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The Tally Ho

Friday, November 19, 2004

Brad Carson: Vote Righteously!

Elwood has a great post below on addressing the lowlands and breakdown of the US voter, as did Jen. But I have had something else on my mind – I’ll make it quick because I have stuff to do. You may have caught recently defeated Senatorial candidate, Representative Brad Carson's piece this week, but if you haven't it is The New Republic and titled Vote Righteously! Mr. Carson writes
As a defeated Senate candidate in the most red of red states, many people have asked me for insights into the Democratic Party's failure to connect with culturally conservative voters. Much has already been written on this topic, and scholars will add more. But I do know this: The culture war is real, and it is a conflict not merely about some particular policy or legislative item, but about modernity itself. Banning gay marriage or abortion would not be sufficient to heal the cultural gulf that exists in this nation. The culture war is about matters more fundamental still: whether nationality is, in a globalized world, a random fact of no more significance than what hospital one was born in or whether it is the source of identity and even political legitimacy; whether one's self is a matter of choice or whether it is predetermined, before birth, by the cultural membership of one's family; whether an individual is just that--a free-floating atom--or whether the individual is part of a long chain that both predates and continues long after any particular person; whether concepts like honor and shame, which seem so quaint, are still relevant in a world that values only "tolerance." These are questions not for politicians but for philosophers, and, in the end, it is the failure of liberal philosophy that we saw on November 2.

For the vast majority of Oklahomans--and, I would suspect, voters in other red states--these transcendent cultural concerns are more important than universal health care or raising the minimum wage or preserving farm subsidies. Pace Thomas Frank, the voters aren't deluded or uneducated. They simply reject the notion that material concerns are more real than spiritual or cultural ones. The political left has always had a hard time understanding this, preferring to believe that the masses are enthralled by a "false consciousness" or Fox News or whatever today's excuse might be. But the truth is quite simple: Most voters in a state like Oklahoma--and I venture to say most other Southern and Midwestern states--reject the general direction of American culture and celebrate the political party that promises to reform or revise it.

I do not really think that liberal philosophy was a failure on 2 November. But I think there is a difference in national, statewide, and local elections. Democratic Senatorial candidates were asking too many voters to split their ballots. Mr. Coburn had 13% fewer votes than Mr. Bush had. Mr. Martinez also had less votes than Mr. Bush, as did Mr. DeMint, Mr. Burr, Mr. Thune, Mr. Coors, Ms. Murkowski, and Mr. Daniels in becoming Indiana's governor. Democrats have lost 10 Southern and Red State Senate seats in the last two cycles. I think contrary to many of my northern secular liberal friends, it is not due to the economy (especially considering besides Ohio, Democrats had very strong candidates). Ohio did not vote for Mr. Bush by 100,000 votes because of the strong rebounding Ohio economy. There is a reason Ohio went from having Metzenbaum and Glenn to Senators DeWine and Voinovich. South Carolina’s textile industry has been hurt in the several years – but still retained and added a Republican Senator. While the conventional wisdom has been that economic indicators are the trump card, Representative Carson paints a little different picture. As a Northeast liberal who has lived in five states, four solid blue and one swing, I don't pretend to really understand how or why people in different regions or states vote. In 2004 I voted on my personal issues: health care, a stronger job market, against the budget deficit ("birth tax"), for stronger environmental standards, alternative fuels and public transit, against the direction of the war in Iraq and preemptive military strikes, for retaining our civil liberties and a woman's right to choose. There are lots of reason why we vote. What I find difficult to believe is that my top issues are really that different than someone from another region or state. But nowhere did my faith or religion enter in. Perhaps it is interpretation, or as Rep. Carson suggests, not important. The latter perhaps is the scariest prospect for us on the center-left, economics may not be as powerful a trump card as we may want to believe it is - or was. But as Elwood points out very well, it isn't as simple the Red vs. Blue.

The last week or two I had two posts regarding the panels of pollsters that I listened to on CSPAN. One Republican pollster commented that these new Republican voters were not a broadening of the base as much as identifying more of the same voters that already exist. Read more on those here and here. One thing that I found interesting in "Vote Righteously!" was how Mr. Carson said these voters "reject the general direction of American culture and celebrate the political party that promises to reform or revise it." First, what is American culture? Second, as I understand it some scholars say that youth culture is American culture as the United States does not have the distinctions seen in Britain or France, for example. So in a way are we rejecting youth culture? Or is this cultural divide based on theocracy vs. secularism as one of the pollsters refers to the Republican Party as theocratic, or the growth of sprawl, or progressives vs. conservatives, or other phenomena’s (good post at dkos about the agenda)? So for whatever the reasons, I think both sides see a general misdirection of the country.

Last week Josh Marshall had two good posts to read, if you haven't all ready here and here. Alright, out of time. Just wanted to put up Mr. Carson's article

Addition: While I have a minute, I meant to write that you have to sign up (for free) to use the TNR site. Also, I was watching CSPAN last week and it was a call in show with the Rev. Jerry Fallwell. Mr. Fallwell didn't let anything slip out that could be considered for a news cycle. But there was a caller from Mississippi who was a veteran of Vietnam and use to be Democrat. He basically said that his eyes were open now. That it is the Republicans that are moral while the Democrats are the party of homosexuals and gays - which he repeated at least twice.

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