The Conservative Conversion Machine
by Chris Bowers, Fri Mar 25, 2005 at 07:47:56 AM EST
Next, the child will likely attend public school, an institution conservatives have sought to control by taking over local school boards in order to introduce creationist textbooks, establish abstinence-only sex education and excise any lesson plans tolerant of homosexuality. And while activists seek to influence local curricula, right-wing think tanks advocate fully dismantling public education through vouchers and other ruses.
If our hypothetical student goes to college she will finally, for the first time, come face to face with a progressive worldview. Higher education stands as the only institution in American life today with a significant progressive presence. In classes, in clubs and in dorms, students are exposed to progressives and their views. Not surprisingly, Kerry won college-educated women by nine points, and all voters with post-graduate degrees by 11 points. And while he lost college-educated men, the trend lines are promising. He managed to do four points better than Gore.
Since college enrollment continues to climb, and the economy increasingly puts a premium on post-graduate degrees, this bodes well for Democrats. Conservatives realize this #### in their armor, which explains why their attacks on higher education are so ardent.(...)
Let's say, though, that our hypothetical youngster doesn't go to college, and instead enters the workforce. If her job is unionized, she will immediately be exposed to progressive ideas about fairness and workplace democracy, but the odds are overwhelmingly against her holding a union job. Over the last 30 years, unionization has fallen from more than 35 percent to less than 12 percent of the workforce due to, among other things, a sustained attack by Republicans on the right to organize. From the instant the National Labor Relations Act passed in 1935, the business class has recognized that unions are the most direct means by which working-class voters are brought into the left. Being in a union has an even more dramatic effect on voting behavior than college. Kerry won two-thirds of union members, and among working-class white voters, a group Kerry lost by 24 points, he won a majority of those in a union.And these are only some examples. Toss in the Right Wing Noise Machine and the extensive evangelicizing of conservative churches, and it all adds up to a conservative movement heavily bent on reaching new converts, and a liberal movement that is comparatively ineffective at doing the same.
This situation is untenable for progressives, liberals and Democrats. I have repeatedly argued that our only way out of our current electoral problems, long-term, is for the number of self-identifying liberals to close the gap on the number of self-identifying progressives. Clearly, this is never going to happen if conservative mechanisms for persuasion and conversion remain so much more powerful and prevalent in almost all areas of everyday life: in the media, at your job, in your place of worship, even in school. No one solution, such as increasing union density, developing a Left Wing Noise Machine or organizing the religious left will be enough. Unless we counter and surpass the Conservative Conversion Machine on all fronts, we are pretty much doomed. Grow liberalism, or we will remain in the minority for two generations.