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.
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):
- The actions and policies of so-called “liberals”, especially the coastal “elites”
- The risk of the imposition of sharia law
- The influence of unions
- The NRA
- The precepts of European-style socialism
- The relative popularity of soccer compared to American football among young women in the U.S.
- The Republican Party
- Our Kenyan-born President
- The current Supreme Court
- Advocates of stricter and more effective limitations on the freedom and ease of access to military-style weapons
- The corruption of our political and legal processes by money spent by large corporations and individual multimillionaires/billionaires
- Trial lawyers
- The exclusion of God from our public schools
- The teaching of creationism in biology classes
- 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)
- Everybody who receives government payments
- Wall Street and Large Banks
- The United Nations
- 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
- Any other threats (please identify, e.g. Piers Morgan, Hollywood, the EPA, working mothers, lotteries, video games, Hispanics, immigrants, atheists, vaccinations,)?