More Red-State Links

It’s interesting to me how the stuff I read clusters into little obsession topics. Well, it’s obvious, too, that I’m just a serial obsessive, and the media I go to for my information mostly embody the same sort of cover-it-to-death-and-then-drop-it mindset. But anyway, here’s a batch of my latest reading material on the great Blue America/Red America divide:

From Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo, doing the big-picture grounded-in-historical-book-learning thing he does best: A few years ago, before the 2000 election… It’s about the differences between blue states and red states, in particular, the differences in murder rates and what they show.

And from Chris Bowers at MyDD: Real conservative values. Makes a good point that political conservatives shouldn’t be allowed to claim to stand for a bunch of principles that they don’t honor in practice.

Timothy Noah writes at Slate on the apparent desire of “evangelical Christians” to avoid being labeled as “the Christian right”: Red-state PC.

Finally, a snarky one for Craig to complain about: Fuck the South. Pretty much self-explanatory.

8 Responses to “More Red-State Links”

  1. Craig Says:

    Someone has quite a potty-mouth!

    “The limits of my language mean the limits of my world.” – Ludwig Wittgenstein (philosopher)

  2. ymatt Says:

    All this post-election cartographic/sociological analysis stuff has been abosorbing much of my thoughts as I try to figure out what about this election made me so upset — somehow it wasn’t just Bush winning.. I’ve been both annoyed that political analysis has taken on this etirely 1-dimensional red/blue, left/right, rural/urban bent that Jon Stewart railed against, but also worried by what seems to be a real emergence of “moral” (fundamentalist christian) values as a political motivator, as evidenced by the 11 states voting to illegalize gay marriage.

    What I think I’m starting to conclude, though, is that the real problem is our voting system, and I don’t just mean the electoral college. Seriously. If we simplify things down to just the presidential ballot, each person must take all of their opinions on the candidates, opinions on the parties, and opinions on the least of all evils and put down one single checkmark. That checkmark can mean “this is the guy I want in office” or “this is the guy most likely to beat the incumbent I hate” or “this guy is probably the least likely to fuck up”. One checkmark.

    This kind of voting naturally will optimize for a two party system. At best, any third party to arise will do one of two things. In one case, it will draw limited support, be marginalized as “wasted vote”, and their platform will be mostly subsumed by whichever of the major parties from which it would steal the most votes. In the other case, it will appeal to a large enough block of voters, not represented the major parties, that it quickly marginalizes one of those parties and becomes one of the major two. This second case happened much more often in the earlier history of our nation as new issues came to the forefront that the existing party platforms didn’t speak to.

    But then the big parties got smart and stopped defining themselves with hard platforms. The parties became ideas which naturally flowed and formed to appeal to a “left” of urban, activist, socially progressive voters and a “right” of suburban/rural, common-sense, socially conservative voters. These two vague collections of ideas could each appeal to roughly equal sections of the population, with a chunk of voters in the middle up for grabs based on the national mood, economy, current events etc. Grabbing that middle has been what politics has been about in the late 20th century. Reagan got it with his “morning in America” optimism and Clinton got it with a good economy and a cleverly down-the-middle platform.

    So what changed? I think the Republicans finally figured out a possibly better, but more importantly *controllable*, way to play the system. Playing for broad appeal is too unpredictable, too subject to external factors. The way to control the game is to *make people take sides* and do it long before they get to the voting booth. The economy isn’t going to make people choose — too mushy and abstract. Neither is foreign relations. Gay marriage though? That’s a hard, if slight, majority you can pull down in the important states. Clear-talking idealism vs. flip-flopping intellectualism will get you just over half the nation’s approval too, slight minority be damned.

    And since simple Team A vs. Team B conflict is going to sell a lot better than wishy-washy pandering to the middle, the media eats it up. It gives them more control and predictability. All they have to do is rigorously give equal coverage to Red Talking Points and Blue Talking Points and each side gets their righteous indignation, they maintain the appearance of objectivity, and their advertisers stay happy.

    So yeah, I think the preference by a slight majority for enforcement of the more invasive of judeo-christian values is disquieting. But given the choice, I don’t think most Americans would make that their primary decision point. The only way out of this I can see is to switch to one of the more mathematically correct voting systems — either approval voting (vote for each candidate you wouldn’t mind in office) or ranking (self-explanatory). Either one of these would allow a voter to not only vote for their preferred major-party candidate, but give their support to a third party candidate that may more closely represent their views. I’m fairly certain that we would quickly develop at least 4 or so parties covering a more meaningful span of public opinion, any of which could win the presidency with a 50-50 republican/democratic split, but 60% from each side also approving of the third party. Suddenly forcing voters to take sides doesn’t work so well.

    So at the least I think I’ll console myself that this nation isn’t as insane as I was thinking it was. But I’m still no more confident in the direction its government is taking. And for now, to news media guys working hard to create a civil cold war: stop… stop hurting America. Don’t let them make the rules of the game.

  3. Sven Says:

    I think by “ranking” you are refering to Instant Runoff Voting (IRV’s)

    I’m not sure what “approval voting” is, or how it works? But, yeah… I think we need to completely overhaul our election process. I’ve heard that both Howard Dean and John McCain support IRV, but I’ve never actually heard either of them talk about it. Perhaps if the Democratic party could support election reforms like this, and talk about it more, it could sway more votes their way. I’m not sure either party would ever endorse such a change, since it might mean an end to their two party monopoly on the system.

    Personally, I thought it was a huge mistake by the Democratic party to attack Nader the way they did. Leave him, and any other third party candidate who wants to run, alone. Instead of attacking him, they should have embraced him. We need to offer voters a real choice, and not make a vote for a third or fourth party candidate a “waste of a vote.”

    And, yeah. The electoral college is way out of date.

  4. ymatt Says:

    Yeah, IRV is what I was talking about, although I hadn’t heard that term before (nice example webpage).

    Approval voting (maybe there’s a more technical term for it) is where you put a checkmark next to each guy you wouldn’t mind being in office. If Bush is your man, only check Bush. If you like Nader, but think he’s not electable, put a checkmark next to both him and Kerry. Then you just add all the checkmarks together and see who comes out on top.

    I think the gut reaction to this is that either voting for more than one guy violates one-citizen-one-vote or that voting for more than one guy dilutes your vote. The former is clearly false if you’re not stuck on thinking that one vote means a discrete packet of electoral weight. The latter is only true if the rest of the population ranks all the guys you voted for at the top. A Nader/Kerry vote doesn’t dilute the fact that you *didn’t* vote for Bush for example.

    I actually favor the approval system over IRV for two reasons. One, I’m not sure I really want to specify whether, say, I’d rather see Kerry or Nader in office if I’m really voting for Bush. Also, I think you’re a lot less likely to confuse voters and encourage invalid ballots by just asking people to check off each candidate they like. There’s no way you can “do it wrong”. In fact you can continue to treat an approval ballot exactly like a classic style ballot if you want.

    I haven’t the faintest idea how the issue could be brought to the fore though. *Neither* major party wants a system that would almost certainly mean a decrease in their power, even if it would also hurt the other side.

  5. Gunfighter Says:

    After reading “F****theSouth” all I can say is I hope he never has any children – we need this particular strain of DNA to die out now. He has just convinced me that I was correct in moving my family to Alabama. I was born and raised in the “Iron Bound Section” of Newark, NJ. My dad would have slapped my mouth had I spouted such excretement…his dad must not have been present to help put a civil toung in his pie hole.

    One final comment FTS…you lost!

  6. Gunfighter Says:

    Ooops, make that tongue…I’m thinking faster than my fingers can type.

  7. Adam Says:

    I love how right-wing anger is somehow justified, and cleansing, even though they control everything. But left-wing anger is crazy, divisive, putrid. Another triumph of the crapweasel right mindset. Deus vult, indeed.

  8. Patriot Says:

    I’m a proud member in good standing of the (Christian) Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy who has never heard of the “the pro-family movement.” I have heard of being Pro-Family, what politician isn’t? Was that reffering to the “Focus on the Family” movement? “Religious right” has been used to compare the anti-islamic Christians to the islamo-facists. “Christian Right” seems perfectly acceptable to me, as long as we remember that not all Christians are right-wingers like me, and not all right-wingers are Christians like me.

    God Bless Jesusland!

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