A Straight Shot of Politics

A blog from a gentleman of the Liberal political persuasion dedicated to right reason, clear thinking, cogent argument, and the public good.

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Location: Columbus, Ohio, United States

I have returned from darkness and quiet. I used to style myself as "Joe Claus", Santa Claus’ younger brother because that is what I still look like. I wrote my heart out about liberal politics until June of 2006, when all that could be said had been said. I wrote until I could write no more and I wrote what I best liked to read when I was young and hopeful: the short familiar essays in Engish and American periodicals of 50 to 100 years ago. The archetype of them were those of G.K. Chesterton, written in newspapers and gathered into numerous small books. I am ready to write them again. I am ready to write about life as seen by the impoverished, by the mentally ill, by the thirty years and more of American Buddhist converts, and by the sharp eyed people [so few now in number] with the watcher's disease, the people who watch and watch and watch. I am all of these.

Monday, February 20, 2006

The Tragedy Of Political Conversion, Part I

Sometime back I asserted that the most important political phenomenon of the past 25 years was the prevalence of "conversion experiences" to Conservatism by former Democrats, particularly by formerly Democratic women. I still think so. And I think the fact that the Democratic Party has not, even yet, come to terms with it, is by far that Party's greatest weakness.

Howard Dean has not come to terms with it, Nancy Pelosi has not come to terms with it, Harry Reid has not come to terms with it, and, yes, good Conservative friends, even Joe Lieberman has not come to terms with it.

Coming to terms with it does not mean wringing your hands over it, it does not mean changing your beliefs because of it, it does not mean throwing a Zell Miller temper tantrum at a Republican Presidential Convention because of it.

It means looking at it clearly and trying to understand it's implications.

I really like many of the women bloggers who have gone through this conversion experience, and I find their self-revelations about what they think caused it fascinating. In a certain sense, there is a far greater emotional depth in their story and their writing than in political bloggers, like myself, who have not gone through this experience. You can feel an intangible, but none the less real, difference in attitude toward both life and America in someone like Baroness Alexandra, who I suspect has held rightist views since adolescence, and among like-minded friends and relatives, and someone like the Anchoress, whose conversion experience happened during the Reagan years and in adulthood.

Courtesy of the Anchoress, I have found a fine and lucid new spokesperson for the phenomenon of political conversion, NeoNeocon, whom I have added to the Right Views on my blogroll. She is highly representative of the new breed of feminine Conservative converts that were shocked into this experience by 9/11. During the last Presidential election they even earned a catchy media tag: security moms.

So why do I think this type of conversion a tragedy? Well, certainly not because I think being a Conservative itself is a tragedy. But a complete reorientation of your world-view, particularly as an adult, when you have far less emotional resilience, and you are the creature of many more developed and comfortable habits, is a searing experience that leaves many scars and, sometimes, leaves wounds that fester and will not stop bleeding. This is particularly the case when the conversion frightens and repulses a network of family, friends, or colleagues.

So many security moms who blog are New Yorkers, as is NeoNeocon. This is perfectly understandable. 9/11 in person, or through friends and family, cannot conceivably be compared to the proxy and mediated way in which I experienced it. The Gotham survivors of it, whether Conservative or Liberal, all have my goodwill [even when I disagree sharply with them] and my immense respect. But it is certainly the case that the Northeast as a whole is strongly Democratic, and the New York security moms have faced a far more scalding conversion because of that fact.

There is no question that the rabid political anger of our time has take a toll on this country, and the emotional lacerations that the security moms have had to bear are some of the ugliest and saddest parts of it. There may be no healing for these hurts, ever, in the same way that there will be no healing for the Vietnam War, whose lasting wounds reopened in the persons of George Bush, John Kerry, the venomous Swift Boat Vets, and the Texas National Guard Hoax. It will be for both pieces of history, I think, a matter for the memories to completely die with those who hold them and will take them to the grave.

So I said "tragedy", and I mean it.

NeoNeocon has written a fine series of essays about this transformation of her life. They are so good that I wish I could simply blockquote them all. But this will not do. So, up front, I want to strongly suggest that you read them in full. I will be quoting selections only, and I will be drawing some rather pointed political conclusions from them, and I want you to be prepared to make an independent judgment whether my choice of quotations has loaded the dice. I don't think it has, but no honest partisan, speaking of views he does not hold, can ever be sure.

So immediately below is a summary of what I thing are the most relevant parts of NeoNeocon's conversion, whose seeds go back to the Iranian hostage crisis of 1980:

I had a vague sense that events in Iran boded no good, and watching the Iranian women don their chadors I wondered why they would be so eager to go back to what seemed to be medievalism. But what did it matter to me if they wanted to wear black robes and have a cleric for their leader? It seemed to be their choice; was it any of my business?...

When the Soviet system collapsed, it seemed to me that the end came very suddenly. Oh, there were rumbles during Gorbachev's tenure-- something was indeed happening--but in 1989 it seemed as though the entire Iron Curtain came down so precipitously you could almost say it evaporated. My question was: how can an Iron Curtain evaporate? And, even more to the point, why didn't any of the 'experts" see it coming?...

The Gulf War of early 1991 seemed to mark some sort of return to 'history," although I thought (and hoped) that perhaps it was an anomaly...I understood the rationale for the war, and the necessity of it, but watching it and thinking about it
seemed more than I could bear...

But there were other distant warning bells sounding. Some were not so distant at all. The first World Trade Center bombing certainly grabbed my attention in 1993...I was stunned to discover that the intent of the bombers had been to topple the building and kill many thousands, and that it was only through chance and incompetence that they had failed to achieved their goals...

And so time passed. When the millennium came, people seemed much more worried about the threat of the millennium bug than the millennium bomber who was caught before he could carry out his plans to blow up LAX...

But instead, John's calm words came out in one long run-on sentence, although their content was anything but calm, or calming."Two planes just crashed into the World Trade Center, and the towers have fallen, and then another plane crashed into the Pentagon, and a fourth one is missing, and a few others are missing, too" (the final destination of Flight 93 was unknown as yet, and a mistaken report had been issued that there were further planes still unaccounted for)...

What were the main assumptions that had died in that instant for me? They had to do with a sense of basic long-term safety. Some utterly fearful thing that had seemed contained before, although vaguely threatening, had now burst from its constraints. It was like being plunged into something dark and ancient that had also suddenly been grafted onto modern technology and jet planes--Huns or Mongols or Genghis Khan or Vlad the Impaler or Hector being dragged behind Achilles' chariot--a thousand swirling vague but horrific impressions from an ancient history I'd never paid all that much attention to before...

This had been the first time I had ever followed a war [the Afghanistan war--ed.] so closely--day by day, almost hour by hour. It was the first time I'd eagerly devoured so many stories as events unfolded. And, most importantly, it was the first time I'd read a variety of newspapers, both geographically and politically. It was the first time I had been made frightened and deeply apprehensive, over and over again, by negative predictions in my favorite papers--and then discovered, to my growing puzzlement and even annoyance, that these predictions bore no more relation to subsequent reality than if they'd emanated from the I Ching. It was the first time I noticed that the more reliable papers had seemed to be the more conservative ones.

This is the most important turning point that I see consistently in these compelling conversion narratives as a whole:

Betrayal By The Mainstream Media!

I use the capitals, and the exclamation point, advisedly. Because, among the security moms, this may well be the most shattering experience, the discovery that people who report and edit the news are shaped by their own political biases and do things through disingenuous motives.

When I first started encountering women like NeoNeocon on the net I was utterly bewildered, particularly by their venom toward publications like the New York Times and television news commentators like Dan Rather and Peter Jennings. What, I wondered, was all the fuss about? Of course news coverage is politically biased. All of it is and always has been. There is no such thing as a neutral point of view on the news, and you chose the newssource whose flavor you like best. Where have these women been living?

No one like myself, who grew up in Columbus, Ohio, was ever under any real illusion that news reporting was objective. Not when it was clear to even a precocious eight-year-old that the Columbus Dispatch, both in news and editorials, was an open and shameless supporter of the Republican party of Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, and Governor James "Profit Is Not A Dirty Word In Ohio" Rhodes.

This was, of course, not the Republican party of the neo-cons. Nor even the neo-neocons. In a few days I may talk about why. But it is important to understand that it is not the same party for the political conversion experience to make sense. Republicans and Democrats now literally live in different worlds. They didn't then. So a change of opinions, or a shift of political view, which did occur with some frequency in perfectly ordinary people and without major trauma, was a development, not a cataclysm.

In a like manner, it has been perfectly clear to me that the New York Times was a Liberal paper from the first moment I ever saw a copy in High School, as clear as the fact that the Wall Street Journal was a conservative one. And this both in treatment of news, particularly the choice of what to cover and what to say about it, as well as the content of the opinion pages.

This is the first pointed conclusion I draw from such narratives: the converts were incredibly naive. And naive not just about news. The implicit demand that the "experts" predict things like the fall of the Soviet Union is something that was utterly unworldly, and a gaping flaw in NeoNeocon's attention and education.

In order to understand this, we must consider how much we take on trust from specialists who "know better" than we do. Everybody from Steven Hawking the physicist to our local pharmacist falls into this category. There are quite pragmatic reasons for this, but education should teach us that, logically, it is a fallacy. Technically it is known as the Argument From Authority. NeoNeocon clearly didn't absorb this.

To think that specialists "know better" than we do is the precise verbal equivalent for confusing pragmatic trust with unthinking belief. Experts and specialists know more, but they do not necessarily know better. The fall of the Soviet Union depended on human motivations and human choice, but it was by no means an assured and inevitable thing. The reactionary coup against Mikhail Gorbachov's reforms failed, but there was no inherent reason that it might not have succeeded. You can't count on the future. You must bet on it. You must bet on it even if you are an "expert". And when you bet, you can lose, no matter how much you know.

It is noteworthy in this context that the "experts", at least in America, appear to have been of one mind that Saddam Hussein had Weapons of Mass Destruction and was hiding them somewhere. The "experts" were wrong, and George Bush was betting on finding them rather than counting on it, whether he knew it, or NeoNeocon knew it, or not.

Because it has come up again with the airing of secret tapes of Saddam. It is of interest to quote what NeoNeocon has to say about these:
I have no idea how this will pan out. It may wind up like so many previous WMD "smoking guns"--a cap pistol....But if all that the tapes ever reveal is what was shown on Nightline last evening, I think they still tend to bolster the WMD argument rather than negate it. Certainly, they substantiate the Duelfer report's conclusions about the dangers of the fact that Saddam could easily reconstitute his weapons programs.

The original argument went like this: Since Saddam clearly would like to have Weapons of Mass Destruction, then he must actually have them. The fallacy of this should have been self-evident--indeed it was self-evident to the British experts whom Tony Blair chose to ignore--the premise was sound but the conclusion did not follow.

To say that the new tapes "bolster" the original argument is ludicrous. WMD's were never found and all the tapes can do is reiterate the premise not support the faulty conclusion. But it is clear that NeoNeocon is completely impervious to the fact that the argument itself was false. And also to the fact that, because of this false reasoning, George Bush and his experts not only made a bet, they made an unintelligent bet, convincing themselves, for no real reason, that the odds of finding WMD's were overwhelmingly in their favor.

Which is another way of saying that the "experts" did not "know better" even though they may have known more. Which NeoNeocon still has not truly absorbed because of the cognitive dissonance that it causes.

What we are looking at here is an irrational craving for an impossible objectivity, certainty, and authority. When you look at the broader scope of NeoNeocon's narrative of her change of mind, the reason for it becomes clear. What is important to her in her intellectual and emotional history is the constant sense of outside danger to herself, her country, and her family. It is the source of the lurid images, "Huns or Mongols or Genghis Khan or Vlad the Impaler", in which she wrapped the destruction of the Twin Towers in the first hour she knew about them.

We must be particularly clear here. I am not talking about the emotions of utter shock and horror at the event, which she shared with all of us. I am talking about the specific mental images which she chose to give it shape.

The danger in her childhood was ever-present. First it was the Korean War and the color red of the Communists, later it was the Cuban Missile Crisis, nuclear annihilation, and the Soviet Union--this fear intensified by the fact that one of her older relatives was an unregenerate Marxist and caused constant political conflict in the family because of it, making politics itself a dangerous and threatening confrontation to be avoided.

Then it was the completely unexpected and shattering imminence of danger within America implied by the Kennedy assassination [as an aside, also perpetrated by a committed American Communist, though NeoNeocon does not note this fact].

As she moved into the college years, it was danger to her boyfriend, who had flunked out and was drafted and sent to Vietnam. Then danger by proxy in photographs such as Nick Ut's napalmed child or the famous shot of summary execution in a Vietnamese street. And, finally, the overwhelming American transformation, exhaustion, and sense of unease and betrayal that followed for all of us after the fall of Saigon.

This was so deep and lasting a wound for her personally, that at this point in the narrative she largely slips into the third person and starts talking about everybody else. Then, finally, after an apolitical interlude as a wife and mother, the danger returned in the form of the Iranian hostage crisis of 1979-1980.

After this, as you can see quite easily from what I have quoted above, a momentum of half acknowledged worry built up, ending in the events of 9/11, which simply shattered her like glass.

So let's stop a minute and think. If you have read the entire narrative [It covers ten full posts!] you will have found, as I have, that it is an incredibly detailed, honest, and strongly integrated personal story. It is also a fine summation, particularly, of the pain, contradictions, and loss of our war in South East Asia.

But the amazing thing is the list of what's missing from a detailed autobiography of a half-century of political development:

1. The Depression, the Roosevelt Revolution, and World War II are missing [this would be like our children knowing absolutely nothing of the Vietnam War and its politics, despite the years they've lived with us].

2. The Army/McCarthy Hearings, House UnAmerican Activities Committee, and the blacklists are missing--and this despite NeoNeocon having a relative with open Communist leanings.

3. Brown vs. Board of Education is missing, Bus boycotts are missing, Freedom Riding is missing.

4. The 1964 Democratic landslide, the Great Society, and its grand expansion of social welfare programs is missing.

5. The controversial Earl Warren Supreme Court decisions are missing.

6. The apogee of Unions and Organized Labor is missing, as is their decline.

7. Martin Luther King, the March On Washington, Malcolm X, and the Black Panthers are missing--as are the black ghetto riots of that time.

8. The Generation Gap is missing; drugs, sex, and rock and roll are missing; the Sexual Revolution is missing; feminism is missing; Roe vs. Wade is missing; and the anti-abortion movement is missing.

9. Watergate and the fall of Richard Nixon are missing.

10. Galloping inflation, stagflation, double-digit interest rates, and the precious metals windfall are missing.

11. The unbelievable twenty-five year explosion of crimes of property and violence, as well as their startling ten year decline, are missing. Also missing are the return of the Death Penalty, mandatory minimum sentencing, "three strikes and out" laws, the Brady Bill, the now routine tragedy of school shootings, and the Assault Weapons ban.

12. The wholesale uncloseting of American gays is missing, as is the AIDS epidemic.

13. The McJobbing of America since 1980 is missing, along with the concurrent skyrocketing rise of the Stock Market, two separate Stock Market crashes, and the trade policies of NAFTA and CAFTA.

14. The rise of the far-right "militia movement"--culminating in the horrible confrontations in Idaho; Waco, Texas; and the Oklahoma City domestic terrorist bombing are missing.

15. The "Contract With America" and the confrontation of the Republicans in Congress with Bill Clinton which actually shut down the Federal Government is missing.

In other words, virtually any domestic event of the past 50 years which would call forth a Democratic response in a Democrat as contrasted to a Republican response in a Republican has simply been off of NeoNeocon's political radar screen.

As far as I can see, this is the central issue, and the most important thing to understand, about the 9/11 Security Mom political conversion experience. It is not a conversion from being a Liberal to being a Conservative and it is not a conversion from being a Democrat to being a Republican.

It is a conversion from being an apolitical individual to a political one from a single instantaneous and appalling shock.

Early in her narrative NeoNeocon makes the following remark:

During these early years I was quite aware that everyone in my family was a Democrat. So, I was a Democrat too, whatever that meant. It meant I was for Adlai Stevenson and that I didn't like Eisenhower, although since Eisenhower was the President I had to root for him, too, which was a bit complicated...I hadn't the foggiest notion what Democrats actually did, just that they were supposed to be kinder and nicer, especially to poor people, and that Stevenson was smarter, too.

The great, simple, and tragic secret to NeoNeocon's conversion is that she still doesn't know what being a Democrat meant.

This is probably because she never let herself find out. Probably because, emotionally, she learned at a very early age, from the aggressive behavior of that Marxist relative, that politics itself was too dangerous, too threatening to the peace and safety of her family and her country, to allow herself to truly participate. And now, as she herself observes, as a pointedly political individual she is a nuisance to her family, her friends, and her professional peers.

It may not have occurred to her that she has become what she really most feared. But it certainly has occurred to me. And the tragedy is that there was no reason in the world to fear it, nor is there now.

The scope of her current lack of understanding of the political history of her past can be absolutely incredible. Here is what she has to say about the political and social results of the tumultuous decade between 1965 and 1975:

Despite all this change, it's hard to know whether any of it translated into changes in political affiliation. Did Republicans become Democrats (or vice versa)? I have been unable to find statistics on the matter, but my guess is that there were no major trends in either direction.

Think about it. An entire region of the country, the one below the Mason-Dixon line, was transformed by the events of that decade from a politics of absolute dominance by the Democratic Party to general control by the Republican Party, and she appears to have completely missed this fact!

Not only that, an entire segment of Americans, the white working class and much of the white middle class, changed in general opinion from political and economic Liberalism, in a country where, in 1964, true Conservatism was a devastatingly rejected minority, to one of social and political Conservatism where anything in the Liberal social agenda is totally suspect.

I was there. I watched it happen. So was NeoNeocon. And she needs statistics [think "experts"] to determine what went on? Amazing.

So what broad conclusions do I as a Liberal and a Democrat draw from NeoNeocon's example? And what would I suggest to the Democratic Party luminaries who I think have not come to terms with it?

First, we must acknowledge that there is an important, fairly broad, and politically potent, segment of the American people who have not been paying serious political attention to what has been happening in this country since the Vietnam War ended. And when they do not self-identify as Independents, they usually self-identify as Democrats.

They do not self-identify as Republicans.

It is the politically indifferent who are the most prone to such a shocking conversion experience as NeoNeocon's. Also, in a country still relatively prosperous--though in slow but sure overall economic stagnation and decline--the only event that will provide the shock of conversion is a foreign attack on the United States. We had one. Hence the Security Moms.

As Liberals, our greatest weakness has been the long-term success of our economic and social policies in preventing another Great Depression. What motivates the politically indifferent is the violation of their needs for safety, comfort, and a belief in a completely objective and authoritative public point of view. No piece of domestic public policy, no economic reverse, and no terrorist or criminal event originating within our borders, not even anything as horrendous and dangerous as the Oklahoma City bombing has been a sufficient shock to those needs to make them politically active.

Only 9/11 has been. Only after 9/11 has "everything changed". Only after 9/11 has anyone changed in any significant way in this country.

This is the starting point, this is what we really have to work with in human terms, the tragedy of failing to take politics and public life seriously until it is overwhelmingly forced on you.

Our true task is not to try to reconvert those who have made choices, like NeoNeocon or the Anchoress. They have their views, which we can both respect and disagree with. Our true task is among those who are, "Independents", in the bad sense that they have no genuine involvement with public policy at all, whether they self-identify as Democrats or not.

Our true task is to make clear to these people that all political choices we make, and not just the ones we make to protect ourselves from terrorism, can be lethal for our future as a free and prosperous people, that some of them are well on their way to being so, and that they were mostly made while the "Independents" were not looking.

NeoNeocon has, generally, integrated her political conversion quite well into her life, as the thoughtful and well written posts on her blog indicate. It may appear, in consequence, that I am indulging in hyperbole when I call such political conversion a tragedy. In the second part of this essay I will examine a security mom whose coversion was as lethal to her well being as the broader American failure to make political choices can be lethal to this country.

13 Comments:

Blogger Fargus... said...

Wow. This was a fascinating post, and really spot-on. I agree completely that 9/11 provided the impetus for these people to become politically motivated, and like many other single-issue folks, they step wholeheartedly behind the platform of that candidate who appears to be strongest on that single issue.

You've got religious folks who really only care about abortion arguing for supply-side economics because the two more often than not go together. You've got fiscal conservatives who care not a whit about social policy arguing against gay marriage, because the politicians who support their fiscal policy also oppose gay marriage.

It's truly a tragedy (I don't think you're being hyperbolic at all) that so many people don't realize that the world can't be packed in a nice little box and completely expressed through one political issue.

9:09 AM  
Anonymous Mr. Nemesis said...

I read your interpretation of Neo-neocon’s “conversion.” You’ve list 15 events and situations which you say is “missing” in Neo-neocon’s recount of her “conversion” – from the Great Depression(before Neo-neocon was even born) to the “shut down” of the government during the Clinton administration.

It’s difficult to ascertain your exact point but you seem to be saying that since Neo-neocon doesn’t write of these events that her analysis of her “conversion” is faulty. I guess you didn’t realize that her posts about her conversion(from dove to hawk) were really only about foreign policy(or the lack of it) vis-à-vis the WOT – not domestic economic & political trends.

As far as I can tell from reading Neo-neocon she remains liberal in her personal viewpoint on most issues, about as liberal as she was before 9/11. Do your readers a favor & look up the term “non sequitur.”

Not only just your interpretation of Neo-neocon’s personal essays on the WOT is erroneous but your impression of politics in America over time also misses the mark. Take for instance this quote:

Think about it. An entire region of the country, the one below the Mason-Dixon line, was transformed by the events of that decade [“between 1965 and 1975”] from a politics of absolute dominance by the Democratic Party to general control by the Republican Party, and she appears to have completely missed this fact!

Not only that, an entire segment of Americans, the white working class and much of the white middle class, changed in general opinion from political and economic Liberalism, in a country where, in 1964, true Conservatism was a devastatingly rejected minority, to one of social and political Conservatism where anything in the Liberal social agenda is totally suspect.


Nothing could be further from the actual facts, which I took the time to look up - to find that the Democrats remained firmly in control of both houses during the ’64 to ’75 time period. The Republicans didn’t gain majorities in Congress until comparatively recent – years after 1975. No region of the country, below or above Mason-Dixon line, had any kind of Republican surge during that period. Party affiliation remain static for the entire country during that decade.

Years---Senate Dem-Senate Gop-House Dem-House Gop

63-65 -----67-----------33-----------258----------176
65-67 -----68-----------32-----------295----------140
67-69 -----64-----------36-----------248----------147
69-71 -----58-----------42-----------243----------192
71-73 -----54-----------44-----------255----------180
73-75 -----56-----------42-----------242----------192

3:41 PM  
Blogger Joseph Marshall said...

Well, Mr. Nemesis, as far as the 15 events go, they are the sort of thing, if you lived through the years in question, that no one genuinely involved in news and politics during those years would ever have failed to include in their "political autobiography".

Being involved means more than merely having opinions. The laziest of us can do that. Being involved means going out and making a nuisance of yourself with your opinions, as NeoNeocon is clearly doing now.

Nothing in my list, of course, is a single event that quite galvanized everybody all at once like 9/11. For a precedent to that you have to go all the way back to Pearl Harbor and then back to the 1929 Stock Market Crash.

But most of the things I've listed, and, particularly, the first twelve, came far closer to the effect of 9/11 than anyone born after them can comprehend. They would be a great gaping hole in anyone's narrative of what happened in politics from 1950 forward.

I don't doubt NeoNeocon had Liberal political opinions and she may have even voted for Democrats other than Bill Clinton, but she clearly, based on her account was notinvolved in Liberal politics, or, indeed, any politics at all. That is my point.

Moving on, political effects are not instantaneous. The actual political fallout from 1965-1975 decade did not become fully manifest or clear until 1980. But even your data very clearly shows the trend.

In 1964 Barry Goldwater ran on an explict, detailed, and quite open Conservative agenda, on which he did not compromise. He was buried under one of the most devastating landslide victories in American history. And the Republican party was buried with him.

The first key figure in your little chart are the 36 representatives the Republicans lost in the 1964 elections. That political disaster is exactly what made The Great Society programs possible. It was not just "control" of the legislative branch, it was an overwhelming tidal wave of a totally victorious Democratic agenda.

If you don't believe this, go back and review the actual legislation that was passed between 1965 and 1968. Then compare it to the legislation passed between 2002 and 2005 under Republican "control" of both the Congress and the Presidency.

You will see that the comparison is ludicrous.

You will also find that the steamroller finally stopped with the overwhelming Nixon victory in 1968 where the Republicans gained back a full 45 house seats and 6 full Senate seats for an extraordinary erosion of a full 10 Democratic Senate seats in just four years!

You will also find, if you dig deeper, that the Senate losses, in particular, occured largely in the South and, to a great measure, because of already elected Senators switching party affiliation. This is the direct result of the Civil Rights act of 1964, which broke the solid Democratic hold on the South.

The Great Society was stopped, but not turned back. The transformation in American life it caused has largely never been undone.

Further, Nixon won another great victory in 1972. Both the 1968 and the 1972 victories were largely the result of crossover voting by Democratic white working class and white middle-class voters in response to the social turmoil of the decade in question, precisely as I have described it.

These were the same voters who overwhelmingly rejected the Goldwater message in 1964, and, by 1980, handily elected Ronald Reagan, who had virtually the same message to offer as Goldwater.

If you look carefully at your own chart you will see that in a mere 10 years Republicans gained a full 50+ House seats and 10 Senate seats.

This is an extraordinary resurgence and I can assure you, having lived through it, that it was largely caused by the rejection by older white working-class and middle-class voters of the social turmoil of those years--the racial turmoil, the anti-war turmoil, and the explosion of social licence [think drugs, sex, & rock 'n' roll] among my generation.

Finally I suggest you turn your attention to where those Republican gains were made. I think you will find that, in large measure, they came from where the strongest support for the current President still exists--the Deep South and the Rocky Mountain West.

If you take the county by county version of the famous red/blue map and look at it carefully, you are looking at the archeological remains of the social and political transformation of this country between 1965 and 1975.

8:18 PM  
Anonymous The Anchoress said...

Hi Joe, small correction - I was quite the liberal democrat during Reagan's presidency and only BEGAN to turn rightward with the Clarence Thomas hearings. I was still a liberal during the Bush presidency and the first part of the Clinton presidency, although I admit I was continually, slowly turning rightward. Midway through the second Clinton administration I would say my conversion was near complete...but W was still the first Republican I ever voted for!

Best!

9:28 PM  
Blogger Joseph Marshall said...

Thanks for stopping by, Anchoress. And, whether sooner or later, I think that the more developmental process you describe is one of the reasons why your change in political opinions has been far less psychologically destructive than many. That and the fact that it was tied up together with your return to the Church.

Would that all my friends who have done this could be as lucky as you.

10:58 PM  
Blogger Tom Grey said...

Joseph (here from Neo's site) -- it's pretty bizarro that you complain about Neo's limited "A Mind is a Difficult Thing to Change" series by what she leaves out.

And then, in discussing Dem & Rep changes, YOU totally fail to mention a person of huge importance.
George Wallace. The racist ex-Dem whom so many racist whites vote for in 68, when in 64 they voted for LBJ & Dems, but then did NOT vote Humphrey in 68 -- letting Nixon win. (Much like Ross Perot sucked unhappy Reps from Bush 41 to let Clinton win, but Wallace actually won electoral seats!)

I believe most of those white racists switched Dem > Rep. Not sure when blacks became lock-stepping Dem voters, but I think after LBJ's Civil Rights act. It's terrible now.

On the single issue stuff, the Dems are much worse:
you must be anti-Bush on Iraq;
you must be anti-Bush on tax cuts (no amount of more spending counts);
you must be anti-Bush on pro-life.

One might expect that being against Bush on two out of three would be OK -- but the PC Dem thought police seem far more upset at Neo or Michael Totten (see his great Iraq coverage) for supporting Bush on one thing.

How many Dems do YOU know that support Bush on any of the three big issues mentioned above?

1:43 PM  
Blogger Joseph Marshall said...

Well, Tom I'm not quite sure where your comment is leading. It frankly has never struck me that George Wallace per se was all that important a figure, and I'm pretty sure Nixon would have won handily without him.

This is because the shift in sentiment among white lower and middle class voters was not just "racism", though the civil rights conflicts made up part of it.

It was also, in many ways, what we would now call religious or social conservatism, reacting negatively to a whole host of social changes that were very frightening to live through even if you did not turn more conservative.

At the time I was young, and it was fun, but it also scared the hell out of me.

My essential point about neo-neocon is this: her tranformation was not from a liberal to a conservative, but from a political non-participant to a political participant.

Had she been a genuine participating liberal in politics before 9/11, I do not think she would have changed into a conservative.

She may still have incidentally liberal to moderate social opinions on issues other than the War On Terror. But they were clearly not important to her before 9/11 and they clearly remain unimportant to her now. From reading her blog could you even tell what they are? I can't.

As far as your three issues go, they probably are true of most [though not all] of the Democratic party. But what my good Conservative friends consistenly refuse to address are the reasons why those who disagree with them hold those views.

I, for one, am nearly as interested in understanding neoneocon's reasons for believing as she does as I am in arguing with the beliefs themselves.

I have yet to hear of a single conservative, even among my friendly adversaries, who has any abstract interest whatever in a point of view not their own.

Thanks for stopping by.

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