Thursday, May 19, 2005

Divisions

The Pew Centre has a new report out on how the political landscape is shaped in the US. You can take the test yourself and see where you fall. Me? I'm an Enterpriser. A description of all of the groups is here. There are all kinds of interesting factoids here, including this:
The U.S. remains a majority-Protestant nation (56% overall say they belong to the Protestant tradition), and this includes a majority among all groups except the younger, more secular Bystanders (49%) and Liberals (36%). Among other groups, Protestants range from 55% among the Upbeats up to 68% among the Social Conservatives. White evangelical Protestants, a core constituency for President Bush, are a significant plurality group among Social Conservatives (43%), Pro-Government Conservatives (37%), and Enterprisers (34%). White evangelicals constitute no more than 22% of any other group in the typology, and include only 5% of the Liberals. In contrast with the great variability of evangelical representation across groups, Catholics are not concentrated in any specific group or cluster of groups. Catholics are one-quarter of the population (25%), but their proportions among groups vary only from 20% among Enterprisers to 30% among Upbeats. Catholics are 23% of the three Republican groups and 26% of the three Democratic groups. Jews make up approximately 3% of the public overall, but 8% of the Liberals. People who identify with a religion outside of the Judeo-Christian tradition comprise about 5% of the population but include 8% of Liberals and 8% of Bystanders. Secular individuals -­ those who say they are agnostic, atheist, or say they have no religious affiliation ­ are a significant portion only of Liberals: 22%. They include 12% of Bystanders and 9% of Disaffecteds, but otherwise constitute no more than 6% of the other groups
NRO's Jonah Goldberg weighs in:
The ideas, assumptions and prejudices held by the statistically typical Democratic voter, according to the Pew study, are quite simply, European. Europeans believe in a strong social welfare state, for rich and poor alike. Europeans are cynical. They look askance — these days — on patriotic sentiment (hence the rush to form a new European nation). The church pews of Europe would make a great hideout for bank robbers since they’re always empty. The United Nations is, in the typical European’s worldview, the last best hope for mankind. From the death penalty to gay marriage, the more similar you are to a typical European in your political and social outlook, the more likely you are to be a Democrat. We’ve seen this before. At the time of our nation’s founding, there were a bunch of Americans who clung to European values. Today we call their descendants “Canadians.” Up north, the government isn’t something to be distrusted so much as something to be obeyed. For example, when the government told the people to switch to the metric system, they did. Our government told us to do the same thing at about the same time, and America barely even noticed.
I still think a major social faultline is whether or not a person is turned outwards, towards others, towards trying to see others as they really are, and those who are turned inwards, concerned really with getting what they want. I call the first group religious, even when they distain that label themselves, because God is the ultimate other. The second group are hedonistic materialists. No political group has a monopoly on either group, as I think this report shows. You can be selfish conservative and you can be a Godly liberal. I will add the caveats that being a Godly liberal is tough because I honestly think the policies you choose are (at least somewhat) at odds with what you are trying to achieve. I have a great ally on my side in Alexis de Tocqueville:
In Democracy in America, Tocqueville suggested that democracy was capable of breeding its own form of despotism, albeit one without the edges of Jacobin or Bonapartist dictatorship with which Europeans were all too familiar. The book spoke of “an immense protective power” which took all responsibility for everyone’s happiness — just so long as this power remained “sole agent and judge of it.” This power, Tocqueville wrote, would “resemble parental authority” but would try to keep people “in perpetual childhood” by relieving people “from all the trouble of thinking and all the cares of living.” Such circumstances might arise, Tocqueville noted, if democracy’s progress was accompanied by demands for a leveling of social conditions. The danger was that an obsession with equality was very compatible with increasingly centralized state-power. Leveling social conditions, Tocqueville observed, usually involved using the state to subvert those intermediate associations that reflected social differences, but also limited government-power. Tocqueville’s vision of “soft-despotism” is thus one of arrangements that mutually corrupt citizens and the democratic state. Citizens vote for those politicians who promise to use the state to give them whatever they want. The political-class delivers, so long as citizens do whatever it says is necessary to provide for everyone’s desires. The “softness” of this despotism consists of people’s voluntary surrender of their liberty and their tendency to look habitually to the state for their needs.
I wonder if Tocqueville -also Catholic- would have been an Enterpriser?

No comments: