Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Extinct and Endangered Sub-species of Republicans

The rise of Evangelical (mostly Southern) protestants as a major political force since the Nixon "Southern Strategy" has doomed to extinction a couple of Republican factions with long histories in the party.

Many people know about the so called "liberal" Republicans (aka Rockefeller Republicans, aka Progressive Republicans). Arlen Specter is the last of that sub-species. Jeffords was of this type but he evolved into an Independent who votes with the Democrats.

But fewer people have heard of the Stalwarts. Stalwart Republicans are the Midwestern budget hawks, like Gerald Ford or Bob Dole. They tend to be fans of small businesses and family farms. They distrust big business and big labor alike. They distrust Southern politics and think talking about religion with strangers is nearly as rude as asking someone how much money they make. Most of them aren't Baptists, Pentecostal or other kinds of Evangelicals. Stalwarts belong to the Lutherans, Presbyterians, Methodists and other "mainstream" protestant sects mostly. Stalwarts like their religion quiet and their liquor laws strict - speaking in tongues just seems a little like public drunkenness. In places like small town Minnesota, they used to vote Republican as reflexively as Southerners used to vote Democrat and for much the same reason - a kind of collective hangover from the Civil War. These are the descendents of the Kansas Jayhawkers who fought against the spread of slavery (and plantation agri-business) in Bloody Kansas. In the 19th century, they got their name because they are supportors of a third term for U.S. Grant. These are the Republicans most likely to be bent out of shape over the deficit Bush is running. They would sooner end the tax cut than run up the debt. Stalwarts don't all live down on the farm any more. But suburban life (in places like Minneapolis, Milwaukee or Columbus) hasn't changed their ideology much.

This rock-ribbed sub-species of Republican would appear to be thriving. Republican candidates do well in the much of the Midwest but Bush seems to have abandoned the Stalwarts. The Bush administration has done little to keep this group happy. The high deficit spending is especially irksome to the Stalwart Republicans. The social conservative policies aimed to keep the Evangelicals happy only make Stalwarts uncomfortable. These voters are unlikely to vote Democratic. But it is easy for them to believe that they can just forget about the whole thing and not vote at all.

The Stalwart Republicans will be crucial for Bush in Wisconsin, Iowa, Ohio, Michigan, Minnesota and maybe even Missouri. Bush is behind in all but one of those states (Iowa) right now and he probably needs to win half of them. There is really nothing he can do to get the Stalwarts on his side at this point. Reversing himself on the tax cut would do the trick nicely but he will NEVER do that as it would alienate the populist NASCAR Nationalists.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

I found this to be interesting. Since I live in the land of the land of fruits and nuts I have no idea what the rest of the country is like. I want to get in on the religion thing. I may be little late, but here it goes.

I want to point out the sudden interest in the Catholic vote. NPR devoted a whole 10 minutes to it the other day, and I am hearing about polls of Catholics here and there. I believe Law Talking Guy wrote about this- but from a different angle. I imagine that this suddenly matters because Kerry is Catholic. Get over it, America! You'd think 40 years after Kennedy the whole Papist in the White House thing would be oh so passé.

Catholics are known as swing voters- or so they say. But I don't think being Catholic alone matters. Catholics are not monolithic. Mexican Catholics are not the same as Portuguese, Irish, Armenian, or American Catholics. We are all very different. (And let me point out that there are large number of Iraqi Catholics.)And I dare say that education and financial status have more to do with how Catholics vote than the Church. And that places them in the same gray area as the Stalwarts.

The Church has always placed sex, Dogma, and politics above all else. Think about history a little. And the priests who use the pulpit to condemn pro-choice candidates and those who vote for them are merely practicing an age-old tradition of using their position to influence, goad, and manipulate.

This sudden interest in Catholics speaks to a larger issue- pigeon holing voters. When will political pundits and parties quit slicing and dicing the populous into miniscule segments, then naming them something clever like NSACAR dads and Soccar Moms, and then spending millions on polling to see how these groups will vote? Rather than talking about what church Kerry and Bush go to, or which little geographical segment Joe Bag of Donuts fits into, we should be hashing out where these candidates are on the issues. Better yet, screw elections, voting machines, and butterfly ballots. Let's just hold a caucus of swing voters and go with their pick.

Raised By Republicans said...

I sympathize with the frustration over cute labels for different kinds of voters. But the cute labels are often getting at real differences between segments of American society. These differences translate into political preferences that influence elections and candidates.

As for polling: the pundits aren't the only ones doing polling. The candidates do a lot of it too, and theirs is a heck of lot more sophositicated than the stuff we talk about on this website. I'm glad they do too. Democracy serves the population best when elected leaders (and candidates) have good information about what we the voters want. Elections might serve that purpose but they come too seldomly to really influence policy before it comes into effect.

I'm less bothered by a candidate who flip flops in response to the latest polls than I am by a candidate who claims to ignore them. The guy claiming to ignore polls is a)lying and b) sending a signal that he knows what's good for voters better than they do without even bothering to ask them what they think they want in the first place - a shockingly undemocratic sentiment.

The Law Talking Guy said...

To the Anonymous poster's comment, I would add this rejoinder. There is a tendency to over-analyze elections, which is what he/she points to. I like to compare the level of superstition in baseball versus football to illustrate the point. Baseball players and fans exhibit far more superstition. Why? Because there is so much more unexplained random variance in baseball than football. A good football team can go undefeated. A great baseball team wins barely 2/3 of its games. So it goes with elections. There is much randomness to be accounted for. So pundits focus on make-believe "NASCAR Dads" and "Soccer Moms" and any pseudo-explanation du jour they can find. This election is simple. The public knows who Bush is. They don't know who Kerry is yet, except that he's not Bush. The next 5 months will be an attempt for Bush to re-define himself (since he's down in the polls) and for both of them to try to define Kerry for the public. Advantage: Kerry.

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