There Is No National Security Gap, Just An Identity Gap

OK, fine, I'll bite: And while we are at it, let me pick a fight with our good friend Chris Bowers for this(...)

Yes Bush had a huge evangelical turnout but Chris, shall we consider why Kerry was not more effective with the rest of the electorate? There were a number of factors but the most significant, by far, was the national security gap. And that gap must be addressed, at least in the near and medium term.

Also:On the evening of January 4, I had dinner with a small group of progressive intellectuals at a Capitol Hill restaurant. The question at hand, though unstated, was obvious: What ails the Democrats, and what's to be done about it? As wine was poured and salad moved to entrée to dessert, many ideas -- most of them good -- were put forward. Conspicuous for its absence until I brought it up, however, was the party's single biggest problem area: national security. It doesn't take a lot of imagination for me to consider myself one of the liberals who Yglesias describes. I mean, Armando is right--if I was somehow ever invited to such a dinner (unlikely), I probably wouldn't bring up national security right away. As commenter KBowe wrote on MyDD last month: Chris, you've been working very hard over the last few months down playing the so-called national security deficit of the Ds. And while I agree with your past posts that we lose the debate in the first sentence by saying "the war on terrorism" there is no such thing as political alchemy that will numb the memory of the falling towers and counter the preying hands of nationalistic demagoguery. Guilty as charged. I have argued for some time now that "national security" and "keeping America safe" is neither the main, nor even among the top few problems, facing the Democratic Party. This is a position I am willing to defend, and in this post I do just that.
The first thing I'd like to do to offer some more of the Mathew Yglesias article I already quoted: Certainly there are ways that John Kerry could have won the 2004 election without improving his performance on security issues, most notably by doing better than a dismal 18 percent among the 22 percent of voters who told exit pollsters that "moral values" were the most important issue in the campaign. But there's a basic problem of logic here. Voters who think that maintaining traditional norms about gender roles and sexual behavior should be a top priority of the federal government probably ought to be voting Republican. This just isn't what liberals believe, so people who do believe it would be acting irrationally to vote Democratic.

But Kerry's 40 percent share among the third of the electorate citing either Iraq or terrorism as their top concern is another matter entirely. Liberals most emphatically do believe that the government should keep the population safe from foreign threats. Voters who think that this is important are voters that any self-respecting political party ought to aspire to win. And if Democrats do figure out how to win their votes, they'll start winning presidential elections.

I agree with the first part of this. Generally speaking, the "moral values" vote is actually code for wanting the government to help maintain "traditional norms" of gender and sexuality. However, I vehemently disagree with the notion that the Democratic problem among the third of the electorate cited by Yglesias, Armando, Peter Beinart and others is that they do not believe that Democrats are able to "keep America safe."

For Exhibit B in my case, consider the regional exit polls in the 2004 election among those who considered either Iraq or terrorism their main reason for voting:

West	   %	Kerry	Bush
Terror	  19	 17	 83
Iraq	  20	 76	 24
Total	  39	 47	 53

East	   %	Kerry	Bush
Terror	  21	 17	 83
Iraq	  17	 80	 19
Total	  38	 45	 54

South	   %	Kerry	Bush
Terror	  21	 11	 89
Iraq	  12	 64	 36
Total	  33	 30	 70

Midwest    %	Kerry	Bush
Terror	  16	 13	 87
Iraq	  13	 72	 28
Total	  29	 39	 61
(Links, from the top down, US West, US East, US South and US Midwest.)

This may come as a surprise to many people, but Kerry actually won the two areas of the country where terrorism and Iraq combined were of the most concern to voters. Kerry won the West 50-49, with 39% of the electorate citing either Iraq or terrorism as their main issue. Kerry also won the East 55-44, where 38% of the country cited either Iraq or terrorism as their main issue. By contrast, Kerry lost the South 58-42, with 33% citing Iraq or terrorism as their main issue. Kerry also lost the Midwest 51-48, where only 29% of the electorate cited Iraq or terrorism as their main issue.

Certainly, Kerry was aided in the West and the East by performing better among the national security voters than he did in either the Midwest or the South. In both the East, where Kerry lost these voters 45-54, and the West, where Kerry lost these voters 47-53, Kerry performed better among voters in this category than he performed nationwide (nationally, he lost the issue 60-40). However, what I want to point out is why he performed better among these voters in the West and the East.

  • In the East, among national security voters, Kerry performed better than he did nationally primarily because he won an even larger percentage of the vote among those people who took Iraq as their main issue (80-19) than he did nationwide (73-26). He did slightly better among those who took terrorism is their main issue (17-83) than he did nationwide (14-86). However, the primary swing came among the Iraq block in the national security electorate, which shifted in Kerry's favor more than twice the amount that the terrorism voters shifted in Kerry's favor.

  • In the West, the bulk of Kerry's improvement came in the form of more people taking Iraq as their main issue (20%) than terrorism as their main issue (19%). Kerry did have slight swings in his favor among Iraq voters (+52 instead of +47 nationally) and among terrorism voters (-66 instead of -72), but those swings account for only one-third of Kerry's total improvement among national security voters in the West. The significant majority of his Western gains among national security voters came from Iraq voters actually outnumbering terrorism voters in this region of the country. Nationwide terrorism voters were noticeably more numerous (19% to 15% of the total electorate).
In other words, in both the East and the West, the overwhelming majority of Kerry's improvement among national security voters came from the Iraq block within the national security vote, not from the terrorism block. This was either in the form of Iraq voters swinging in Kerry's direction in each region or in the form of Iraq voters turning out in larger numbers than they did in the country as whole.

I believe that the vast majority of Kerry's gains among the national security vote in the East and the West came from the Iraq block instead of the terrorism block for exactly the same reason Yglesias argues that Democrats cannot gain among the values voters. Specifically, it is impossible for Democrats to gain among terrorism voters, because their worldview is antithetical with progressive and liberalism. Terrorism voters are not looking, for leaders in government to keep Americans safe from terrorism, they want to keep America safe from terrorism. They are interested in and eager to fight a clash of civilizations that is based upon a reductive view of identity, and they want their leaders in government to carry out that fight: American-ness versus Other-ness. Just like traditional notions of gender and sexuality being antithetical with liberalism, this reductive view of civilization identities is itself antithetical with liberalism, which at its very core is nothing if not pluralistic.

This may sound extreme, but it is the position I have arrived at, which I explained in a recent article after a weeklong MyDD demographics-fest. (Interestingly, this demographics-fest was started when I encountered the same study on Generation Y that Armando used as the basis for his article quoted above). Here is a large section of my article:

Democrats have not won the majority of the white vote in this country since 1964 (and before that, since the 1940's), but that does not mean they do poorly among all whites. In particular, Kerry won the white non-Christian vote (14-15% of the total electorate) 66-33, which was slightly better than Gore's 61-30 margin (also among roughly 14-15% of the electorate). Without question, the white demographic where Democrats do the best are non-Christians. Interestingly, Kerry's margin among non-Christian whites is almost exactly the same margin by which he won the non-white vote (70-30).

I think readers can see exactly what I am getting at here. The quickest way to summarize the developing demographic trends of the two coalitions is a white Christian coalition versus a non-white and / or non-Christian coalition. The voting habits of non-whites and white non-Christians are rapidly approaching parity, just as the voting of white Protestants and white Catholics are doing the same. Further, race and religion are now far better at determining how someone will vote than region, income, union membership, or pretty much anything else you could name.

Although I hope it does not happen and we should work to make sure it does not happen, as time goes on I fully expect that white Catholics will continue their Republican trend until their voting habits are nearly indistinguishable from those of white Protestants (who are also turning sharply Republican). If they do not, Republicans will be in a world of hurt at the voting booth. Winning 60% of a rapidly shrinking 60% of the electorate is not enough when your opponent is winning 70% of a rapidly growing 40% of the electorate. Further, white Christians make up less than 40% of the under-40 population of the United States, so the change will only accelerate in the coming years. Already, nearly 60% of Democratic voters are non-white and / or non-Christian. By comparison, less than 25% of Republican voters fit that description. That is a shocking difference in diversity.

It wasn't always this way. If white Christians had always voted for Republicans to this same degree, than past Democratic nominees would have lost by, well, what Mondale lost by in 1984--18%. However, I have already documented the dramatic decline of Christianity within the United States over the past fifteen years, and when you combine it with the fact that whites have shrunk from 89% of the electorate in 1976 to just 77% in 2004, you can get a sense of just how quickly the white Christian percentage of the population is shrinking. As they shrink in size, they have voted more and more for Republicans.

As this coalition, which was first forged under Reagan, has shrunk in size and trended Republican, it has also begun to declare war on a number of things. First, there was a War on Drugs, which is really a war on minority youth. Next, there was a Culture War, which really is a war against modernity. Now, we have the War on Terror, which could easily be characterized as a war against interdependence and pluralism. The clash of civilizations that conservatives have regularly visualized as one of the main justifications for their "war on terror" is being carried out at least as much in America as it is outside of America. Is the anti-liberal rhetoric that Curt Matlock quotes in his recent diary really all that different from what we have all regularly heard from the Christian Right about Islam since September 11th? Are the proclamations we hear from conservatives about the end of the family as a result of gay marriage really that different than statement like "they hate us because of our freedom?" Both are viewed as equally threatening attacks against a perceived cultural tradition.

The Iraq block versus the terrorism block strikes at the very heart of the growing difference between contemporary American conservatism and contemporary American liberalism. There is a gap between voters who view national security in liberal terms--pluralistic, reality-based and problem solving--and those who view national security in conservative terms--faith and identity based. The liberal view identifies Iraq as the major national security problem facing the United States, and looks to its leaders to develop a workable solution to that problem. The conservative view identifies an abstract concept-- terrorism--as a general threat to "American-ness" or "white Christian-ness." The conservative view takes terrorism as the largest threat to national security, since nothing could possibly be more important to this viewpoint than maintaining traditional norms of identity. Conservatives want their leaders to wage war against this abstract threat to our identity / national security. It is in this sense that terrorism voters and moral values voters are nearly identical (pun intended), and equally unwinnable. This conservative viewpoint also bears a remarkable resemblance to the conservative view of class, best described by Thomas Frank.

And this is why I do not think that there is a national security gap where Democrats have not convinced enough people that they can keep America safe. I do not think it is particularly useful to lump two distinct voting blocks, those concerned with Iraq and those most concerned with terrorism, into a single "national security" voting block and then conclude that we are losing this group of voters for a single reason: that they do not trust Democrats to keep America safe. Clearly, the Iraq block of voters do trust Democrats to keep America safe, as even in the South they voted for Kerry in overwhelming numbers. On the other hand, those concerned with terrorism, who clearly do not trust Democrats to keep America safe, cannot ever be expected to trust Democrats to keep America safe because their faith-based, identity-based worldview is antithetical with liberalism.

Instead of convincing more people that Democrats can keep America safe, we need to convince more people to think of national security as a series of problems that we need to solve instead of an identity war that we must bring to the rest of the world. In other words, and applied to our current environment, we need to convince more people in the national security electorate to think of Iraq as the main problem facing America in terms of national security rather than terrorism. Those who do not trust liberals to "keep America safe," do not view America in the same terms as liberals: they view it as an abstract identity rather than as a diverse collection of actual people. It is in this sense that people not viewing Democrats as trustworthy to keep America safe is itself symptomatic of our larger, truly, undeniable problem: more people are thinking like conservatives than like liberals. It is literally impossible for liberals to keep America safe from a conservative viewpoint, because liberals reject the conservative notion of what America is. However, this does not stop us from swallowing their language on the subject hook, line and sinker, and thus compounding our own problems.

The problem is identity, not trust over whether or not Democrats can keep America safe. We need to convince more people that national security is not a clash of civilizations, but rather as a series of problems that we can solve based on evidence (evidence, as we know, is clearly not important to the conservative view of national security). This is a battle we are winning when it comes to economic issues, even on taxes. However, as long as the majority of the American people view national security as the defense of our national identity, we will never win a majority of national security voters, and the majority of the country will never trust us to keep them safe. Not only is this not going to happen by talking about terrorism more, we are actually more likely to continue to lose if we talk about terrorism more. As long as the war of terrorism, aka the clash of civilizations, is being fought, they win and we lose. When we are able to end that war, and national security becomes about protecting American citizens rather than American identity, then and only then will we win national security voters.

Tags: Ideology (all tags)



The problem is identity...
... and definition. We are stilling struggling to define ourselves and our positions. People will not identify with their own liberal thoughts and beliefs until we are able to define and activate them for them. In defining ourselves and what it means to be a Democrat... what... we... stand... for... we activate the inner Democrat in the electorate and begin to swing the momentum back away from so-called conservatives to us.

Identity and definition.

by Andrew C White 2005-05-02 10:50AM | 0 recs
Failure to Attack
I agree with Andrew's comments, with one addition:

Clear and Concise Positions that can be immediately understood by anyone is what we need -- winners have it, losers don't. Making an emotional connection is more important than the analytical.

John Kerry lost because he did not attack Bush's strength -- Bush's credibility on security issues. If Team Kerry had Swift Boated Bush, Kerry Edwards would have won the election with a substantial majority.

The tragedy is, all Kerry had to do was tell the truth about BushCo -- but Team Kerry didn't believe in going negative. Game over, Kerry loses.

by ck 2005-05-02 11:15AM | 0 recs
Democrats beat Bush on real national security
Bush's philosophy seems to be 'do whatever makes my friends the most money, and say whatever we have to say to justify it'

The core militarism is basically a strategy to protect the US corporate agaenda, not the American people.. That requires a punitive reaction in some circumstances.. Much of the US 'position' on issues is bluster..

Democrats have Bush beat hands down on national security because they are focused on the actual task at hand.. not fakes and closet (actually, not so closet) fascists.. (look up what fascism actually is if you don't realize that..)

The GOP is megalomaniacal, by running the huge deficit they are, they are trading our economic well being and future for a militaristic wet dream..

we are literally fiddling while Rome burns..

I would feel much more secure under Dems..
MUCH more secure..

by ultraworld 2005-05-03 12:23AM | 0 recs
My little comment
I like your analysis, and I think that the last paragraph drives at an important point: we need to change people's world-views and ideals, not their party affiliation.  I think that the Republicans and their think-tanks figured this one out a while back, and liberals have just been slow in realizing it.

We must convince people to be liberal before we can have an effective Democratic Party in power.

by nanoboy 2005-05-02 11:34AM | 0 recs
Leadership on terrorism policy
After 9/11, the US could have created an aggressive strategy against Al Qaeda -- the network itself and its supporters their supporters.  We could have worked with international allies, using the outpouring of international sympathy to stop the bad guys and win over "hearts and minds".

But we didn't. The Bush administration pursued a strategy that was much broader in scope. The Bush strategy based on broad-brush anti-Muslim propoganda, sweeping Iraq into the net. And it used  draconian tactics, based on inculcating fear in the population ("orange alert"), and violating civil liberties and military norms (Patriot Act abuses, torture policies).

At first, most Congressional Democrats and most of the press jumped to the bandwagon, supporting Bush's strategy.  Howard Dean was one of the leaders in starting to question the strategy openly.

By the time Kerry was running for president, the "Bush doctrine" on terrorism had achieved a huge lead in the minds of the American public, as those polls numbers show.  

But the Bush doctrine itself wasn't inevitable. And we don't need to concede to it now. There must be a way to reframe the issue away from the Bush doctrine.

I'm not sure how to do that -- how to persuade a majority of the American people that the Bush strategy is a bad way to fight terrorist enemies, and that there are better ways.  But it is necessary to do, and the Dems shouldn't give up on it.

More in a bit, have to go now.

by alevin 2005-05-02 11:43AM | 0 recs
So how do we win white christians?
That's probably the question.

Another thing: In a way, the fact that white Christians didn't vote for Kerry is the same as Kerry had a national security problem.  That is, minorities, and non-Christians, could emphasize, to a certain degree, with the plight of the Iraqis, who are neither white nor Christians.  White Christians could not; since they were heathen scum, better kill many of them by mistake than thier own families.  This sounds like an attack on Christianity, and it is, sorta, particularly the Pat Robertson sort of fire breathing Baptist evagelicals.  However, these people vote, and to win, it looks like, in the short to medium term, we have to win over some of these people, and I have no idea how without becoming what we hate.

This may be a 9/11 thing that will fade with time if there are no more major domestic terrorist attacks caused by Islamic radicals of the Al Queda sort.  It, however, may be a fundamental shift.

Chris is right in that the percentage of white Christians amoung the voting public is dropping.  Long term, demographics are potentially on our side.  Short to medium term, it will still be an uphill battle.

by Geotpf 2005-05-02 11:49AM | 0 recs
I think Lakoff has some clues
He says that we all carry both world views within us and it's a struggle at vote time which wins on our heads.

White Christians can be nurturant parents as well as strict disciplinarians. I'm not an expert on Lakoff but you get the drift.

There are points where our views and theirs mesh. They hate corporate media like Disney at times just as we do. They bemoan the small town losses caused by Walmarts as much as we do.

It's in those directions that we have a shot at drawing their attention towards a different way of voting.

by Jeff Wegerson 2005-05-02 12:06PM | 0 recs
Re: So how do we win white christians?
It might be possible to attract more white Christians with a focus on economic social justice and perhaps environmental stewardship.

That is different and separate from having a strategy and message on terrorism.

by alevin 2005-05-02 12:44PM | 0 recs
The problem with that is...
...most Americans are comfortable with their economic situation in particular and the country's in general, for fairly good reasons.  See the economic thread a couple threads down.

As for enviromental stewardship, that's a tough line between low pollution and eco-hippie nazis (in the public's minds).

by Geotpf 2005-05-02 01:29PM | 0 recs
Re: So how do we win white christians?
We should start by working with and supporting liberal christian organizations. Nothing is going to change there unless at least some change comes internally.
by Chris Bowers 2005-05-02 01:49PM | 0 recs
Thing is
I suspect everybody who attends the UCC is already voting Democratic.  That's not the problem.
by Geotpf 2005-05-02 02:11PM | 0 recs
I think this argues for "progressive"
rather than liberal. It really seems to come down to a battle between those who want to preserve a pre-Darwinian white-christian way of life, and those who want to embrace modernity. Its an interesting connection you draw between the domestic and foreign issues and it seems like a good insight. The same fear of the "other" does seem to drive conservatives in both areas. When you think of how important fear is to conservatives, a lot of things make more sense (like their convention). It explains their compaign strategy--you relentlessly demonize your opponent and make them part of the scary "other". It also explains a lot of the hatred. When Ann Coulter accuse liberals of treason, she means it. And in a way, she is right. Coulter embraces an America that is a backwards, xenophobic hellhole that all liberals work against. Of course, conservatives are equally treasonous to what I think America is and should be. We have come to the point that we don't just disagree on policy, we define America differently. Its America's past versus America's future.    

As an aside, I thought this was a funny line: "It is literally impossible for liberals to keep America safe from a conservative viewpoint, because..."
Because the conservative viewpoint is everywhere! There are no earplugs that can stand up to their Noise Machine.

by TJonBergman 2005-05-02 11:54AM | 0 recs
I love how you are able to use Lakoffian concepts
without using a single of his particular "word-frames". As I read your article I kept replacing "identity based" frames with "strict father" America knows best frames. Pluralistic with nurturant parent.

It's not an exact match word-wise but concept wise it does exactly fit.

Very nice rebuttal of their points and defense of your own. Thanks.

by Jeff Wegerson 2005-05-02 11:58AM | 0 recs
'Strict Father' Isn't A Frame
Sue me, I'm a broken record. I've written this a dozen times or more.

"Strict Father" and "Nurturant Parent" aren't frames. They are competing models in a source domain for American politics.  If Lakoff himself were writing about this, it's better than even money that he wouldn't mention "Strict Father" or "Nurturant Parent" either.

For example, Lakoff wrote a paper for the Frameworks Insitute, "The Mind and The World: Changing the Very Idea Of American Foreign Policy" [PDF], in which the two frames are self-interest and moral norms.  

The paper is worth reading just for the way he explains how Gore buyngled the national security debate in the second debate of 2000.  Short version: by failing to understand his own implicit framework, Gore let himself be trapped into a defense of "nation building," which was not what his foreign policy vision was about (nor was it what Bush's was opposed to, as we have since seen). He failed to define what he was for, which made it even harder for voters to do the same.

by Paul Rosenberg 2005-05-02 12:25PM | 0 recs
Thanks. I needed that.
That helps me but perhaps you could take me a bit farther.

Politics has subdivisions called source domains, or politics arises out of source domains? Do other realms have source domains (or arise from them)? I guess I am asking, "What is a source domain."

Within source domains there are models like father and parent types, yes?

Where do frames come in?

Did Chris pair off competing models within a source domain when he writes: There is a gap between voters who view national security in liberal terms--pluralistic, reality-based and problem solving--and those who view national security in conservative terms--faith and identity based. ?

If you are having to explain these things so often, then there must be a thirst for understanding of a topic that is not necessarily easily grasped, and your responsibility as an enlightened one is to teach. (Sorry, I know that sounds contrived.)

In the meantime, I'll read your linked article.

by Jeff Wegerson 2005-05-02 08:06PM | 0 recs
Cognitive Metaphor vs. Frames
Lakoff's original contribution, which helped launch the entire field of cognitive linguistics, was the discovery of cognitive metaphors--metaphors that aren't just decorative fragment added onto language, but deep, fundamental aspects of cognition that actually underly it in a sense.  They map from relatively concrete source domains onto relatively abstract target domains, carrying over some, but not all of the structure in the source domain onto the target domain.  These cognitive metaphors are given names that reflect the over-arching mapping, such as "Up Is Conscious" ("Wake up," "fall asleep"), "Life Is A Journey" ("find your way," "a fork in the road," "spinning my wheels"), etc.

The "Nation Is A Family" metaphor ("Founding Fathers," "send our sons to war") was the inspiration for Lakoff to consider how different family models could serve as sources for different political models.  This was fully developed and explained in Moral Politics.  

Ideological positions in different domains within politics derive from the same source domains, which is why they go together. (This was the puzzle that first got Lakoff thinking about all this.  What does lower taxes have to do with opposing abortion, for example?)

Framing is a much more general concept, which has a variety of different formulations both linguistic and non-linguistic.  In the sense that Lakoff discusses it, in Don't Think of An Elephant, it's about conscsiously framing communication, primarily through language.  While cognitive metaphor frames our cognition unconsciously, based partially in our physical bodies and partially in our cultural and physical experience, we can also use it consciously.  Thus, there is an overlap between the two concepts.  

However, as the very title of his books underscores, framing doesn't have to involve metaphorical mappings.  The negation of X invokes the frame of X. There's nothing metaphorical about that, unless X itself happens to be a metaphor. (As in, "Don't think that Life Is A Journey.")

As for your question:

Did Chris pair off competing models within a source domain when he writes: There is a gap between voters who view national security in liberal terms--pluralistic, reality-based and problem solving--and those who view national security in conservative terms--faith and identity based. ?
I would say "yes, in one sense, but no in another."  As I see it, we are still struggling to figure out how a variety of different processes fit together.  And this is a good example of that.

He is clearly saying that two different models are being used, but the difference doesn't simply boil down to science vs. religion, nor do science and religion necessarily reflect a liberal/conservative divide. Both science and religion can be structured by either of the family models. Fundamentalism is an example of Strict Father religion, while Mahayana Buddhism and Liberation Theology are examples of Nurturant Parent religion. And, back in the 1960s, psychologist Abraham Maslow wrote about two contrasting approaches to science--safety science and growth science--which are pretty good fits to Strict Father and Nurturant Parent science, respectively.  

So the distinction that Chris is drawing has to be thought of as more complex, as a sort of blend of different distinctions.  I think it's a very useful one, and one of the things you can do with such a distinction is to try and pick it apart, and ask what sort of elements go into it.  This is what I did in another comment in this diary, where I talked about right-wing authoritarianism and the three different types of thinking--sequential, linerar and systematic.  But you don't have to do that sort of thing. You can just take the distinction he's made and try applying it yourself, to see how much sense it makes.

I hope this makes things a little clearer for you.

by Paul Rosenberg 2005-05-02 09:52PM | 0 recs
Clarity is improving - Thanks
The link between politics and linguistics was introduced to me when I discovered Choamsky in the 80's. I didn't follow it up directly at that time as I only noticed the political Choamsky when I read him.

This current reconnection via Lakoff will have me delving deeper into the linguistic underpinnings of politics.

Thanks for the pointers and clarifications, and especially for taking the time with me.

Don't go too far, I may have more questions down the pike (in the "Journey of Life" cognative metaphor, not necessarily this comment thread).

by Jeff Wegerson 2005-05-03 07:41AM | 0 recs
Side-question--whatever happened to OBL?
He appeared for the election, disastrously endorsed Kerry, and then...?  Why did we ever think Bush et al actually wanted to catch him?  

The point here is that terrorism quite naturally fades from national consciousness without reminders, and since they've successfully changed the subject in Iraq to democracy, they need bin Laden in reserve to remind us when necessary.  I wonder how long he can go between reappearances without fading too much to be useful?

And the point there is that without lots of reminders, terrorism itself falls off the radar after a few years (it really hasn't been than long since 2001, you know).  But the core Democratic issues last--jobs, health care, social security, etc.  True, we need a new rallying cry, but the issues are there and will continue to be there.

Does this mean they (don't ask me who) will let terrorism just fade away?  I doubt it.  But all the more reason to do behind the scenes what the current administration won't, and genuinely try to beef up border security, gun control, etc.

(And no, I don't mean to imply that the Bush people deliberately trot out bin Laden or invite terrorist attacks, but though FDR clearly didn't know Pearl Harbor was coming, I think a lot happens when the guy wishes in his heart for something to happen to draw American into the war, whichever war it may be.)

by brackdurf 2005-05-02 12:06PM | 0 recs
Re: Side-question--whatever happened to OBL?
He appeared for the election, disastrously endorsed Kerry, and then...?

Wha?  UBL never did anything of the sort.  None of his lieutenants did either.  Best I can recall, a Spanish group claiming to be linked to AQ said "We think Kerry will be worse for us, because Bush is an ass."  Of course, to the extent that had any effect among the non-Republican Extremist crowd, it had the exact effect that they intended:  Viva Bush!

by paperwight 2005-05-03 11:51AM | 0 recs

It's very convenient to lump IRAQ and TERROR into one index... but isn't that a somewhat artificial way to make your point?

The fact that Bush wins in the mid 80's on terrorism helps to confirm your opponents' position.  It smells a little squirmy to try and negate that with Iraq.  No?

Just my $.02

by Winger 2005-05-02 12:18PM | 0 recs
Re: Cheating...?--NOT!
It wasn't just Chris who put these two together.  These two issues were paired throughout the election campaign.  Bush repeatedly tried to justify Iraq as winning the war on terror. He's still doing so today. We never would have invaded with terrorism as a pretext.

Keeping them separate is a whole lot more artificial than putting them together.

by Paul Rosenberg 2005-05-02 12:29PM | 0 recs
Re: Cheating...?--NOT!
But as alevin commented below: howcome the huge anti-correlation between the IRAQ and the TERROR responses?

It suggests to me that there really is some important analysis to be done here, of how people think: how can they respond so differently to the two polls?  You and I know Iraq and Terror are linked.  But clearly, the respondants to this poll are able to de-couple them.

Don't foget, to this day many people still belive Saddam = 9/11.

Given the huge IRAQ/TERROR anti-correlation, I think the default assumtion should be some degree of independence, leaving the onus on those who wish to lump them together.  Wouldn't that be more objective?

(Don't get me wrong, by the way, Chris is one of my favorite posters in the entire blogosphere, especially his demographics stuff.)

by Winger 2005-05-02 03:13PM | 0 recs
Re: Cheating...?--NOT!
But as alevin commented below: howcome the huge anti-correlation between the IRAQ and the TERROR responses?

I'm sorry. I thought that was the topic of Chris's story.  Did I somehow walk into a Monty Python skit by mistake?

by Paul Rosenberg 2005-05-02 03:54PM | 0 recs
Heh, almost.  Sorry.

I'm not at all convinced that the anti-correlation represents a different "view" of the same thing (ie, national security).  Chris essentially claims "Iraq = liberal symbol for national security", but given the mid-80s approval for Bush on Terror, I just can't see it that way.  Iraq can be percieved as a blunder of execution, not of ideology, for many people.  So Bush winning on the larger ideological issue of Terror is (I believe) not outweighed by the Kerry advantage on Iraq.  That's the sense in which I don't think Chris' argument is enough of a defence against Armando's original attack, "Dems are neglecting National Security".  Yes, he gives thoughtful analysis to the anti-correlation --- but at the end of the day he does seem to defend himself against Armando by lumping them together.

[I'm probably just getting this all wrong and confused.]

by Winger 2005-05-02 04:04PM | 0 recs
Pythonesque No More
Okay, now I think I understand your argument.  

But I don't know where you get this statistic: "the mid-80s approval for Bush on Terror". (All the following are from the Polling Report's terrorism page.) CNN/USA's latest numbers are 57% approval. Around election time it was just a hair higher, 60%.  Time's long-term trend is consistently lower, and was 52% their last time out.  

What's more, even those figures are soft as an indication of electoral support, since most are not strongly supportive, as indicated by CNN/USA Today/Gallup's trend on "the U.S. in the war on terrorism" which allows for more nuance--"very satisfied, somewhat satisfied, not too satisfied, or not at all satisfied." This time series shows a much smaller 14-19% "very satisfied" over 8 separate polls since 2002.

If the "very satisfied" numbers were up in the 40s and the total approving were in the 80s, then you'd have some foundations for your doubts. But with the numbers where they are, I really don't think you do.  There's a lot of room for people opposed to Bush, or who simply think we can do much better to be voting against him, and to cite Iraq as the concrete symbol of what's wrong with his approach.

But there's another reason supporting Chris's analysis. Implicit in Armando's position is the assumption that there are rational things that Dems can do in the way of policy proposals to win these people over. Explicit in Chris's analysis is the argument that there are not.

Supplementing the argument Chris offers here is another one: the argument that Bush's "war on terror" support comes from people who are deeply misinformed, and thus are relatively unreachable by way of hard-ass wonking.  

The evidence for this comes from a whole series of polls conducted by The Project on International Policy Alternatives, (PIPA).  Their press release (PDF) for their late October poll last year, bears the headlines, "Bush Supporters Still Believe Iraq Had WMD or Major Program, Supported al Qaeda / Agree with Kerry Supporters Bush Administration Still Saying This is the Case / Agree US Should Not Have Gone to War if No WMD or Support for al Qaeda / Bush Supporters Misperceive World Public as Not Opposed to Iraq War, Favoring Bush Reelection."

In other words, they are not part of the reality-based community. Since they are not, it is singularly foolish to try to win them over by mucking about with suggestions about how to do things differently in the real world. If they are clueless about the real world, how much attention are they going to pay to proposals about what we should do in the real world?  

These people are lost in a forest of symbols, and we aren't going to reach them just by adopting the latest DLC policy brief on how to be more warlike than Donald Rumsfeld.

by Paul Rosenberg 2005-05-02 05:57PM | 0 recs
The problem is...
...these people, who live in a Fox News fantasy world, vote.  Combine them with a few others who vote for Republicans for specific, single issue reasons (anti-gun control, anti-abortion, anti-taxes, anti-gays, etc.), and you've got 51%.

This is why I say drop gun control-the 3 or 5% of the voters who vote against Democrats due to thier favoring gun control would be in play, and that would be enough.  It's the only issue that both has few single issue voters the other way (few people are single issue pro-gun control voters; as opposed to abortion rights), and also the only issue that can be dropped without causing most Democrats to feel like they turned into Republicans.  Plus, if we are supposed to be the pro-liberty, pro-freedom, pro-individual rights party, it makes logical sense to drop.  But we would have to do it loudly and completely for this to work.

If our presidential canidate is endorced by the NRA, he will win.

by Geotpf 2005-05-03 08:01AM | 0 recs
Good explanation
I think your central concept here is the unreachability of a significant chunk of the electorate who are not reality-based.  And this has a much bigger application than merely "Terror".  

It seems a repeating problem with the Democratic establishment is the misguided and implicit assumption that "facts" will win people over.  I'd like to think that, as a whole, and catalysed by the blogosphere, we (the "Left Wing") are beginning to understand this fallacy.

In summary, I think what you're saying above has a broad application, beyond Terror/Iraq.

by Winger 2005-05-03 08:49AM | 0 recs
Re: Cheating...?
I wonder if the voter priority exit polls are relevant at all.  For example, let us say that someone voted for Bush, because Bush wouldn't let guys marry.  However, when he talked to the exit pollster, the topic of security was on his mind.  Or, he was embarrassed about the whole gay thing.  Whatever the case may be, I have to question the system of polling.  Priorities seem generally difficult to discern.
by nanoboy 2005-05-02 12:38PM | 0 recs
Re: Cheating...?
If people were really so bamboozled as to lump them together, why do the poll results that Chris cites have such different numbers for terrorism and Iraq?
by alevin 2005-05-02 12:41PM | 0 recs
by Winger 2005-05-02 03:08PM | 0 recs
Re: Cheating...?
Because the two have little to do with each other with regard to polls.  The Iraq War is the status quo.  If you supported it, you already won, and Kerry wasn't pushing for a rapid withdrawal.  If you are against the war, it is likely that much of that opposition is not security based.  It is morality based or something like that.

Democratic voters (I think) often sense security as a result of other good policies.  Diplomacy, economic stability, effective intelligence services, etc. are not necessarily national security issues, though they are intimately tied to national security.

by nanoboy 2005-05-02 03:25PM | 0 recs
Excellent Analysis!
In fact, the "terrorism" voters are really just "values voters" in a different energy state.  Both are identity voters, but with different modes of expression.  

The question is, how do win folks over in the larger struggle, of which these are specific expressions.  Obviously, there is no single magic bullet.  But realizing that this is the battle we're in does help us recognize the wooden nickles--the things we should discard as irrelevencies or worse...perscriptions for disaster.  

And this is one point on which Lakoff, Dean and Harry Truman are perfectly clear and 100% correct--if you give people a choice between a Republican and a Republican they will vote for the Republican every time.  If we try to solve the problem as the GOP has framed it, we will only further fragment our base, and will not win any moderates or conservatives to make up for it.
I have two additional suggestions.  

(1) The conservative identity voters are embedded in their worldview via a multitude of different cognitive and psychological factors.  One of them I discussed in my diary, Terri Schiavo: We're Too Smart! That post involved a 3-way typology of adult thinking:

  •  Sequential thinkers reason "by tracking the world," recognize regularities in sequences of events, but have no abstract understanding of cause and effect.  The world they perceive is a world of appearances that has very little organization to it beyond the recurrence of sequences.

  • Linear thinkers understand cause and effect, limited to a one-direction, one-cause/one-effect model.  The world they perceive has logical order and structure, but the structure is invariably hierarchical, causality flows top-down, and the world is divided neatly into cause and effect.  

  • Systematic thinkers understand multi-faceted, multi-linear cause and effect, with mutual cause-and-effect relationships between different elements.  The world they perceive is primarily a world of systems and relationships, rather than objects.

Sequential thinking is a very natural fit with identity politics, just as systematic thinking is a natural fit with a problem-solving approach that would actually keep us safer from terrorism.  

(2) There is another natural fit here, right-wing authoritarianism (Dkosopedia entry), which thrives in an environment of threat.  Faulty reasoning and hostility to outgroups are two of the major characteristics of those high in RWA.

I think we need to be much more familiar with the limitations of these cognitive structures in order to have a realistic way of reaching out to these people. A 10-point program for building a tougher military is going to roll right off their backs like water off a duck.  But Kerry, with his military background, had an excellent opportunity to get through to them--simply on the level of appearances.  If he had only acted tough when his honor was attacked, he would have been playing out the pitch-perfect archetypal response, and he would have easily grabbed a sufficient chunk of these voters to ensure his victory.

Here in California, the nurses taking on Governor Girlie Man has been a perfect example of how to take these bastards down.  And the sequence of the teachers and firefighters jumping in behind them was more of the same.  You need those cues from the world of appearances in order to have a shot at the sequential thinkers.  And then you need to be very saavy about how how to exploit that shot, once you have it. Very saavy, very simple, very direct, and very on message.

Kerry was 0-for-4. So far, the California Nurses and their allies are 4-for-4. And Girlie Man's approval numbers are around 40%.  And no, the nurses don't have a 10-point plan for solving California's problems as Girlie Man has defined them. They've defined Girlie Man as the problem, and the people agree.

by Paul Rosenberg 2005-05-02 01:11PM | 0 recs
The Evangelicals
For the past several months, I, either a "lapsed" Catholic or a former Catholic, depending on my mood that particular day, have been attending a small non-denominational church.  I won't get into the reasonings for this, because they border on the quite personal; however, I wanted to comment on the evangelical mind-set.

I have been given a ride  to this church by a rather young 26 year old man.  Once he picked me up we also picked up a black man of the same age as mine, 49, and then proceeded to church.  We arrived for yesterday's service very early, and the young man's wife appeared on the stairs.  Being a gay man, and having a little bit of attraction for the wife's husband, out of feelings of guilt I engaged her in some chit-chat.  I asked her about her job as a counselor at Big Brothers/Big Sisters.  She said she like it, but it was unfortunate that they could not help many young children, especially the boys, because of a lack of volunteers and not being financially able to hire another caseworker to match the volunteers they do have with the backlog of applicants.

At this point, the black man jumped into the conversation, energetically blaming Bush for cutbacks in social programs.  To my surprise, the woman agreed, and said that although she voted for Bush she was very disappointed with how things were going in the counrty-the Iraq war, the economy, etc.  Encouraged by this, I proceeded to say how I did not vote for him, and had a particular distaste for both him and Republicans in general.  She sort of laughed and we then went into the church sanctuary where politics was dropped.

After the service, the woman's husband, the young man, gave me and the black man a ride home.  All was pleasant until the young man turned on his usual Christian radio station, and as luck would have it, at that very time none other than George W Bush was appearing in a pious announcement something to do with the National Day of Prayer.  Thinking of the man's wife, who had expressed misgivings over Bush, I thought it was safe to express my distaste for Bush, making some sort of disgusted gesture with my voice.

The young man immediately took offense, defending W as being God's instrument on earth.  The black man then got involved, and a bitter verbal spat soon erupted, with the black man calling Bush a "crook".  The young man shot back that if he was against Bush, he was against God and that God would surely punish him!!!   The black man was sorely offended, saying he had a right to his opinion, and that if Bush was so great a Christian he would be a little more compassionate about the poor, and pointed out the prisoner abuse scandals in Iraq.

Seeing the argument getting out of hand, I apologized for bringing up the issue.  The black man, not being as sensitive as me, left with a chuckle and smile on his face as we dropped him off. Clearly, he enjoyed getting this young man's fanatical dander up.

Then the young man dropped me off.  The argument soon erupted again.  He quoted the Bible at me to say that "all authorities are ordained by God" and repeated his claim that I risked Divine judgment for attacking the holy President.

I told him I did not care what St. Paul said, that it was not to be taken literally, otherwise Saddam Hussein was in authority, and does that mean we all had to support him?  

Getting my dander up, I then said that Bush could very well be the Anti-Christ.  The young man then said that I was controlled by a demon of "division" and "confusion" and basically told me to shut up.  He tried to call another "elder" in the church, as well as the pastor, who both had their voice-mail turned on, fortuantely for me, as I gather I was to be reported for excercising my constiutional rights and expressing opposition to the holy "Dear Leader", George W. Bush.

I'm sorry this was so lengthy but it demostrates how brain-washed this large segment of American public opinion is.  There is hope that the young man's wife has started to listen to reason, but I fear she was chastised once her husband got home.

The Democrats have lots of work to do with about 20-25% of the population.

God be with us.

Suffice to say I will not be returning to that church in the near future.  

by MichiganDemocrat 2005-05-02 01:15PM | 0 recs
Count me in, Chris.
I dunno about all the statistical analysis. It's tough to analyze these things because one issue overlaps with another. Chris, you seem to be getting at this.

To me, it comes down to something simple: people do not trust Dems on security for visceral, emotional, historical reasons.

I don't see that changing any time soon. If the disasters of Bush's administration do not cause people to start to question their deep assumptions about Reps as strong leaders, then I cannot imagine what will.

Look at the amazing logical contradiction that runs through the data and has done so steadily YEARS:

  • Voters do not like Bush's campaign in Iraq. They never really have, except for brief periods of time in which something seemed to be working.

  • Voters do trust Bush on security.

Now notice this:


This is a fundamental self-contradiction. Yet it goes on and on. Somehow, Americans just cannot seem to break through to the point where they can perceive the fraud that is Republican security.

I don't think we can beat that volitional myopia UNTIL ...

We break through the larger madness that keeps voters trusting Thugs in general.

If people could ever break through their illusions and just see the Thugs with normal eyes, they would INSTANTLY stop trusting them on security.

But until they do that, fogeddaboudit.

We need ONE breakthrough in trust. Security is far too abstract, far too reliant on decent press and far too deeply intertwined with parochialism, racism, and the like to achieve our breakthrough in that sphere.

Nope. We need to make our breakthrough in an area that affects people's immediate lives. Give them a real change in their situation and they will start to ask, "Hey. What else can they do for me?" Eventually, they'd start to listen on security, too.

I'll tell you what WILL NOT WORK: making lame speeches saying "I wanna be tough on security, too!" That's just pandering. It has no reality and voters know it.

So, I'm with you, Chris.

by Thresholder 2005-05-02 04:01PM | 0 recs
What is happening is this:
America wanted to kick ass after 9/11.

Republicans are good at kicking ass.  They usually kick innocent ass; the wrong ass-but America didn't really care, as long as we are kicking ass.

Kerry and the Democrats are hesitant about kicking ass, especially the wrong ass.

So Bush wins the national security polls, even though people know he is kicking the wrong ass-but he is doing something, kicking ass loudly.  The Democrats want to kick the right ass, but are hesitant and want to do it quietly.

by Geotpf 2005-05-03 08:08AM | 0 recs
Does anybody read "global guerrillas"?
Global  Guerrillas is a blog by John Robb, who has relevant military experience, and does a great job at covering 21st century terrorism.

Robb's thesis which rings true to me is that networked communication provides new tools for decentralized, non-state groups to wreak havoc. They infest failed states, and can acheive a lot of damage by sabotaging economic infrastructure (for example, the constant attacks on Iraq's oil fields). Guerrillas gain strenght by support from the host population, who see them as David fighting Goliath.

Major flaws in Bush's strategy include:
a) he focuses largely on states (because it is easier to have a war with a state; like a drunk looking for his keys under the lamp post.)
b) he created even more opportunities for terrorism by creating chaos in Iraq and turning it into a potential "failed state"
c) he has lost the moral high ground by invading an arbitrary country, and by pursuing tactics of torture and abuse.
d) he has coddled Saudi Arabia, whose Wahabi clerics are the major ideological leaders of violent Islamic fanaticism
d) he has done nothing about US dependence on oil, which binds the US in unhealthy ways to middle east dictatorships.

Kerry was more right than Bush during the campaign. Strong defense against terrorism requires:
a) focus on Al Quaeda and its supporters
b) working with international allies to break up the terrorist rings
c) maintaining the moral high ground
d) closing the real, high-risk opportunities for terrorist attack like ports and chemical plants (which are still woefully underprotected).

But Kerry didn't communicate this strategy in a strong and compelling enough fashion. So far as I can tell, nobody has.  

Also, Kerry didn't make a major theme out of energy independence as a national security strategy. This is a fantastic opportunity for democrats to combine national security, support for the environment, and investment in the future.

In summary, I think there is a real national security problem; that Bush's anti-terrorist policy is disastrous; and that Dems have an opportunity to do much better.  I don't think we should take for granted the public opinion that followed where Bush led. I think there is an opportunity to lead in a different direction.

by alevin 2005-05-02 06:39PM | 0 recs
Clash of Civilizations
There IS a Clash of Civilizations going on here.

A civilization of fear and lies against one of liberty, honesty and determination. Of course, finding out which civilization people are a part of is sometimes difficult.

by MNPundit 2005-05-03 09:28AM | 0 recs


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