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Thursday, November 04, 2004

Ruy Teixeira Concedes!

Buried somewhere within that much-too-long (but cathartic, for me at least) post of mine yesterday, was an expression fo deep skepticism for the Teixeira/Judis recipe for an "emerging Democratic majority," and specifically for what they've long said about the white working-class in America. In a nutshell, they figure that, so long as the "ideopolises" keep growing, and America's demographics keep shifting, then the majority of all those lower and middle-class provincials, worshipping in their churches somewhere in rural, red state America, will be brought along (or bought off) by the great, creative, liberal tide. (And those that can't or won't will eventually die anyway.) I've always found this thesis condescending, but more importantly I've thought it the wrong way to approach us religious believers. The left doesn't have to flirt with theocracy, as I wrote yesterday; it just needs to show some respect:

"[I]s it not possible that the measure of moral authenticity to the average believer is not the content of one’s profession or performance of belief, but the context, the seriousness with which such belief is treated?....Think about Bill Clinton....[E]veryone knew he wasn’t at all pious. [Yet he] was forgiven that—by enough evangelicals to win various Southern states, at least—because it was manifest that he didn’t think religion was something he needed to condescend to. He shared that context. The lack of follow-through in legislative content can be forgiven if it at least begins with recognition and respect. Clinton certainly didn't outlaw abortion, and the dedicated anti-abortion professionals in America today certainly never gave him an inch of credit. But consider what happened at the margins, in the provinces, when Clinton declared when he accepted the Democratic nomination that abortion should be "safe, legal, and rare"....That's called moral judgment, using the power of the office to define and order what American life ought and ought not be about. That swayed people, a few of them anyway, because it showed some respect for how they had constrained and disciplined and thus made difficult their own lives, and thus allowed them to hear what this liberal politician had to say about taxes and medical care, because they knew it was out from someone who was willing to put themselves where they lived."

Well, Teixeira has weighed in on the election--and among other conclusions, he allows the following:

"The last three elections (2000, 2002, 2004) have all had strong 'culture war' components that have severely depressed white working class support for Democrats. Recall that Bill Clinton actually carried the white working class (whites without a four year college degree) by a point in both his election bids. But in 2000, Al Gore lost these voters by 17 points; in 2002, Democratic congressional candidates lost this group by 18 points and this year, the situation appears to have worsened further....The fact of the matter is that Democrats cannot win when they do so badly among this very large constituency. John Judis and I always believed that the trends we described in The Emerging Democratic Majority could underpin a majority coalition given reasonable (not majoritarian, but competitive) performance among white working class voters. Alas, this does not qualify as reasonable performance. Democrats’ difficulties with this group surely have a great deal to do with these voters' sense of cultural alienation from the national Democratic party and its relatively cosmopolitan values around religion, family, guns and other social institutions/practices....Given this sense of cultural alienation, it must be questioned whether candidates like Gore or Kerry can ever really be viable with these voters. Democrats may have to choose candidates in the future who do not so easily evoke this sense of cultural alienation and who can connect in a genuine fashion with these voters. I come to this conclusion reluctantly because I had hoped that an effective campaign could overcome this obstacle by, in effect, using wedge Democratic issues like health care or jobs to build support among this group. But the messenger appears to matter a great deal, just as having a message does [italics added]....The Democrats in the future will have to pay attention to both, I think."

Think about this map, and think about The South That Might Have Been. What's the blue I see? Why, it's Memphis, St. Louis, Birmingham, Natchez, Little Rock, Texarkana, Charleston, Durham, and many more, including my own county in northeast Arkansas. How hard would it be for the Democrats to run a candidate with a sensitive enough religious and economic agenda (an absolute no to partial-birth abortion, perhaps?) that it would only put off, say, 30% of the white Christians in the counties surrounding these cities, as opposed to 50% of them? (Progressives can't get that one-third, but we don’t need to lose half.) You'd see a lot more blue, that's what you'd see. You might even see Kerry in the White House. To quote Henry Higgins: damn, damn, damn, damn, damn.


Anonymous said...

Interesting map. Notice that there are 4 states that every county voted red:


and only 2 that every county voted blue:
rhode island


Posted by Anonymous

Anonymous said...

Don't forget Hawaii as all blue, too. And we have a Republican governor (unfortunately). Plus Washington D.C. which isn't a state but was all blue nevertheless. 

Posted by Katsat

Anonymous said...

I agree with you and Ruy/Judis....you are both compatible. Why do you think Ruy is wrong? I didn't get that from this posting.  

Posted by Frisby Q. Bonghuffer

Anonymous said...

It should be noted that Alaska does not have counties. About half the state is divided into boroughs. The rest of the state is completely unorganized. So the map of Alaska merely indicates that Bush won it, not where his geographical strengths were - I'd imagine that the heavily native American areas probably went for Kerry, although I'm not sure on that. 

Posted by John