Thursday, June 18, 2009

It's Hoosierboy's soapbox

As promised in the comment section of this post:
Not related at all, so you can delete this if you like. I am OK with that.

What do you make of this poll? I guess I was right when I said conservatives are not as dead as you think.

Link to Gallup Poll

pokety poke poke with the sharp stick, baby. (insert smiley graphic that I really hate here)

That 40 percent polled called themselves conservative is a very interesting statistic to be sure. So why did the righties get pummeled in the last two elections? The article asserts the following:
There is an important distinction in the respective ideological compositions of the Republican and Democratic Parties. While a solid majority of Republicans are on the same page -- 73% call themselves conservative -- Democrats are more of a mixture. The major division among Democrats is between self-defined moderates (40%) and liberals (38%). However, an additional 22% of Democrats consider themselves conservative, much higher than the 3% of Republicans identifying as liberal.

The devil's always in the details. There's hella more conservative Democrats than there are liberal Republicans. And the further to the right the elephants lumber, the smaller the party is going to get. Where are all the moderate Republicans? Simple. They're voting Democrat.

Can you say Colin Powell?


jonas said...

That poll just supports an argument I've been making for a long time: one of two things is happening (or, both) 1) people self-identify with labels and parties w/o any clear understanding of what those labels mean to them; 2) the people asking the question never make clear what those labels mean. Case in point--let's reread Erin's post about big cars and conserving. Technically, her position makes her a kind of conservative. But, clearly in such a poll, Erin would be a Dem/Lib. It's not a great example, but it makes the point: unless such a poll takes the time and effort to make clear what it has in mind re: such vague labels like "conservative" or "liberal," it doesn't tell us much.

You know the old saying "if you’re not a liberal at 20..."? Well, ask a 20 yr old if they're liberal or conservative. Then, ask them what that really means. My guess, the answer will be less than impressive. That is, they won't have a good, solid response. Why? Because at 20, you're "supposed" to be liberal. Watch TV for 20 secs, you'll see. Yeah, yeah, yeah, all of you who want to respond with "well, when I was 20, I WAS liberal (or, conservative) and I KNEW what it meant,"'re case study with N = 1 doesn't mean crap. I'm talking averages here. Do we really think 5, 10, 100, 1000 people can honestly respond that they hold the same definitions for 'liberal' or 'conservative'? Cuz, that's basically what this kind of poll suggests. And as someone who knows a little bit about survey research, I suggest no one ignore the always present disclaimer at the bottom: "In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls." We have no idea what this survey instrument looked like. Taking the data as any sort of gospel is a bad idea.

The point of all this: good for Gallup for stirring the pot. There's no f'n substance behind amorphous terms like 'liberal' and 'conservative.' Until you define them (doesn't matter how, just do it), present the people you're asking with those definitions, all such a poll does is continue to make people self-divide over ideas they, in general, don't seem to understand. Or rather, do not all understand in the same way. This kind of poll feeds the “us vs. them” garbage we’ve come to so enjoy in this country. Gallup should know better.

deangc said...

jonas sez:

There's no f'n substance behind amorphous terms like 'liberal' and 'conservative.'

This is not true. The terms are hard to define, but hundreds of millions of Americans identify themselves with these labels. Whether or not there are hard edges and colours to them, these words have meaning, and strong meaning, to a very large number of people.

There are those who equate liberal and traitor. On the other side there are those who equate conservative with reactionary fascist. On both sides, the labels are used to indicate either those who are right-thinking decent folks or those who are trying to Destroy America (insert trademark symbol here).

These labels have real power. Perhaps Gallup can be faulted for not measuring what they think they're measuring (although I suspect that the Gallup people know what the hell they are doing), but that doesn't mean that the labels are amorphous to the people being asked.

Zen Wizard said...

I don't know about "conservatives," but the Republican party is so dead I think it would be nice to submit ideas for a new "Token Opposition Party so We Don't Lapse Into Stalinism"; the way people are having contests on the Internet to "Rename GM."

Got it covered on both fronts:

New name for GM= Patriot Motor Company.

New name for,"Republicans who were not slaughtered during retreat like the Light Brigade"= American Freedom Party.

Kelly and José said...

Hmmm. . .

We're both "Moderate Republicans" who actually tend to be slightly Liberal and still voted for McCain in the last election. Not because we love McCain, but because we simply agree overall with him much more-so more than Barack (or Hilary)*

jonas said...


Your rebuttal proves my point: "...hundreds of millions of Americans identify themselves with these labels."

And do you really think hundreds of thousands of Americans have the same definitions for those labels? Of course they don't. Those terms, as you pointed out, ARE indeed powerful exactly because they are slippery and often without a broadly agreed upon definition.

You again support this with your 2nd paragraph about how some see liberals as traitors. Well, the liberals don't. But, they use the same word. See the problem?

These are terms that are specifically vague because they are used to rally people. They are tools of those in power. This is my point...because they mean nothing, they are used to mean everything. Language = power. Foucault, Marx, and about a bazillion other people figured this out long ago. This is why labels are dangerous. They allow us to shorthand each other w/o really knowing each other.

Historical example: read up on the BJP and how they've "defined" India as a Hindu country. Who's Hindu? More importantly, WHAT is Hinduism. Well, alot of really smart people argue there is no single definition. So, why is this political party trying to define it? Well, there about 200 million Muslims in India, lots of Buddhists, Jains, Sikhs, etc. You have to appeal to the widest audience possible. So, for those ~800 million who drift toward Hinduism, there's a party for them. Among other things, its manipulation.

So yes, these terms do have power. Never argued otherwise. But, they continue to have power because we give them power by paying attention to crappy polls. And with dumb bumper stickers. And lame tshirts. We think its freedom of speech and political expression. Its really just us being led around by soundbytes.

We're not as smart as we think we are.

Anonymous said...

"The devil's always in the details. There's hella more conservative Democrats than there are liberal Republicans. And the further to the right the elephants lumbers, the smaller the party is going to get. Where are all the moderate Republicans? Simple. They're voting Democrat."

There are times these issues are best left to professionals. This is one of those times.


Erin O'Brien said...

RJ, I'm hoping you mean that you're leaving this to me--the professional you mention--and that it does not mean: ol' Erin should have just kept her trap shut and let a more qualified person do the talking (or in the case, writing).

Whatever you meant, I did change "elephants lumbers" to "elephants lumber" in the body of the post.

Great comments everyone. Thanks.


Anonymous said...

Hmmmm...missed the ambiguity. My intent was to highlight the precision of your comment and suggest that your status as a professional scribe was advantageous in this circumstance.

Now I must get back to my desolation as Gallup illustrates I am among only 5% of the extreme liberal population. But I'll say this, I like pie. Fucking pie hating conservatives can kiss my ass. You don't like pie you're not Amerikan.


Erin O'Brien said...


Glad I came out on the right (?) side of that one. But no worries, RJ. I welcome your opinion always.

As for pie, I loves me some pumpkin chiffon.

Kirk Jusko said...

"I cannot and will not cut my conscience to fit this years fashions."

--Lillian Hellman, 1952

When Hellman said that, liberalism wasn't just unpopular, it was practically illegal.

Glass Houses said...

Kirk -

In 1952 people with dark skin were not just unpopular, they were practically illegal.

What is your point, exactly?

Zen Wizard said...

One [of the many] reason[s] Goldwater got his @$$ kicked so resoundingly was that there used to be "liberal Republicans," like, e.g., Mitt Romney's dad.

I guess we would have to "define liberal."

I would say a good working definition is, "Believes in Keynesian interventionist economics."

Kirk Jusko said...

Lillian Hellman was a liberal--or, at least people thought she was a liberal. She also had many friends (and one very famous lover) who were liberals, leftists, and even former communists (people who had joined the party during the Great Depression, when it looked like capitalism had collapsed). She was called before the House Un-American Activites Committee to testify about her beliefs and the beliefs of her friends. She declined to do so. My quote is from a letter she wrote to the HUAC.

My point, and I admit it was poorly made, was that I'm uneasy judging the virtues of liberalism or conservatism based soley on what an opinion poll says. Obviously, if you want certain polices to prevail, you need to convince as many people as possible. But because you want them to see the rightness of your argument, not out of some mindless (and fragile) peer pressure.

Kirk Jusko said...

btw, Lillian Hellman disapproved of racism.

kim said...


That's plain silly. There ARE no conservative Democrats. None. There are plenty of moderate Republicans, including John McCain. Which is why the GOP got flattened. Democrats don't walk back their far left agenda, but they certainly want Republicans to walk back their principles. And why not? It's a fool's errand.
Two things happened in 2006-2008: the normal pendulum swing between parties (especially due to the unfavorable reaction to the Iraq War) and the unstoppable juggernaut Barack Obama. Many people have read their own hopes and desires into him, and he's a brilliant politician who can make that happen.
I continue to watch him govern. I'm even less impressed than I was in November, as he cannot seem to tell a truth or keep a promise, but he may grow up and into the office yet.
P.S. I'd sure like to have that CEO job at GM. I don't have any experience, but I'm sure with a leg up from O and a fawning press I could grow up and into the job.

All the best,


Anonymous said...

Kim's here. We've entered the no spin zone.


Erin O'Brien said...

From Mr. Kim Crawfords website, November 3, 2008:

"Frankly, much of what Mr. Obama utters is complete fucking gibberish: attacking Pakistan, causing residential and commercial energy prices to skyrocket, having tea and goddam crumpets with dithyrambic theocrats, unilaterally taking the nuclear trump card off the felt. I don't for a moment think even Obama can believe that bilious tripe."

So saying that you're even less impressed with Obama now than you were then ain't saying much at all, baby.

And one more thing, Mr. Crawford, you really need to go on a modifier diet. Don't believe me? Get a copy of "The First Five Pages" by Noah Lukeman. That's is hands-down the best advice you've gotten all day, all week, probably all month. And no, I'm not talking down to you. I've got a copy on my shelf.

Erin O'Brien said...

Please excuse the redundant "is" in the last paragraph. It's a bit late in the day, folks.

Glass Houses said...

Thanks for the clarification Kirk. At first glance me thoughts you were touting the common values of 1952 America...which were clearly a bit skewed.

I'll take this a bit further. I say we get rid of the labels "liberal" and "conservative" altogether. The peer pressure issue is a common one, as is the issue of prejudice.

Maybe the public at large would actually pay attention to each candidates specific platform if all candidates were labeled "independent". Instead of mindlessly voting for whichever party their daddy belongs to.

***Please note; this is a generalization of how much of the American public chooses their candidate. Not any one person, as I'm sure you all make informed decisions about each candidate before choosing, instead of simply voting R or D because you always have.

jonas said...


Getting rid of the labels is exactly what I'm talking about! The longer we allow people like Bill O'Reilly define the world as a set of binary opposites (SP's vs "good guys"...or whatever the hell he calls people), the longer we're allowing ourselves to be fooled.

We're too lazy to actually think and discuss, so we tag people with "left", "right", "lib", "conserve". Might as well move back to 17th century Europe and pick a side: Catholic or Protestant. Or, maybe downtown Baghdad...Sunni/Shi'a. If you're comfortable pointing the finger at your neighbor and thinking their wrong because of some label, then perhaps a history lesson is in order to make clear why such thinking never gets us very far.

Erin O'Brien said...

Is that our mild-mannered Jonas talking or Dan Carlin in disguise?

Same goes for you GH. Carlin's been saying that we should removed the "D" and "R" from ballots for as long as I've been listening to him.

You would both probably love his "Common Sense" show (linked above). I never miss an episode.

jonas said...

Just callin' it like I sees it, EO.

philbilly said...

And so the American Independent Party continues to evolve...

"I don't care to belong to a club that accepts people like me as members."
Groucho Marx, our Founder.

Our habits of consumption and conservation, and our skills of creation, bring to bear as much, if not more, political influence than our votes.

Frost that capital cake with religious, educational and occupational freedom of choice, and now we've got something. Ask Iranians.

As the FBI unravels the cabal of corruption that has choked the life out of Cleveland now for forty years, endless opportunity will arise. Quoting a recent article in Forbes, "Hold your nose and invest."

Kirk Jusko said...

I don't particularly like labels, and would like to think of myself as an "independent." When I was younger I actually looked for Republicans to vote for. I voted for George Voinavich a couple of times for something or other (was it governor or senator? I can't remember!) The problem, I've since discovered, is that to be truly independent under the current set-up, you have to be precisly middle-of-the-road, and I'm not. I believe that, left on it's own, a private entity like a bank or a corporation (or just some rich guy with too much time on his hands) can amass as much power as the kings and czars of old, and will use that power to step on anyone who's not a king or czar, either (as it's most benign) as a way of maintaining power, or (as it's least benign) just for the hell of it. From time to time, these kings and czars, again as a way of maintaining power, will choose particular classes of people to be picked on, such as blacks, jews, gays, or even poor white folks. They'll also set some of these groups, such as blacks, jews, gays, wns epecially poor white folks, against each other.

As you can see, it's difficult to find a Republican who shares those views. Heck, sometimes it's hard to find a DEMOCRAT who shares those views!

Another problem with the middle-of-the-road position is that I don't think those folks are particularly good at identifying problems. Anything accepted by the middle-of-the-road or mainstream today, such as racism is bad or women should have equal rights, wasn't accepted by the middle-of-the-road or mainstream 100 or even 50 years ago.

So how do you go about being a liberal without parroting everything that comes out of Barack Obama or Bill Clinton's mouth, or a consevative (fair is fair, as the bleeding-hearts like to say) without parroting everything George Bush or Ronald Reagan says, or a moderate who wants nothing more than to avoid being screwed over? That's the problem with the two-party system, it encourages either/or. If we could make it easier to choose from third, fourth, or fifth parties without feeling like you're throwing a vote away, I think that would liberate things quite a bit.

Kirk Jusko said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kirk Jusko said...

Man, I gotta remember to proofread before I click. That should be "at it's most benign" and precisly should be precisely