divided voters, decided voters
November 7, 2004 7:33 AM   Subscribe

Two Americas, but not the ones you might have thought. Apologies for perpetuating ElectionFilter, but this page has, in addition to all the blue/red/purple maps we've seen, a bar graph at the bottom of the page that I find fascinating. To quote the authors, "It appears that there are, as the pundits have been telling us, 'two Americas,' but they are not the ones people usually talk about. They are 'divided America,' where people split roughly evenly between Republican and Democrat, and 'decided America,' where everyone is a Democrat. " (via Crooked Timber)
posted by Kat Allison (69 comments total)
 
That is indeed very interesting.
posted by Pretty_Generic at 7:38 AM on November 7, 2004


But this is not really a new idea. The old city machines were profoundly democratic, using any number of persuasive and coercive methods to insure "discipline" in voting. Conversely, some areas of the South were "forced" to vote republican in the early years of reconstruction.
posted by kablam at 7:42 AM on November 7, 2004


That actually makes more sense when you think about it (and when you look at the actual percentages state-by-state) and it makes things look a lot less bleak.
posted by jonmc at 7:43 AM on November 7, 2004


so about 20% (guessing the fraction of blue in the left-hand spike) of democrat voters live in a political monoculture? i think this helps explain the lack of empathy and surprise of some democrats. it's like living in an all-white neighbourhood and then finding that coloured people are running the government (maybe this only makes sense if you've lived in a culture that's almost mono-racial - there's this weird kind of latent racism that's just based on ignorance).
posted by andrew cooke at 8:02 AM on November 7, 2004


one other thing - is this true? where are all those mono-culture places? (question raised in the crooked timber discussion)
posted by andrew cooke at 8:05 AM on November 7, 2004


andrew cooke - they're the bright blue counties on the purpley map.
posted by Pretty_Generic at 8:12 AM on November 7, 2004


duh! and there's not really many solid-red places. sorry/thanks!
posted by andrew cooke at 8:14 AM on November 7, 2004


i'd love to see a plot of mefi users (from zip codes) on that map....
posted by andrew cooke at 8:15 AM on November 7, 2004


The most Kerry-voting county was Aquinnah in Massachusetts (92%), largely populated by Native Americans.
posted by Pretty_Generic at 8:15 AM on November 7, 2004


Wow, this is damned interesting. Maybe all the people who want to move to Canada can just move to a democratic county or something.
posted by angry modem at 8:16 AM on November 7, 2004


one other thing - is this true? where are all those mono-culture places?

I don't know if it's "monoculture" per se. I live in New York City, which is one of the bluest of blue places, but there is conservatism here, but it's not the same kind of conservatism you'd see in say Kentucky*.

Conservatism here dosen't seem to be based on religion is probably the big difference. It's often more galvanized by issues like crime, poorly planned urban renewal and stuff like that. And you also have your Wall Street types, who could honestly care less about the "moral" issues or may even be socially liberal yet vote with their pocketbook.

For monoculture places I'd guess they mean collegiate enclaves like Berkeley or Cambridge. (I've never been to either, I'm just going on impressions and what others have told me). These enclaves also tend to be fairly affluent which could cause some resentment in surrounding areas. It dosen't explain everything but it's one factor among many I'm guessing.



*no offense meant to Kentucky or it's people. I've known a few of you and you've been great. I also love bluegrass, the Derby and other Southern stuff.
posted by jonmc at 8:22 AM on November 7, 2004


'decided America,' where everyone is a Democrat.

I'm not clear on how this accounts for independents.
posted by rushmc at 8:25 AM on November 7, 2004


Philly on election day was great. Horns were honking non stop for Kerry (I think the cabbies were going a little crazy with it). People were walking around with the glow of positive community change. That all stopped & the next day, everyone looked hung over & depressed. We're definitely a blue stronghold. It's too bad we're connected to the rest of PA though.
posted by password at 8:30 AM on November 7, 2004


The bit about the 400-or-so counties with no Republican votes looks shocking until you read this addendum:

(Technically, not all the data points are counties -- some states, notably Maine, report by township rather than by county.)

So are there 395 tiny, arbitrarily-drawn Maine townships and 5 all-Democrat counties? If so, this graphic is not worthless but deceptive.
posted by argybarg at 8:32 AM on November 7, 2004


eek. so "counties" may not all be similar sizes?!
posted by andrew cooke at 8:40 AM on November 7, 2004


andrew cooke, you ain't from 'round these parts, are you bo'? No, some counties in the US you could damn near walk across in an afternoon, and some are nearly the size of small nations. The smaller ones tend to be in older states or have higher population densities, although that's not a hard-and-fast rule.
posted by alumshubby at 9:25 AM on November 7, 2004


I'd like to see some raw numbers before I believe that map. Take Broward county in Florida, for example (I'm using it simply because it's one of the few I can distinguish on his scaled map). His map shows it to be pretty much solid blue, yet 35% voted for Bush there according to CNN.
posted by Krrrlson at 9:27 AM on November 7, 2004


andrew cooke: county size varies a *lot*. In Texas, Loving County, out in the desert near the New Mexico border, has 67 people, while Harris County, which has the core of Houston, has about 3.5 million.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:37 AM on November 7, 2004


The question:

Are there more tiny all-Dem counties than tiny all-Republican counties? If so, then what does a bar chart like the one at the bottom of the page mean? Probably nothing at all.
posted by argybarg at 9:40 AM on November 7, 2004



posted by Pretty_Generic at 9:47 AM on November 7, 2004


bleagh. so if county size varies a lot then the bar chart is pretty meaningless, like argybarg said. and i don't see the need for the data to be wrong to explain it (as seems to be the emerging conclusion in the crooked timber thread). so my knee jerk theorising at the start was crap. surprise.
posted by andrew cooke at 9:48 AM on November 7, 2004


Because of the township/county distinction, the last graph is completely misleading. Rhode Island has 39 municipalities (36 went for Kerry); Connecticut has 169 municipalities (120 went for Kerry). The two states contain only 5 and 8 counties respectively. The fact that county government has largely been abolished up here in New England shouldn't have any bearing on how the data is reported.
posted by PrinceValium at 9:48 AM on November 7, 2004


"East Coasters who swore they would emigrate if Mr Bush kept the White House had better leave. Liberals who feared a lurch to the right under a Bush Supreme Court must retreat to fortress San Francisco."
posted by four panels at 9:52 AM on November 7, 2004


Yeah, the final chart should have been a histogram weighted by population. But the basic premise seems correct: on the shaded county cartogram, there's more bright blue than bright red. Or to put it another way, more reddish-purple than blueish.
posted by sfenders at 9:55 AM on November 7, 2004


As I wrote at CT, this really surprised me and I guess I'm still a little skeptical. I expected the ratio of political monoculture, by county, to tilt the other direction. Which leads me to this quote from Pretty_Generic above:

The most Kerry-voting county was Aquinnah in Massachusetts (92%)

...which seems to contradict the claim that there's 400 counties with nearly 100% Dem voters.

Also, though, even if true, the irony of that graph is that it perpetuates the fallacy that their cartograms are trying to correct: it's a geographical statistic that's not normalized for population. What's the ratio of the populations of monoculture dems to monoculture republicans? They give the number of monoculture dems: about 6 million. But they don't give the number of monoculture republicans. Which seems to me to be a big oversight. They say that monoculture dems represent 10% of Democrats. They don't say what percentage monoculture repubs represent of all Republicans. I seriously doubt it's the implied (from the county data) one-quarter of one percent of Republicans.

Again, this is a very arbitrary measurement. The fact that county size increases from East to West, and that the East is more tilted to dems than the West is, would imply that the likliehood of monocultures within the context of counties would be greater, even after adjusting to the greater population density. Western counties are far more likely to have one or more medium to large cities in them than eastern counties are, as well as being both rural and urban. This is going to make it much more difficult, given the demographics of Democrat and Republican voters, for Republican "monocultures" within the context of counties to exist.

Finally, the whole point of these cartograms are to correct for the distortion that the artificial grouping by "states" creates in terms of mapping distribution. But counties are just as variabel and artificial. And rather than being reliably more strongly correlating to "subculture" (which is the only context "monoculture" could have meaning, correct?), it's not obvious to me that it may correlate to it less. Concisely, this claim of Democrat "monocultures" is highly suspicious because no one's demonstrated that the "county" unit corresponds to a "subculture" unit. A regional subculture may be most identifiable as a neighborhood in a large city, but a collection of counties in a western rural state.

And so I'm really not convinced that it's dems that have a greater tendency to monoculture than the repubs. Certainly, living in the southwest, my experience is with Republican monocultures.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 9:56 AM on November 7, 2004


I should have written:
"...would imply that the likliehood of Democrat monocultures within the context of counties would be greater..."
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 9:58 AM on November 7, 2004


Even places you would think would be in that last blue bar, like Manhattan and Philadelphia, aren't. Both are very large counties that voted 20% Republican.

Also, it's crazy how many counties there are in Texas.
posted by smackfu at 10:00 AM on November 7, 2004


I don't know if the township thing is likely to explain the whole problem with that chart. Because, as they say, they just weighted the townships by the state's vote distribution. Didn't they? That could only decrease the likliehood of those being counted as "monocultural".

On Preview: smackfu, yeah, Texas tends to have pretty small counties by western standards. I grew up in NM, where the counties are huge and even though it's the fifth largest state, there's only like twenty or so of them.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 10:03 AM on November 7, 2004


This data is pretty clearly in doubt. I can't find a single entity in New England other than Aquinnah with >90% Kerry support. In fact, it's difficult to find very many townships that went even 75% for Kerry.

Even if he were using town data, it's not very helpful to talk about areas being nearly 100% liberal when dealing with populations of less than a couple hundred.

Plus, there aren't that many counties in NE to begin with -- 14 in MA, 8 in CT, 14 in VT, 10 in NH, 5 in RI. When even places like Cambridge, Middlebury, Provincetown, New Haven, Burlington, and Hanover aren't at 90+%, there's little chance that any county lines can be cut in NE, or anywhere for that matter, with the kind of support claimed in this study.
posted by padjet1 at 10:07 AM on November 7, 2004


... and the page has changed. He's taken down the bar graph with the county data. The page now reads:

[Correction: The counts of counties that voted Republican and Democrat were way off because of a bug in the program. Fixed now. All the maps are fine though. Thanks to Kevin Drum for pointing this out.]

I guess this still shows that there are more solidly blue than solidly red large counties, but other than that I don't much see the point. That urban areas go for Kerry is not surprising.
posted by padjet1 at 10:31 AM on November 7, 2004


The bar chart reminds us that many people live in monocultures. It would be interesting to quantify this in different ways; however, this is going to be complex.

Meanwhile, when I think back over the places that I've lived, I would say that county or township is probably the best way of grouping people who have common local sources of information and are affected by the same environment, business climate, etc.

As for an example that at least some of us do live in a religious monoculture -- There is an excellent earlier thread linking to a discussion of an unusually well-written blog entry about growing up as a Southern Baptist. I've been amazed at the number of Me-Fiers and blog commenters who stated that they had been totally unaware of the very common experience that was described by the writer.
posted by Sixtieslibber at 10:34 AM on November 7, 2004


Actually, for visualizing degrees of polarization, red and blue are fairly poor choices of color. Their medium ground -- purple -- tends to look to the individual viewer as either a bit more blue or a bit more purple. This is not a problem until it accrues over a large area or many areas or both. If the individual screen distorts the color a bit (which always happens) the effect is just magnified, in one direction or another.

It would be better to use complementary colors: orange and blue, or red and green or, to avoid either traditional color, yellow and purple. That way neutral areas would, in fact, be neutral -- that is, gray.

If anyone knows of such visualizations, I'd like to see them.
posted by argybarg at 11:01 AM on November 7, 2004


What youre seeing is metropolitan urban centers going blue for various reasons. As far as the monoculture argument, goes, its no secret getting democrats together is like a herding cats.

Essentially the author of this page is saying "No, YOU'RE the monoculture!" Because we're seeing the classic metro effect in the urban centers in red states. Not terribly convincing of anything, really.
posted by skallas at 11:28 AM on November 7, 2004


four panels: That column from the Times is horribly uninformed. I have to wonder why the author didn't do his research, but it remains true that he did not. He says that no city is without a well-staffed military base and that the 11 states voting on gay-marriage laws voted against them, when neither of those statements is the truth.
posted by oaf at 11:30 AM on November 7, 2004


For the record, Aquinnah isn't a county. It's a tiny little town on the tiny little island of Martha's Vineyard. The CNN "results by county" actually show all massachusetts towns. I can't find actual county results.
posted by jpoulos at 11:32 AM on November 7, 2004


>I've been amazed at the number of Me-Fiers and blog commenters who stated that they had been totally unaware of the very common experience that was described by the writer.

Yes, well, when I talk about the raging culture war, the problem with religious belief, the problem with religion mixed with politics, etc there no shortage of 'liberal' mefites ready to dismiss these thoughts as pro-atheistic propaganda. So where's the incentive to write about the culture war when so-called liberals are too afraid to consider it being real and this powerful? In RL that same holds. Some people just give me that "Yeah, I know its bad, but what can I do" look or comment. Others refuse to believe religion can be abused this way, contrary to the lessons of history. They were the ones most surprised on the 3rd.

Now you have essays, experiences, and an election record which backs this up. I wonder if more voices like mine will still be marginalized in future. It seems they control the framing of these issues. Criticizing Bush is "bush bashing." Criticizing the religion-based culture war is "Xtian bashing."
posted by skallas at 11:38 AM on November 7, 2004


Speaking of trying to do post-election statistics in a non-foolish manner... I'd really like to see someone either confirm or refute David Brooks' assertion that there was no disproportionate surge in the evangelical vote this year!
posted by Zurishaddai at 11:51 AM on November 7, 2004


Skallas, it's because yours and others' generalizations about Christians are far-too-often too broad and too hateful. There's a name for that: bigotry.

There's no denying that in many parts of the world and, subsequently, in the world in general, there's a similar, though much bloodier and extreme, religious war centered around Islamicism. That's true. But if you go over to LGF, what you'll see are reckless generalizations about all muslims—and they're very hateful generalizations at that. But such generalizations are apparently very ignorant of the majority of muslims for whom they are very inaccurate.

And this is true for a lot of anti-Christian rhetoric I see here and elsewhere.

You know, I'm an atheist that grew up in the Bible-belt. It's hard for me to imagine that you could hate the Pat Robertsons, Falwells, and those like them any more than I do. I think their hateful, bigoted supposedly Bible-based rhetoric is, in a word, evil. But I sure as hell don't sound like you do.

Maybe it's because although I've known countless Christian cultural conservatives and bigots, I've also known at least a handful of progressive, loving, devout Christians, some evangelicals that are, to me, everything Pat Roberston isn't. These are good people, people I deeply admire. And I'm offended when your broad, angry brushes tars them. Given that a good number of people here on MeFi or elsewhere have probably known very few devout Christians of any stripe, it's hard for me not to see you and others like you contributing to the same non-discriminating bigotry and hatred that the folks at LGF indulge in.

Be as virulent against the Christian cultural conservative movement and their attempt to remake American society. I'm with you. Stop confusing them, deliberately or carelessly, with all Christians. Or all theists, for that matter.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 12:01 PM on November 7, 2004


EB: Bingo.

Remember that the SBC only shifted to become arch-conservative due to a highly bitter and hard-fought battle within the Church. Bush's own claimed congregation, the United Methodists, are currently undergoing a very similar struggle over gay clergy with strong support on both sides of the issue. The Episcopal church (another one of the big congregations) is going through similar struggles, and American Catholics are divided as well.

The bottom line is that it is a mistake to talk about these issues as Chistian vs. secular. Many of these struggles involve Chistians arguing against Christians.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 12:07 PM on November 7, 2004


>There's a name for that: bigotry.

Oh please, its the old, "No you're the bigot" George Will-esque "why wont liberals tolerate our intolerance" argument.

Sorry, but I'm not going to answer your accusation of being a bigot, if that's what you believe then fine. I will add that the fear of being called a bigot, or "xtian basher" and the rest is one of the many reasons why people don't criticize these people like they should be criticized. Not to mention this overly careful, overly politically correct rhetoric/attitude you seem to be defending gets zero results.

ksj: Many of these struggles involve Chistians arguing against Christians.

Again, you have the fear of being called names or being ostricized by your religious community because you are "going after your own" which keeps what you are suggesting from happening. Also, lets not discount the sympathizers. Some or perhaps most do find the southern evangelicals a complete joke but they are helping them get "faith based funding," helping them get creationism taught in schools in science classes, protecting the 10 commandments, protecting xtian morals, etc. Its pretty naive to expect the xtian community to take care of their own, as they haven't historically and sure didn't in the last and future elections.

This is like painting the slavery issue as purely a "southern issue that southerners should work out by themselves." Not the best analogy, but when groups have more in common than have differences, chances of reform are pretty low.
posted by skallas at 1:03 PM on November 7, 2004


I wouldn't call skallas a bigot. More like... cockface.
posted by Krrrlson at 1:37 PM on November 7, 2004


what EB said.
posted by mwhybark at 1:57 PM on November 7, 2004


Translation: "Pretty much all Christians, American Christians anyway, are at least partly complicit in the Christian cultural militants' crusade to enslave all of America. At the very least, they're cowards who will not do anything to stop the bad people. All American Christians are therefore the enemy whether they want to admit it or not, and anyone that won't face up to that is a fool. Christians must be stopped. I'm fighting the good fight, I'm righteous."

Which looks an awful like what I'd see on LGF about Muslims. Or Arabs. Or Europeans.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 2:07 PM on November 7, 2004


EB: who's out disproving that tho? There are plenty of outspoken Muslims, Arabs, and Europeans proving it false every day, in all media, and from high culture to low. Where are all the other US Christians countering that notion? Why are people surprised and insulted by skallas' statement, given the lack of other views put forth? Jimmy Carter and Jesse Jackson are the only public figures i see putting anything even close to a countering view out there, and they do it rarely.

You can't simply knock what he says away so simply.
posted by amberglow at 2:29 PM on November 7, 2004


OK, skallas, you're not an anti-religious bigot. You just treat religious people like Michael Savage treats gays.
posted by namespan at 4:29 PM on November 7, 2004


This is about polarization, isn't it? I tried to post about this, but Matt decided it would be boring and redundant.
posted by alumshubby at 4:46 PM on November 7, 2004


... The right question, I think, is not whether religion has an undue influence, but why it is that the current flourishing of religious faith has, for the first time ever, virtually no element of social justice? Why is its public phase so exclusively focused on issues of private and personal behavior? ...--from the Decembrist
posted by amberglow at 4:50 PM on November 7, 2004


Count me as a member of "them religious folk" who spent time engaging my friends, family, and even some hapless acquintances on the election, agitating for Kerry. I don't appear in any forum more prominent than Metafilter, however, so may not be the example that amberglow is looking for.

Oh please, its the old, "No you're the bigot" George Will-esque "why wont liberals tolerate our intolerance" argument.

No, it's not. EB drew a pretty apt analogy between how the folks on LGF discuss muslims and how you address religion in general here. If you want to deflect it, elaborate on how you're different.

There's making arguments and there's making enemies, and except in rare cases, they don't have to be the same thing.
posted by weston at 4:52 PM on November 7, 2004


I'd like to repeat that I, too, am really freakin' angry about the religious right here in the US. But I struggle to keep that anger in check—that is, properly directed—both because I really have known enough Christians who are counterexamples to those I hate, and because what I hate most about the religious right is their hatred and I deeply fear of becoming indistinguishable from my enemy.

I don't have a problem with being righteous, an activist, and being outspoken against and angry at an enemy. But I think that righteous outrage—and especially hate—are, at best, useful necessary evils that must always be kept in check lest they consume us and everything we both hate and love.

My critical theory of the film "Unforgiven" is that "Little Bill Daggett" (played by Gene Hackman) was not only the antagonist, but was truly the moral villain, the true agent of evil, of the narrative. Bill Munny (Eastwood) was not so much evil as he was simply a force of nature. It's unclear what his capability for moral choice was. But Little Bill wears the mantle of "hero" so that he can kill; so that his vicious hatred and anger can disguise itself as righteousness. As he lies on the ground, already shot, Munny about to pull the trigger of the gun held to Little Bill's head, Little Bill exclaims, wonderingly, defensively, "I'm building a house." He's legitimate, he's the sherrif, he's the good guy. He can't die, it's not fair. But the audience knows he deserves to die, there's no doubt about it.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 5:35 PM on November 7, 2004


amberglow: EB: who's out disproving that tho? There are plenty of outspoken Muslims, Arabs, and Europeans proving it false every day, in all media, and from high culture to low. Where are all the other US Christians countering that notion? Why are people surprised and insulted by skallas' statement, given the lack of other views put forth? Jimmy Carter and Jesse Jackson are the only public figures i see putting anything even close to a countering view out there, and they do it rarely.

What I see here is the same sort of mild bigotry faced by American Muslims who are asked to repeatedly denounce terrorism, who do repeatedly denounce terrorism, and who are ignored when they do so. The bigotry is that you only see the views that confirm your own bias.

The American Friends Service Committee

The Reconciling Ministries Network (United Methodist)

The UMC Pacific Northwest Conference

A huge index of faith-based social justice organizations including Pax Christi (Catholic) and The Council of Reconciliation.

Kerry won 38% of the protestant vote, and 52% of the catholic vote.

When the city council of my home town endorsed an resolution prohibiting discrimination against gays and lesbians, it was endorsed by the ministers of 5 of the largest local congregations. In fact, the head of the local GLBT center was an ordained minister in the Moravian Church. (And unfortunately, I missed an organization meeting for people opposed to an anti-gay rights amendment in my state, it was held in a Church.)

Here is another article about gay rights gains within mainstream chuches.

There is a basic problem in that Chistians are only recognized as Christians in this debate when acting based on a fundamentalist social conservative agenda. Why not Barak Obama's highly religious call for liberalism and tolerance as an example? Why do we treat Bush's position as religious, and Kerry's position as secular, when Bush has snubbed members of his own congregation? (That article led me to the National Council of Churches.) Why does Kerry's break with Catholicism in regards to abortion make him a champion of secularism, while Bush's break with Methodism regarding the Iraq war make him a champion of religion?

skalas: This is like painting the slavery issue as purely a "southern issue that southerners should work out by themselves." Not the best analogy, but when groups have more in common than have differences, chances of reform are pretty low.

It's not even an analogy at all, and I'm really wondering if you get out much. Liberal Chistians are the backbone of every form of activism I've been involved in from building houses, to anti-war protests, to the death penalty, to gay rights. When a white supremacist asshole started leafletting around my home town it was Christian congregations that organized a massive counter-campaign. When the Klan speaks in Indianapolis it is Christian congregations that turn it into a day of civil rights activism. I find it pretty difficult to engage in any form of social justice activism without rubbing shoulders with a large number of people of faith.

So I suspect that not only are you acting out of a rather deep prejudice that prevents you from seeing the huge range of political diversity practiced by American Christians, but I'm also wondering if you are an armchair critic. I just can't imagine that someone can go to a protest or a community organization meeting and not realize that your most outspoken allies and frequently the most hardened activists are people of faith.

amberglow (quoting Mark Schmitt): ... The right question, I think, is not whether religion has an undue influence, but why it is that the current flourishing of religious faith has, for the first time ever, virtually no element of social justice? Why is its public phase so exclusively focused on issues of private and personal behavior? ...

I don't see that. Now, what I do see is that for some reason that still needs to be explored, religious liberals are uncomfortable talking about the relationship between social justice and religion. Julian Bond has been explicit about the links between civil rights activism and religion. Cornel West's prophetic pragmatism is facinating for positioning King's religious call for social activism within a Deweyan view of democracy.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 5:57 PM on November 7, 2004


Great, great comment, KirkJobSluder.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 6:05 PM on November 7, 2004


Perhaps it was Churchill -- I'm too lazy to go look it up -- who said something to the effect that all it takes for evil to succeed is for good people to do nothing.

There are a lot of good Christians in North America.

Most of them are doing nothing to counteract the evil that is being perpetrated in the name of their religion.

A couple thousand years ago, there was evil afoot in the temples. A fellow by name of Jesus risked his safety (and ultimately paid with his life) to confront that evil. He took on the powerful establishment of moneychangers and threw them out of the temples. He lived the life of a good man, by acting as a good man acts.

Christ was all about one's personal spiritual path. He was not a man who forced people to live the way he thought they should live. He made no attempts to have civil law reflect his personal moral code.

Christian people of this day and age must denounce those who call themselves Christian yet do not behave as Christ would. Take back your religion! Expose those evil-doers as the scum they are, and do not allow them to take ownership of the Christian name and meme!
posted by five fresh fish at 6:07 PM on November 7, 2004


Oh, mentioned this to my darling sweetie and she mentioned the Catholic Worker's Movement.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 6:16 PM on November 7, 2004


Yes, you can all point out the "liberal" Christians or so-called "social justice" Christians or religious people, but you simply cannot face the fact that those "liberal" religious groups are not having any effect on American politics, while far right-wing religious bigots are dominating. You can show as many examples of left-wing religious activism as you want, but you cannot see the truth of the matter before you: religious Americans are dominated by anti-gay Republicans, and if anything this election proves it.

11 bigoted anti-gay amendments on the ballot, 11 anti-gay amendments passed. That is reality, and try as the average Christian might try to escape and evade reality, there it is. There is your face of tolerant, loving, open America. For all their agitation the last few decades, it appears left-wing Christians are hiding or voting Republican.
posted by raaka at 7:22 PM on November 7, 2004


what raaka and fff said.

I never heard of most of those groups, and i should have, no? As a non-Christian viewer/consumer, it'd be a great and distinct pleasure to see any representatives from any of those groups--on TV, in newspapers, and magazines--because i never see them. I don't think i'm alone in that. This is probably a media/pr issue, but you'd think people would care about who represents them to the rest of the country, because the Falwells and Robertsons and Ralph Reeds and Bob Jones are the public face of your religion.
posted by amberglow at 7:54 PM on November 7, 2004


raaka: Yes, you can all point out the "liberal" Christians or so-called "social justice" Christians or religious people, but you simply cannot face the fact that those "liberal" religious groups are not having any effect on American politics, while far right-wing religious bigots are dominating.

Well, at least going from "chistians are religious bigots" to "Chistianity is dominated by religious bigots" is a babystep forward.

But actually, I see that things are moving forward. 40 years ago, the police raided gay bars in NYC, and published the names of patrons to humiliate them. (It was also illegal to talk about homosexuality on the stage in NY, that law didn't fall until the 70s.)

20 years ago a Republican president refused to acknowledge the existence of a gay community, much less the existence of a plague ravaging the gay community.

This year, both Bush and Cheney made statements acknowledging the existence of gay relationships as private legal entities. Gay marriage is the last line in the sand for social conservatives. They are in no position to roll back the clock to hormone and electroshock treatments. The Republican party knows that a supermajority of Americans favor some forms of civil partnership for gay couples, but not marriage. And lets be blunt, Clinton and Kerry opposed gay marriage, along with a majority of Demo primary candidates. People have a hangup about the "m" word.

Cincinnati repealed a law forbidding gay rights. Two "red states" elected openly gay legislators, a feat that I find to be frankly unbelievable. In my lifetime, major denominations have begun to provide blessings for gay unions, somtimes using the word "marriage," sometimes not. More major denominations have accepted gay clergy.

To me, this seems like a huge effect. In my lifetime, gay men have gone from perverts in trenchcoats haunting playgrounds and rest areas, to community leaders. Certainly, without marriage, lebigays don't have full equaility. But, social change takes time. The 57% majority in Oregon may be a 30% minority in another 20 years.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 7:56 PM on November 7, 2004


I have a major problem with the analogy posted previously that MeFi:Christian::LGF:Muslim.

At least within the U.S. there is a major difference in that Muslims here, generally just want to be left alone and allowed to worship as they see fit, without loyalty oaths, or beatings, or executions.

On the other hand the Christians in the US, at least the vocal minority, is playing offense. They want to impose their morality on the country as a whole. A large group of more moderate Christians seemingly has no problem with this, even if they do not actively pursue it. I don't think all Christians are bad people, but any evangelical Christian will admit that it is considered his/her DUTY to convert others to the faith. Doing it by force (physical, or force-of-law) is often easier than persuasion.

It's no surprise these actions provoke a strong reaction from those with alternative views.
posted by bashos_frog at 8:25 PM on November 7, 2004


amberglow: I never heard of most of those groups, and i should have, no? As a non-Christian viewer/consumer, it'd be a great and distinct pleasure to see any representatives from any of those groups--on TV, in newspapers, and magazines--because i never see them.

Well, a large chunk of that is your fault. The NCC and UMC's opposition to the invasion of Iraq was published by the AP and here on metafilter. The internal debates within the UMC regarding gay rights within their congregation has also been published in the AP and on metafilter. The battery of members of the Friends Service Committe during the infamous schoolhouse raid at Genoa was well publicized. The role of African American churches in civil rights activism is extremely well publicized. The history of the right-left split that led to the current makeup of the Southern Baptist Convention was published in both Time and US News and World Report. Cornel West seems to be gracing the Borders display along with O'Reilly this month. In just about every article I pick up regarding a protest at a military base or a before an execution, one of the protesters is identified as either Catholic or a Quaker.

I think part of it is a PR issue. And I suspect that a chunk of it is a perception issue where your bigotry causes the words to go into your brain and into some kind of mental /dev/null. Because I can't imagine living in the United States and being unaware of religious progressive activism.

And I'm wondering, what the heck do you do? Because I find it hard to believe that someone can be engaged in any meaningful form of activism and NOT be aware of these people.

I don't think i'm alone in that.

Oh, I don't think you are alone. So the question is, what the heck are you going to do now that you are aware? (My suspicion, probably going back to painting with the same old broad brush, and burning bridges with many of the most valuable members of your coalition.)

This is probably a media/pr issue, but you'd think people would care about who represents them to the rest of the country, because the Falwells and Robertsons and Ralph Reeds and Bob Jones are the public face of your religion.

Um, be careful of making an assumption when you say, "your religion." I'm not a Chistian and have not been for some time. I have been around the block enough times repeatedly to know who my best allies are. We are not talking about weekend warriors here, we are talking about people willing to spend a few months behind bars for engaging in civil disobedience.

And who appointed Falwell, Robertson, Reed, and Jones over Obama, Carter, Jackson and West? I suspect that you are as much responsible for that as anyone else. When someone goes off about how this is a Christian war, why don't you point out that both the UMC and the RCC opposed the war?
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:31 PM on November 7, 2004


amberglow: This is probably a media/pr issue, but you'd think people would care about who represents them to the rest of the country, because the Falwells and Robertsons and Ralph Reeds and Bob Jones are the public face of your religion.

The more I think about this. The more this is really pissing me off. Part of the pr problem you mentioned is that the Christian Coalition have done a really nice propaganda job in claiming to be the voice of American Christianity. The nice thing about this kind of propaganda is when you can get your political opponents to parrot your own message.

In treating Christian progressive activism as non-existent, invisible and not effective, you are being Ralph Reed's trained monkey. He says that progressives are anti-Christian, and you come out in your little suit and do the choreographed dance to the tune he set.

The same thing is going on with the red state/blue state bullshit. Rove says that them durn Northeasters and Californicators live in a lala land and don't understand the rest of the country, and then you come out in your little suit and do the choreographed dance to the tune he set.

You may not agree with Christianity as a religion, but at least in this lifetime, you are not going to win an election without forming coalitions with Christians who have more in common with you than you think.

You may not like the "hinterlands," but at least in this lifetime, you are not going to win an election without forming coalitions with voters in rural areas who have more in common with you than you think.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:52 PM on November 7, 2004


You can be as pissed off as you want--mentioning the UMC, West, and others as a viable, and equally visible counterpoint is laughable, and that they exist (and do good stuff) was never in question--only in your offended mind.
posted by amberglow at 9:15 PM on November 7, 2004


You may not agree with Christianity as a religion, but at least in this lifetime, you are not going to win an election without forming coalitions with Christians who have more in common with you than you think.

And this, to take this whole terrifying discussion a bit meta, is why much of the rest of the world that isn't tits-deep in ancient prejudice and gods-worship looks at your Americans and your churchy politics with reactions ranging from utter amazement to indulgent chuckling.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:59 PM on November 7, 2004


We need a lot more Christians who get as pissed off as KirkJobSluder when the blame for the fundamentalist right is placed on their heads. That is why my new policy among decent Christians I know (which are, I have no doubt at all, in the majority) is to relentlessly ask them how the War for Christ is going and whether they've gotten any new perversions banned lately, and so forth. Yes, this will piss them off. And being pissed off is absolutely the thing they need most in the world right now.

Christians: Take back your faith. It is being poisoned by an American Christian Taliban, and perverted to evil ends. If you do nothing, it is your fault.
posted by rusty at 10:21 PM on November 7, 2004


amberglow: You can be as pissed off as you want--mentioning the UMC, West, and others as a viable, and equally visible counterpoint is laughable,

Straw man. Go directly to jail. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.

I never claimed that these groups were equally visible to Ralph Reed. What I am saying is that Ralph Reed and Pat Robertson are partly the "public face" of Chistianity because of nice helpful little trained monkies like yourself who accpet the culture war propaganda hook line and sinker. For as much as you talk about PR and framing, you don't seem to be casting much of a critical eye at how this issue is being framed and who is framing it.

and that they exist (and do good stuff) was never in question--only in your offended mind.

I think if you look back, you will find that you (and others) did raise the question of whether they exist and do good stuff. The idea being expressed here is that progressive Chistians are doing nothing. My suggestion is that if you actually looked at who was engaging in progressive activism and why, you will find that Christian activists are involved in a large chunk of the real work out there.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 12:34 AM on November 8, 2004


If the progressive Christians were doing a good job of countering the cultural conservative Christians, then we'd all know about it.

But, no: the sad fact is that the televangelists and moral minority and other asswipes are dominating the public's perception of Christian culture.

If true Christians want this to change, they're going to have to get better PR.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:54 AM on November 8, 2004


I am personally sickened by the tarnish put upon my faith by the fundies who support hatred and bigotry and then claim it is somehow "Christian." And no one can ever accuse me of being a shrinking violet in expressing my disdain for those pseudo-christian assholes.
posted by nofundy at 10:05 AM on November 8, 2004


Nonetheless, it's the fundies who get the attention and recognition.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:15 AM on November 8, 2004


It's all about abortion, it really is.

The decision by the "mainline" Protestant churches to throw their support to abortion rights was inexplicable at the time, and, it now appears to have been deadly to their prospects for growth. Shrinking congregations aren't going to be an effective base for a political movement.

Abortion also paved the way for the conversion, over many years, of observant Roman Catholics, once a heavily Democratic constituency, into an ever-more-Republican group.

The progressive movement really has a choice, between abortion rights and winning majorities of religious people. It may well be they can win by choosing abortion rights, but if they can't, they need to know if was there doing, and not some nefarious plot by the observant majorities.
posted by MattD at 10:23 AM on November 8, 2004


God and the Electorate

Have religious issues become more important in politics because too few Americans go to church?

That is the surprising suggestion of Strategic Extremism: Why Republicans and Democrats Divide on Religious Values, a new working paper by the Harvard economist Edward L. Glaeser and two doctoral students, Jesse M. Shapiro and Giacomo A. M. Ponzetto.

The paper starts with a puzzle: In a majoritarian system like ours, political economists generally predict that candidates will converge toward the center of the spectrum, so as to attract as many votes as possible. This is the "median voter theory." But it doesn't seem to describe what's happened in American politics. On divisive religious issues like abortion, the two parties aren't hugging the center. They're abandoning it...

"When I go out and say, 'I want to tax all the rich and I want to end outsourcing,' I can give that message to an economically left-wing audience without the economically right-wing audience hearing it with exactly the same probability," Professor Glaeser said. "All you need is some ability to target your message, and then you're going to go to extremes."

Those in-group forums work, however, only if the groups are just the right size. They have to be small enough to be homogeneous and big enough to be influential. "The model has this very odd prediction that the power of social groups is most when they're roughly 50 percent of the population," Professor Glaeser said.

If a group is too small, it's not worth courting. But if it's too big, it includes too many of your opponent's supporters, making targeted messages impossible. If everybody goes to church or belongs to a union, membership in either group will not predict voting behavior.

"This is exactly what you see in the data," Professor Glaeser said. "The degree of polarization around religious issues is greatest in the places that are in the middle. It's not the Philippines, which are 100 percent religious, and not Scandinavia, where no one has attended a church in 40 years except for a wedding or a funeral. It's really these places like the U.S. that are in the middle."

posted by y2karl at 10:51 PM on November 8, 2004


As I commented in my Guy Fawkes post the other day...

Sometimes I think the US needs a big religious war inside it's own borders so that it truly understands why religion is bad. Europe seems to be mostly over the whole religious situation simply because we spent a few hundred years kicking seven shades of shit out of each other because some monk stuck a note on a door. The fact that we shipped the god-squad reserves out to your beautiful country is probably no help in the current state of the nation either.

My apologies to you on behalf of my family circa 400 years ago.


Simplistic and certainly childish but then I honestly don't know a single practicing Christian who makes it their business to annoy me and my friends or preach against another person because of what they choose to do. Whether this makes Europe more progressed in a religious way I honestly couldn't say, the Muslims I know seem to be perfectly content to practice their religion without bothering anyone. I can only hope one day that people who need religion and those who do without can peacefully coexist without rubbing one another up the wrong way.

disclosure - I am 100% against all religions, I do however respect the right of others to worship as they wish to. If you have faith and it empowers you and allows you to take charge of your life/utilise a pre-constructed moral framework - more power to you. If you tell me what to think/eat/wear or who to fight/fuck/worship you shall be on the receiving end of a swift kick to the nadgers.
posted by longbaugh at 6:28 AM on November 9, 2004


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