The States Most Ideologically Representative of America

I am delving into the recent huge Pew survey.  This is the first thing that caught my eye.

On page 10-11, there are charts profiling Democrats/Democratic leaners and Republican/Republican leaners by state, grouped by primary date.  Nationally, Democrats and Democratic leaners are divided into liberals (31%), moderates (44%), and conservatives (21%), while Republicans and Republicans leaners are divided into conservative white evangelical Protestants (26%), other conservatives (35%), and moderates/liberals (37%).

One simple measure of deviance from the national ideological breakdown is to sum up the differences between state figures and the national figures in each category.  For example, South Carolina is +9 in conservative white evangelical Republicans, -6 in other conservative Republicans, -8 in moderate/liberal Republicans, , -6 in liberal Democrats, even in moderate Democrats, and +4 in conservative Democrats for a total of 33 with a Republican deviation of 23 and a Democratic deviation of 10.  Some results after the flip.

There's more...

Huge Data Dump From Pew

Pew has released an enormous survey, which is summarized on their site here, and for which the complete results can be found in a 112 page PDF here. The poll goes into great detail on national attitudes concerning a variety of political topics, with long-term trendlines for every question. The partisan identification numbers are some of the more newsworthy bits about this poll:
Over the past five years, the political landscape of the nation has shifted from one of partisan parity to a sizable Democratic advantage. But the change reflects Republican losses more than Democratic gains. Compared with 2002, Democratic Party identification is up just two points (from 31% to 33%) and has not grown at all since 2004. Republican Party identification, meanwhile, has fallen precipitously, from 29% as recently as 2005 to just 25% in the first quarter of 2007.

The shift that favors the Democratic Party is among independents. The share of Americans who describe themselves as independents who "lean" toward the Democratic Party has gradually risen from 12% in 2002 to 17% in the first quarter of 2007. Meanwhile, the share leaning toward the GOP has dropped, but only slightly (from 13% to 11%). But the survey suggests that even these Democratic gains reflect independents' dissatisfaction with the Republican Party more than any greater liking for the Democrats.
There are no generalized ideological self-identification questions in the poll (at least that I can find), but there are a number of perhaps more useful questions on ideological attitudes give provide us with a sense of the ideological flow in the country. As a means of cutting through the contradictory answers many people give when questions are asked in isolation, I thought question 16, found on page 92 of the PDF, was particularly interesting:
If you had to choose, would you rather have a smaller government providing fewer services, or a bigger government providing more services? ( Smaller government, fewer services: 45%
Larger government, more services: 43%
Back in early 1996, the numbers were 61-30 in favor of "smaller government, fewer services." That is quite a shift in a short period of time, although numbers nearly identical to these had already appeared in Pew polling as early as 1999. Clearly, any notion of a "small government majority" among the electorate were temporary, at best.

Across the board, there appears to be a slight ideological shift that favors progressives, though few changes, if any, are as drastic as those found on the smaller / larger government question. The whole poll is worth a read, and should amuse any poll junkies out there for hours on end.

The Ethics Of Voting Yes On The Supplemental

I have grown truly exhausted, and so I am going to take my first weekend "off" in a while to go to North Carolina and speak at the young Democrats convention in Greensboro, North Carolina. I do not intend to make any posts tomorrow, Saturday, or Sunday.

Looking around the `sphere today, I have noticed that a lot of other people seem to be tired as well. It is always easy--and dangerous--to project the way you feel onto others, so perhaps I should not assume that others in the political and activist world are simply feeling like me when it comes to the supplemental fight, but the anecdotal evidence is strong. In the blogosphere, when it comes to the Iraq supplemental debate in the House, discussion seems to be dying off. No diaries, whether for or against the bill, are reaching the recommended list at Dailykos. Dairies on this subject are not even generating much discussion anymore, which certainly was not the case over the last weekend (see here and here). Much the same is happening at BooMan Tribune. In other areas of the netroots, MoveOn.org's vote on the bill had a fairly small 4% click-thru rate. While that actually isn't that bad for a large email list, and while it certainly does not invalidate the bill (statistically speaking, 85% for one position, even at a 4% response rate, makes it perfectly clear that a very sizable majority of MoveOn.org members are in favor of supporting the bill, at least in the way that the bill was described in the email), it does show a generally lower amount of passion on both sides than one might have expected. In the news, both established and independent, other stories, including the Edwards announcement and the ongoing U.S. Attorney's scandal, are clearly taking precedence for both most people and most outlets. We seem to have arrived a rather odd moment where the number one issue in the country, and the number of issue in the 2006 election, is undergoing its first legislative fight of the new Congress, and yet somehow is not the center of either national or activist attention.

Before I head off, and before tomorrow's vote, I wanted to offer one final perspective on the Iraq supplemental fight. Right now, with few remaining progressives willing to vote against the supplemental bill, and with the House leadership probably having enough votes to pass it (for more on this, see here), the remaining progressive opposition is being cast as "principled," in contrast to the "pragmatic" progressives who have decided to vote in support. This is certainly the dichotomy proposed by McJoan in her latest piece on the supplemental over at Dailykos. This is a binary opposition with which I disagree, primarily because I have always looked at ethics from an applied perspective, where the ethical value of a given action can only be judged in the context of the consequences of that action. In this circumstance, I am, not arguing that voting against the supplemental from the a progressive stance is unethical, just that it is not any more ethical than voting in favor.

Consider a crude summary of both sides of the debate right now:
  1. Those opposed to the bill tend to argue either that all funding measures should be defeated, or that this specific funding measure should be defeated because it does not go far enough. This bill should be scrapped, and a better bill / no bill should be put forward.
  2. Those in favor of voting yes argue that this is the best we can do at the current time, that it has provisions that will force Bush to either drawn-down / end the war or conduct it illegally, and that if this bill is defeated an even weaker bill will be put forward in its place.
Let's assume for the moment that part of both claims are true: the current bill will not result in the war being either ended or de-escalated, and that if it is defeated a weaker bill we not only be put forward, but it will also pass. Personally, I think that both of these claims are probably correct. Whether or not the language in this bill is binding, Bush won't follow the language, will issue a signing statement, or will simply veto it. Also, whether or not people want to believe it, and whether or not the Democratic House leadership gets behind it, if this bill is defeated in the House a new coalition will emerge in the House that will pass an even weaker bill. So, in reality, neither plan will probably stop, or even slow down, the war.

Now, from an applied ethical perspective that views the war as immoral and unethical, if neither plan will actually bring an end, or even result a in de-escalation, then I don't think either plan has the clear moral high ground as the "ethical" position. Both will probably result in the same consequence, and thus the two positions have equal ethical values. Even if we look at this from an intentions perspective, both sides can also claim that at least they are trying to end the war, either by trying to defeat all funding for the continued occupation, or by trying to incrementally move toward a point where opponents of the war have enough clout in D.C. to bring the war to and end once and for all. In fact, both sides will probably argue that they are simultaneously engaging in both short-term and long-term actions, and both are probably right.

My point is this: don't tell me that I am less principled, moral or ethical than you because I am supporting this measure even though I don't think it goes far enough. I am certainly not going to do the same thing to you, because I don't really see how either of our positions will result in a more ethically acceptable outcome. I arrived at my position because, in my final analysis, I believed the politics of the situation demanded it. You could respond that I should appreciate the ethical values of actions in and of themselves, rather than in the context of their consequences, but if that is your position than ultimately it represents an ideological difference between the two of us that will not be settled either in the discussion of this post, or before the House vote tomorrow. I do not see an ethical high ground in the progressive debate on this vote, and thus political considerations take precedence. Now, I don't think we handled the politics of this vote as well as we could have, but a progressive engineered defeat of this bill would make the political situation even worse. Republicans have to be the ones who hold this bill up, and / or fail to implement it, not Democrats and not progs. If the war will continue either way, then it must be clear that it was their decision to continue it, not ours.

I have placed the progressive caucus's statement on the vote in the extended entry. They have struck a deal that now gives the leadership enough votes to pass the bill. Progressives were, as the release states, decisive in this debate.

There's more...

Why Progressives Lost The Iraq Supplemental Fight

This passage from an AP story on the progressive caucus explains a lot:
But with conservative and moderate Democrats refusing to consider a faster timetable or a cutoff of war funding, party leaders have had to steer a more centrist course on Iraq.

They point to polls that show the public opposes cutting off funding or revoking President Bush's authority for the war but backs bringing home troops by next year. They argue that their measure can at least make Bush report to Congress any time he deploys a unit that doesn't meet training or readiness standards, or has not spent at least a year at home between tours.
I amazed at how three sentences can contain to many of the things that are still major problems in our national political scene. Here is an incomplete list:
  • Data supporting conservative positions is foregrounded, while data supporting progressive positions is buried. The passage cites poll data showing opposition to cutting off funding or revoking Bush's authority. It does mention poll data, often taken from the same polls, that show much larger majorities in favor of binding troop readiness standards, and full withdrawal in one year or less (source). That is about the only bright spot in this passage, even if the data on the public favoring troop withdrawal is somewhat buried. Typically, writers talk about progressive positions as though the public is always against them, and following them would be political suicide (note: passage corrected after I misread the piece).
  • Conservative frames employed to misrepresent progressive positions. A cutoff of war funding? What Democrat has said we should cut off war funding? Progressives have repeatedly talked about a fully funded withdrawal, and the rest of the caucus has said we won't cut off funds. Republicans have repeatedly said that is what Democrats want to do, and so that is the way what Democrats want to do is described.
  • The political center is located on the right. George Bush has an approval rating on Iraq in the high 20's. People hate George Bush and hate the Iraq war. Yet somehow the "center" is assumed to be somewhere between Democrats in Congress and Bush. In reality, the center is quite clearly on the side of Democrats. However, no matter how unpopular conservative positions and politicians may be, the center is always assumed to be straddling between the conservative position and something else. Certainly, the center can never be allowed to be where progressives are.
In a political world where only conservative data is cited, where only conservative frames are used to describe Democrats, and where conservatives are always entitled to compromise and a claim on the center no matter how unpopular they are, there is simply no way that progressives can win. It is hard to even think like a progressive in that environment. And thus rests the crux of our problem.

There are many Democrats who are convinced that America is a fundamentally conservative nation, and becoming more so. Forget that the progressive position on every issue, save gay marriage, is currently more popular than the conservative position. Forget the enormous political architecture the conservative movement has created over the past thirty years, specifically designed to make fringe conservative positions mainstream. Forget even the Democratic takeover of Congress. Forget the rising progressive tide in the people powered movement. None of this means anything to many Democratic staffers and elected representatives in Washington. There are still many people with a D in front of their name that view things like the 1994 election as the norm, and 2006 as the anomaly. There are Democrats who are convinced that the media does, in fact, have a massive liberal bias. There are those Democrats who have swallowed every concept in the great backlash narrative about liberal elites. There are those Democrats who feel that the rise of the progressive movement has been an overwhelming net negative for Democrats.

Ultimately, it is a problem of political perception. There are those Democrats who view the rise of conservatism in America from 1978-2006 as both natural and permanent, rather than as constructed and reversible. In my judgment, all evidence I have seen over the past four years shows that it is, in fact, reversible and constructed. The massive public souring on Republicans, uncovering the structure and operation of the conservative movement, witnessing the rise of the progressive movement, recent election results--it can all be defeated, and we can start moving forward again. For one reason or another, there are Democrats who just don't see things that way, who would even prefer if it was not that way, or who just don't care and never look at any political calculation besides the next one. Many of those Democrats reside in the Blue Dog caucus. In talking with these people, I could quote polling, cite election results, and demonstrate activist support until I have been chocked blue, but none of that would ever matter to people like Alan Boyd, Steny Hoyer, or Ellen Tauscher. They view themselves as operating in countries with entirely different political playing fields as movementarians like I do. If there are Democrats who we cannot convince of the political reality that a conservative political environment can be reversed and should be reversed, then those are Democrats we will eventually have to go though, rather than working with. If you don't believe that progressives can win, you are probably already contributing to progressive defeat even before the struggle begins. When it came to the Iraq supplemental fight, there were quite a few Democrats who did just that. And that is why we lost.

Open Thread

This is an open thread. Talk about anything you want. Anything at all.

Also, don't forget to sign up for MyDD Madness over at the ESPN tournament challenge. The group name is "MyDD Madness," and the password is "MyDD." The tournament won't be much fun without Syracuse, but I will try to bravely push forward anyway. Purdue, Stanford, Vanderbilt--what crap.

Further, I am going keep the March straw poll open for voting until around 8pm eastern. Go vote in it now--I'd like to get over 1,000 votes real votes this time. It is currently being stuffed by some Obama people, but don't worry--it is quite easy to sort out the stuffed votes from the real ones.

Diaries

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