It's the Identity, Stupid
by Chris Bowers, Fri May 26, 2006 at 07:19:15 AM EDT
I find this map fascinating, because the red-blue divide of states on the electoral map are reproduced in a red-blue divide between Catholic and Lutheran) counties on one hand, and Baptist, Christian, Mormon and Methodist counties on the other hand. I think this is fascinating stuff, and you can find many more of these maps here.
I reproduce this map not to argue that certain religions are inherently liberal, and that others are inherently conservative. Truthfully, I do not think that is the case at all. Rather, as we approach election season, I reproduce this map because the progressive netroots is composed of political obsessives. Most of us spend an inordinate amount of time focused on current events, legislative policy, abstract matters of ideology, infrastructure, media narratives, electoral activism, and general strategy. Sometimes, I feel that because we are so obsessed with politics online that we often lose touch with what truly motivates voters. 80% of the country has no idea who Ann coulter is. Hell, 60% of the country has no idea who Harry Reid is.
Over the past year and a half, I have slowly developed an argument that the electorate is, in general, non-ideological, not interested in policy, and generally unmoved by the day-to-day minutia of political events that, within the blogosphere, are treated as cataclysmic events. Sure, most people hold general political beliefs, but in general national voting habits are motivated by something else--something more basic. As we look for ways to motivate voters in November, we need to remember the powerful role that identity plays in political decision-making. As progressives, we shrug off concepts such as the "battle of civilizations," but if you look closely at demographic data, maybe it is a battle of civilizations taking place after all. We may very well be living in an era of identity politics. Who knows, maybe every era of American politics is an era of identity politics.
Motivating voters and pulling off a landslide election will require a gut-level change of attitude about the two parties among millions of Americans. For all of the great policies everyone will suggest Democrats to run on this fall, ultimately winning will be based just as much on how Americans view their identity in relation to the image of the two coalitions as anything else. We need to avoid falling into the wonk trap of assuming that people are motivated by policy details. It is the identity, stupid. We need to explore ways to motivate voters for progressive causes with that in mind.