Monday, June 30, 2008


Political statistician Andrew Gelman has produced very interesting graphs of economic and social politics by state. Graph 1 plots the average economic social and economic positions of adults. Some of the results are obvious: Massachusetts is the most liberal and Idaho (those black helicopters are coming) is the most conservative of states. For Democrats hoping to make inroads into Southern states like Georgia, the data are not promising. But swing states Nevada, Virginia, New Mexico, and, yes even North Carolina, show up right in the middle. They could be in play.

When the data are broken out by party (graph 2), the results are a reminder of the biggest difference between Democrats and Republicans: the economy. "Democrats are much more liberal than Republicans on the economic dimension: Democrats in the most conservative states are still much more liberal than Republicans in even the most liberal states," writes Gelman. "On social issues there is more overlap (although in any given state, the average Republican is more conservative than the average Democrat)."

Republicans since Nixon have played the faux populist card, but the GOP is the party of economic special interests. McCain is not anywhere close to winning over swing voters on economic issues. But I worry that the Obama campaign's bipartisanship will consist of ceding ground on the economic issues that still define grassroots Democrats' sense of what is right, while continuing to let the Republicans define the terms of the debate. I hope not.


Hesperis said...

I fear you are right and I'm unsure as to whether there are grounds for hope. I guess that means I still have some, even if they turn out to be groundless!
As the economy worsens, and I can't find any reason to hope it won't, I think Obama will become more conservative. It's just some kind of gut instinct, I'm not economist, nor a political scientist.
From what I understand, FDR was pushed into more liberal policies by the economic problems of the Depression. But that pressure was organized and enormous. These days, the ability to organize collectively seems seriously hampered by the way that global capitalism works. Or have things simply not gotten bad enough?

Tom S said...

Organization and activism are crucial. I think I'll post on this soon, but right now I see two patterns, both in part reflecting the mismatch between activism and global capitalism, as you suggest. 1) What Doug Henwood and Liza Featherstone call "activistism"--that is a replication of the theatrical street protests of the 60s, but usually without a larger political or economic analysis or 2) Volunteerism: or the notion that the sum of individual or small scale acts of community service will amount to larger-scale change. Both, I think, are very limited. Activists need to think about leverage points in the political system--how to take advantage of political openings and put pressure on elected officials who might move, even a little in our direction. We can't wait til things get "bad enough" --they are plenty bad now! Thanks for your post hesperis.

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