Browsing the archives for the conservatism tag.

A bit of grin and bear it, a bit of come and share it

Economy, Politics, US Economy, US Politics
Soup line, part of Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial (Image used under CC license from Flickr user gamillos)

"Soup line", part of Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial (Image used under CC license from Flickr user Gabriel Millos)

If the erupting economic crisis hasn’t already led to soup lines and double digit unemployment, Kevin Drum argued yesterday, it is only thanks to the safeguards that were put in place since the crash of 1929.

Without Social Security, Medicare, unemployment insurance and deposit insurance; without the Treasury pumping capital into the banking system and the abandonment of the gold standard, we would already have reached that point.

So “thanks, FDR,” Drum writes*, “thanks, modern mixed economy” – and thank you LBJ as well, Eisenhower too, and all their counterparts here in Europe for that matter. Add those to your reasons to be cheerful. If it had been up to the Goldwater-Reagan ideology, this crisis would already have incurred much more suffering.

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* Though it’s an interesting afterthought that Roosevelt, “concerned about the moral hazard” involved, actually opposed creating the deposit insurance system, along with banking industry groups. Seems like the idea actually came from his left: he thought it went too far and even threatened to veto the legislation.

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Spread the wealth? What Americans think

Economy, Politics, Presidential Elections, US Economy, US Elections, US Politics

In my post, after the third presidential debate, about McCain’s efforts to make “spreading the wealth around” sound like the most ominous thing, I quoted Ezra Klein as saying that “for most folks, spreading the wealth around probably seems like a good idea” right now.

This is correct, Brian Schaffner of the CCPS argued yesterday at his new home on pollster.com. Taking as lead how the ABC/WaPo poll hasn’t shown any movement this month on the question which candidate is trusted more on the question of taxes, he digs up data showing so from a 2003 survey conducted by NPR, the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Kennedy School of Government.

Moreover, in case you’re feeling doubtful about those sponsors, the same thing is largely confirmed by Gallup data, which the polling firm’s in-depth look at the issue on Thursday revealed.

Schaffner argues that the McCain camp’s insistence that Obama’s proposal to raise taxes on the top 5% of income-earners smacks of class struggle and socialism doesn’t drill into much of a popular perception. It isn’t surprising “that McCain hasn’t gotten much traction by criticizing the fact that Obama wants to increase taxes for high income Americans,” Schaffner writes, because the 2003 survey actually showed that most Americans believe “high income people pay less than their fair share”. Over 60% of Independents, over 70% of Democrats and even a plurality of Republicans¬† agreed. Barely over 10% of independents and some 30% of Republicans, on the other hand, thought that high income people “pay more than their fair share”:

The Gallup polling data doesn’t directly address the question whether wealthy Americans pay enough taxes, but it does show a majority of Americans believing that “the distribution of money and wealth in this country” isn’t “fair”. Throughout intermittent polls in the last twenty-odd years, an ample majority opined that wealth should be “more evenly distributed among a larger percentage of the people,” while just 27-37% believed that the current distribution is fair:

Two details strike me in this graph. The opinion that “spreading the wealth around” seems like a good idea isn’t just something that’s coming up “right now”, in the face of a financial crisis; it’s actually been pretty consistent through the years. But there’s two kinds of variations over time.

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WaPo/ABC Poll: the difference between white voters in the South and elsewhere

Politics, Presidential Elections, US culture, US Elections, US Politics

This bit of polling analysis caught my attention: Obama does well among whites, very, very well indeed. But with one glaring exception: the South. The Southern exception is alive and well:

Obama is outperforming any Democrat back to Jimmy Carter among white voters, getting 45 percent to McCain’s 52 percent. But in the South, it is a very different story. Obama fares worse among Southern whites than any Democrat since George McGovern in 1972.

My electoral map of how whites voted in 2004 already showed that when you single out white voters, it’s not Wyoming and Utah that are the most Republican states, it’s Mississippi, Alabama and South-Carolina. The latest ABC/WaPo poll suggests that even as whites across the country have been remarkably receptive to Obama’s message, those in the South are still very hostile:

Whites in the East and West tilt narrowly toward Obama (he’s up 8 and 7 points, respectively), and the two run about evenly among those in the Midwest. By contrast, Southern whites break more than 2 to 1 for McCain, 65 percent to 32 percent.

That stark divide is not simply a partisan difference. While white Democrats outside the South give Obama margins of 80 points or more, he leads by a more modest 65 points among white Southern Democrats. The Democrat is up 55 points among liberal whites in the region, far under his performance among those voters elsewhere, where he is up by 79 points.

Southern white independents are also far more likely than politically independent whites in other regions to support McCain: They break 62 to 33 percent in his favor. White independents in the West favor Obama by a similarly wide margin, 63 to 34 percent. White political independents in the East and Midwest divide much more evenly.

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Live by the bubble, die by the bubble

Media / journalism, Politics, Presidential Elections, US Elections, US Politics

“The rise of the conservative media,” Isaac Chotiner notes at The Plank, “has obviously done the right a tremendous amount of good over the past generation.” Which is true of course. Through talk radio, Fox and its part of the blogosphere, the right aggressively staked out an expanding media territory devoted to its message. These media have honed a visceral appeal to people’s resentment and their lust for a good fight, which has allowed them to suck ever more people in and then ensure that they have always absorbed the talking points of the day. This has made for an aggressive fighting force, which could easily power its way to 50%+1 election victories.

But the fighting force remains a minority nevertheless, and there’s the rub this year.

(Image used under CC license from Flickr user DClemm)

(Image used under CC license from Flickr user DClemm)

There’s a large swathe of voters in the middle which cares little about liberal agendas (or politics at all for that matter), but would be too put off by all the shouting to listen to talk radio. They can be swayed into assent by those who do, however, if an overarching narrative like the War on Terror in 2004 or “bringing values back to Washington” in 2000 is:
a) brought forcefully enough;
b) based on immediate, high-profile events (9/11, Monica);
c) reasonably feasible; and
d) if there’s little effective counterpush.

They nevertheless remain distinctly un-sucked into the more immediate vortex of talking points inside the conservative media territory. They didn’t care about Vince Foster or Bill Clinton having once taken a hit on a joint. They dont fret over liberal indoctrination at universities – they just want their kids to go to a good school. Even the outrage over Monica Lewinsky was long a hard sell to this middle – just look at Bill’s consistently high approval rates.

Check in with the rightwing media now, however, and that’s all they have: a collection of narrow talking points with little relevance to life outside politics. They’re trapped inside the bubble, Chotiner says:

“Read the right’s blogs, listen to FOX News, turn on talk radio–all you hear (even right now, after the debate) is Ayers, ACORN, Reid, Pelosi, Barney Frank, and Chris Dodd (the last two being, duh, the sole villains behind our economic crisis). It’s as if the conservative movement has found itself mouthing talking points that no one outside of the bubble could possibly care about. Maybe it’s always like this when a political party faces an electoral catastrophe, but it sure is noticeable right now.”

The monocultural discipline which the conservative media territory offered made for a relentlessly on-message electoral fighting force in 2000 and 2004. Bolstered by Fox and talk radio on the airwaves, the movement conservatives were able to monopolise the party and push out moderates and independent thinkers, in a way MoveOn and the lefty blogosphere never succeeded in doing with the Democratic Party.

(Image used under CC license from Flickr user Chuckumentary)

(Image used under CC license from Flickr user Chuckumentary)

But the same monoculturalism now makes for a movement that’s largely unable to look at itself from the outside. They realise their message isnt resonating, but can’t understand whyever not. It’s living inside the bubble that made them such a cohesive machine. But it’s living in the same bubble that makes them unable to correct themselves and adapt now. All that’s left is anger and frustration.

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