of both Bushes.

Posted by: BC on June 16, 2007 at 6:46 PM | PERMALINK

My personal crackpot theory about this is class-based, but in a peculiar way. Since the rise of mass broadcast media, a national political campaign has needed a lot of money. It can't just appeal to the rich, though, because it also needs lots of voters.

So any successful political party in a developed Western democracy since the mid-20th century has needed to cut across class lines. The two ways they generally do this are to adopt educated-cosmopolitan cultural values with populist economic values, or to do the reverse. There are your liberals and conservatives. That is also how both parties can credibly attack each other for elitism.

Posted by: Matt McIrvin on June 16, 2007 at 10:36 PM | PERMALINK

"Any political spectrum analysis that doesn't include a pole for nationalism is missing a big part of the story."
_______________________

Perhaps an even better way of looking at the political spectrum is where each movement stands on statism axis. All political movement, save libertarianism, seek to use the power of the state to exercise their will. The degree to which how far a movement will go towards statist control differs depending on the Cause. Too much statism tends to drive people toward the opposite side of issues about which they would normally be neutral or even sympathetic.

Posted by: trashhauler on June 17, 2007 at 5:38 AM | PERMALINK

Matt unwittingly offers yet more proof of the 'immigration explains everything' Unified Field: "Since the rise of mass broadcast media, a national political campaign has needed a lot of money. It can't just appeal to the rich, though, because it also needs lots of voters."

Not just national campaigns.

From 1776 through the 1910 census, America was based on the proposition that population COMPELLED representation. That is, if there were people living in an area, there was an affirmative obligation to recognize their right to self-government. (There were some exceptions, which were, ah, exceptional.)

This meant that after EVERY census until 1920, the House of Representatives routinely added seats to reflect a growing country.

But after 1920, the balance of power in rural districts finally brought about an epiphany in the House: adding representatives diluted the power of the 435 who already HAD power. So, primarily in order to preserve the balance of rural power that existed at the time AGAINST the rising tide of immigrants in American cities, for the first time a growing American population did not get more representatives.

If you recognize that this was fundamentally unAmerican, not to mention unnatural, the course of history since is clear: first one person/one vote laws eliminated disproportionate power of farmland while reinforcing the power of the collective House over its collective employers, then the cost of elections in districts that divide media markets altered the calculus, then the (Republican-funded) rise of majority-minority districting all but eliminated the modern southern Democrat, and finally the inevitable zero-sum apportionment of the same 435 Representatives over a tripled population means that a Northeast Congresscritter represents twice the # of voters as a Southwestern one.

It proves Matt's point, which proves mine: it costs a LOT of money to appeal to voters who have no other sense of community in their Congressional district cuz they're not based on cities or towns or neighborhoods, not even on media markets: politicians pick their voters, and yet the most effective way to PICK voters is to polarize 'em: marginal advantages in many districts, maximum disadvantage in a few.

We would have a far healthier political system if we went back to expanding representation with population: a plus-sum, AMERICAN way.

Ya see? Immigration explains everything.

Posted by: theAmericanist on June 17, 2007 at 8:54 AM | PERMALINK

Oh please trashauler, libertarians use the power of the state against others as well.

They would use the power of the state to enforce property rights, including taking the surplus value of labor for themselves.

They would use the power of the state to make sure externalities like pollution, educating the workforce, transportation, and other benefits are paid primarily by the masses instead of the economic elite.

They would use power of the state to prevent workers from organizing and striking to defend their rights.

Sorry, but libertarians would be vigorous users of state power.

Posted by: Dr. Morpheus on June 17, 2007 at 11:07 AM | PERMALINK

Late to the conversation, but while we are engaging in fact free speculation, I'll observe that as a culture, the US is deeply individualistic. Americans, conservative and liberal, agree that "be all you can be" is not only achieveable, but desireable. They agree that the idea that someone might have the power to infringe on my right to choose for myself, to express myself, my right to "be all I can be,"--in short, my liberty--is a terrible, terrible thing. Both conservatives and liberals agree that the government should protect our individual rights.

As we all know, the Declaration of Independence states that "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness..." Americans are proud that our Constitution protects the minority opinion from mob rule.

So far, we are all agreed. However, during the postwar period, conservatives and liberals have polarized in their opinion of who is covered by these Constitutional rights. Conservatives still regard white men of property as the norm. For liberals, people of color and women are also guaranteed these rights. The differences between conservative and liberal economic and social policies can be understood from this fundamental difference of opinion.

The obvious beneficiary of conservative social policies (anti-abortion, anti-birth control, anti-gay, anti-welfare, pro-guns, anti-immigration, stern penalties for non-white collar crimes) are white males. Conservative economic policies (cut taxes, deregulate, inequality is okay, privatize government functions, privatize social security and healthcare) reflect an effort to retain the power of white males by blocking the power of the government to strip them of their privilege. They embrace issues like school prayer or the 10 commandments/Christmas displays in public buildings because conservatives use the Bible to justify the male status quo. They embrace patriotism because in the good old days, the government was theirs.

Liberal social policies (pro-choice, pro-gay, pro-affirmative action, more tolerant of drugs, single parenthood, crime, pro-immigration, sympathetic to illegal immigration, pro-healthcare) attempt to increase the power of people of color and women to "be all they can be" and decrease the clout of white males. Liberal economic policies strive for a more equal society (taxes to provide services that individuals can't afford for themselves; health care, regulations, standards and environmental oversight ensure health & safety and keep the playing field equal.)

While I'm on this roll, I'll add that Libertarians seem to be men who might otherwise be marginalized (gay Andrew Sullivan is an excellent example) but who are otherwise okay with preserving their privilege. Rural populist types are people who would like to maintain a traditional family values, but have figured out that progressive economic policies help them. They voted Bush in 2000 and 2004, but they are breaking Democratic now.

We have been unable to address the environmental crises because we automaticall and unconsciously frame issues through the lens of white male vs people of color/female and that is hard to do with global climate change. It makes no sense.

Posted by: PTate in FR on June 17, 2007 at 11:42 AM | PERMALINK

"The obvious beneficiary of conservative social policies (anti-abortion, anti-birth control, anti-gay, anti-welfare, pro-guns, anti-immigration, stern penalties for non-white collar crimes) are white males. Conservative economic policies reflect an effort to retain the power of white males by blocking the power of the government to strip them of their privilege. conservatives use the Bible to justify the male status quo. They embrace patriotism because in the good old days, the government was theirs."


"Liberal social policies (pro-choice, pro-gay, pro-affirmative action, more tolerant of drugs, single parenthood, crime, pro-immigration, sympathetic to illegal immigration, pro-healthcare) attempt to increase the power of people of color and women"

This is precisely the McGovernism which destroyed the Democratic Party in the 70s and ushered in an era of Republican dominance that would have continued uninterrupted sans Nixon's foolishness.

I know that PTate in FR was immersed in the spirit o irony when he wrote this, since political vanity, cluelessness, or idiocy could not possibly penetrate to such depths. Tolerence of illegitimacy and drugs has helped minorities? What planet has this man been living in?

"We have been unable to address the environmental crises because we automaticall and unconsciously frame issues through the lens of white male vs people of color/female and that is hard to do with global climate change."

This is the evidence I have that PTate meant his previous statements ironically He was truly making fun of tose who saw things through the white male vs people of color/women lense. If I am wrong about this, God help us all, because even one idiot of such magnitude is a mortal threat to the human race.

Posted by: BC on June 17, 2007 at 12:16 PM | PERMALINK

BC: "If I am wrong about this, God help us all, because even one idiot of such magnitude is a mortal threat to the human race."

Wow, dude. Hyperbole, what? I wasn't evaluating the outcomes of those policies, I was just enumerating them. I agree that the outcomes of some of those policies are ironic, if by ironic you mean tragically accomplishing the opposite of what was intended. Nor was I making fun of those who view the world through a white male/people of color/women lens, I was simply trying to make the point that the lens is there. Personally, I think it is very, very stupid.

But the lens is still very much in place. In the debate, why the homophobia of the current crop of the Republican candidates--in Jon Stewart's clever line, "the only thing worse than another attack on America would be having a gay hero stop it." Why should we be having conversations about whether Obama is "black" enough? Why should feminists be so excited that Hillary may be our next President? It's that damn lens.

I believe we will make progress only when we move on.

Posted by: PTate in FR on June 17, 2007 at 3:35 PM | PERMALINK

I guess the Hyperbole was a tad excessive, so I'll balance it out with the aforementioned understatement...

Identity politics are inherently very powerful, and I would guess that most of it derives from the residual tribalism of humanity's distant past.

It comes into play because of a competition for resources. For some reason, people are willing to share resources amongst others like themselves, but not amongst people whom they perceive as an "other". Multicultural politics and ethnic activists, for their own interests, fan the flames of hostility and competition amongst minorities.


There is too much diversity among whites for a real unified racial consciousness to emerge. What we have among whites are various identity-conscious politics. White Liberals out to marginalize and ridicule white conservatives (particularly Christians), White Christians defending their values from this attack, White working class conservatives defending their interests from affirmative action, white homosexuals trying to attain general acceptance of their behavior patterns, etc. Whites are now, I would argue, too busy fighting themselves to really have any interest in marginalizing minorities. The divisions between the counterculture, the establishment, and the populists which emerged in the 1960s broke down cultural consensus amongst whites, undermining what was a necessary foundation for any unified white consciousness.

The central feature of politics today is, in my opinion, the exploitation of divisions among whites by Global Elitists for the purpose of the expropriation of all. (And by all, I mean ALL). It will only end when these various factions of whites can find a way to communicate with each other and resolve their differences. I find it highly unlikely that this will result in a renewal of discrimination against minorities. That horse was killed a while ago.

Posted by: BC on June 17, 2007 at 8:47 PM | PERMALINK

BC: " The divisions between the counterculture, the establishment, and the populists which emerged in the 1960s broke down cultural consensus amongst whites, undermining what was a necessary foundation for any unified white consciousness."" The divisions between the counterculture, the establishment, and the populists which emerged in the 1960s broke down cultural consensus amongst whites, undermining what was a necessary foundation for any unified white consciousness."

I agree completely and found your comments very interesting.

I have been living in urban France for the past five months and, of course, am constantly reflecting on cultural differences, which is one source of my observation about the white male/persons of color-women conflict that seems to me to be driving so much policy and division in the US.

Your comments really resonant with what I am observing. Compared to France, it seems to me, the US dominant culture seems deeply fragmented right now, paralyzed. It not only lacks a sense of core values and shared vision but is actively hostile to the idea. We won't even agree that we have a problem.

A second difference that strikes me--and your Global elitists captures this--is the the French are unwilling to hand their culture over to free market captialists. One finds a much more coherent cultural core (yet one that is accepting of a wide range of behavior) and a much higher quality of daily life. There are problems as well, of course, but I think the foundation is there for rapid, positive changes.

Where I see the most real cultural energy is in the Chinese and Indian students that I meet. If confidence predicts the future, the west may as well pack their bags and check out now.

Posted by: PTate in FR on June 18, 2007 at 10:19 AM | PERMALINK

Two brief observations:
I had a high school Government teacher in the 70's who once said, "I'm 90% Libertarian. It's just that that other 10% scares the hell out of me." He later won a county election as a Democrat.

Rural populists often lived their semi-secluded lives with strong Biblical observance but also remember the Dust Bowl and Great Depression and it's effects on their families and neighbors.

Posted by: carsick on June 18, 2007 at 11:02 AM | PERMALINK

"A second difference that strikes me--and your Global elitists captures this--is the the French are unwilling to hand their culture over to free market capitalists."
Posted by: PTate in FR on June 18, 2007 at 10:19 AM

That would also explain a lot of the "cultural nostalgia" you see with not only rural populists in this country, but with Islamists. They feel their way of life is under attack and they are alienated by Globalism. They find "globalism" depersonalizing, dehumanizing, and they suffer a loss of identity. Globalism or anarcho-capitalism is just a new form of Social Darwinism these people instinctively are going to find repugnant.

Posted by: Doc at the Radar Station on June 18, 2007 at 11:53 AM | PERMALINK

Some of the best minds are saying, this all revolves more around communities of like people (even in taste) etc., like a cultural thing, and of course interests (like whether they make lots of money from interest, heh...) than any honest metaphysical orientation.

Posted by: Neil B. on June 18, 2007 at 11:57 AM | PERMALINK

Here is someone who unwittingly makes my point far, far better than I can: Listen to why Maya Angelou endorses Hillary Clinton for president.

Posted by: PTate in FR on June 18, 2007 at 4:49 PM | PERMALINK

..

Posted by: Fiat on December 22, 2008 at 11:19 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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