May 2011

Political analysts love labels – think ‘soccer mom’ or ‘NASCAR dad’. The Pew Research group, for one, has identified many groups –  a new one is the ‘disaffecteds’ who are best described as ‘pro-entitlement, anti-government voters’. They are distrustful of the leftist parties associated with ‘big government’ and vote Republican.

They tend to be social conservatives, isolationist and nativist. Poorer and less educated than average citizens, they are more likely to cite religion as very important to them. They love their guns. They are more likely to have suffered unemployment. They are drawn to ‘populist’ movements like the ‘Tea Party’. And they are very scared.

A review of the 'disaffecteds' position on the issues

Conservatives misread this Republican voting bloc as being in favor of smaller government. The ‘disaffected’ say they are. But they are actually against the ‘faceless bureaucrat’ – the federal boogieman – who wants to take away their guns, tell them what to eat, turn a blind eye to ‘illegals’, put sodomites in their schools and take away their ‘freedoms’.

But don’t touch their Medicare. They want the reach of government to be narrow but the social net to be wide.

This dichotomy was starkly illuminated by the results of a special election in a deeply Republican district in Western New York. The focal issue was the Republican plan to replace traditional Medicare with a voucher plan. The district (where once Conservative stalwart, Jack Kemp was a representative) fell to the Democrats, who improved their share of the vote by 21%. (The seat was open because the previous Republican incumbent, Chris Lee, had resigned, after using his shirtless image to solicit women on Craigslist without telling his wife).

It is interesting that the importance the ‘disaffected’ give religion doesn’t translate to a greater equanimity. Fear and religiosity exist together. But whether fear drives people to religion or religion makes people scared or religiosity and fear are symptoms of the same psychology, I do not know.

Liberals will be quick to point the finger, but religion should not be reduced to simplicities. Even evangelicals are not as doctrinaire as portrayed – a majority believe that there is more than one way to salvation. (Even 15% of atheists are fairly sure that god exists).

Americans are not well educated on the political issues. Why should they be – most politicians aren’t either. Nobel laureate economists disagree with each other, but lawyers, small businessmen, ex-military, doctors and the children of saloon keepers are certain they know the cure for what ails us and when voted to office weigh in on a $14 trillion economy without even the benefit of Economics 101. On reflection I am surprised that more people aren’t on their knees beseeching God for deliverance.

Politicians used to tell people what they wanted to hear and then travel a more moderate path (Reagan and Clinton were especially good at this) but now the ‘new-right’ has forced the ‘old-right’ to do what it said it was going to do – which has really caught the ‘disaffected’ off-guard.

 

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