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  • “It Doesn’t Work, So Keep Doing It”

    Posted by Jonathan on October 4th, 2003 (All posts by )

    A brilliant post by Val on one of the world’s great political ironies: voters elect irresponsible leftist/populist spendthrifts who wreck their local economies, leading to mass emigration. The cycle repeats as the emigres foul their new civic nests by again voting for leftist/populist spendthrifts. Every libertarian or conservative resident of the U.S. sunbelt knows what Val is talking about. Lex probably has a learned explanation for this phenomenon, but I feel the same way about it as I do about Jews who are basically conservative yet always vote for Democrats: how can they have so little insight into the contradictions of their own behavior? Beats me.

     

    36 Responses to ““It Doesn’t Work, So Keep Doing It””

    1. Tom Kince Says:

      Because Humans are stupid!

    2. James R. Rummel Says:

      Who said that no democracy could survive the realization by the citizens that they could vote themselves wealth through the public purse?

      (Paraphrasing, of course. If I could remember the exact quote I’d just Google-search it and find out for myself.)

      James

    3. Jim English Says:

      http://www.bartleby.com/73/424.html

      QUOTATION: A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the worlds greatest civilizations has been 200 years.
      ATTRIBUTION: Attributed to ALEXANDER FRASER TYTLER, LORD WOODHOUSELEE. Unverified.
      SUBJECTS: Democracy

      Perhaps we should be suprised it has lasted this long. On that happy note. Go Cubs.

      Jim English

    4. James R. Rummel Says:

      Thank you kindly, Mr. English.

      James

    5. Dave Sheridan Says:

      Can’t add to the basics of what’s been said above, except that it reminds me of something else:

      Think of many formerly pristine vacation spots. Too many people come and too many stay — and insist on the comforts of wherever they came from. Pretty soon, it’s not paradise anymore, but it’s also too late to turn back the clock.

    6. Michael Says:

      That might be great to have such a life journal like this! People used to
      have a paper diaries and now it’s electronics. Anyhow I wish you luck and
      all the best in your life and work!

    7. Lucy Says:

      He he! That’s a great idea – humans are stupid:) And all their results and civilization is just a big mistake;))))

    8. Sandy P. Says:

      IL is beginning to become the Peoples’ Republic.

      I found this via ??? from the Washington Times:

      Outside View: The next Gray Davis?

      By Jeff Trigg and Greg Blankenship
      A UPI Outside View commentary

      SPRINGFIELD, Ill., Oct. 2 (UPI) — Plenty of people laughed when California gubernatorial candidate Arnold Schwarzenegger talked about how residents of the state are taxed from the moment they flush their toilets in the morning until they go to bed at night…

      …The tax is a brand new “fee” for wastewater treatment services — or sewer fees — levied on local communities, making Illinoisans the equal of Californians in being taxed every time they flush their toilet.

      Instead of finding $56 million in spending reductions out of the $54 billion budget, the sewer tax has shifted the burden of balancing the state budget to localities. The governor is forcing communities to make the tough budget decisions he wouldn’t make, with his office suggesting wryly that local officials simply pass the increased costs along to residents.

      The new tax will increase some small-town residents’ sewer bills by $22. Just as higher taxes in California have helped fuel recall efforts, the new state sewer fees may be fueling a tax revolt in Illinois….

    9. Val Says:

      Regarding Tom Kince’s comment, I wanted to include this in the post, but stopped at the last moment:

      “Think how dumb the average person is, and then remember … that half the population is even dumber!”

      Naughty, naughty.

    10. Sylvain Galineau Says:

      Val, I think that would be the median person….

    11. Lex Says:

      No grand theory. Voting behavior is low-cost, low-risk behavior because people are aware at some level that their one vote doesn’t count for much. So, voting behavior is usually correlated with ethnic and religious identity. I say this as a matter of well-founded historical fact. So it is not surprising that people moving to a new place play they game they know. Voters tend to use the most rudimentary rules of thumb in voting. They make gross judgments on gross variables, and leave it at that. They focus a little more on substance in periods of emergency or danger. If you think in terms of search costs against the marginal benefit of any one vote, voters are being rational in not bothering to find out more. The actual operation of the government are done by more interested parties, lobbyists, professional politicians, bureaucrats — the people who own and operate the various iron triangles — and these people have some practical reason to acquaint themselves with the details of politics and government. The real oddballs are people like the ones who post and comment on this website, who are fascinated by all this stuff on an ongoing basis, even though it is far-removed from anything which impacts their day to day life or income. Hobbyism? Good citizenship? Contentiousness? Pathological procrastination? I’d need to take the partial derivative of my utility function as to each of these factors, as well as others, and I just don’t have the time right now … .

    12. Alexander Crawford Says:

      Man o man Lex! Such despair!!! Such pessimism! Considering our self-defined political leanings (Libertarian) are basically those of dissappointed idealists who refuse to give in to the temptation of admitting political science isn’t by nature perfectable (or even satisfying most of the time), and considering the overall success rate of our particular constitutional republic at responding en masse to unpredictable historical developments, especially in comparison to any other existant political system or rival ideology, I feel obliged to play devils advocate to you and Val and Jonathan on principle. Hell… even if I do agree in my more cynical moments, I’ll be damned before I bow to tedium publicus vitae without at least the pretense of resistance. If I didn’t do that I’d be scheming with youall to conquer some mismanaged third world backwater out of sheer spite!!

      To respond to Val’s very strong point about internal migrations including a hefty amount of political baggage from where ever it was those populations both initially migrated from and were first assimilated into American political culture. True, those migrations from now assimilated immigrant cultures in places like NYC, California, and Boston elsewhere carry many of the seeds of those places ruination (look at Oregon!), but there’s another aspect you’re overlooking. First, every place they try to introduce some cockeyed thing like a “minimum living wage” is forced to reaffirm and restate its own political tradition, which revitalizes (endlessly) political discourse on the local level (always good). Second, those places, like NYC, that are abandoned are left with populations that are forced to institute painful, “politically incorrect” reforms that often turn out to work (example: death of the NYC welfare state). Third, State and Local governments are forced to compete with each other, which means that internal American competition is so fierce that the US as a whole has pretty much retained a competitive edge and dynamicism regarding global change. Fourth, immigrant populations from mixed up countries like Brazil or France, once Americanized, cause ten times the political havok when they return to their Nation of origin than they do migrating internally in the US, as what is merely annoying to Americans is often extreme social and political revolution to the stratified elites elsewhere that thought they’d exiled potential political rivals forever. So is this an accident, that within the “marketplace of ideas” of citizens voting with their feet the exchange for better AND for worse goes both ways? Is this a sign of our systems decline? Or is this an annoyance that our system has a built in protection against?

      The failings and self-destructive tendencies of democratic and republican systems of government, all the standard corruptions in fact, played more of a role in the design of the US republic than examples of successes. Federalist 10, 14, 18-20, &etc. ooze paranoia regarding potential and past abuses. Thank God the factions of the late 18th century didn’t trust each other one iota, because it seems clear that nothing short of obsessive revulsion at the thought of being ruled by a political opponent could have produced such an enduring foundation for a political system. Hell, if the bill of rights isn’t about protecting potential revolutionaries, what IS it about??? Can you imagine anther system of goverment labeled “democratic” or “republican” (other than the Swiss) surviving if 25-35% of it’s individual citizens were armed? I can’t.

      “The actual operation of the government are done by more interested parties, lobbyists, professional politicians, bureaucrats — the people who own and operate the various iron triangles — and these people have some practical reason to acquaint themselves with the details of politics and government”

      Lex… I think you’re under-estimating two factors. The first is the nature of participatory politics. So many people take it for granted that their vote won’t count that they forget that our system punishes non-voters and ‘mere’ voters on purpose, and rewards ‘activists’ and ‘active voters’ in return with a greater share of political power. The assertion of personal powerlessness in a political sense usually is self-fulfilling. In our system the passive lose and the active win, and until one grasps that it’s ALWAYS in their self interest to be politically active, I’m not sure that the system as a whole isn’t better off without them.

      The second point is that this blog certainly is an example of active participation on a very serious scale. Independent and open and serious forums, especially those that are consistant are constantly mined for well reasoned ideas, and I suspect you underestimate the power of a well reasoned idea.

    13. freddie Says:

      Folks want little or no taxes and lots of services. Balence budget? either cut the hell out of services or raise the hell out of taxes or do both…Arny or anyone else will not make it work by merely cutting taxes or simply cutting services. People expect both. Can’t have it. So Arn will try to stick it to the Indians (casinos).

    14. Jim English Says:

      Does anyone know where I can get those cigarettes with the little dollar signs on them?

      Jim English
      Go Cubs!

    15. Jonathan Says:

      Alexander,

      I hope you’re right, but there are many examples of malicious or incompetent ruling elites holding on to power much longer than rational outsiders might expect voters to tolerate them. Look at France, Venezuela, etc. Many human beings have a remarkable ability either to fool themselves, or to rationalize a situation that benefits them personally while being bad for their state or country. An increasing proportion of the population in badly managed political jurisdictions is comprised of people from this category as other kinds of people emigrate. And by the same token it’s difficult for the incumbent populations in places like Arizona and Florida to counter the political changes caused by energetic newcomers (who, while politically conservative by the standards of their old homes, tend to be on the left of the populations into which they move). So places like New York move to the left as relatively conservative citizens leave, leaving the diehard lefties, union members, et al, but places like Florida find their conservatism diluted.

    16. Val Says:

      The long and interesting approaches by both Lex and Alexander allow me to say this. I have been working on and off for months on a post based on Hannah Arendts famous account of the differences between the American and French revolutions that tries to go beyond theory to what I have personally experienced in Latin America, that direct and favorite daughter of the French revolution and the best example of its inadequacy as the basis for a durable political system, a failure that is centered on the the idea of popular sovereignty as opposed to the primacy of institutions. Our system has indeed proven to be resilient, but if we haven’t been much concerned by the now normal way of looking at entitlements as rights, we certainly should be worried with the advance of direct democracy la California, and even more when populist politicians like Hillary Clinton and Jesse Jackson Jr. want to repeal the Electoral College (both declared so in 2001), and when large swaths of the Democratic party believe that somebody wins when he gets the most votes. To me these are signs of a problem that is developing in front of our eyes, a push for popular sovereignty la francaise and growing disdain for the complex and seemingly illogical system that our founders built.

    17. Alexander Crawford Says:

      Jonathan… In truth I’d conceed most of your points. It seems very predictable that any faction that attains political ascendency will do all it is able to maintain that position, including abusing its authority above and beyond popular tolerance. I’d also agree that there is no cure for populist demagoguery with the exception of limiting the effects and scope to as small a layer of the electorate as possible. And while I’m not convinced that a betrayed electorate (such as the city of detroit), after abandoned to the ruination it’s own elected officials promised it, isn’t able to wake up to its own follies, I’d have to admit that it some people are just gluttons for political punishment beyond understanding. In the case of NYC, it was so far to the left during its decline, that even a huge shift to the right with Guiliani still leaves the city way too far to the left to seriously reform as deeply as it needs to. I can’t imagine other than a Philly type bankrupcy shaking loose NYC’s problems.

      Yet I’d hold to the position that the best defense is to keep California and New York political fall out and failure localized at the state and city level. Yes, it drags down the country when California or NYC self-destructs, but to the extent the electorate responsible, or more accurately the poltical class responsible has to suffer its own follies, there’s no other way I can see for a stupid electorate to decide it’s ready to throw out the old ways in order to improve its polity. What other option is there? (I left NYC because of the taxes).

      Likewise, the huge number of individual citizens with guns means a politician or demagogue who goes to far risks assassination in equal measure… which always seemed the point of the 2nd amendment to me in the first place… it’s SUPPOSED to be dangerous to be the President! Does anyone imagine a politician gets their megamaniacal mitts on the most powerful office in the universe without understanding that about a billion people in the world would love to kill them at any given moment? If not, I’d have to wonder if they’re fit to govern at that level at all. This is the only -optimistic- defense I can offer in response to your just and accurate observation of humans lust for power…. as long as 80,000,000 citizens have shotguns in their closets politicians will fear the electorate, even if they don’t respect it. And isn’t that the only real check an individual has against a tyrant? Isn’t that unfortunate option understood as preferable, even when unmerited and tragic, to the possibility of a Caesar? (I just can’t grasp why Chavez is still alive? or Mugabe?)

    18. Alexander Crawford Says:

      Val… with the qualification that I’m debating for forms sake more than on the basis of sincere optimism or disagreement with you over the essentials…

      I agree with you that it’s irresponsible demagoguery for politicians to attack the electoral college system and point to the popular outcome as if they weren’t lawyers and well versed in constitutional theory and law… especially when they have no intention of changing the electoral system, and are adopting a purely cynical and partisan rhetorical position in order to rile up their electoral base. I agree that’s exactly the attitude that one is entitled to the benefits of citizenship without a corresponding obligation in return… that will, if allowed to prosper, ensure the death of our system of government. The view of the “State” as other than the sum of it’s citizenry is what’s doomed most other representative governements to decay and decline, and I doubt that the US will be any different, as when people start expecting something for nothing trouble always follows.

      That said and admitted… You care. I care. Jonathan and lex care. And I think it’s safe to say the era of empty promises is well past its prime. If California weren’t a State election I’d agree the populism would be dangerous, but because it IS JUST a State election, I think it’s appropriate for California citizens to adopt populist government within the boundary of their own jurisdiction and territory. As long as it stays on the State level, I have no objection, nor think there’s any evidence that the US constitution expects state politics be forbidden populist designs in their state constitutions (with qualifications).

      As for the Democratic attitude towards popular direct elections… as far as I can see they’re only willing to adopt that position when they believe it’ll be to their benefit, and change their minds completely the moment the popular angle doesn’t give them an edge. Frankly I suspect this is how they view a large portion of civil liberties… important only when their own necks or power are threatened, and certainly not as ideals to be evenly applied otherwise. I’d fear them if they hadn’t made enemies of the 2nd amendment, the military, and law enforcement in general. Judges and lawyers are only relevent players while there’s rational debate and a pretense towards equal justice, but the moment that pretense is dropped, only force matters. Considering the very very large majority of citizens with guns don’t vote for them, it seems unlikely that the Democrats of our era are up to starting any serious political fight if it means messing with the unwashed center and rabid right wingers alike.

    19. Lex Says:

      “Many human beings have a remarkable ability either to fool themselves, or to rationalize a situation that benefits them personally while being bad for their state or country” — sez Jonathan. I vote for B. I am a Conservative with enough of a libertarian (small l, some of the time) streak to think that the same people who make sensible allocations of their time and resources in the economy do so also in the political realm. Institutions matter, history and historical baggage matters, and people use the actual political landscape they face to do what they think is best for themselves and their families. Sometimes, like in the Anglophone countries, there is a lot at work leading to positive-sum outcomes. Sometimes, like in Venezuela, there is a lot at work pushing people toward a populist lashing-out against a perceived ethnic elite which owns the whole place outright (see Hernando de Soto on this topic, as well as Amy Chua.)

    20. Yehudit Says:

      Jewish votes are always situational – for us any political party is a mixed bag. The Republican party was dominated by the Christian Right not too long ago. We are right to be suspicious of fath-based initiatives which often involve proselytizing. Also, Jews tend to be social liberals – pro-choice, pro-environment, pro-gay and pro-feminist. And the Republicans have usually been more bigoted toward Jews (and other minorities) than the Democrats.

      When that changes or there is an overriding issue that Republicans are handling better than Democrats (terrorism) Jews will vote Republican, for the time being.

      Fiscally conservative blacks and gays who support the war of terror also have this problem.

      To treat us as self-destructive because we have to weigh these issues on a case by case basis is to wilfully distort the history of the Republican Party (and no, I’m not talking about the party of Lincoln – I’m talking about the last 50 years.)

    21. Jim English Says:

      Yehudit,

      “And the Republicans have usually been more bigoted toward Jews (and other minorities) than the Democrats.”

      Have you been to the South in the last 50 years? The white racists who sicked dogs on blacks were Democrats. George Wallace was a Democrat. Bull Conner was a Democrat. This modern Republican party is and has always has been the party of Lincoln. Prove otherwise.

      Jim English
      Chicago, IL
      Go Cubs!

    22. Jonathan Says:

      I’m a Jewish voter too. During my adult life the Democrats have been the party of racial preferences, of hostility to small business, of high tax rates that penalize individual achievement, of high tax rates that squeeze traditional families, of government schools that destroy the potential of poor children, of government-backed indoctrination in “alternative lifestyles” that weaken traditional families, of compulsory unionization that restricts opportunities for minorities, of “gun control” laws that criminalize self-defense for people who can’t afford to live in safe neighborhoods, of international weakness that harms U.S. and Israeli interests, of subsidized abortion, etc., etc.

      Meanwhile, Republicans, including especially religious Christians, have by and large supported policies whose effects would be to increase economic prosperity and individuals’ ability to run their own lives. The Republicans, including especially religious Christians, have also generally supported a strong national defense and other policies that allow the U.S. to actually do some good in the world. They have also been generally supportive of Israel at a time when many Democrats, like leftists in other countries, have become hostile to Israel or ambivalent supporters at best.

      The argument I always hear is that Jews do or should support Democrats because Democrats share Jews’ desire for “social justice” and because religious Christians don’t like Jews or want to convert them. But I don’t care about motives (even granting, for the sake of argument, the validity of blanket statements about the motives of Democrats, Republicans and religious Christians). I care about results. And what I see is that the Republicans’ policies usually have better results for Jews, for other minorities, for Americans generally, and for Israel.

      The typical liberal Jewish voter consistently overweights fears about Republicans while underweighting the actual costs of harmful policies promoted by Democrats. If the Republicans are no longer the party of Lincoln, surely it’s time for Jews to realize that the Democrats are no longer the party of FDR.

    23. Lex Says:

      The exchange between Jonathan and Yehudit demonstrates my point that most voting behavior is tribal or traditional, not based on some kind of rational cost-benefit analysis. Jonathan is an exceptional person, and I say this in the literal rather than the complimentary sense (though that is true too), who thinks through what he is doing and thinks about consequences rather than voting as an act of ethnic solidarity. A tiny minority of voters act like this. In fact, that tiny minority is so tiny that it is insignificant in practical terms. All the arguments in the world will never change the voting behavior of most people, and all the evidence in the world will change very few more. A good book on this is the old chestnut Massachusetts People and Politics, 1919-1933 by Huthmacher. It shows how recent immigrants were up for grabs, but went with FDR when the Depression began, and those groups were solidly Democrat ever after. Traumatic events can change group identificaion. In some cases prosperity can do it. The Irish became somewhat more Republican as they got wealthy. The Jews, no. Blacks are Democrats to the core of their beings, with very few exceptions. I have a friend, a hardcore Catholic conservative, who is black. Despite the abortion issue, which is absolutely defining for most people of his religious views, he recently told me that he had never voted for a Republican and never dreamed he ever would, but that the recent gay marriage thing the Democrats were pushing was making him seriously consider that he might vote for Bush. He was clutching my shoulder and almost had tears in his eyes as he told me this. To leave the Democratic party for him is like leaving a family. To me, who has no such emotional identification even with my own party, this is amazing; to him, it is simply part of the structure of his world. Yehudit “knows”, or at least the people he describes know, that the Republicans are more bigoted against Jews than Democrats are, and that their policies will be worse for “the poor”. Perhaps some day he and htey will moderate their views. But don’t bet on it.

      The way for anyone with a political agenda to accomplish anything is to get the minority of people who care on your side, then try to gather some coalition of allies of convenience, and then, to get a majority, sell image and buzzwords to the bulk of voters who don’t really have any deep reason to vote one way or the other — like suburban women who don’t watch news or read the newspaper, but vote. They’ll vote for W if they think he is “nice” but not “weak”, based on fleeting TV images. That is the game. If you want your ideas to have influence, you need to play it.

      I don’t agree with Alexander that this blog is evidence that there is some kind of thriving citizen-based democracy in America. The people who post and comment here would have these conversations at the dinner table or around the water cooler, pre-Internet. And the conversations would be equally divorced from any practical significance. Still, I like having these conversations. I just don’t think they are politics. They are just conversations.

    24. Alexander Crawford Says:

      Lex… let’s agree to disagree on the merits of this blog and the movements impact on political discourse.

      I suspect you’re a resident in a political machine town (Chicago being only one of many), as municipal and district elections (and nationals) are hard to crack into for the average voter in such places and breed cynicism. And hopefully we agree that the gerrymandered districts that basically disenfranchise (mostly black) voters has become a serious and anti-democratic problem… hey, no one claimed we’re perfect.

      Yet it’s worth remembering that every county in the US elects its officials and has at least one and a half well developed political organizations (if not two) vying over mil tax and zoning and paying deputies as well as school boards and utilties and potholes and judges. Those organizations send average people to the capital (if only part time) and feed into either the larger state organizations or the “city machine” (in Detroit the democratic “boss” was a county commissioner). In most cases the counties and municipalities run themselves from within, raise and payout their own taxes, and bicker over the minutia of everyday life. The majority are thriving citizen-based democracies that treat the big electon cycles like festivals or ritual or college football rivalries (depending on the regional political culture). Yeah, they might not be informed about senate committee slugfests or federal election debate, but next month a bond referrendum will be what brings them to the polls, not Iraq…

      I wonder Lex… it’s always seemed to be that the black community is uber Jacksonian… considering the way the polls are running on likely black voters, do you think the Jacksonian angle might explain their softening on Bush?

    25. Val Says:

      What a wonderful conversation!

    26. Jonathan Says:

      Lex, times have changed. It’s not as though Jews still benefited from Democratic Party policies. (I argued above that the contrary is closer to the truth.) So why should they still find it satisfying from a “tribal” perspective to vote as their grandparents did? Also, it appears that more-religious Jews tend to be more politically conservative. If the “Democrats support Jewish values” claim were valid, wouldn’t one expect observant Jews consistently to support Democrats?

      The only explanation that I can think of is that leftist politics has displaced, or at least become confounded with, Judaism for many non-religiously observant Jews. Some people have a need for religious belief and will adopt substitutes in the absence of the real thing. And this is an old pattern, going back at least to the revolutions of the 19th Century. But why so many Jews still gravitate toward leftism, after so much negative experience with the results of leftism in practice, I haven’t a clue.

    27. Brian (MN) Says:

      The only explanation that I can think of is that leftist politics has displaced, or at least become confounded with, Judaism for many non-religiously observant Jews. Some people have a need for religious belief and will adopt substitutes in the absence of the real thing.

      This is absolutely right. The problem is, for secular Jews–how do they reproduce their beliefs? If the intermarriage rate for Jews, overall, is 50%, what do you imagine it is for secular Jews? And then there’s the fact that lots of us live outside New York and Los Angeles and Chicago; that is, we’re not just a numerical minority as Jews, we really don’t have that much visibility as a community and don’t have the shared secular Jewish institutions of larger cities…so Democratic politics it is I guess and good luck to those who think so. But if Yehudit thinks that anti-Semitism (ah, right, “anti-Zionism”) doesn’t have widespread appeal in the Democratic Party, she doesn’t know the same Democrats I do.

      I fully expect that in my lifetime that the Democratic Jewish vote will be significantly under 25%. Religious Jews will continue to trend Republican and will also continue to be a larger and larger percentage of people who identify as Jews.

    28. jaed Says:

      If the intermarriage rate for Jews, overall, is 50%, what do you imagine it is for secular Jews?

      However, if Jonathan is correct in his characterization, “intermarriage” for such a Jew would be, not marriage to a non-Jew, but marriage to someone who is not a liberal Democrat. I wonder what the “intermarriage rate”, in this sense, is among such secular Jews? I suspect it’s lower than the rate of marriage with non-Jews.

    29. Brian (MN) Says:

      Jaed–

      The children of such marriages will likely not identify as Jews.

    30. Cousin Dave Says:

      I’m not at all sure I buy Lex’s theory that many people vote according to an “ethnic” identification. “Tribal” might be closer to the truth for some people, but I claim (and I will have do some research to back it up) that most people, when they have an “irrational” voting preference, will vote according to community or geographic loyalties. Take, for example, voting in the South between 1900 and about 1985, a subject I’ve had personal experience with. This might seen to be a case of major ethnic identity, but to prove such a statement, you first have to define “ethnic”. The problem is, a lot of people in the South don’t know or care what their ethnicity is — they just know that they were born or live in Charleston or Memphis or Birmingham or whatever, and maybe their parents lived in Savannah or Biloxi, and so on. In the earlier post-bellum days, many of the wealthier people in the area were of Scottish or Irish descent, yet likely they voted as solidly Democratic as did my Dutch-descended mountaineer (polite term for “hillbilly”) ancestors. Why was this? It wasn’t because they thought of “Southern” as an ethnicity; it was because they thought of it as a community, and the country-club Easterner Republican party of the 1900-1950 period didn’t address their interests. It was also because the Republicans, for a long time, simply didn’t try very hard in the South.

      But the loyality was to a set of principles rather than to a political party; look at what happened in Alabama in 1986 when the electorate decided that they had had enough of the Wallace Democrats’ intellectual inbreeding and corruption. (FYI: in 1986, party reformer Charles Graddick won the Democrat nomination for governor in the state primary. Operatives for Wallace crony Bill Baxley convinced the state Supreme Court to not only throw out the results of the primary, because of supposed Republican cross-voting [technically illegal, but impossible to enforce since the state doesn’t require voters to register a party preference], but they actually gave the Democrat party hoohas permission to hand-pick their candidate in a closed meeting. Not surprisingly, they chose Baxley. Alabama voters were so fed up that they voted en masse for perennial Republican candidate Guy Hunt, and overnight the Republican party went from nowhere to a major force in Alabama.) Moral: things can change overnight if a party fails to keep up with where the electorate is going, or (as in the case of today’s Democrats) tries to drag them in a direction that they don’t want to go. Even Southerners don’t vote a certain way just because their grandfathers did.

      And another word, to the group in general: I’m getting a bit fed up with people who call themselves conservatives or libertarians who go around dissing the bulk of the population as stupid. That’s the liberal agenda: the people are too stupid to be trusted with democracy or self-government; they must have their actions closely controlled by a self-appointed elite, for their own good you understand. A conservative/liberaterian philosopy starts with the assumption that most people know what is basically good for them and their countrymen, and that their wishes should be heeded in most cases.

    31. Jonathan Says:

      Cousin Dave,

      Thanks for sharing your insights about Southern voting.

      I still don’t understand why Jews tend to vote Democratic. As I wrote above, I think it’s generally not in their interests to do so. Any thoughts?

    32. richard cook Says:

      I think most people vote on the help me/hurt me model. Will this help me or any group I affiliate with? If yes I vote for it if it hurts or has the potential to hurt me or groups I am affiliated with I vote against it. No other thought goes into it. Simplistic? yes. But its all I gots.

    33. Alexander Crawford Says:

      Cousin Dave,

      As someone who’s obviously self-identified as “Libertarian”, I’ve got to admit that your criticism is well founded, in my case (I think), and that it doesn’t make me feel very proud to admit it. I suspect there’s something of a “Libertarian” elitist attitude basic to the political identification that’s at heart the flip side of the elitism of ‘Progressive’ politics, and it’s good to have it jammed down our throats from time to time to keep us honest. Thank god we’re redeemed by holding unelectable views, or we’d surely become the megalomaniacal types that we exist to oppose.

    34. Yehudit Says:

      “Yehudit “knows”, or at least the people he describes know, that the Republicans are more bigoted against Jews than Democrats are, and that their policies will be worse for “the poor”. Perhaps some day he and htey will moderate their views. But don’t bet on it.”

      Yehudit is a girl’s name – it’s the Hebrew for Judith. She was the one who got Holofernes drunk and cut off his head.

      Some of you did not read my post carefully, preferring to fall back on practiced rant rather than respond to what I actually said. I said “the last 50 years.” During which time Democrats led the movement for civil rights for all sorts of minorities. Yes, I know there are anti-semites on the Left, believe me. I regularly expose them on my blog. But the Left and the Democratic party are not identical anymore than the Republican Party and the Christian Right is identical. But there is some overlap.

      I support Bush’s policies on Israel and Iraq, and so do most Jews I know. We will vote for Bush, this time around. But that will not make us Republicans. Most of us still vehemently oppose government funding of faith-based charities, or the prevailing attitude toward gays or the right to abortion in the Republican party. Like I said, gays and blacks who support some of Bush’s policies face the same dilemma. Many will vote for him in 2004, but will remain wary of Republicans in general until the party becomes more socially liberal. I guess most of us would have no compunction about voting for Ah-nuld, for example.

      My main point is: don’t assume that everyone who votes for Bush or Arnold buys into the whole Republican platform or is a sign of resurgent conservatism. This is the mistake Newt Gingrich made with his Contract for America. Americans didn’t buy it – not just Jewish or gay or black Americans.

    35. Yehudit Says:

      PS BTW I am not a secular Jew. Most of the practicing Jews I know in several cities and a number of congregations (and I get around – I like to shul-hop) are Democrats. Many of whom will vote for Bush, this time. Like I said, our voting is situational, and as a tiny minority, that is is our best interests.

    36. Jonathan Says:

      Yehudit,

      Points taken, but. . .

      – During the most recent half of the last 50 years, Democratic politicians have been strong supporters of the use of racial preferences in academic admissions and in academic, government and business hiring. Many people who support equality of opportunity — the goal of the civil-rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s — consider the use of racial preferences to enforce particular outcomes to be morally repugnant and antithetical to civil rights. Republican office holders have been inconsistent but typically are much more frequently opposed to use of racial preferences than Democrats have been. You seem to ignore this issue, which is an important issue not merely in terms of justice but also because Jews and other high-achieving minorities tend to be disproportionately harmed by racial-preference programs.

      – Since when are promotion of abortion and homosexuality good for Jews? I am aware that Judaism takes a nuanced view of abortion, yet do not see why unlimited abortion rights, as the Democratic Party seems to want, are desirable. Consider that we have had multiple Republican administrations and Congresses, yet abortion is still readily available in most parts of the U.S. for all but very late-term pregnancies. It has in fact been very difficult politically to restrict abortion beyond the extremes. Whatever the wishes of anti-abortion conservatives, Republicans in practice aren’t much more restrictive than Democrats would be in theory. And beyond basic tolerance and civil rights, which are universal goods, and do not require the State to differentiate among citizens according to group affiliation, why should Jews in particular support single-sex marriage and other causes of the gay agenda? I don’t see how these causes benefit Jews. I realize that many Jewish leftists think it’s obvious that Jews should support abortion and single-sex marriage and racial preferences, but it isn’t obvious to me. Repetition of phrases such as “civil rights” and “gay rights” does not a supporting argument make.

      – Consider that Jews who vote Republican may not be loyal Republicans so much as situational voters who see the big picture differently than you do. I put myself in this category. I don’t like many Republican proposals (the “faith-based” initiative that you mention is a good example), but usually vote for Republicans because on balance I see their proposals as being much less destructive than would be those of Democrats. The Democratic Party of 2003 seems to be mainly about distributing spoils to favored constituencies. Jews, as a tiny minority, are not wise to assume that they will always do well under such a system. Republicans at least pay lip service to individual freedom and the encouragement of achievement, values which I think are good in their own right and also in particular for Jews.