Where Is Liberalism?

I want to tarnish conservatism and grow liberalism. To date, I have mostly offered ways to do the former. In order to grow liberalism, one of the tasks we must first complete is to find out where liberalism is, and where it stands in relation to conservatism in each of the states. Using CNN exit polls from the 2004 election, I have produced a table that does just that.

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Christian Right Trying To Rename Itself

Via Thuja in the diaries, comes this article from Slate:John Green, a political scientist and director of the Bliss Institute at the University of Akron, examined the views of evangelical Christians, along with those of mainline Protestants and Catholics, in a survey for the Pew Forum titled "The American Religious Landscape and Political Attitudes: A Baseline for 2004." He assured me that the term "Christian right" has, indeed, been shed by the group it's meant to describe. Why? Partly because liberals, after years of hard work, have finally managed to attach extremist associations to the phrase "the right," in much the same way that conservatives many decades ago established that anything "left" was beyond the pale. (...)

But that isn't the whole answer, he said. (...) In ditching the term, "Christian right," Green summed up, the Christian right chose to associate itself with the pool of Christians from which it hopes to draw, not the folks who already belong.

As demographics change, the numbers are not there for the Christian right in the long-term. They know, as well as we do, that in order for them to survive as a powerful political force long-term, they will need to form alliances with other groups. Specifically, right now, they are targeting an alliance with devout Catholics, but by attempting to ditch the term "Christian right" in favor of "evangelical / born again," they clearly are also looking at peeling away a significant portion of the African-American vote.

Given this, rather than going along with their requested name-shift, I think it is obvious what name we should continue to call them. Christian right it is.

What is Conservatism and What is Wrong With It?

Considering my ongoing campaign against conservatism, and my attempt to awaken my fellow liberals to the reality of what conservatism actually is, I highly recommend this piece by Phillip E. Agre, "What is Conservatism and What is Wrong With it?". I have significant disagreements with many of his recommendations to defeat conservatism, but I feel his definition of conservatism and his analysis of what is wrong with it is dead-on. This serves as a great starting point, since we will be unable to move forward against our enemy unless we identify who the enemy actually is.

What was perhaps most striking to me in the piece was the way in which Agre's identifies many things contemporary liberals do that help reinforce conservative lies. To start with, this passage reminds me of the lie Deaniacs such as myself helped spread during the primary campaign:

Conservatism promotes (and so does liberalism, misguidedly) the idea that liberalism is about activist government where conservatism is not. This is absurd. It is unrelated to the history of conservative government. Conservatism promotes activist government that acts in the interests of the aristocracy. This has been true for thousands of years. What is distinctive about liberalism is not that it promotes activist government but that it promotes government that acts in the interests of the majority. This is obvious, yet we refuse to accept it. Conservatives love expanding the size of government, and clearly have no interest in "small government, fiscal responsibility." Conservatives do have every interest in promoting large, activist government that benefits corporate elites. The last several conservative administrations should have made this very clear to us.

Another problem arises from all this talk about morals, as though we did not have any in the first place:

Liberalism is a movement of conscience. Liberals speak endlessly of conscience. Yet conservative rhetors have taken to acting as if they owned the language of conscience. They even routinely assert that liberals disparage conscience. The magnitude of the falsehood here is so great that decent people have been set back on their heels. From personal experience I know this is undeniably true. My entire life, I have consistently and only chosen career paths that, in my conscience, I felt were making a direct, visible, and positive contribution to the world. This has repeatedly made it difficult to keep my nose above the poverty line, but it is how I feel I have to live my life. Yet, despite this, I am somehow not moral because I am not overtly religious and judgmental? Bullshit. We are a movement of conscience, solidarity, liberation and good works. We do not need new moral values, but we do need to make our existing moral values loud and clear.

Finally, not only do we buy into their lies, too often we revel in them:

Another common theme of conservative strategy is that liberals are themselves an aristocracy. (For those who are really keeping score, the sophisticated version of this is called the "new class strategy", the message being that liberals are the American version of the Soviet nomenklatura.) Thus, for example, the constant pelting of liberals as "elites", sticking this word and a mass of others semantically related to it onto liberals on every possible occasion. A pipeline of "facts" has been established to underwrite this message as well. Thus, for example, constant false conservative claims that the rich vote Democratic. When Al Franken recently referred to his new radio network as "the media elite and proud of it", he demonstrated his oblivion to the workings of the conservative discourse that he claims to contest. What is God's name is Franken doing here? Simply mocking the culture war narrative of heartlanders being mocked and oppressed by a Semitic liberal elite will not deprive the narrative of its power. Mockery of the heartlanders by the liberal elite is one of the pillars of the narrative. We need to break these lies and narratives down, rather than reinforce them.

I'll close today's chapter on conservatism with a quote from commenter Paul Rosenberg:

Please read Agre's piece, and see if you really are or wish to defend conservatives as they have historically defined and defended themselves. If your identification with or defense of conservatism is based on historically recent spin about what conservatives are, then you need to go through detox. And you can probably make an extremely valuable contribution derived from that process. Many, many millions of people have been similarly fooled. We'd like to reach them all. Indeed. We will be unable to develop our own narratives unless we are able to cleanse ourselves of our complicity with conservative narratives and conservative lies. We need to face up to what conservatism is, and who conservatives are. This is half the process of figuring out / remembering who we are.

Yes, These Are Conservatives

Amazing piece over at Steve Gillard's place. I'm only quoting a small section, one that happens to fit my recent shrillness:

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Conservatism Is Our Enemy

In all of my post-election analysis, when all of the tactical ideas are put aside, I keep coming back to a single, basic idea: conservatives are the enemy, and conservatism as an ideology is our main roadblock to electoral success.

We have long since left the era when the two parties could accurately be considered regional and ethnic coalitions rather than ideological coalitions. There are no longer any more conservative Democrats than there are liberal Republicans. A few of each kind manage to hang on, but the ideological vote in this election was clear:

	     Bush  Kerry  Margin
Conservative  84    15	 69
Liberal       13    85	 72
For that matter, the ideological vote was also clear in 2000:
	     Bush   Gore   Margin
Conservative  81     17      64
Liberal       13     80      67
In both cases, the overwhelming majority of liberals voted for the Democrat, while the overwhelming majority of conservatives voted for the Republican. The 2000 and 2004 margins are almost identical, with the reduction of third-party votes accounting for almost the entire difference between the two elections. Liberals and conservatives are very nearly block voting groups, and they are mirror opposites of one another.

The main reason Kerry lost was because in this election, 34% of the electorate self-identified as conservative, while 21% of the electorate self-identified as liberal. In 2000, 29% of the electorate self-identified as conservative and 20% self-identified as liberal. Gore and Kerry had almost identical margins of +8 and +9 among self-identifying moderates, but Gore did 3.59% better in the popular vote. Apart from electoral tactics, apart from vote counting, apart from making harsher ad buys, the primary cause for Kerry's defeat and for our defeats in Congress wes that the conservative advantage over liberals in the electorate increased from +9 to +13. In this situation, it should also be no surprise that the Democratic advantage in Party self-identification dropped from +4 to zero. It should also be no surprise that our margin in the popular vote slipped by roughly four points. Conservatism gained four points, and that meant that we lost four points.

The parties are now ideological coalitions, and our ideology is smaller. In fact, as the growing gap from 2000 to 2004 shows, the situation is becoming worse. Whatever other tactics and strategies we engage in, these tactics must be coupled with what is our only long-term path toward national electoral improvement: closing, and one day eliminating, the national self-identification gap between liberals and conservatives. Our ground game in 2004 was amazing. We lost the election from 2001-2003, as conservatism grew at a faster rate than liberalism.

This is why I have begun a campaign to tarnish conservatism itself. For me, this is not difficult. I have never considered myself a conservative anything, and I despise pretty much everything conservative (the exceptions are my conservative relatives who I love deeply). However, when I think back at Howard Dean's campaign, and how all along we Deaniacs kept ramming home the idea of being fiscally conservative as a positive--arrgggghhh!!! What were we thinking? We helped reinforce the national frame where being conservative is good, and thereby helped grow conservatism itself. By helping to grow conservatism, we helped the national decline of Democrats. What we should have been pointing out is that Dean was fiscally responsible, whereas conservatives quite clearly are fiscally childish and irresponsible. Dean was not a fiscal conservative--fiscal conservatives run up enormous debts and deficits!

For a long time I have not considered myself a liberal, because my academic mind despises the historical connection that word has to laissez-faire regulatory, economic, and trade policies. What was I thinking? I know just as well from my studies on language that usage determines grammar, and those historical denotations have little substance in contemporary usage. I should have happily identified myself as a liberal, as part of a larger effort to increase liberalism in this country.

Well, starting today, those days are over. I am a liberal and proud of it. Also, I know my enemy: conservatism. The fight begins now.


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