A lot of people are talking about the Trump candidacy “realigning” or “reshaping” the American political landscape and things like that. Like why would traditionally blue-state voters in places like NY vote for a guy who’s also carrying traditionally red-states like Kentucky? Is the whole Albion’s seed-style ethno/political makeup of the nation breaking down after nearly 400 years?
Look, when it comes to politics, conservatives are basically just reactive. There are some smart conservatives, of course–I’d wager they do well in fields like economics, finance, sports broadcasting, and military strategy–but conservatives overall do not dominate the production of new social ideas. It’s the liberals, somewhat by nature, who keep coming up with ideas like, “What if we let women have abortions?” “What if we all took LSD?” “What if we didn’t eat animals?” or “What if we let gay people get married?”
So the conservatives devote themselves to opposing whatever the hell cockamamie scheme the liberals have come up with this time.
During the Cold War, I’m pretty sure the conservative opposed the liberals on the grounds that the liberals were commie peaceniks who weren’t doing enough to ensure that we would win the nuclear war against the USSR.
By the ’80s, conservatives were visibly concerned about shifting national attitudes toward religion, especially as it impacted things like abortion, divorce, the teaching of evolution in schools, whether local governments could make religious displays, etc. “Talk radio” became an important bastion in the “Religious Right,” which by the mid-90s had won a sweeping victory in Congress.
When people talk about how no president has ever been so hated as Obama, I wonder if they remember just how much the right hated Clinton.
And what did they hate him for?
Because he represented degenerate, godless atheism. (Never mind that Bill Clinton is probably actually Christian; that doesn’t really matter.)
Reagan and Bush I may have been religious conservatives, but religious conservatism was not a big part of their campaigns. By contrast, Bob Dole, Bush II, and mildly, Mitt Romney, all ran on the religious right platform, with strong planks based on ideas like “ban abortion” and “make sure gay marriage stays illegal.” Bush II even managed to establish an “Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.”
Meanwhile, though, liberals were changing. The big liberal push of the past 8 years has not been atheism; atheism has largely won already and atheists have wandered off to fight other battles, taking to the streets to protest racism. Thus the campus protests, the Black Lives Matter campaigns, the increasing push for open borders. Today, Germany; tomorrow, the US. Today’s liberals are, first and foremost, anti-racists.
The Republican establishment–folks like Ted Cruz and Ben Carson–fell so flat with voters precisely because most of them were still harping on religious issues like abortion and war with the Russians that were a concern with Reagan’s and Bob Dole’s voters, not today’s.
Today’s conservatives do not exactly want to come out and declare themselves racist bigots–in fact, the vast majority of them don’t see themselves as racists, and many are quite vehemently opposed to racism. This makes people reluctant to say anything negative about blacks, which gets instantly called out as racist. But you can still say things about immigrants, especially illegal immigrants. There’s just enough plausible deniability (both for others and yourself) to claim that you are not opposed to Mexicans, per se, you are just opposed to people breaking the law and think that if the law exists, then it ought to be enforced or else it is unfair to the people who did obey it. And for that matter, many of them really aren’t opposed to Mexicans; they are just broke and unable to find work and have enough brains in their heads to figure out what a massive flood of low-wage workers does to their chances of finding a well-paying job.
Of course, in the backs of people’s minds, it is not just about immigrants; it is also about BLM protestors, the November terrorist attacks in Paris, and the conviction that if elected, Hillary Clinton will follow in Angela Merkel’s footsteps and invite a million Muslims to the US.
This is why they say, “I don’t hate blacks; I don’t hate Mexicans. I just hate liberals.”
If a man adopt a child and to his name as son, and rear him, this grown son can not be demanded back again. …
If a man, who had adopted a son and reared him, founded a household, and had children, wish to put this adopted son out, then this son shall not simply go his way. His adoptive father shall give him of his wealth one-third of a child’s portion, and then he may go. He shall not give him of the field, garden, and house.
This post was inspired by a friend’s question: Can adoption of non-kin be a viable genetic (or memetic) strategy?
The full version of the question was more like, “Liberals are more positive toward interracial marriage, leading to more genetic variation in liberal communities. Could adoption be a similarly viable strategy for Conservatives, by increasing the ethnic diversity of the people who believe in their memetic values?”
Adoption could also work by just increasing sheer numbers of conservatives, even if it does nothing to genetic diversity.
My first thought was, “That sounds a lot like what the Amercan Indians were trying to do when they kidnapped and adopted white children, and I think Genghis Khan did something similar with the children of subjugated peoples.”
These customs stand in contrast to groups that have historically attempted to wipe out their enemy’s children, like the entire rest of the Mongol conquests, so I thought this question worth exploring.
But there’s a lot here that first needs unpacking. For starters, despite what people claim to believe, conservatives actually have very slightly higher interracial marriage rates than whites and are more likely to live in multi-ethnic households.
Let’s get some graphs.
The data is clear: atheists are the most hated minority in the country, followed by gun owners. (I jest; people are actually pretty polite to atheists, and you’re rude to a gun owner at your own risk.)
America’s most prominent ethnic division is actually between “liberals” and “conservatives,” a feature reflected in attitudes toward “gun owners” and “atheists.” Most Ameicans don’t think of this as an ethnic difference (even though it is,) just because they aren’t all that conscious of the different ethnic settlement patterns that influenced the modern political distribution.
Or to put it another way, there isn’t anything magical in the dirt in Massachusetts or South Carolina that has been turning the people there liberal or conservative for the past 300 years or so. The difference is mostly ethnicity–some ethnicities are just more liberal or conservative–but a lot of people (even people who loudly claim that there’s more intraracial than interracial variation,) regard all whites as one great big undifferentiated ethic mass that just happens to hold different opinions in different regions.
The majority of Americans (even the majority of very conservative Americans, however many of those there are,) claim to care more about one’s beliefs (and actions) than about superficial things like skin tone or the geographic origin of one’s ancestors.
This is anti-tribalism.
Tribalism (the human norm,) states that it is morally correct to overlook differences of opinion within your own group, (family, clan, tribe, nation, ethnic group, ethnie, thede, race, clade, take your pick,) and always side with your group against outsiders.
So Americans are perfectly okay with saying that they would not want to marry someone who holds belief they disagree with, but look askance at saying they have an ethnic preference. (Which explains why, even when people say things that are quite negative about outgroup members, they tend to quite vociferously object that they are not “racist” because their objection is not to the outgroup’s appearances, but to their behaviors.)
But what people say and what they do are different matters. According to Volokh:
…among families with step-children or adopted children, 11 percent of conservatives were living in mixed race households compared to 10 percent of liberals living in mixed-race households.
Similarly, 9.4 percent of Republicans living in step- or adopted families were in mixed-race households, compared to only 8.8 percent of Democrats in such families. (Again, this small advantage for Republicans is not large enough to be statistically significant).
And looking at all children instead of non-related children,
11.9% of conservatives live in mixed-race families compared to 11.4% of liberals.
9.5% of Republicans live in mixed-race families compared to 11.2% of Democrats.
Unfortunately, I am having difficulty finding statistics on the exact % of conservatives/Republicans who are in mixed-race marriages vs. the % of liberals in mixed-race marriages–we may posit that there is a difference between an interracial couple with three interracial children and a white person who, on their third marriage, marries someone who already has a half-white child, but just eyeballing the data, I don’t think there’s going to be a huge statistical difference.
(The difference between “conservatives” and “Republicans” in the data is due to may conservative blacks and Hispanics not voting Republican.)
The folks who are most strongly anti-miscegenation tend to be old people (over the age of 65,) and the folks who are most likely to be in mixed-race households, conservative or liberal, are the minorities themselves–many blacks and Hispanics are married to each other.
If you look only at whites, according to Volokh,
2.0% of non-Hispanic white conservatives live in mixed-race families compared to 2.4% of non-Hispanic white liberals. …
2.8% of non-Hispanic white Republicans live in mixed-race families compared to 0.7% of non-Hispanic white Democrats.
Assuming these numbers are correct…
61% of whites say they’re okay with intermarriage, but only about 2% of them have mixed or other-race children, including step and adopted kids. Given the number of minorities in the country + random chance, about half of the whites who say they’re okay with intermarriage ought to have a mixed-race family–30% of whites, not 2%.
Of course, these folks would object that it’s not that they don’t like minorities, they just happen not to be around any they’ve fallen in love with. It’s not about superficial skin tones; it’s just something else that happens to be incredibly well correlated with superficial skin tones, like paying exorbitant rents in order to live in neighborhoods without any minorities in them. But those Republicans, dude, they’re like super racist.
What about the numbers on adoption?
The Wikipedia page on Adoption starts out nicely, then descends into gibbering mush. It has, tragically, very little information on non-Western adoption customs, and not as much as I’d hoped for on historical adoptions in the West. For that, we’ll have to search elsewhere.
But we’re still going to make use of it for the stats:
The number of adoptions is reported to be constant since 1987.
America has about 3 times the adoption rate as the rest of the West, and 15x Australia’s rate!
What’s up with that?
The most commonly given reason for wanting to adopt is infertility, and one of the big drivers of infertility is being overweight, (the other big one is being too old,) so perhaps Americans are just more prone to infertility.
We probably have a larger population of children in orphanages/foster care than the rest of the West, which might have inspired people over time to be more receptive to adoption.
Or perhaps we have a relatively unique view on the idea that family doesn’t have to be blood-related.
International adoptions, though they get a lot of press, are less than 15% of overall adoptions in the US; in Sweden, by contrast, they are over 99.999% of adoptions. (This may be due to few Swedish children being up for adoption.)
Also, according to Wikipedia, only 1.4% of ever-married American women adopt. (What about unmarried women?) So it sounds like the average adopting family adopts 2 or 3 kids.
Unfortunately for our original inquiry, a 2% intermarriage rate is not going to do much, short term, to white genetics.
By contrast, intermarriage may be an effective strategy for forging genetic/memetic alliances among minorities.
An adoption rate of 3%, even if it were confined entirely to conservatives, isn’t doing much to overall numbers. As a memetic strategy, it is also constrained by the fact that political orientation, in adults, is determined largely by a combination of genetic personality factors and random chance.
The Shakers did an experiment along these lines: none (or extremely few) of the Shakers had children, because they didn’t believe in having sex. However, many Shakers adopted children, raising them in Shaker communities. No one forced these children to become Shakers, but it was certainly hoped that they would.
Most of them didn’t, and the Shakers have died out. (Technically, as of 2012, there were three elderly shakers left in Maine.) You just can’t replace yourself though adoption.
So tomorrow, let’s look at some cases where adoption might have played a larger genetic role: the Mongols, the Indians, and if I can find anything interesting on it, ancient Europeans.
Liberal reactions to the Oregon militia standoff have been more interesting than the standoff itself. My only reaction to the standoff was, “Oh, ranchers in dispute with the Feds? Eh.” After all, Rural Americans’ distrust of and conflicts with the “gummint” and “revenuers” are well-documented and frequent subjects of humor:
(The Beverly Hillbillies probably did this gag a hundred times.)
So you may imagine my confusion when I encountered liberal acquaintances (and pundits) calling the militia “terrorists” and “traitors” and demanding that the FBI go in, guns blazing, to put down the uprising.
These are the same folks who’re just fine with the Black Lives Matter folks shutting down streets and bridges in the middle of major cities in their protest against the police (who are, I note, as much government employees as the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management folks the Oregon Militia guys are opposed to.)
The whole affair highlights a crucial difference in the ways liberals and conservatives conceptualize “America.”
Liberals see “America” as a state, a formal, legal, structural governing institution (created, of course, via some form of “social contract,”) possessing a specific geographic area. The American people, therefore, can be anyone at all, so long as they have met the legal requirements.
Conservatives see “America” as a thede, (their thede), that happens to have a government. Many conservatives see this government as having been imposed from the outside (in the South, this is actually true,) and as being run by people not from their thede (like Obama.)
Conservatives are loyal to their thede; liberals are loyal to the state. One can join a thede (generally by marrying in, converting to the religion, and adopting the local lifestyle,) but the formal process of acquiring US citizenship does not make one a member of the thede. Thus many legal Americans are not thedic Americans by conservative standards.
Liberals see the Black Lives Matter activists as blacks opposed to whites, which they are fine with. But they see the Oregon Militia as whites opposed to the state, which they see as treason.
To conservatives, the Black Lives Matter movement is acting against the interest of their thede, while the Oregon Militia, even if they disagree with it, (note: the vast majority of them disagree with it) is merely opposing the state.
This difference also manifests itself the two sides’ different attitudes toward the Constitution/Bill of Rights. To Conservatives, the Constitution is like the Bible: the founding document of their thede. Its role is mythic, not legalistic. (Without this understanding, Conservative statements about “activist” judges and the Obama administration running roughshod over the Constitution make no sense at all.) And they do have one vaguely valid point: the Constitution doesn’t actually say anything about issues like abortion or gay marriage, and the idea that there can exist no recognized right to gay marriage in the Constitution for over 200 years, and then suddenly one appears, involve highly questionable logic.
From a legalistic standpoint, re-interpreting the Constitution is one of the Supreme Court’s prerogatives (and from a practical standpoint, a necessity, given that new technologies and situations arise over time.) From a mythical standpoint, it’s like saying you’ve found a verse in the book of Mark where Jesus says he’s cool with gays.
Unfortunately, people are often really bad at articulating their points. So you get a lot of nonsense that has to be carefully picked apart before you can figure out where people are really coming from.
My liberal acquaintances seem curiously unaware of the general culture of Rural Americans. Perhaps this is just because I have relatives who live in rural America, and so I am vaguely acquainted with their culture and attitudes toward the government. I know that ranching and farming can be difficult, (especially in the areas that have been hit by droughts,) and yes, conflicts happen over grazing rights or land management, (though of course the vast, vast majority of ranchers pay their fees and obey the laws and generally act with loyalty to both the state and their thede.)
I also find it curious that the same people who recognize that the Black Lives Matter movement involves ethnic conflict do not recognize the ethnic conflict between different groups of whites.
Very anecdotal observations of the people I know suggests that the conservatives are more likely to be “dysfunctional” than the liberals–ironically, in precisely the ways conservatives claim liberals are dysfunctional in.
The important thing here is to go beyond hand-wavey anecdotes and get actual data. It’s easy to find things like this: Red America vs. Blue America: state maps illustrate the difference, but these maps are significantly confounded by different ethnicities being concentrated in different parts of the country. For example, the high % of people who never graduated from highschool in SW Texas is probably due to Mexican immigrants, and so not germane to the present conversation.
“Their work confirms that one of the strongest factors predicting divorce rates (per 1000 married couples) is the concentration of conservative or evangelical Protestants in that county. …
“Yet even controlling for income and region, divorce rates tend to be especially high in areas where conservative religious groups are prominent. …
“So even though conservative Protestants are much less likely to cohabit, this didn’t make a difference. There was no evidence that cohabiting would have “weeded out” the less promising unions…
“a careful analysis of variations nationally reveals that this explains none of the association between religious conservatism and divorce. …
“Glass and Levchak found that the high divorce rate among conservative religious groups is indeed explained in large part by the earlier ages at first marriage and first birth, and the lower educational attainment and lower incomes of conservative Protestant youth.
“Explains Glass, “Restricting sexual activity to marriage and encouraging large families seem to make young people start families earlier in life, even though that may not be best for the long-term survival of those marriages.” In an earlier report to the Council on Contemporary Families, economist Evelyn Lehrer from University of Illinois at Chicago explained that every year a women postpones marriage, right up until her early 30s, lowers her chance of an eventual divorce.
“But people who live in conservative religious counties have a higher risk of divorce even when they are not affiliated with a conservative religious group.”
The HBD explanation, of course, is that Evangelical Protestantism is concentrated among dumber whites, and people who postpone marriage and childbearing are smarter and more competent at planning their lives. If you squint at the map, you may notice that Evangelical Protestants in the Deep South seem to have lower divorce rates than their religious brethren in Appalachia. (Is a finding of “Appalachians don’t act very smart” even interesting?)
But this is not necessarily an important detail in this particular conversation.
The important thing is that liberal atheists, Unitarians, and the like get divorced less than religious conservatives like Evangelical Christians.
And yet, these same Evangelicals have been protesting mightily against their very own divorces (among other marital novelties,) while blaming the whole business on liberals!
I’ve been looking for data on abortions, but can’t find any broken down by conservative vs liberal. Overall, it looks like conservatives get fewer abortions, but state regulations are an obvious confounder.
You know, this isn’t looking very good for West Virginia…
Okay, I was totally going to do math for you, but it turns out that someone has been keeping track of this data by race for me, so I’m going with that:
West Virginia leads, but the rest of the South follows pretty closely.
“But wait,” I hear you saying, “what if this is just a side effect of Northerners aborting their unintended pregnancies?”
Never fear, I have another map:
Nope! White Southerners just get pregnant a lot.
It’s probably already obvious, but the folks getting pregnant are also rather promiscuous:
The data ain’t great, but it looks like Southerners are sluts. And New Hampshirites.
My suspicion, based on data I’ve seen elsewhere and will try to dig up later, is that dumber people have higher sex drives and mature faster than smarter people–so dumb people are much more likely to have sex while still in highschool. But even intelligent people from the South seem to have more sex than more liberal folks.
A friend of mine who grew up in one of the more conservative parts of the country, who has always prided themself on being morally upright and derided the permissive immorality of liberals, moved a few years ago to a much more liberal part of the country, and describes everyone there as, “A bunch of prudes.” Yes, the descendants of Puritans are sexually reserved and don’t like to be touched–who’d have thought?
So. Conservatives are more promiscuous, have more teen pregnancies, and more divorces. Even on a subject as trivial as weight, liberals are more likely to be part of the “fat acceptance movement,” but conservatives are more likely to actually be fat. I could go on, with other stats like educational attainment and GDP, but you get the idea: Conservatives walk one walk, but talk another.
This raises a question: If liberals are really better at doing the things conservative claim are moral, then is liberal morality really so “dysfunctional”?
The answer looks like: No.
(Those of you stressing out that gay marriage may be the downfall of civilization, take heart: it’s much more likely that stupid people fucking are going to be the downfall of civilization.)
Which raises the second question: Then why are Conservatives complaining about Liberal morality in the first place?
My theory: They aren’t.
In real life, liberals and conservatives don’t actually interact very often. They are concentrated in different parts of the country, are descended from different ethnic stock, and would rather their children married a non-white than a member of the opposite political party. They have very different personalities, and even when they aren’t talking politics, they get along horribly.
The “Liberal,” as far as the average conservative is concerned, is a boogeyman on TV doing horrible things in far-off places like CA or NYC. The inverse is also true: the “Conservative” is a disembodied talking head on Fox News or rural boogeyman in a place they’ve never been, like Indiana.
When conservatives talk about the sanctity of marriage, what they really mean is, “I screwed up. I did dumb things, and that’s how I got pregnant/divorced/etc. Whatever you do in life, don’t be like me.” But most people don’t like to admit that they’re talking about their own mistakes, so they blame everything they can on some mysterious, unknown “other”: the liberal. The other is, after all, but a foil for the self.
Liberals do the same thing. They blame all sorts of things (black-white test score gaps, incarceration rates, etc.) on the actions of conservatives (conservative and “racist” are pretty much synonymous to liberals,) even when no conservatives are even around. The invisible, insidious, omni-present conservative gets blamed for everything liberal policies can’t fix. (Saboteurs to the gulag!)
But why do liberals support policies they don’t themselves follow?
Two obvious reasons come to mind:
1. Liberals tend to believe that they shouldn’t tell others what to do, so if you want to do something dumb, hey, that’s your business, and…
2. It’s hard to muster a good argument for banning something if you’ve never been personally affected by it. Among the liberals I know, divorce is vanishingly rare, but I know conservatives with 4 or 5 divorces each. Divorce is a real issue for conservatives because it’s a thing they frequently do, just as low blood sugar is an issue for a diabetic. In an environment where lots of people get divorced, it is probably a good social strategy to advertise one’s qualities as a mate by roundly denouncing the practice–you look more serious about staying married. In an environment where few people get divorced, declaring your opposition isn’t so useful. There, the inverse may be true: people can signal that they are such good mates, they’re not even worried about divorce being legal. Like the peacock, they signal strength by flashily showing just how low they can lower their strength without getting eaten.
The only downside, of course, is that sometimes liberals do get eaten by their permissive attitudes toward sex. Like when they get AIDS.
Implications: Should conservatives ditch conservatism and adopt more liberal attitudes?
In general, it probably wouldn’t help. The liberals have their attitudes due to conditions in liberal areas, and conservatives have their attitudes due to conditions in their lives. Further, divorce and promiscuity probably have more to do intelligence than any particular attitudes, and encouraging divorce isn’t going to make people smarter.
If your goal is monogamous, stable, long-term marriages with happy, healthy people in them, you’d be better off focusing on the social policies that make people with these genetic traits breed less than people who don’t.
Conservatives are well-known for their “pull yourself up by your bootlaces” ideology, and liberals have made whole careers out of claiming that conservatives are hypocrites who got a hand up in their own lives, but want to deny that same help to everyone else. Conservatives, of course, claim that they got where they did by dint of sheer hard work and willpower.
So which is it? Are conservatives jut liars who want to keep all of the goodies for themselves? Or do they practice what they preach? And what about liberals? How hard are they trying to get ahead?
“In a series of three studies with more than 300 participants, the authors found that people who identify as conservative perform better on tests of self-control than those who identify as liberal regardless of race, socioeconomic status and gender.”
What about age? (I suppose we can assume they probably controlled for age.)
They tested self control by asking volunteers to take the Stroop Test (reading words like “red” and “blue” printed in ink that’s a different color.) Accurately reading the cards without saying the color of the ink requires self-control and impulse-suppression, and conservatives tended to do better on the test than liberals.
They also found that conservatives are better at dieting.
In other words, people who themselves have a lot of self-control expect everyone else to have just as much self-control as they have.
In general, I find that people tend to assume that everyone else works the same way they do–for example, that criminals “know right from wrong,” in the same way as non-criminals, but for some reason chose to commit crimes.
Likewise, it appears that people who don’t have a lot of willpower assume that everyone else also doesn’t have a lot of willpower–and that conservatives are therefore lying when they say they hauled themselves up via bootstraps. (It must be some other, magical force at play.)
I am reminded here of a conversation I had with a liberal acquaintance over the Mike Brown case. (I feel compelled to note, here, that I don’t talk to this person anymore because I decided they have very bad judgment in the company they keep. That was a tough decision, because they did provide an interesting window into dysfunction.)
Anyway, it occurred to me as we were speaking that this person’s position on the case was shaped largely by their ability to imagine themselves in Mike Brown’s shoes: they had done a bit of “harmless shoplifting” as a teenager, and certainly didn’t see themselves as someone who ought to be shot, by the police or otherwise.
This person is, in many ways, mildly criminal. They get in fights, smoke pot, and probably j-walk. Their relationships start fast and end in flames. (In their defense, they’re basically a nice person who cares about others; I hope they’re having a happy life.) They aren’t someone who deserves to have their life destroyed by imprisonment, but they are a little bit criminal.
Looking at my own perspective, I’ve never shoplifted–as a kid, if a vending machine gave me too much change, I returned it to the store. I tend to be overly rule-oriented–which explains why I harp so much on society’s lies. Lying bothers me.
At any rate, this mild criminality clearly affected my acquaintance’s opinion on the proper police response to crime; had they been a person who couldn’t imagine themselves stealing cigarettes (or cigars, or whatever,) they would not have identified so strongly with the situation.
I feel like this post comes down a little hard on liberals; in the interest of fairness, I feel compelled to note that these are all basically biological traits that people don’t have a ton of control over, and there are plenty of people in this world who have something good to contribute even though they have the self-control of a golden retriever in a room full of squeaky toys.
Democracy is supposed to work like some sort of capitalistic free market of ideas where the best ones get the most dollars and thus float to the top and become law. Since we have this coupled with a two-party system, you’re voting for which of two candidates sounds like they have the best ideas.
Unfortunately, conservatives tend not to bother with tough intellectual shit like “ideas,” preferring instead to throw rocks at their heads. Voters, being at least a little rational, tend to back away from this in vague horror and default-vote for whoever the other guy is, at least until the other guy realizes the only constraint on him is “don’t throw rocks at head” and starts doing something equally dumb. Eventually you get Congress.
“Gay marriage” is a prime example of how conservatives have completely shirked their duty to contribute anything worthwhile to American discourse in decades.
For the past two decades–maybe longer–conservatives have not managed to muster a single coherent argument against gay marriage, and yet they have dedicated substantial resources to making sure that everyone knows they don’t like it.
Yes, standing up on a podium and yelling, “I hate people for totally irrational reasons and do not understand how the Constitution works,” actually makes people think you’re dumb, hateful, and have no idea how to run the gov’t.
One of the results of this is that young people, near as I can tell, pretty much universally despise conservatives. It’s hard not to, when conservatives keep throwing rocks at their heads.
With a few hours of research and writing, I managed to cobble together a better argument against gay marriage/homosexuality than anything conservatives have come up with in the past two decades, and I wasn’t even trying. I was just reading about California. This stuff is not secret; you don’t need to fund any fancy studies or have any technical background to find a ton of information that would make the average voter much more amenable to the conservative position, but people who are actually paid to do this and claim to actually, deeply believe this have not even bothered.
Instead, we get dumb arguments like, “Homosexuality is immoral,” (what does that even mean?) or “God says it’s a sin.” (Great, your argument depends both on a swiftly diminishing belief in god and a willingness to violate the Establishment Clause?)
If one side can’t do their job and generate at least something close to rational thought, then there is no pressure on the other side to generate rational thought, either. And that means the entire political system goes down the shitter.
And that’s why we can’t have nice things, like winter.
In my further attempts to understand different segments of American society, I’ve been trying to listen to what folks in the army are talking about.
Observation one: They like boobs.
Observation two: a higher than average (at least, compared to the people I normally encounter) percentage of them like or do not hate the Confederate flag.
To the lay observer, this seems like a contradiction. After all, isn’t the Confederate flag symbolic of a traitorous, break-away nation that opened fire on the US military installment at Fort Sumter? Wouldn’t everyone in the US army, under such circumstances, be compelled to open fire on those rebels?
Something more than superficial logic must be going on.
Possibility one: Freedom of Speech.
Maybe people who sign up to defend American values at home and abroad are just really strong supporters of Freedom of Speech.
While certainly some army folks do cite this line of reasoning, they seem no more inclined to it than anyone else. The general sentiment towards flag-burning, another case of protected but offensive speech, appears much less positive. They might vaguely tolerate flag burning, if they have to, but virtually none of them would actually burn the US flag. By contrast, some of them (sorry I have no hard stats,) actively *like* the Confederate flag.
Out-migration of liberals leaves a remnant population in which conservatives come to represent what “America” “stands for,” and this remnant, increasingly conservative population uses the Confederate flag to symbolize its conservativeness.
Eh… Certainly there is a physical overlap between the part of the country that produces most army grunts, hard-core patriots, and people who like the Confederate flag, and people may not actually think through their cultural symbols but just kinda like stuff they grew up with.
This line of thought feels inelegant.
Possibility 3: Signaling In-Group Preference.
If there’s anything that differentiates conservatives from liberals, preferring one’s in-group over the out-group ranks pretty high. Liberals are so fond of the out-group, they’ve literally taken to calling themselves “allies.”
If there’s anything that probably inspires people to join the army, it’s preference for one’s in-group (country, state, city, etc.,) over folks in one’s out-group. After all, the entire purpose of the army is to defend one’s in-group by killing or threatening to kill one’s out-group. This is about as literal as it gets.
Obviously the Confederate flag only has any kind of significance to people from the American South–I wouldn’t expect in-group oriented folks from Saudi Arabia to start flying it, for example. Symbols probably can’t be totally random. But we already know that the US army draws more from the US South than from Saudi Arabia.
A lot of people claim that the Confederate flag symbolizes racism. That’s probably true, but almost no one thinks of themselves as “racist.” No one thinks of themselves as “dumb,” either, even though 50% of people are, by definition, below average. Most mentally healthy people resist applying insults to themselves, and “racist” is an insult.
As such, I think it more functional to claim that the Stars and Bars represents in-group preference/cohesion to those who fly it, and “fuck you” to those not in the group. As people may have multiple layers of group identity, I suspect people in the army may simultaneously identify with the US, their specific sub-region of the US (the South), their state, home city, local sports teams, their friends/family/religious group, the army, etc.
Many people claim the Confederate flag has less to do with anti-black sentiment as with anti-Yankee sentiment. To be frank, it’s not like an army of black people ever invaded the South and burned a large swath of it to the sea.
I wouldn’t really know, because I’ve never hung out with Confederate flag fans long enough to do a comparative study of how they react to different groups of outsiders.
Regardless, the flag’s offensive reputation may not matter so much as the fact that it has an offensive reputation: your in-group signalling may be more effective if it imposes some cost on signalers. This makes it harder for non-group members to trick you into extending the benefits of group membership. For example, you can’t just call yourself a Jew and get a free ticket to Israel; you have to do things like keep kosher, which is an enormous pain in the ass for people who aren’t used to it. There are legal ramifications to having one’s conversion declared invalid due to inadequate adherence to kosher laws and other Orthodox Jewish legal standards. This may come across as anal-retentive, but in the long-run, it keeps the privileges of in-group membership for people who are actually devoted to the in-group.
Likewise, the offensiveness of the Confederate flag keeps the benefits of southern in-group membership for those willing to deal with the social stigma attached to flag, or at least willing to say “fuck you” to everyone outside their social group.
All my life (or at least since I was 12,) I have been surrounded by people claiming that it is immoral not to closely follow politics. So as a middle schooler I dutifully memorized the Supreme Court Justices, my Congressmen and Senators, all of the candidates for President and Vice President, members of the state government, even our ambassador to the UN (even though that guy probably has zero independent decision-making authority.)
I went on to major in political science, which has to be one of the most trying to prove you follow politics majors out there. But I realized rather quickly that I was more interested in what makes countries (and people) tick than in the exact names of the guys in charge. I would rather read about hunter gatherers, neurology, or genetics than about what Congress did yesterday. The Supreme Court changed and I forgot the names. I moved, Bakunin in hand, and failed to learn my new Senators. Political economy and philosophy were my constant companions, not the news.
Throughout, I felt guilty. Yes, I followed all of the latest online trends, yes, I participated in daily, often quite vociferous political discussion with literally almost everyone I knew, but I couldn’t be bothered to learn my Senator’s name and so I must be failing my duty to be an informed citizen. Sooner or later, I was bound to be uncovered for the politically ignorant immoral bum I am.
And yet, somehow, so much seemed not to really matter. Primaries came and went, and what was the point of learning all of the names when I was just going to vote for one of the two guys at the end? I remember my friends who loved Dean, only to have their hopes crushed when he didn’t get the Democratic nomination. So why bother?
So the other day, an older conservative relative sent me Ben Carson’s book, “One Nation: What We Can All Do to Save America’s Future,” which I began reading out of politeness. I find Dr. Carson an affable writer–he seems like a well-intentioned guy.
The book calls (among many things) for people to pay more attention to politics.
Since almost 100% of people I know are already quite vociferously following politics, to the point where “outrage fatigue” is a real thing, what is the bloody point of asking us to follow it more?
Of course, the exhortation isn’t meant for people like me; it’s meant for people who don’t follow politics. Saying you should know the names of the people in charge is trying to translate politics into a form that will be recognizable to people who watch TV or read magazines in order to learn more about Kim Kardashian’s ass. It’s politics as gossip: OMG did you hear what Senator so-and-so wore to the Senator’s event? OMG did you know that the President had sex with someone? Hey did you hear what Congressman so-and-so said about stuff?
Unfortunately, this is a terrible model for understanding politics. Politics is not socialite gossip. It’s fine if you want to memorize all of the names and personalities–whatever floats your boat–but this is not the same as understanding the political system. Why do the US and Sweden have very similar political movements, with very similar effects? Do we have the same president? The same Supreme Court? No. And people who try to understand politics as gossip aren’t going to figure this out.
And since all of the smart people are already following politics so much that you can’t goddamn escape it, we’re talking about trying to get a bunch of dumb people to vote more based on the assumption that somehow thinking about interest rates in the same way they think about celebrity butts will lead to good public policy.
Organization is a spontaneous feature of all human societies. Heck, bees are organized.
There is a myth, routinely proposed by those who know no better, that other people are acting completely independently. Independent action, flowing spontaneously from one’s sense of morality or injustice, prompting sudden, wide-spread social change.
Then people discover that, contrary to this ignorant assumption, other humans actually put in a bunch of effort to organize, choosing carefully when and where they should act or at least helping each other out, and they are shocked, just shocked.
Somehow, spontaneous action is regarded as purely motivated, whereas organized action–the natural result of all human socializing–is impure, some kind of dastardly conspiracy.
Don’t be dumb. Of course your enemies are organized–whoever your enemies happen to be.
The Rosa Parks story comes immediately to mind, as analyzed by Herbert Kohl in Should we Burn Babar? Kohl, I should be clear, does not regard Mrs. Parks as an enemy–he wants her story to be told accurately. Kohl examines school textbook accounts of Mrs. Parks’s story, finding, IIRC, that most were inaccurate.
One of the most common inaccuracies Kohl found in the textbooks was the description of Mrs. Parks as a totally normal person, (just like you and me!) not involved in any political movements, who was just really tired one day and didn’t want to move.
This is wrong, of course. Rosa Parks was an active member of a civil rights organization. Her refusal to move was not the spontaneous result of being tired one day, but a planned protest against segregation. Mrs. Parks was not the first black person who refused to give up her seat on a bus, but civil rights leaders chose to publicize her case and not earlier cases because they thought the American public would find Mrs. Parks a more sympathetic character–you see, the other lady who did the exact same courageous act as Mrs. Parks but hasn’t received any credit for it was divorced.
If you find this surprising, please ask yourself Why? Do you really think the March on Washington or Montgomery Bus Boycott happened without organization? At the very least, people had to get to work.
Kohl offers unsatisfying explanations for the inaccuracies in textbook accounts of Mrs. Parks’s story, mostly because he doesn’t quite understand the writers’ motivations. Here’s what I think happened:
In Mrs. Parks’s time, liberals tended to be on the side of the Civil Rights movement, and conservatives tended to be against it. Both sides knew darn well that the Civil Rights movement was organized.
Today, even conservatives are generally in favor of Civil Rights–conservatives I know wax rhapsodically and frequently about how much they love Dr. King. I shit you not, I know white, southern conservatives who actually see themselves in solidarity with Blacks and Hispanics against evil white liberals.
But these rather conventional, mainstream conservatives do not believe in radical, organized protest against the state. That is a liberal thing. Mainstream conservatives like the status quo and generally seek to protect it (and supporting Civil Rights is now status quo, so they do,) but organized protest is anti-status quo, so they don’t like it.
To make Mrs. Parks an appropriate conservative hero, capable of appearing in children’s history texts without inspiring parental protest that the texts are teaching politics instead of history, Mrs. Parks’ associations with organized liberalism have been scrubbed. A conservative hero like Mrs. Parks couldn’t possibly do something so controversially liberal as join a social organization in favor of her own self-interest.
The recent riots in Baltimore and elsewhere are another example. People report, most conspiratorially, that these riots were organized. Of course they were organized! We call them campus organizations for a reason. Heck, I know people who can’t get together with their friends to play video games without setting up a treasury and by-laws, but people are surprised to learn that folks who’ve been in Social Justice organizations for years might donate money to help protesters with legal fees or organize transportation together.
It’s one thing for people to just spontaneously decide to protest. It’s a totally different matter to carpool.
Conservatives organize too, btw. Evangelical churches, talk radio, and various conservative think tanks have been organizing conservatives for decades. Conservatives are quite good at organizing, as they tend, even more than liberals, to like being part of an organized social hierarchy. These organizations have had a pretty big effect on the American political scene, because they are very effective at getting their members to vote in lock-step for whatever policies and politicians they support. Thus, four decades years after Roe V. Wade, conservatives still pose a real threat to legal abortion. (Evolutionist X believes abortion should be free and easily available.)
Whoever your enemies are, of course they are organized. Organization is a basic feature of all human societies. Stop acting surprised.
Just some observations, attempts at making sense of the world. I may be wrong. I admit that these are opinions, based on my experiences.
Liberals tend to believe that people are inherently good. Conservatives tend to believe that people are inherently bad. Liberals believe that evil is a result of negative environmental conditions that cause people to deviate from their inner badness. Conservatives believe that goodness is a result of negative environmental conditions that cause people to repress their inner badness.
Compare, for example, “Spare the rod and spoil the child,” to, say, any liberal parent you’ve ever met.
Or compare the conservative reaction to ISIS (“Bomb them until they convert to Christianity or all die,”) to the liberal, “To defeat ISIS, we need more jobs for people in the Middle East.”
Liberals are generally more pleasant to be around, even if they are occasionally delusional.
In general, both sides tend to act like there exists one single, agreed-upon definition of what “good” is, even though a conversation with virtually any other human being on the face of this planet will quickly reveal that this is entirely untrue, as that other person holds forth that all sorts of horribly dumb ideas are good and that all of your best traits are really really bad.
Conservatives claim they know what “good” is because “God said so,” and anyone who doesn’t agree with them about what God says is Obviously Evil. It’s not much of a position, but at least you can defend it if you accept the initial premise.
Liberals think that everyone else sees “good” and “bad” the same way they do just because to do otherwise would meant that other people are doing things that liberals see as “bad” even without negative environmental effects, which blows the whole shebang out of the water. Which is really kind of annoying when someone really and truly doesn’t get that you actually do see XYZ as good rather than the result of some horrible trauma that made you do bad, though that’s still not as bad as conservatives dropping bombs on you.
Of course, in reality, most people try to do “good” as they themselves see it, moderated somewhat by their genetic inclinations and culture. The guys in ISIS really and truly do see themselves as good guys, while homeless people fret over the sin of stealing a shopping cart so they have a place to put their stuff.
I wouldn’t go so far as to say that all morality is relative, you can’t judge anyone else, etc. etc. I would say that our basic understanding of “good” and “evil” people/actions/behaviors is very specific to our own particular culture/subculture/immediate group of friends & family, and probably just isn’t a very meaningful way of understanding the actions of people outside of those groups.