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Demographics Are Not Destiny

The most loyal group of Republican voters is found among over 65 white American males (OWMs).  They cling to this once honorable and worthy party, even though its policies and behavior have become hopelessly rigid, irrational, and hostile to evidence and science.  Republicans’ actions (and remorseless obstructionism) in Congress and other forums are profoundly damaging to the social and economic welfare of the U.S. and the interests of the majority of its citizens and residents. Today’s Republican Party is a mindless organism striking out irresponsibly and blindly against any change and progress, in thrall to an imaginary idyllic past that never existed. The most prominent Republican members of Congress simultaneously worship and misrepresent the prescriptions of the Austrian economist Friedrich Hayek, the simplistic and unrealistic views of human nature and capabilities that were propagated by Ayn Rand (no relation to the RAND Corporation), and the horrifying agendas of the NRA. Yet most OWMs support Republican candidates and were willing in 2008 to put a completely unprepared Sarah Palin within a heartbeat of the Presidency. They are also among the most devoted listeners to the vitriolic, prejudiced rants and fabricated “facts” that dominate Fox News.

I belong to this OWM demographic, but my favorite Hayek is Salma and the only Rand I find useful is Rand McNally for planning road trips.  I hope that there are enough of us sufficiently like-minded to counteract the appalling reputation OWMs are acquiring as irresponsible and mindless opponents of any change and progress and as unthinking devotees of the unbalanced and even deranged opinions and pronouncements of the most prominent and allegedly representative spokespeople for OWMs such as Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck et al., as well as their ideological allies among other demographic groups such as Ann Coulter and Michele Bachman, Allen West and Clarence Thomas.

The first thing we have to do is to take back the English language, which in the fashion of George Orwell’s Newspeak has been twisted in many respects to give meanings to words that are diametrically opposed to what they used to and should stand for.  For example it is ludicrous to call someone like Rick Santorum or indeed the Republican members of Congress “conservative.” They are not trying to conserve anything that is valuable. The appropriate descriptors for their opinions and policies are “regressive” and “reactionary”. They are striving to destroy the best of what this country has accomplished over the last century, not protect it from allegedly alien (un-American) or hostile influences. Their perspective on “freedom” is directed at securing freedom (i.e. unrestricted license) for anyone to do whatever he or she wants (e.g. deny access contraception on the grounds of their religious beliefs to those who do not share these beliefs, carry guns everywhere with dozens of rounds of ammunition, even of the body armor piercing kind etc.) with no regard to or respect for the legitimate hopes, needs and desires of anyone else that may differ from theirs. But freedom is lopsided without respect for the rights of others. It is one sided if it is not associated with personal and community obligations but simply conflated with unbridled selfish individualism. It is also remarkable how the word “elite” (especially when coupled with “liberal” and/or “East Coast”) has become a term of insult and abuse, directed at those who dare to object to and refute the “facts” and opinions expressed on Fox News. Sadly there is also a coterie of academics and intellectuals in even the most prestigious American universities who have been bought off and make money by betraying their calling and their learning. They regularly publish op-eds and prepare testimony for regulators and legislators acting as apologists for special interests and against the public interest, with no concern for objective, dispassionate reasoning.

It is time for rational and reasonable OWMs to propagate a more honest and realistic view of our history in order to lay foundations for an optimistic and credible view of the future we should be building. OWMs may be nostalgic for a (and our) past for two reasons. We were young then and presumably more physically energetic and in better health than we are now and feeling, as young men do, invincible and eagerly anticipating the lives that then lay ahead of us. OWMs were clearly in a privileged position when we were young with regard to the scope and number of opportunities we could foresee as compared to other demographics (see e.g. “Mad Men” or the struggles of the civil rights movement in the 1960s).  Relatively few of us disliked or felt disconcerted at the time by our advantageous and inherited situation. Many (not all) of us did not worry very much about the relatively easy time we were having and the unrestricted scope of our opportunities compared to our mothers, sisters and female cousins, or the ethnic minorities who were then much less prominent, numerically as well as in visible influential roles, in the life of our nation. We should realize that today the nation is in a much better place than it was then with more equality of opportunity and hence a greater pool of talent to draw on to tackle almost every task or challenge.

But these gains are now being put at risk of reversal for future generations as the consequence of public policies and distorted fiscal, investment, and social priorities that are fueling substantial increases in economic inequality. This rising inequality is not the inevitable result, or not the sole result of progress in technology and expanding globalization, but is being driven aggressively and remorselessly by selfish individuals and small groups of special interests who knowingly or unknowingly are following the thinking of the ancient Greek philosopher Callicles. Callicles argued the position of oligarchic amoralism over 2500 years ago, stating that it is natural and just for the strong to dominate the weak, and it is unfair for the weak to resist such oppression by establishing laws to limit the power of the strong. According to Callicles the wealthy have ipso facto demonstrated their superiority and greater worth and therefore their right to unchallenged power over others who possess fewer resources.

I believe that our age and experience as OWMs put us in a special position for exposing and turning back the tide of Callicles (or Calliclism, which if continued will lead to a cataclysm) through an understanding of the lessons of history and a depiction of the past (the 1950s and 1960s in particular) as it really was, with all its faults as well as its merits and the progress achieved during that period. Because we were alive then OWMs have a special responsibility not to see this past through rose-colored (or red-colored in the current anomalous U.S. convention (by global standards) where red means left and blue means right wing) glasses.  I am encouraged by the attitudes of my children and the environments my grandchildren are entering in which issues that have caused much pain in the past, such as bigoted attitudes towards people who look different, worship another representation of God, or have diverse sexual orientations, are becoming increasingly irrelevant in their lives, despite the rearguard actions of so-called conservatives, aka “regressives.”

William Faulkner said about the South,  “The past isn’t dead.  It isn’t even past.”  He was not quite accurate as far as the majority of OWMs are concerned. Their view of the past does not even describe the past as it truly was when it was the present. OWMs have a special duty to help fulfill our wishes for and meet our obligations to our children and their children to shed light on the past for the sake of their futures. We must ally ourselves with other more numerous groups in the population who have different and usually shorter (except for older women) perspectives.  We must refute by our words and actions the perception that we are like the white men on the Republican Party platform who are hopelessly out of touch with the realities faced by most Americans, and indeed by most of the Earth’s 7 billion inhabitants.

Addendum

Here’s a test to see where as an OWM you fall along the dimension of being at one extreme incorrigibly resistant to facts and evidence, and at the other capable of reasoning objectively. making wise choices, setting pragmatic outcome-oriented priorities and taking account of and appreciating the circumstances of others that are very different from your own.

Which of the following do you think represent serious threats to American values and this country’s social and economic welfare (tick all that apply – in a subsequent post a scoring key and explanations will be provided):

  1. The actions and policies of so-called “liberals”, especially the coastal “elites”
  2. The risk of the imposition of sharia law
  3. The influence of unions
  4. The NRA
  5. The precepts of European-style socialism
  6. The relative popularity of soccer compared to American football among young women in the U.S.
  7. The Republican Party
  8. Our Kenyan-born President
  9. The current Supreme Court
  10. Advocates of stricter and more effective limitations on the freedom and ease of access to military-style weapons
  11. The corruption of our political and legal processes by money spent by large corporations and individual multimillionaires/billionaires
  12. Trial lawyers
  13. The exclusion of God from our public schools
  14. The teaching of creationism in biology classes
  15. Gun free zones in (i) kindergartens, (ii) hospital wards, (iii) bars, (iv) coffee shops, (v) libraries, (vi) public transport, (vi) sports stadiums, (vii) public beaches, (viii) Other zones (please identify)
  16. Everybody who receives government payments
  17. Foreigners
  18. Wall Street and Large Banks
  19. Cuba
  20. Obamacare
  21. The United Nations
  22. The belief that all questions must have at least two equally valid answers that are the direct opposites, e.g. the Protocols of Zion may be accurate or they may be complete fabrications, or the age of the Earth may be about 6,000 or may be 4.5 billion years
  23. Any other threats (please identify, e.g. Piers Morgan, Hollywood, the EPA, working mothers, lotteries, video games, Hispanics, immigrants, atheists, vaccinations,)?

 

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2 thoughts on “Demographics Are Not Destiny

  1. As it stands, your blog employs the “Republics are mean, nasty, and ignorant” trope, which will not stimulate comments, other than “Right on, Martyn!” or “We are not!”. If the goal is to be like Maureen Dowd or Ann Coulter, polemics leavened with scathing humor is effective but, even for Maureen and Ann, content is essential. Yet another website with improvident screeds vilifying non-Democrats won’t convert anyone to your way of thinking. And thoughts about Hayek (Austrian, not Mexican), Rand (Alisa, not Kruger), and Thomas (Clarence, not Norman) are too obscure for us OWMs. Since one goal is to be “interesting,” I suggest that you stick to specific topics regarding taxes, Medicare, Social Security, Obamacare, etc. and actually debate the opposition.
    Here are paraphrased statements from your blog that, if expanded, could provoke reasoned arguments:
    Should an insurer be allowed to deny access to contraception on the grounds of religious beliefs to those who do not share these beliefs? (Answer: Contraceptives are cheap and readily available, so an insurer is incapable of denying access.)
    Are Republicans ignorant of the connection between Government revenues and the services they pay for on which everyone depends? (Answer: The taxpayers are much more aware of the connection between revenues and services than are the tax eaters.)
    Do government revenues increase every time tax rates are decreased and decrease if these rates are increased? (The Laffer curve exists, but certainly not at all tax rates. Does government fairness increase every time rates on the top 1% increase?)
    Are government programs so wasteful as to serve no useful purpose? (Answer: In general, yes. Economic studies comparing the private sector with comparable government programs show government programs to be inefficient.)
    Does the well-financed propaganda of special interests manipulate the populace into doing their bidding? (Yes. Corporations, unions, the media, and individuals have too much influence, due to government involvement in arenas that should remain private. Eisenhower warned against the industrial-military complex, but the problem now encompasses every area of our lives. Subsidies, regulations, and government bureaucracy replace the private with the political.)
    The more intemperate passages of your blog also suggest interesting questions, such as whether Republicans have been obstructionist or Obama has been overtly partisan. This type of topic is less likely to engender reasoned argument, but perhaps the ground rules could require specific evidence, such as the use of reconciliation to ram Obamacare through the Congress.
    3 nits: Your “About” page should contain basic information about you or the purpose of the website. Pogo said, “We have met the enemy and he is us.” William Faulkner said, ”The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” (Faulkner also wrote, “Government was founded on the working premise of being primarily an asylum for ineptitude and indigence.” )
    Answers to the quiz –
    The following represent serious threats to the country’s social and economic welfare:
    1. The actions and policies of so-called “liberals” (so-called because they care not about liberty)
    2. The precepts of European-style socialism (even Europe now feels threatened)
    3. Our President (a transformative statist)
    4. Obamacare (an irrational law, even if you believe in universal health care)
    5. Drug laws (a war on ourselves)

    • Thank you for your interest and thought provoking comments Grant. Here are my thoughts inserted in Caps on what you have written:

      As it stands, your blog employs the “Republics are mean, nasty, and ignorant” trope, which will not stimulate comments, other than “Right on, Martyn!” or “We are not!”. If the goal is to be like Maureen Dowd or Ann Coulter, polemics leavened with scathing humor is effective but, even for Maureen and Ann, content is essential. Yet another website with improvident screeds vilifying non-Democrats won’t convert anyone to your way of thinking. And thoughts about Hayek (Austrian, not Mexican), Rand (Alisa, not Kruger), and Thomas (Clarence, not Norman) are too obscure for us OWMs. I HOPE THE AUDIENCE IS BROADER THAN OWMS. Since one goal is to be “interesting,” I suggest that you stick to specific topics regarding taxes, Medicare, Social Security, Obamacare, etc. and actually debate the opposition. EXCELLENT ADMONITIONS. I SHOULD MAKE IT CLEAR, NOT THAT I HAVE EVER BEEN A REPUBLICAN (EXCEPT AT THE STATE LEVEL) BUT LIKE SEVERAL REPUBLICANS I KNOW (RELATIONS AND PEOPLE I HAVE COME TO KNOW PROFESSIONALLY) I FEEL IT IS THE REPUBLICAN PARTY WHICH HAS LEFT THE ARENA OF REASONABLE DEBATE NOT MYSELF (OR THESE OTHER REPUBLICANS INCLUDING FOR EXAMPLE FORMER SENATOR LARRY PRESSLER WHO WAS THE ARCHITECT OF THE 1996 TELECOM BILL PASSED UNDER PRESIDENT CLINTON- HE SUPPORTED OBAMA’S CANDIDACY BY THE WAY). I SHOULD MAKE IT CLEARER THAT I DO NOT REGARD ALL REPUBLICANS IN THE SAME LIGHT. HOWEVER I WILL SAY THAT NEITHER DO I REGARD MAUREEN DOWD AND ANN COULTER AS TWO SIDES OF THE SAME COIN. YOU CAN PROBABLY GUESS WHICH ONE I THINK IS MORE REASONABLE AND LESS HYSTERICAL.
      Here are paraphrased statements from your blog that, if expanded, could provoke reasoned arguments: NOTED AND VERY HELPFUL.
      Should an insurer be allowed to deny access to contraception on the grounds of religious beliefs to those who do not share these beliefs? (Answer: Contraceptives are cheap and readily available, so an insurer is incapable of denying access.) THE PRINCIPLE IS EXTREMELY DANGEROUS AS ADVOCATED IN THE BLUNT AMENDMENT (NOT PASSED) WHICH WOULD HAVE ALLOWED AN EMPLOYER TO REFUSE TO COVER ANY HEALTH SERVICE THAT VIOLATED THEIR MORAL OR RELIGIOUS CONVICTIONS (A CHRISTIAN SCIENTIST? ABORTION EVEN TO SAVE THE LIFE OF A MOTHER – YOU MAY HAVE SEEN THE RECENT SCANDAL ABOUT THE DEATH OF PREGNANT WOMAN IN IRELAND). AN OBVIOUS ANSWER IS TO SEVER THE CONNECTION BETWEEN EMPLOYMENT AND HEALTH INSURANCE (SHADES OF SINGLE PAYER).
      Are Republicans ignorant of the connection between Government revenues and the services they pay for on which everyone depends? (Answer: The taxpayers are much more aware of the connection between revenues and services than are the tax eaters.) I DOUBT THIS BASED ON RESPONSES TO SURVEYS ABOUT KNOWLEDGE OF THE ACTUAL COMPOSITION OF GOVERNMENT BUDGETS. THIS IGNORANCE IS NOT CONFINED TO REPUBLICANS.
      Do government revenues increase every time tax rates are decreased and decrease if these rates are increased? (The Laffer curve exists, but certainly not at all tax rates. Does government fairness increase every time rates on the top 1% increase?) AGREED BUT NOT AT CURRENT TAX RATES. AND TO THE SECOND POINT, YES AT CURRENT TAX RATES (BUT RATES ARE NOT THE ONLY ISSUE IN FAIRNESS) AND NO AT THE MUCH HIGHER RATES THAT ONCE APPLIED.
      Are government programs so wasteful as to serve no useful purpose? (Answer: In general, yes. Economic studies comparing the private sector with comparable government programs show government programs to be inefficient.) SOME ARE VERY INEFFICIENT – INCLUDING SOME TRADITIONALLY FAVORED BY THE REPUBLICAN PARTY AS WELL AS SOME FAVORED BY DEMOCRATS – BUT SOME ARE NOT (E.G. MEDICARE) AND SOME ARE NOT AMENABLE TO DIRECT ECONOMIC COMPARISONS WHILE STILL OTHERS ARE CONTROVERSIAL (E.G. PRIVATE SCHOOLS THAT DO NOT HAVE TO ACCEPT EVERYBODY IN CONTRAST TO PUBLIC SCHOOLS THAT DO).
      Does the well-financed propaganda of special interests manipulate the populace into doing their bidding? (Yes. Corporations, unions, the media, and individuals have too much influence, due to government involvement in arenas that should remain private. Eisenhower warned against the industrial-military complex, but the problem now encompasses every area of our lives. Subsidies, regulations, and government bureaucracy replace the private with the political.) AGREED.
      The more intemperate passages of your blog also suggest interesting questions, such as whether Republicans have been obstructionist or Obama has been overtly partisan. This type of topic is less likely to engender reasoned argument, but perhaps the ground rules could require specific evidence, such as the use of reconciliation to ram Obamacare through the Congress. RECONCILIATION WAS A RESPONSE TO OBSTRUCTIONISM AND NOTHING WOULD HAVE HAPPENED WITHOUT IT. I WILL LOOK FOR EVIDENCE THAT THE CURRENT REPUBLICANS IN CONGRESS HAVE BEEN CONCILIATORY AND WILLING TO COMPROMISE AND OBAMA HAS ONLY PURSUED INITIATIVES AND POLICIES THAT DEMOCRATS WELCOME.
      3 nits: Your “About” page should contain basic information about you or the purpose of the website. GOOD POINT, I WILL ADDRESS IT. Pogo said, “We have met the enemy and he is us.” William Faulkner said, ”The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” (Faulkner also wrote, “Government was founded on the working premise of being primarily an asylum for ineptitude and indigence.” ) AND H.L. MENCKEN SAID. “I BELIEVE THAT ALL GOVERNMENT IS EVIL AND TRYING TO IMPROVE IT IS A WASTE OF TIME.”
      Answers to the quiz –
      The following represent serious threats to the country’s social and economic welfare:
      1. The actions and policies of so-called “liberals” (so-called because they care not about liberty) – THIS IS A COMPLETE MISUNDERSTANDING OF LIBERAL IDEAS AND PHILOSOPHY WHICH IS HOW IT HAS BEEN DISTORTED IN THIS COUNTRY. THE U.S. IS A LIBERAL DEMOCRACY WHICH MEANS AS I LEARNED IT GROWING UP A POLITY CHARACTERIZED BY FAIR, FREE, AND COMPETITIVE ELECTIONS, A SEPARATION OF POWERS INTO DIFFERENT BRANCHES OF GOVERNMENT, THE RULE OF LAW IN EVERYDAY LIFE AS PART OF AN OPEN SOCIETY, AND THE PROTECTION OF HUMAN RIGHTS AND CIVIL LIBERTIES FOR ALL PERSONS.
      2. The precepts of European-style socialism (even Europe now feels threatened) – THERE ARE PLENTY OF NON-SOCIALIST ELEMENTS IN EUROPEAN SOCIETIES. AND SOCIALIST PARTIES SUCH AS THE BRITISH LABOR PARTY HAVE ABANDONED SOME OF THEIR ORIGINAL PRECEPTS HAVING LEARNED FROM EXPERIENCE. WHAT STRIKES ME IS THAT YEARS AGO I THOUGHT OF THE “LEFT” AS BEING IDEOLOGICALLY RIGID, EVEN FOSSILIZED, WHEREAS TODAY IN THE U.S. IT IS THE RIGHT WHICH HAS LOST A PRAGMATIC AND OUTCOMES-ORIENTED APPROACH TO LIFE AND BECOME ENSNARED IN HOPELESSLY UNYIELDING POLICY POSITIONS LIKE GROVER NORQUIST’S.
      3. Our President (a transformative statist) – TRANSFORMATIVE (I HOPE SO), STATIST: WELL I SOMETIMES THINK A STATIST IS SOMEONE WHO USES GOVERNMENT RESOURCES AND POWER TO HELP OTHER PEOPLE OR THOSE YOU DO NOT LIKE OR ADMIRE
      4. Obamacare (an irrational law, even if you believe in universal health care) – THIS LAW IS LIKE A CURATE’S EGG, SOME GOOD PARTS (ELIMINATE PRE-EXISTING CONDITIONS, ALLOW YOUNG PEOPLE TO STAY ON THEIR PARENTS’ INSURANCE UNTIL THEIR 26TH BIRTHDAY) AND SOME BAD PARTS(IT DOES NOTHING ABOUT THE LINK BETWEEN EMPLOYMENT AND HEALTH INSURANCE WHICH IS NONSENSICAL TODAY). IT IS AT BEST A START BUT THE UNFORTUNATE REALITY IS THAT NOTHING WOULD HAVE BEEN DONE UNLESS OBAMA HAD DONE IT. I BELIEVE (YOU MAY DISAGREE) THAT THERE IS A DEEP MORAL FLAW IN ARGUING FOR THE CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT TO BEAR ARMS (WHICH AGAIN IS A MATTER FOR DEBATE WHICH I WILL ADDRESS LATER) BUT NOT FOR THE RIGHT TO HEALTH CARE. I NOTE BY THE WAY THAT THIS LATTER RIGHT IS PART OF THE UN DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS TO WHICH THE US SUBSCRIBES (OF COURSE SO DO OTHER NATIONS WHICH PAY MUCH LESS ATTENTION TO IT THAN DOES THE US). MOST EUROPEANS AND MOST CANADIANS WOULD NOT WANT TO HAVE TO PUT UP WITH THE DYSFUNCTIONAL MESS THAT IS HEALTH CARE IN THE U.S., ALTHOUGH IT IS POSSIBLE (AND MY FAMILY AND I ARE AND HAVE BEEN AMONG THE FORTUNATE ONES) TO RECEIVE TRULY WONDERFUL HEALTH CARE IN THIS COUNTRY.
      5. Drug laws (a war on ourselves) HEAR, HEAR!

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