The Most Important Political Demographic Of All

In light of Jonathan's post on future demographics, I am reminded of how when I think of my all-time favorite posts on MyDD, Maybe It Is A Battle Of Civilizations from April 15, 2005 always makes the short list. That post was a revelation for me, as it unlocked, I believe, the quickest and most important way to describe the underlying demographic currents of both the Democratic and Republican coalitions. The thesis of that post, which I still accept and have not seen any data to counter it, it that the Republican coalition can be best understood as the "White-Christian" coalition, and Democrats can best of understood as the "Non-White And / Or Non-Christian" coalition (hereafter referred to as "Non White-Christians"). While this is obviously a generalization, I think it is an extremely useful one. This demographic viewpoint allows one to characterize both the "culture war" over social issues, and debates over neo-conservative foreign policy, as struggles rooted in an ideological binary opposition of pluralism vs. cultural supremacy. There are other important demographic conceptualizations in contemporary politics, but I believe this is the most important one. I also wonder if someone showed that post to Howard Dean, since he made his "White Christian" remark only a few weeks later.

Two years later, it is worth revisiting this demographic divide. In 2006, the two groups made up virtually identical percentages of the electorate that they made up in 2004: 64% "White-Christian," and 37% "Non White-Christian." Not surprisingly, Democrats did better among both groups in 2006 than 2004. Among "White-Christians," Democrats when from a 63%--36% deficit to a 57%--41% deficit, and among "Non White-Christians," they went from a 68%--30% advantage to a 74%-24% advantage. Overall, Democratic improvement among both groups was virtually identical, although their gains among "Non White-Christians" are more impressive considering Democrats already held a huge advantage among that group. Here are some more thoughts on this demographic divide two years later:
  • "Non White-Christians" make up over 60% of the American population under the age of 40, and only about 30% of the national population over the age of 40 (source). The best explanation for why Democrats do so well among younger voters is that younger voters are far less white than older voters, and far less Christian.

  • Democrats performed better among "Non White-Christians" in 2006 (74%) than they did in 2004 (68%). That Republicans are actually losing ground among this young and rapidly growing demographic carries seriously negative repercussions for their electoral outlook over the next generation. In twenty years, "Non White-Christians" will compose roughly 50% of the national electorate, instead of the current 37-40%. At that point, if the margins among "Non White-Christians" do not change, Republicans will need an equivalent margin among "White-Christians" in order to remain competitive.

  • It should be noted that, despite the supposed lack of diversity on blogs such as MyDD, about 80% of our readerships fits into the "Non White-Christian" category. The blogosphere is heavily populated by white non-Christians, who overall make up about 14% of the electorate.

  • In the primary season, considering his strength among African-Americans, seculars, and younger voters, Obama's base is clearly "Non White-Christians."According to Pew, Obama actually leads Clinton among Democratic self-identifying "Non White-Christians." Considering his strength across multiple "Non White-Christian" demographics, Obama might be accurately considered the first top-tier "Non White-Christian" candidate. However, among Democratic self-identifying "White Christians," Obama is actually a distant third, receiving about 18% support. By way of contrast, Edwards performs roughly twice as well among Democratic self-identifying "White Christians" than he does among Democratic self-identifying "Non-White Christians." Clinton does not perform noticeably different among the two groups. Gore is well under 10% among "Non White-Christians."

  • It should also be noted that due to their relative youth, "Non-White Christians" are not particularly reliable primary voters. While they make up more than half of the Democratic vote in general elections, they will almost certainly make up noticeably less than half of the Democratic primary electorate in 2008. that difference already appears to be factored into the Pew crosstabs.
The coming shift in America that will, in the next twenty years or so, make "White-Christians" a minority nationwide, holds profound implications not just for politics, but for our national culture as well. I wish more polling firms would monitor public opinion along this divide. For progressives, the ultimate goal is to end the identity war at the heart of this divide. As I wrote two years ago:
The clash of civilizations is thus being fought asymmetrically. One side considers itself the "us" in a battle between "us vs. them," while the other side is trying to destroy the notion of both "us" and "them" in order to end the battle. One coalition wins when the clash of civilizations is being fought, since its existence is predicted upon at least the visualization (if not the realization) of identities that fight such a battle, while the other coalition wins when the clash of civilizations ends or is at least sputtering, since its very existence is predicated upon the possibility of a world without "civilization identities." The end of the clash of civilizations will also result in the end of the two coalitions, as what is currently the main difference between the two coalitions will cease to have any meaning. At that point there will be a major realignment.(...)

In the interim, which will form the majority of the rest of our lives, the role of progressives and of the Democratic coalition will be to bring about an end to the current order of identity as visualized by large segments of the country and the world. We will win where identity ends, and our children will thank us for it. Maybe there is a clash of civilizations, a clash we need to end. Maybe that is our role in the world.
I'm not sure if there is a difference between "pluralism" and "diversity," but I do know that I prefer the term "pluralism" to express a core progressive value to the term "diversity." Either way, interesting times ahead.

Tags: Culture, Democrats, Demographics, Diversity, Ideology, Republicans (all tags)

Comments

42 Comments

Hispanics are still the key

If the GOP had had the sense to listen to Rove and Bush, they would have come up with an inclusive approach to Hispanics, and eventually they would have been viewed - and would have viewed themselves - as culturally white, just like Irish, Italians, Eastern Europeans, and so forth did before them.

Tom Tancredo is the best thing the GOP has ever done for this country.  By shoving the growing Hispanic population into the arms of the Dems, he and his ilk have given us a real shot at a lasting majority.

by RT 2007-05-08 09:44AM | 0 recs
Re: Hispanics are still the key
Tancredo just says what many Republicans think.
by Chris Bowers 2007-05-08 10:03AM | 0 recs
Re: Hispanics are still the key

True.  I was using him to symbolize the xenophobe wing of the party as a whole.

The impressive thing is, the majority of Publicans are probably in Rove's corner on this one.  But they're not nearly as loud and organized as the racists are.  So the Tancredos of the GOP have really had to work at delivering the Hispanics to us.

by RT 2007-05-08 10:22AM | 0 recs
The traditional GOP isn't anti-immigrant

Immigration is a wedge issue, not a Republican issue. The purpose is not to solidify the Republican base, so much as to split the Democrats. Yes, there is a rabid base, but they are already sworn to uphold the unitary Party.

The business interests appreciate getting good workers at good prices (whether that is cynical, moral or practical, isn't the point). But, it isn't just big business. Many rural farmers (dyed-in-the-wool Republicans) appreciate good farmhands as well.

The Democrats are split by immigration because many of our best supporters in lower-economic brackets are worried about losing their jobs. It takes some 'splainin' to get past their economic insecurity:
 - Immigration is a humanitarian issue, not an economic one
 - Immigrants supply about $20,000 each to the US economy
 - Immigrants buy/rent houses and shop in stores owned by previous generations of immigrants.

(Call that the moral, cynical, practical Democratic retort to Tancredo)

by MetaData 2007-05-08 10:41AM | 0 recs
Re: The traditional GOP isn't anti-immigrant

I find 'splainin' mildly offensive.

Actually only non-high school graduates are hurt by immigrants in terms of decreasing jobs. Overall economically it's a zero-sum game, perhaps slightly negative in the super long term (50 years) but by a minuscule percentage.

by MNPundit 2007-05-08 12:42PM | 0 recs
Re: The traditional GOP isn't anti-immigrant

Be offended if you like, but cynical rhetoric is probably more effective than moral outrage at swinging votes on this issue.

Nevertheless, how are non-high school graduates not an important part of the Democratic base? Just saying it'll only affect them isn't enough. Showing that they too can potentially benefit is key to winning the argument in that demographic.

by Englishlefty 2007-05-08 04:39PM | 0 recs
Re: The traditional GOP isn't anti-immigrant

After people with post-graduate studies, they are the most reliable Democratic voters when you divide people by education.

by jallen 2007-05-08 06:00PM | 0 recs
Diversity vs. Pluralism

I believe pluralism is a political term of art used to describe different ideological points of view.  In a pluralistic political system, different political ideologies freely enter the political discourse.

If that is the correct usage of the term "pluralism,"  I would certainly NOT support pluralism within the progressive movement as it would dilute and muttle the progressive ideology.  However, when the Democrats speak of themselves as the "Big Tent" party, they are refering to the definition of pluralism, which I gave: The Democrats have the progressives, the blue dogs, the "new democrats," the populists, the internationalists, the isolationists, etc.  If the progressive movement seeks the purge the Democratic Party of its more "right-wing," DLC elements, the progressive movement is seeking to purify the ideology of the Democratic Party. Hence, the progressives are anti-pluralist vis a vis the Democratic Party.

I think "diversity" is the more correct term, Chris.  You would like to describe progressives as racially, ethnically, and religiously heterogenous.  However, you would not like to see the progressive movement include people who are, say, Pro-Life, would you?  The latter inclusion would be a form of pluralism that I think would not be tolerable in your vision of the progressive movement.

by Lassallean 2007-05-08 10:15AM | 0 recs
Re: Diversity vs. Pluralism

I generally equate pluralism with masses and mass movements. Diversity is usually used in relation to individuals. So, I'm not sure Chris is wrong to use this term rather than diversity.

Also, as the adage goes "The only thing tolerance cannot tolerate is intolerance." Is it really "anti-pluralist" to isolate/purge anti-pluralist or otherwise intolerant doctrines/ideas/positions (such as "pro-life") from the party? In the sense that we don't universally and without exception "welcome everybody", yes. But is civilization still civilization if the barbarians are allowed inside the gates?

by AmericanJedi 2007-05-08 10:31AM | 0 recs
Re: Diversity vs. Pluralism

Well, to give an example of what you are talking about, lawyers complain all the time about exceptions swallowing the rule.  So, once a party or movement agrees on fundamental principles, to refuse to admit contrary principles would be an act of self-preservation rather than an act of intolerance.  That is why I say that the progressive movement should be "anti-pluralist," because "pluralism" as used to describe political systems refers to different and sometimes opposing ideologies while diversity refers to group characteristics that exist independent of politics: race, ethnicity, gender, religion.  Now, the really keen and pedantic post-structuralist would swoop in and challenge my assumption that race, gender, ethnicity and religion are not political constructs.  While that debate would be very interesting, it would be beyond the scope of this blog!

That said, the Democratic Party is most definitely pluralist because it includes pro-lifers, pro-chiocers, protectionists, free-marketeers, etc.  Now, to you as a progressive, the inclusion of some of those points of view in the Democratic Party is tantamount to allowing "barbarians inside the gates."  And that speaks to how strongly anti-pluralist (i.e., ideologically homogenous) the progressive movement is in contrast to the Democratic Party.

by Lassallean 2007-05-08 10:49AM | 0 recs
Re: Diversity vs. Pluralism

Pluralism is also used within political theory to describe different cultures/ways of life/perspectives, which isn't always the same as different ideologies. Pluralists would look at Barack Obama, a black Christian, and me, a white non-theist, and say that we're from two different groups, even though we agree on many ideological points. Pluralists see themselves as facilitating the interaction of many different coexisting groups without demanding that one assimilate to the other.

I have a lot of sympathy towards pluralism, but where I disagree with it is that I think pluralism is itself a culture, a type of civilization to use Chris' term. Values like dialogue and tolerance are key to making a pluralistic society work, and there are cultures out there that oppose these values - some of which are cultures that pluralists want to incorporate into their pluralistic world.

by Dave Thomer 2007-05-08 10:33AM | 0 recs
Re: Diversity vs. Pluralism

If a pluralistic society demands the incorporation of a non-pluralistic society into a pluralistic worldview, you get things like Islamic jihadism and the Iraq debacle.

If a society does not want to democratize, modernize, or embrace a Western view of tolerance, which the West arrogantly calls "human rights," then that society should be accorded the respect of being left alone.  This means that many well-intentioned, do-gooders in this country will have to sit by and let women in the developing world experience (what looks to us to be) social inequality.  So be it.

"The goody goodies are the thieves of virtue."
 - Confucius

by Lassallean 2007-05-08 11:07AM | 0 recs
Re: Diversity vs. Pluralism

If a society does not want to democratize, modernize, or embrace a Western view of tolerance, which the West arrogantly calls "human rights," then that society should be accorded the respect of being left alone.

I disagree, at least given the world as it is. A pluralist would support the 50s-60s civil rights movement, even though that movement demanded that white Southern culture assimilate itself into a more pluralistic approach. A pluralist would support a public education system that decries racism and discourages gender stereotyping, even if the families sending their children to said schools are racist, sexist, or what have you. Any effort at promoting tolerance demands a level of intolerance shown toward the intolerant. That's the consequence of having a belief about what should be valued - it puts you in opposition to others.

Now, all of the examples I've given so far are within a specific country. It could be argued that they all take place within a larger American culture that encompasses African-Americans and Southern racists, and that the civil rights struggle was a purely internal resolution to their conflict. A pluralist would not have grounds to demand that some other society start being pluralist, and certainly should not use violence to enforce this.

However, I do believe that through communications technology and economic globalization, we are part of a larger, global society. So I think the conflict between Western pluralism and other societies' non-democratic nature has relevant parallels to something like the civil rights movement.

The question then becomes what tactics are appropriate for the pluralist who wants to expand pluralism, not whether trying to spread pluralism should or should not be done.

by Dave Thomer 2007-05-08 11:18AM | 0 recs
Re: Diversity vs. Pluralism

To me "communications technology" and "economic globalization" are code phrases for a much older phenomenon: imperialism.  

So, to the economic imperialism of Western corporations and the military imperialism of the neo-conservatives, we should add the moral imperialism of the Left?  Furthermore, why draw parallels between the American civil rights movement, a struggle within American society over American values and American history, and the spread of global pluralism.  That kind of thinking, where global phenomena are analogized to American social development, is EXACTLY why the developing world hates us.

Instead of conceding to economic globalization, why not fight it through self-contained sustainability, energy independence, bilateral and uncoercive trade agreements, and corporate reform?  By the way, all of these steps require self-control: a correction of how Americans behave rather than how the rest of the world behaves.

by Lassallean 2007-05-08 11:49AM | 0 recs
Re: Diversity vs. Pluralism

Instead of conceding to economic globalization, why not fight it through self-contained sustainability, energy independence, bilateral and uncoercive trade agreements, and corporate reform?  By the way, all of these steps require self-control: a correction of how Americans behave rather than how the rest of the world behaves.

The current form of globalization isn't actually very pluralistic, and I'll certainly agree with you on that, and say that there are definitely things Americans and Western societies need to change about their behavior. I think the West, especially America, needs to "assimilate" to pluralism as much as any other culture/society does, so I'm not saying we should unilaterally impose one culture onto another.

But even in your examples, you list trade agreements. So you foresee members of different societies/cultures exchanging goods with one another. Will people travel from one place to another? Will the goods that they exchange include cultural and idea-based items, like works of arts or academic writings? Will people from different areas/cultures/countries find reasons to collaborate with one another? Will they want to trade expertise with one another? I believe that the answer to all of these questions is yes. As a result, I do believe that a global society exists and is growing. And I believe that within that global society, there is a struggle over global values and global history. That's where I think the analogy is worthwhile. I don't think I should ignore a Darfur any more than I should ignore a Selma.

You mention self-contained sustainability, and I do not want to put words in your mouth. Could you define the term more for me?

by Dave Thomer 2007-05-08 12:06PM | 0 recs
Re: Diversity vs. Pluralism

I do understand what you mean by cultural exchanges, and I would agree with you that an international intelligensia exists.  I would assign these forms of communication under the heading of "cultural diffusion," which is a far more respectful, voluntary, and pacific form of communication than "globalization." Globalization, on the other hand, revolutionizes and destroys traditional cultures because it has an aggressive animus at its core - for example - a desire for natural resources, a desire for territorial annexation, a missionary zeal.

I am for trade that is not exploitative, meaning that it is built on mutual respect and equal bargaining power.  

By "self-contained sustainability" I mean a domestic economy, which provides for the needs and reasonable wants of the American people with minimal resort to foreign trade.  Obviously, it sounds impossible given the current state of our economy, but "energy independence" is a giant step in that direction.  If the universe of production is restricted to what can be produced locally, it would force a more responsible, creative and beneficial use of technology.   In general, I believe economies should be localized and sustainable within the locality.  

by Lassallean 2007-05-08 12:40PM | 0 recs
Re: Diversity vs. Pluralism

Going with your definition of globalization, I certainly agree with your opposition to it, and prefer other forms of global social interaction. To the extent that globalization is happening, it is building a global society. I believe that efforts to build a pluralistic outlook into that global society are a means of stopping globalization, even if they piggyback in part on globalization.

I would prefer a pluralistic global society to the collection of self-sufficient nations you describe. I believe that without a rich network of cultural and social interactions, nations and/or cultures will not see each other with the mutual respect that you encourage, but as obstacles to overcome and resources to capture.

by Dave Thomer 2007-05-08 05:48PM | 0 recs
Re: Diversity vs. Pluralism

I have many disagreements with this, and I also agree that in some cases you're right, other societies deserve morally, and should be accorded pragmatically, the right to be left alone and different.

But it's a fun subject to think about.

First, the borders between "us" and "them" are not neat or clean at all.  What happens if a strong authoritarian society invades a weak liberal one?  What happens if it purges a weak internal minority?  What happens if the authoritarians immigrate to the Netherlands, and continue to beat their wives in the jurisdiction of the Rotterdam Police Department?  And finally, who says the authoritarians are going to leave us alone?  Sure, they may be due the moral respect of enjoying their own civilization, but they may not care to afford us that same moral respect.  To take one example, Russia is now going authoritarian again.  Given that Russia's history of shitty (by our standards) government has posed immense and direct threats to the West for the last century, I'd say we in the West have every right to be concerned what kind of government and society Russia creates now, and even every right to intervene if we can do so sensibly and effectively (and nonviolently), without blowback.  Flipping Russia, just like flipping Japan, is a matter of self-defense in the end.  

As a consequence, if I thought we could do it effectively, I would advocate "flipping" Saudi Arabia or China in a heartbeat.  In one sense, that means I'm failing to respect their society as it currently exists.  In another sense, it's self-defense, based on the historical precedent that non-liberal societies have a dismal history of respecting the moral right of liberal societies to exist unmolested.  (The obvious counterargument here is that liberal societies, and particularly market societies, have an equally dismal record of allowing other societies the rights to their own natural resources, unmolested.  Which is true.  That said, even when unprovoked by liberal societies, authoritarian societies tend not to leave them alone.  When they find themselves stronger they conquer outright, and when they find themselves evenly matched warfare still typically ensues.)

The Iraq invasion was a stupendously wrongheaded attempt to flip a society, of course.

Anyway, my basic disagreement is not necessarily over whether other, authoritarian societies have the moral right to be left alone; I can see cases both ways, and I've yet to sort them out, and there's a very good chance I'd wind up agreeing with you.  But pragmatically, I do think that just cause we leave them alone doesn't mean they'll leave us alone.  There's ways to implement your vision pragmatically that involve as little obnoxious intervention, and as much formidable and deterrent defensive strength, as possible.  A sort of disengaged Fortress West, which could be a good idea.  That being said, there's still other complications: what do you do when a population like the Armenians, the Kosovars, the Chechens, the Timorese, the Tibetans are getting nailed?  Of course historically, the West often does nothing, but then we're a lot more economic-power-mad and a lot less truly liberal than I'd like.

by texas dem 2007-05-08 01:38PM | 0 recs
White, NON-CATHOLIC Christians

Of course some evangelicals claim Catholics aren't Christians; Mormons also are apostate.

That doesn't mean Christians are not important to the Democratic coalition. Church is a significant cultural foundation to Black Americans. And, Hispanics are heavily Catholic.

by MetaData 2007-05-08 10:18AM | 0 recs
Re: White, NON-CATHOLIC Christians

Kind of ironic that the evangelicals claim Catholics aren't Christians, seeing as the Catholics existed first, but anyways...

I think the one thing this post misses is the Catholic aspect - and particularly how the Church is falling apart.  I personally can see the rift that exists culturally throughout the country is starting to seep deep into the Church in America as well - just look at the Bishop who denied the Senator from Missouri the right to speak at a recent function.  As a Roman Catholic, I'm completely offended by this asshole's actions and I know that many others feel that way as well.  I'm pretty sure it would be hard right now to categorize the entire Catholic following in America into one party or the other - not just because of ideological differences but there are many younger members who identify as Catholic but hardly attend Church or are firm believers.

by Conquest 2007-05-08 10:32AM | 0 recs
Re: White, NON-CATHOLIC Christians

Eh.  Church attendance is a much better predicter of voting behavior than denomination nowadays.

by meelar 2007-05-08 11:56AM | 0 recs
Re: The Most Important Political Demographic

based on your analysis, would the democratic party be better served in '08 electing the "white christian" demographic candidate (edwards) or the one that represents the future demographics (Obama)?  Put another way, are we better off electing Edwards as our nominee now or should we anticipate these demographic trends and pick Obama (or would that be getting ahead of where the public is currently at)? Or, since both will be representing the non white-christian coalition, will it really matter which we pick this time around?

by AmericanJedi 2007-05-08 10:21AM | 0 recs
Re: The Most Important Political Demographic

Interesting question.  I think an important question is whether picking Obama could increase turnout among non white-Christians, thereby improving the demographics of the electorate.  I wonder if Chris thinks that is a possibility.

by Sam L 2007-05-08 11:16AM | 0 recs
Re: The Most Important Political Demographic

I don't think you embrace a strategy dependent on increased turnout. I'll always look for the candidate who can steal a point or two here and there from the other side's reliable or likely blocks. In this case, as in '04, it appears to be Edwards. It's labeled White Christians here. By any name it means he will peel off a segment of the type who otherwise will favor the GOP nominee. The Non White Christians will still support the Democratic nominee even if he wasn't their initial choice, plus you get the bonus crossover.

The conventional wisdom is Bush won in '04 by expanding his natural turnout. There's truth to that but the election, as always, came down to preference, not turnout. White women shifted post 9/11, from a 1 point Bush edge in '00 to 51-42 in '04. That was the entire election in a nutshell. In '06 we won due to preference switch among independents, and a big chunk of that white female vote returning to its pre-9/11 tendencies.

by Gary Kilbride 2007-05-08 11:59AM | 0 recs
Re: The Most Important Political Demographic

I suppose the idea with Edwards would be to cut into their base (or rather, the indies that lean their way), and the idea with Obama would be to expand our own.

Honestly, expanding our own seems to be a better long term strategy.  The question is which change would likely be more permanent.  If you sway some right-leaning indie voters over for two elections with Edwards, do you wind up keeping them, or do they drift back to the next shiny Reagan figure that comes along?  Alternately, if you run Obama and turn out a lot of extra YoungNonWhiteChristians, do you get to keep those voters going forward, or do they drift back into not voting?

I actually think that if you've moved people from notvoting to voting, they're easier to then keep, than if you've moved people from right-leaning-indie to Edwards.  Because the second movement is character and candidate centric, which will pass (unless Edwards is an incredibly good, realigning president), whereas the first movement is one from nonparticipation to participation, which I think is a more significant and durable change (unless Obama bombs so horribly that they get turned off politics again).

In short, adding people to your base is a much more lasting strategy than swaying some people off theirs with a candidate's presentation and accent.  I think either one would work in the short term, but I think growing your base is a very strong idea if you can do it.  Think Rove's church directory project.

by texas dem 2007-05-08 01:56PM | 0 recs
Re: The Most Important Political Demographic

I'd have to see a lot of numbers, including some that aren't available to come to a firm conclusion on this one, but I suspect that anti-Republican/non-pluralist turnout is going to be the motive force short term.

The rise in 'non-White Christians' will long term deliver the electoral math to Democrats and probably force both parties left, but I don't think that there's necessarily a massive difference at a given point in time between the maximum turnout a White Christian and a non-White Christian candidate can achieve. I see it as being too long-term for that to work.

I'm happy to see numbers proving me wrong, but I reckon until the numbers are there for this political revolution it'll be antipathy towards the alternative that'll be the most powerful force in favour of our candidates.

by Englishlefty 2007-05-08 04:47PM | 0 recs
Race, Religion and Region

The Demographic mantra of the Three RRRs.

When you fold in region, things get very interesting. White, Christian Southerners are a large PART of the reason Republicans do well in the South. But, take out the Urban centers, and you find the many parts of the country are more white, more Christian and more republican than the South.

The main political difference between Kansas and Colorado or Oregon and Idaho is that Kansas or Idaho doesn't have a major Urban center. Looking at rural and small-town Colorado or Oregon, the Republicans have quite a lot of support.

The interesting thing is that class (economically defined) is much less politically determinant than the Three RRRs. I suspect there are class-cultural factors that are more important than exactly how much money you have. That is, small-town business owners identify Republican because they view themselves as rugged industrialists who hate taxes and unions. Urban professionals identify more with liberal-cultural ideals, like environmentalism and good coffee.

by MetaData 2007-05-08 10:31AM | 0 recs
It would be interesting to compare with Europe

It seems that people vote more on pocketbook issues there.

The great failure of the left in America has been to help moving politics from class and economics to culture and lifestyle.

by Populism2008 2007-05-08 11:00AM | 0 recs
Re: It would be interesting to compare with Europe

Not always. Look at Eastern Europe's flirtation with neo-liberalism, leading to the loss of the (admittedly imperfect, but at least functional) social safety nets in exchange for more expensive services and a few corrupt billionaires. Or look at Britain, where one of the major dividing issues politically is how you feel about Margaret Thatcher.

by Englishlefty 2007-05-08 04:50PM | 0 recs
Re: Race, Religion and Region

I think that more specifically than just religion it's a matter of how feverantly religious they are. How often they attend church. The more often they attend church the more conservative and republican they are.

I'd be very interested in seeing the results of a poll/study that looked those that are the exception in various sub-sets. The frequent and very frequent church attendee that is a democrat or a liberal and why they are. Are the union members? Is everyone around them a democrat so they are too?

Something looking at black republicans would be interesting too though that group is much smaller in number.

by Quinton 2007-05-09 02:16PM | 0 recs
Just remember that not all white Christians

are Republicans. Not me, for example. I don't want people to become less Christian; rather I want Christians to become more truly Christian and stop supporting the Republican Party and their anti-Christian policies.

The battle has to be fought within Christianity as well.

by Populism2008 2007-05-08 10:57AM | 0 recs
Demographics of the Bases

Things get really interesting when you look at the demographics WITHIN each party, as Chris dabbled with here on the white-religious vs not. I posted on Regional Differences in Democrat & Republican Coalitions a year ago after becoming completely fascinated with the Pew Typology Study "Beyond Red and Blue".

The Pew Typology study really sensitized me to the uneven regional distribution of religion, and how that affects the demographics of each party's base.

One point is that religion, one of the most significant factors for understanding political values, is not tracked by the census, so we have to look to opinion polling instead, which is less accurate and gives us less coverage over time and space.

The second point, is that State legislatures are gerrymanded by examining historical voting results, but if religion is such a significant factor in how people vote, we would like to know religious makeup and how it is distributed geographically, and how it is changing with time. I posted on Religious Gerrymandering once before:

Simply looking at Dem vs Rep voting results by district is insufficient for predicting voting patterns. Better understanding results by looking at how the Parties' coalitions and demographics are distributed by district. In other words, looking at the cross-tabs in each the district is essential to understanding why the Republicans lost in 2006, what to expect in 2008, and what strategies to use for redistricting the next time around. More than that, it helps understand the ideological trends as well.

With respect to certain Colorado US House districts, heavy concentrations of Christians in Colorado Springs and Fort Collings (South and North, respectively), go a long way to explaining Doug Lamborn's and Marilyn Musgrave's successes.

More importantly, this uneven distribution of Religious, on the one hand, and Urban on the other, goes a long way to explaining the dominance of the right-wing on Republican politics. Primarily because of such concentration Colorado has three winger Republicans and not a single moderate Republican.

It could be fatal for the Republicans; how can the moderate wing ever take back control if the religious right is so powerful and dominant in local areas?

by MetaData 2007-05-08 11:12AM | 0 recs
How do we handle women's rights in this world?

One thing that concerns me is the rights and roles of women in this divide. (I think you're on the money BTW). If you look at Non-White/Non-Christian groups like Somali-Muslims or Hispanic Catholics there is a strong anti-choice sentiment there and much more traditional gender roles.

I'm wondering how we avoid a cross-fire between key constituencies on both sides of the divide that ends up shredding women's health care freedoms and women's gains in areas like equal pay, equal access to sports, jobs, etc.?

by northcountry 2007-05-08 11:35AM | 0 recs
Re: How do we handle women's rights in this world?

They get included in the coalition. They don't get to rule it. I'd suggest that Somali-Muslims are never going to be powerful enough to force their views on this issue, and Hispanic Catholics will fail due to a) dissensions within their own community and b) other elements of the progressive movement.

Plus I tend to believe that economic benefits make increased social freedoms for disadvantaged groups, such as women in misogynistic societies, inevitable sooner or later provided democracy is present.

by Englishlefty 2007-05-08 04:53PM | 0 recs
But the right to make decisions

about your own healthcare choices and control over your own body are fundamental, universal rights no?

So what happens while we build for the future and campaign on economic populist themes?  How do civil rights figure in?

by northcountry 2007-05-08 07:31PM | 0 recs
Re:The Most Important Political Demographic: Class

A sociological analysis of class as measured by income provides a better grip on the determinants of future political alignments than race, ethnicity or religion, as far as I am concerned.

Most voters vote their pocketbooks, with the exception of low-information voters and voters who are mesmerized by political propaganda. As more voters in the U.S. see downward mobility on their horizon in terms of their class status, i.e. the prospect of moving from being middle class to the working class to the working poor to the impoverished, greater numbers of the electorate are going to vote their pocketbooks.

The anti-terrorist scare tactics employed by the Republican Party to entrench itself in power is wearing thin as voters see the writing on the wall in terms of their increasingly precarious personal finances.

The overriding importance of class versus race, ethnicity and religion applies to domestic U.S. politics as well as international conflicts like the so-called clash of civilizations between Islam and Christianity.

Very often, attempts are made to conceal the economic class warfare that is ravaging the U.S. and the international community of nations under smokescreens like these, which are designed to deflect attention from economic policies to ethnic, racial or religious cleavages.

For example, most experts outside the U.S. attribute the conflict between the al Qaeda movement and the U.S. not to religious, ethnic or cultural differences but to the economic deprivation inflicted on Muslim populations as a result of U.S. actions in the Middle East to obtain cheap oil from dictators and oppressive monarchies.

Another example is the politicized Christian right in this country which, as has been well-documented, was the creation of Republican strategists bent on building an electoral base for the large corporations and wealthy individuals that were using the Republican party to get a stranglehold over U.S. government as well as the economy.

The Christian right and its fundamentalist issues have been exploited and misused by the Republican party to deflect attention from the excessive profit-taking that has been occurring in the U.S. and throughout the world by the large corporations that provide the party's core financial support.

They have used the party and its right-wing electoral base to hi-jack control of the U.S. government via campaign financing and force completely unregulated free markets on everyone, wrecking indigenous economies and livelihoods everywhere, here and abroad.

It is very important to see through these ploys and the pseudo-religious smokescreens that they use to conceal their underlying economic objectives.

A good example is the Bush/Cheney invasion of Iraq on behalf of the oil interests that are an integral part of their careers in and out of politics. The invasion was driven by economic motives above all else, with WMD's and democracy-building serving as the smokescreens. The facts of their ploy are amply documented by Michael Schwart's recent piece, The Struggle Over Iraqi Oil. As soon as the U.S. troops were on the ground, they headed for the oil pipelines and the Iraqi oil ministry to get control of these assets. Every major American envoy, from Bremer to Khalilizad to Crocker, has had as their first mission getting an official Iraqi government signature on the oil agreement granting control over Iraqi oil to Western oil interests.

Not too suprisingly, obtaining this signature is one of the "benchmarks" the U.S. is trying to impose on the faltering Iraqi government at the cost of even more American and Iraqi lives.

Fortunately, for the Iraqis, they have refused to have any of the smokescreens pulled over their eyes that Americans have had pulled over theirs. The vast majority of Iraqis and the rest of world public opinion, for that matter, have do doubt whatsoever that the primary U.S. motivation for invading Iraq was to turn control over its oil assets to Western oil interests.

If Schwartz is correct, no such agreement will ever be implemented, so universal is Iraqi determination to keep U.S.-backed oil interests from getting control of Iraqi oil.

What all this points to is the need to connect the economic dots and focus on the declining class status and income of those who are being ruined by predatory economic policies and practices, here and abroad.

These relationships are the real drivers of what happens in politics and how people are going to vote in the future. More and more voters are understanding these dynamics, and those of us who are attempting to psyche out the political lay of the land in the future would do well to keep them uppermost in our minds.

by Nancy Bordier 2007-05-08 11:41AM | 0 recs
The problem is the stats don't support you.

Income level is a poor predictor of how someone will vote. Basically, there are a lot of rich Democrats and poor Republicans. If people really voted their pocket book, the Democrats would have swept into power long ago.

Class culturally-defined, may have more explanatory power, but this is even fuzzier than measuring religion. No less important, which is why we saw the Republican mailing machine pursuing subscription lists of hunter magazines and recreational vehicle owners. Thus... psychographics.

Economic status IN COMBINATION with some other demographic dimension starts to be more interesting.

Maybe you are thinking that class interests are a strong motivator when it comes to the the very wealthy trying to protect their legacy for their family. Or, maybe you are referring to business executives sitting on each other's Boards of Directors.

Those kinds of class structures are about power and control. We're talking about a very, very small slice of the populace, so it a different analysis than trying to understand how they'll vote.

by MetaData 2007-05-08 01:07PM | 0 recs
Re: The problem is the stats don't support you.

Actually, the data I am familiar with show that Republican voters are more affluent on the whole than Democratic voters.

Please see my response above to Texas Dem. My statement about voters voting their pocketbook is intended to apply to those who are not low-information or mesmerized by political propaganda.

The Republican Party has gone all out to politically mesmerize people and conceal information they need to effectively protect their vital interests and pocket books when they go to the polls.

Increasingly, as the working members of the electorate see their economic status eroded by predatory economic policies and practices, they will wise up and vote their pocketbooks. That's why I predict that the Republican Party and its neo-liberal economic ideologies and policies will eventually be thrown on the dustbin of history.

Clearly you are correct that in specific cases, we need to devise complex multi-causal models that include the variables to which you relate. Even in this case, economic status is going to be the primary causal influence for non-low-information voters and voters not mesmerized by political propaganda.

by Nancy Bordier 2007-05-08 03:07PM | 0 recs
Re:The Most Important Political Demographic: Class

Agree with MetaData.

Your analysis of the motivations of the ruling class is spot-on, but your early statements that voters vote their pocketbooks is completely wrong.  Or more accurately, your complete sentence

Most voters vote their pocketbooks, with the exception of low-information voters and voters who are mesmerized by political propaganda.

is gutted by the fact that the "exception", the low-info and the mesmerized voters, are the vast majority of the electorate.

For instance, how many people perceive the economic threat as coming from below, from immigrant labor, rather than from above, from the ruling class that is screwing them seven different ways, only one of which is deliberately importing cheap immmigrant labor?  Notice that these voters are still voting for the Republican party, the party whose modern incarnation that very ruling class assembled.

People may try to vote their pocketbook, though again I agree with MetaData that frequently they deliberately vote on perceived cultural affiliation -- "he's one of us, he'd govern like I would" -- more than anything else.  But even when they try to vote their pocketbook, voters frequently fail. Political economy is opaque, and misdirection from above is easy and profitable.

by texas dem 2007-05-08 02:18PM | 0 recs
Re:The Most Important Political Demographic: Class

I agree with your views and qualification of my statement that you quote above.

That said, as low-information voters become better informed and voters mesmerized by political propaganda acquire greater insight into the ways in which they are being manipulated and their economic interests violated, my core observation will hold true.

The large majority of well-informed objective voters, irrespective of race, ethnicity and religion, will vote their pocket book against political parties and politicians who support policies and economic interests that are putting their livelihoods at risk and aggravating income inequalities.

by Nancy Bordier 2007-05-08 02:55PM | 0 recs
Re:The Most Important Political Demographic: Class

Exactly. To borrow a useful bit of Marxist terminology, it's 'false conciousness'. Many of the poor do not vote on pocket-book issues, and a lot of Republican strategists want to keep things this way, which goes a long way towards explaining things like attempts to impose gay marriage bans by Republican operatives.

by Englishlefty 2007-05-08 04:55PM | 0 recs
Great post; I'm conflicted

I have long thought of the "culture wars" in these terms -- between those who see themselves as the "us" and those who want the war to just stop -- and I think your writing from two years ago is an incredible prediction of the role Obama would come to see himself playing in our nation's political history.

This is why I'm conflicted, we've got the cultural injustices, but we've also got material injustices. Which is more important? Which comes first? If we do away with the culture wars will material progress become easier? (I think so.) If we solve the material issues first, will it make cultural issues easier to move past? (Maybe...)

I think we have more of a moral responsibility to solve the material problems, like poverty, healthcare, the middle-class squeeze, etc., (as well as the material injustices, such as discrimination, which arise from social issues). The end of the culture wars may take more time than work, as old racists die off and young pluralists grow up.

I think the charge you have laid out is a good one, to represent our mission in terms of social issues, but it may be a better measure of success than it is a cause for action.

by msnook 2007-05-08 03:14PM | 0 recs

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