Saturday, November 06, 2004

The current political discussion at the Switchboard at BARBELITH.COM is eye-opening:

From ibis Democrats "getting religion" is so absurdly short-sighted, un-American, un-democratic, it's embarrassing. It's also not feasible. The number of evangelicals that could possibly be swayed into voting Democrat have got to be miniscule, and meanwhile Dems would have to alienate their considerable liberal base. That's not to say your typical Democrat would vote for a conservative Repub over a conservative Democrat, but certainly they wouldn't get much of an election turnout.

A better idea I've heard recently is to try (somehow, I don't know how) to take back the words "morality" and "values." Liberals don't seem to be as good at controlling vocabulary as conservatives, particularly lately with the strength of the Right-Wing spin machine and what I believe is actually a conservative bias in media (MSNBC's news coverage is consistently right-leaning, for example). But there's got to be a way to popularize the idea that anti-discrimination laws are moral, the right to choose is moral, our values include compassion, charity, inclusion, scientific curiosity and rigor, and so on.

Also, another aspect of Bush's amazing polarization of America culture is that it's actually fostered an intolerance and, in many cases, hatred for the Christian religious culture that was not here before. Certainly, in recent years I've considered myself an ex-Baptist turned open-minded pro-science anti-hate nondenominational Christian. Sadly, I've become reactionary and experience a knee-jerk disgust every time I hear a religious turn of phrase, even one as insipid as "God Bless America." As the middle class has slipped nearly out of existence, so (perhaps) has the tolerant middle-of-the-road Christian in America.

From diz: "why did this dying Third World population reject their chance to be bailed out economically in favor of sticking to the anti-gay anti-abortion candidate?"

i don't think they see it that way. i think the link between moral decay and economic decay that conservatives have been hammering home for the past few decades has gained a lot of currency. i think a lot of people sincerely believe that the reason for our economic decay and urban crime and so on and so forth is the "erosion of family values." people think that the problem with America is that people smoke too much pot, don't go to church, have promiscuous sex, get divorced, etc, and that erodes the social fabric and causes economic distress. people think that what the poor need to do (including themselves) is to build strong nuclear families that work hard, go to church, and "burn the midnight oil," as it were. government's primary role in that is to lighten tax burdens, punish cheaters, slackers, and deadbeats, protect them from criminals and predators, and work to protect the sanctity of the family unit from degenerate liberal activists. the road to prosperity, in the minds of conservative, goes down Main Street, past rows of happy Christian homes, to the church.

I can imagine you'll say Democrats wouldn't have saved the Midwest, but they didn't know that - in the smaller picture a Kerry presidency would have improved the US economy overall.

what they don't know is not only that they're fucked, but why, and part of not knowing why means they simply don't believe that a Kerry presidency would have radically improved the overall economy. maybe a bit, but it would be like a band-aid. i think people are frustrated with Bush's day-to-day handling of the economy, and would favor Kerry's, but i think they think that long-term economic prosperity means returning the culture to its core values, and that any short-term gains they might experience under Kerry would be at the expense of cultural erosion with long-term consequences which would outweigh those gains. they aren't about to sell their souls for another hit of short-term financial prosperity, no matter how much they might be jonesing for one.

i also think that a lot of conservatives dismiss the Clinton-era boom as a fluke, driven by deeply suspicious hucksterism in the form of dot-commers who promised that technology would transform everything. it's also worth noting that the 90s boom wasn't as good for the heartland as it was for the coasts.

And a lot of these rural areas experienced rapid decline under Bush's rule, and they disapproved of the way he'd managed the economy. And yet they seemed to say, forget prosperity, we want a Christian president.

i think that, to a certain extent, in bad times, people tend to retreat into treating broader economic trends kind of fatalistically, like weather. good times come and go as they will, but values are what let you survive the down times.

Are they simply seeking validation for their culture by putting someone who appears to be "like" them in power?

there's also definitely a tribal element to it. i think that if Bush had had the same policies on "moral issues," but had instead been someone like Dole or Bush 41, politically and culturally conservative but not "born-again," there would have been support, but not the same level of fervor. evangelicals, despite their political clout and numerical advantage, feel like an oppressed minority in a culture where they have to struggle to find TV shows they don't find offensive and where commonly accepted aspects of everyday life (like abortion, belief in Darwinian evolution, the "spiritual supermarket," premarital cohabitation, tolerance of gays, etc) are not things they are comfortable with. they feel like they've finally got one of their own who's not afraid to say so, and it's been galvanizing and profoundly moving. think of how any of us would most likely feel with a gay president or something like that.

It fucking reeks of Social Darwinism to me. A pestilent meme within religion if ever there was one.


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