In the aftermath of President Obama’s reelection, there was much media discussion of the GOP’s ever-shrinking demographic base. As the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza pointed out, with the aid of an astonishing chart:
That only 11 percent of Republicans’ total vote came from non-whites tells you everything you need to know about the large-scale demographic challenges that Republicans must confront. (The fact that 44 percent of all Democratic votes came from non-whites paints the Republican challenge in even starker terms.)
How and why this has come to be I’ll leave to the political pundits. Suffice to say, if Republicans don’t find a way to connect with (or not scare off) Asians, Hispanics, and African-Americans, they are doomed to irrelevance.
The same might be said for the environmental movement, argues a recent story in Politico titled, “Greens confront own need for diversity.” The whiteness of environmentalism (along with the perception that it serves mostly a white, upper middle class constituency) has long been a nagging issue that the big national green groups have been unable to fix–beyond cosmetics.
This is a major concern that broadly extends to science, as well. Read More
In recent years, when the U.S. was mired in two wars that seemed to be ignored by the public at large, some politicos and pundits talked about resurrecting the military draft. As you can guess, the idea didn’t gain any traction. We Americans prefer to outsource our wars to willing volunteers.
But what about some other form of national service program with a civic-minded goal? Matthew Nisbet discusses an intriguing idea:
Like climate change or poverty, political polarization in the United States may itself be a “wicked” problem, not something we are going to solve or end over the next decade, but rather something we will need to address, manage, and adapt to via a diversity of approaches.
Introducing a national service program for high school graduates may be one such effective approach. Here’s why.
A major enabler of political polarization, as chronicled by journalist Bill Bishop in his book “The Big Sort,” is the problem of geographical balkanization. We have always tended to associate and socialize with people who share our world-views and that tendency has accelerated over the last two decades.
This is especially the case among the college-educated who are the most attentive to politics and have the best developed mental map for how to consistently interpret new events, elections, and issues through an ideological lens. The college-educated based on their affluence and geographic mobility have gravitated to neighborhoods and regions of the country where they increasingly live with others who vote and think about politics like they do.
Nisbet goes on to say that what’s missing “is cross-talk, conversations and interactions that build trust, empathy, and understanding for the other side. Instead, our images of the other are dominated by narratives from our like minded media sources, narratives that are too often outrage fueled rants about the other.”
The idea of a civics-oriented national service program is new to me. But Nisbet says it has been floated by liberals and conservatives alike. Here’s how he describes what it would look like:
The program would send graduates to politically and socially dissimilar communities to engage in AmeriCorps or Teach for America-style community service. In these regions, graduates would work with others from a mix of political and social backgrounds and live and engage with communities not like theirs.
It kinda sounds like a domestic version of the foreign exchange student program. Instead of young American students going abroad to experience a different culture, they would just go to another part of their own country. Interesting concept. Might something like this help reduce political polarization?
That is the title of this trenchant Kevin Drum post, which nails an unfortunate dynamic that is corroding U.S. politics and public debate. The first important point Drum makes is about
the dangers of spending too much time on the web, where the loudest and most extreme voices actually do have a disproportionate influence sometimes. That can lead you to believe that their beliefs are far more widespread in the real world than they really are.
His second is this admission:
Speaking just for myself, there are very definitely times when my preferred policy position is some kind of melding of left and right…but I’m not really willing to say so because the American right has become so insane that it simply won’t lead to anything constructive. It will just be viewed as a preemptive compromise that’s immediately seized upon to move the conversation even further to the right. Supporting compromise positions only makes sense when that might actually lead to both sides compromising.
Just to be clear, Drum is not talking about the climate debate here. But he might as well be, in which partisan, tit-for-tat dueling is a dominant feature of the climate discourse. Anyone who follows it knows that the lines in the sand are drawn: Neither side gives an inch, for fear the other will pounce on it and gain an advantage. The main antagonists (who largely shape the climate conversation) wage a ceaseless battle of one-upmanship. In this super-charged environment, where tribalism is also enforced, there is no room for nuance, much less common ground.
Drum’s actual post is more a critique of present-day conservatism in the United States, but his main points have wider application. At the end of the day, he says,
Tribalism makes fools of us all.
You are what you eat, and you are what you say. Or put another way, the kind of person you are is revealed by the language and terms you use to characterize those whose politics or policies you disagree with. Ken Green tells me everything I need to know about him here, of which this is a sampling:
So let’s see who is running the asylum under Obama. As I pointed out in 2009, Obama’s science team is composed almost exclusively of environmental radicals, and until recently, Carol Browner, Gore’s disciple (and yes, a card-carrying socialist), was part of Obama’s team as well. Her disciple, Lisa Jackson, has unleashed an unprecedented tidal surge of environmental regulations into the teeth of an economic downturn second only to the Great Depression.
Here I thought that environmentalists were thoroughly disenchanted with Obama’s green policies. And that part about Browner being a “card-carrying socialist” is quite the gem, and culled from especially credible, non-partisan sources, too! What a proud moment for the AEI gang, when one of their own speaks truth to power with such forthrightness and unassailable evidence.
I think the booing encapsulates what the Republican party we could once vote for now represents to moderate independents like myself:
- A few people loudly proclaim repugnant (or in other cases nonsensical) things.
- Everyone around them lets it stand rather than challenge them.
- Nine candidates on stage, with microphones, all stand silent while a soldier serving in Iraq is booed.
Ah, but he was a gay soldier. That makes all the difference if you’re a Republican Presidential candidate with a base like this to appease.
Here’s the charge, from Chris Mooney:
Political conservatives in the U.S. today have overwhelming problems with science. They reject, in large numbers, mainstream and accepted knowledge on fundamental things about humans and the planet”“evolution, global warming, to name a few. I also recently posted about how systematically conservatives undermine science with respect to reproductive health.
And this is still just the tip of the iceberg.
Ken Green says WTF?
Before firing off his own rebuttal at AEI, Green counterpunched in the comments section (which I don’t see any way to link to) of Mooney’s blog. Green’s rejoinder, to my mind, has merit and is concisely and cogently made in this particular comment:
Chris’ argument is that the right is more anti-science than the left. I agree that many on the right reject science regarding evolution, and (somewhat) on climate change, both of which are bad. I’ve written about that at AEI. However, I think that the left is FAR more prone to present things as being “scientific” that are mostly pseudo-scientific nonsense, and they are very half-hearted about retracting them when they’ve propagated and caused harm.
Thus, if I were adding up the ledger, I’d score two “anti-science” points to the right for evolution and climate change, but about 20 “anti-science” points to the left for exaggerating the dangers of pesticides, herbicides, chemicals in general, radiation, conventional agriculture, plastics, paper, artificial sweeteners, vaccines, GM organisms, aquaculture, etc.
This is a valid counter-argument. Green is essentially saying that the anti-science manifestation on the Left (masked as pseudo-science) is different than that on the Right (which is outright rejection of established science). And that the Left has more anti-science strikes against it than the Right.
What Green fails to address is that an anti-evolution pose and climate change rejectionism have become closely associated with the GOP, because of the influence of religious conservatives and the Tea Party. There are no similarly high profile anti-science stances associated with Democrat leaders or policymakers. For example, President Obama, as Mooney pointed out, is pro-nuclear. Here’s another: The Obama administration has made regulatory decisions on GMO foods that have upset the lefty, anti-GMO types at Grist and Mother Jones. And so on.
So when looked at this way, there is no equivalence in anti-science attitudes between establishment Republicans and Democrats–as reflected in the kinds of science-related issues that are now fixtures in the political landscape. It’s pretty clear which party is getting the anti-science reputation and why.
It’s also understandable that Green and other science-respecting conservatives don’t like this label, but their beef should be more with the direction the Republican party has chosen.
the Republican Party may no longer be a normal party. Over the past few years, it has been infected by a faction that is more of a psychological protest than a practical, governing alternative.
The members of this movement do not accept the logic of compromise, no matter how sweet the terms. If you ask them to raise taxes by an inch in order to cut government by a foot, they will say no. If you ask them to raise taxes by an inch to cut government by a yard, they will still say no.
Yet today, Brooks is calling Obama a “sap” for not trying harder to win over the party that Brooks just a few months ago said would not compromise, “no matter how sweet the terms.”
I’m not sure if today’s column is pure chutzpa or just Brooks attempting to get back in good favor with Republican party brokers.
Either way, Andrew Sullivan is all over it.
During a debate last week for Republican presidential candidates and in interviews after it, Representative Michele Bachmann called the vaccine to prevent cervical cancer “dangerous.” Medical experts fired back quickly. Her statements were false, they said, emphasizing that the vaccine is safe and can save lives. Mrs. Bachmann was soon on the defensive, acknowledging that she was not a doctor or a scientist
But the harm to public health may have already been done. When politicians or celebrities raise alarms about vaccines, even false alarms, vaccination rates drop.
“These things always set you back about three years, which is exactly what we can’t afford,” said Dr. Rodney E. Willoughby, a professor of pediatrics at the Medical College of Wisconsin and a member of the committee oninfectious diseases of the American Academy of Pediatrics. The academy favors use of the vaccine, as do other medical groups and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Denise Grady in today’s NYT, on what will be the defining legacy of Bachmann’s 2012 run for the Republican Presidential nomination.