Andy Kohut goes deep on impact of the GOP’s ‘staunch conservatism’

By Eric Black, MinnPost.com,  03/22/13

Excerpt

Republicans’ image with the wider public is now dominated by the behavior and views of “a bloc of doctrinaire, across-the-board conservatives [that] has become a dominant force on the right.” …The Republican Party has moved further from the center of national public opinion than any party has since the McGovern era when the Democrats were viewed by Middle America as the party of “acid, abortion and amnesty.” The public now perceives the Republicans as “the more extreme party, the side unwilling to compromise or negotiate seriously to tackle the economic turmoil that challenges the nation,” Kohut says….

“The numbers prove it: The GOP is estranged from America.” Andy Kohut, Pew Research Center…“The Republican Party’s ratings now stand at a 20-year low, with just 33 percent of the public holding a favorable view of the party and 58 percent judging it unfavorable…

Republicans’ image with the wider public is now dominated by the behavior and views of “a bloc of doctrinaire, across-the-board conservatives [that] has become a dominant force on the right.” The party’s base, which constitutes about 45 percent of all Republicans, holds “extremely conservative positions on nearly all issues: the size and role of government, foreign policy, social issues, and moral concerns,” writes Kohut. “They stand with the tea party on taxes and spending and with Christian conservatives on key social questions, such as abortion rights and same-sex marriage.”

This group, whom Kohut dubs “staunch conservatives,” are “demographically and politically distinct from the national electorate. Ninety-two percent are white. They tend to be male, married, Protestant, well off and at least 50 years old.”

One of the unifying elements of staunch conservatism is the emotional intensity of their dislike for Pres. Obama…the role of Fox News on the right is much more powerful than the role of liberal news sources on the left: …the impact of staunch conservatism on the Republican Party for the foreseeable future… Three: “they also help keep the party out of the White House. Quite simply, the Republican Party has to appeal to a broader cross section of the electorate to succeed in presidential elections.”

Full text

Republicans’ image with the wider public is now dominated by the behavior and views of “a bloc of doctrinaire, across-the-board conservatives [that] has become a dominant force on the right.”

Writing for the Washington Post’s Outlook section, Andy Kohut of the Pew Research Center makes a case that you won’t find too shocking but to which he brings a depth and breadth based on years’ worth of polling data. Namely: The Republican Party has moved further from the center of national public opinion than any party has since the McGovern era when the Democrats were viewed by Middle America as the party of “acid, abortion and amnesty.”

The public now perceives the Republicans as “the more extreme party, the side unwilling to compromise or negotiate seriously to tackle the economic turmoil that challenges the nation,” Kohut says.

Kohut is no longer president of Pew and perhaps this piece suggests that he is planning to adopt a less neutral, scholarly, pollsterly tone. The headline on the piece reads “The numbers prove it: The GOP is estranged from America.”

“Estranged” is a strong word, but, as the headline suggests, every statement is rooted in polling data. Kohut writes:

“The Republican Party’s ratings now stand at a 20-year low, with just 33 percent of the public holding a favorable view of the party and 58 percent judging it unfavorably, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey. Although the Democrats are better regarded (47 percent favorable and 46 percent unfavorable), the GOP’s problems are its own, not a mirror image of renewed Democratic strength.”

Republicans’ image with the wider public is now dominated by the behavior and views of “a bloc of doctrinaire, across-the-board conservatives [that] has become a dominant force on the right.” The party’s base, which constitutes about 45 percent of all Republicans, holds “extremely conservative positions on nearly all issues: the size and role of government, foreign policy, social issues, and moral concerns,” writes Kohut. “They stand with the tea party on taxes and spending and with Christian conservatives on key social questions, such as abortion rights and same-sex marriage.”

This group, whom Kohut dubs “staunch conservatives,” are “demographically and politically distinct from the national electorate. Ninety-two percent are white. They tend to be male, married, Protestant, well off and at least 50 years old.”

One of the unifying elements of staunch conservatism is the emotional intensity of their dislike for Pres. Obama, Kohut says. “For example, a fall 2011 national survey found 63 percent of conservative Republicans reporting that Obama made them angry, compared with 29 percent of the public overall.”

The Pew organization has been a leader in tracking the nexus that connects politics with the news media. Looking back at that data, Kohut concludes that the role of Fox News on the right is much more powerful than the role of liberal news sources on the left:

“The politicization of news consumption is certainly not new; it’s been apparent in more than 20 years of data collected by the Pew Research Center. What is new is a bloc of voters who rely more on conservative media than on the general news media to comprehend the world. Pew found that 54 percent of staunch conservatives report that they regularly watch Fox News, compared with 44 percent who read a newspaper and 30 percent who watch network news regularly. Newspapers and/or television networks top all other news sources for other blocs of voters, both on the right and on the left. Neither CNN, NPR or the New York Times has an audience close to that size among other voting blocs… Conservative Republicans make up as much as 50 percent of the audiences for Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’ Reilly. There is nothing like this on the left. MSNBC’s ‘Hardball’ and ‘The Rachel Maddow Show’ attract significantly fewer liberal Democrats.”

Kohut also concludes three curious somewhat contradictory things about the impact of staunch conservatism on the Republican Party for the foreseeable future. One: They will complicate the big plan of Republican leaders to soften negative images of the party. Two: The staunch conservatives sustain conservative Republicans ability to remain in many offices, especially in Congress, but  Three: “they also help keep the party out of the White House. Quite simply, the Republican Party has to appeal to a broader cross section of the electorate to succeed in presidential elections.”

http://www.minnpost.com/eric-black-ink/2013/03/andy-kohut-goes-deep-impact-gops-staunch-conservatism?utm_source=MinnPost+e-mail+newsletters&utm_campaign=059c51e115-3_23_2013_Daily_Newsletter3_22_2013&utm_medium=email

The Persistence of Racial Resentment

By THOMAS B. EDSALL, February 6, 2013

Excerpt

Although there was plenty of discussion during the 2012 presidential campaign about the Hispanic vote and how intense black turnout would be, the press was preoccupied with the white vote: the white working class, white women and upscale whites.

Largely missing from daily news stories were references to research on how racial attitudes have changed under Obama, the nation’s first black president. In fact, there has been an interesting exploration of this subject among academics…Despite how controversial it has been to talk about race, researchers have gathered a substantial amount of information on the opinions of white American voters…the evidence strongly suggests that party attachments have become increasingly polarized by both racial attitudes and race as a result of Obama’s rise to prominence within the Democratic Party…At the moment, the population of the United States (314 million) is heading towards a majority-minority status in 2042. The American electorate, on the other hand (126 million) is currently 72 percent white, based on the voters who cast ballots last November …the shifts…within the right wing of the Republican Party. Many voters voicing stronger anti-black affect were already Republican… Some Republican strategists believe the party’s deepening conservatism is scaring away voters…

what Time Magazine recently described as the Republican “brand identity that has emerged from the stars of the conservative media ecosystem: Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, Ann Coulter, and others.”

It is not so much Latino and black voters that the Republican Party needs. To win the White House again, it must assuage the social conscience of mainstream, moderate white voters among whom an ethos of tolerance has become normal. These voters are concerned with fairness and diversity, even as they stand to the right of center. It is there that the upcoming political battles – on the gamut of issues from race to rights – will be fought.

Full text

Although there was plenty of discussion during the 2012 presidential campaign about the Hispanic vote and how intense black turnout would be, the press was preoccupied with the white vote: the white working class, white women and upscale whites.

Largely missing from daily news stories were references to research on how racial attitudes have changed under Obama, the nation’s first black president. In fact, there has been an interesting exploration of this subject among academics, but before getting to that, let’s look back at some election results.

In the 16 presidential elections between 1952 and 2012, only one Democratic candidate, Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964, won a majority of the white vote. There have been nine Democratic presidential nominees who received a smaller percentage of the white vote than Obama did in 2008 (43 percent) and four who received less white support than Obama did in 2012 (39 percent).

In 2012, Obama won 39 percent of the white electorate. Four decades earlier, in 1972, George McGovern received a record-setting low of the ballots cast by whites, 31 percent. In 1968, Hubert Humphrey won 36 percent of the white vote; in 1980, Jimmy Carter got 33 percent; in 1984, Walter Mondale took 35 percent of the ballots cast by whites. As far back as 1956, Adlai Stevenson tied Obama’s 39 percent, and in 1952, Stevenson received 40 percent – both times running against Dwight D. Eisenhower. Two Democratic nominees from Massachusetts, Michael Dukakis in 1988 (40 percent) and John Kerry in 2004 (41 percent), got white margins only slightly higher than Obama’s in 2012 – and worse than Obama’s 43 percent in 2008. In other words, Obama’s track record with white voters is not very different from that of other Democratic candidates.

Ballots cast for House candidates provide another measure of white partisanship. These contests have been tracked in exit polls from 1980 onward. Between 1980 and 1992, the white vote for Democratic House candidates averaged 49.6 percent. It dropped sharply in 1994 when Newt Gingrich orchestrated the Republican take-over of the House, averaging just 42.7 percent from 1994 through 2004. White support for Democrats rose to an average of 46.7 percent in 2006 and 2008 as public disapproval of George W. Bush and of Republicans in Congress sharply increased.

In the aftermath of Obama’s election, white support for Congressional Democrats collapsed to its lowest level in the history of House exit polling, 38 percent in 2010 -  at once driving and driven by the emerging Tea Party. In 2012, white Democratic support for House candidates remained weak at 39 percent.

Despite how controversial it has been to talk about race, researchers have gathered a substantial amount of information on the opinions of white American voters.

The political scientists Michael Tesler of Brown University and David O. Sears of UCLA have published several studies on this theme and they have also written a book, “Obama’s Race: The 2008 Election and the Dream of a Post-Racial America,” that analyzes changes in racial attitudes since Obama became the Democratic nominee in 2008.

In their  2010 paper, “President Obama and the Growing Polarization of Partisan Attachments by Racial Attitudes and Race,” Tesler and Sears argue that the evidence strongly suggests that party attachments have become increasingly polarized by both racial attitudes and race as a result of Obama’s rise to prominence within the Democratic Party.

Specifically, Tesler and Sears found that voters high on a racial-resentment scale moved one notch toward intensification of partisanship within the Republican Party on a seven-point scale from strong Democrat through independent to strong Republican.

To measure racial resentment, which Tesler and Sears describe as “subtle hostility towards African-Americans,” the authors used data from the American National Election Studies and the General Social Survey, an extensive collection of polling data maintained at the University of Chicago.

In the case of A.N.E.S. data, Tesler and Sears write:

The scale was constructed from how strongly respondents agreed or disagreed with the following assertions: 1) Irish, Italian, Jewish and many other minorities overcame prejudice and worked their way up. Blacks should do the same without any special favors. 2) Generations of slavery and discrimination have created conditions that make it difficult for blacks to work their way out of the lower class. 3) Over the past few years, blacks have gotten less than they deserve. 4) It’s really a matter of some people not trying hard enough; if blacks would only try harder they could be just as well off as whites.

The General Social Survey included questions asking respondents to rate competing causes of racial discrimination and inequality:

The scale was constructed from responses to the following 4 items: 1) Irish, Italian, Jewish and many other minorities overcame prejudice and worked their way up. Blacks should do the same without any special favors. 2) A 3-category variable indicating whether respondents said lack of motivation is or is not a reason for racial inequality. 3) A 3-category variable indicating whether respondents said discrimination is or is not a reason for racial inequality. 4) A three-category variable indicating whether respondents rated whites more, less or equally hardworking than blacks on 7 point stereotype scales.

Supporting the Tesler-Sears findings, Josh Pasek, a professor in the communication studies department at the University of Michigan, Jon A. Krosnick, a political scientist at Stanford, and Trevor Tompson, the director of the Associated Press-National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, use responses from three different surveys in their analysis of “The Impact of Anti-Black Racism on Approval of Barack Obama’s Job Performance and on Voting in the 2012 Presidential Election.”

Pasek and his collaborators found a statistically significant increase from 2008 to 2012 in “explicit anti-black attitudes” – a measure based on questions very similar those used by Tesler and Sears for their racial-resentment scale. The percentage of voters with explicit anti-black attitudes rose from 47.6 in 2008 and 47.3 percent in 2010 to 50.9 percent in 2012.

Crucially, Pasek found that Republicans drove the change: “People who identified themselves as Republicans in 2012 expressed anti-Black attitudes more often than did Republican identifiers in 2008.”

In 2008, Pasek and his collaborators note, the proportion of people expressing anti-Black attitudes was 31 percent among Democrats, 49 percent among independents, and 71 percent among Republicans. By 2012, the numbers had gone up. “The proportion of people expressing anti-Black attitudes,” they write, “was 32 percent among Democrats, 48 percent among independents, and 79 percent among Republicans.”

At the moment, the population of the United States (314 million) is heading towards a majority-minority status in 2042.

The American electorate, on the other hand (126 million) is currently 72 percent white, based on the voters who cast ballots last November.

Obama’s ascendency to the presidency means that, on race, the Rubicon has been crossed (2008) and re-crossed (2012).

What are we to make of these developments? Is the country more or less racist? How can the percentage of people holding anti-black attitudes have increased from 2006 to 2008 at a time when Obama performed better among white voters than the two previous white Democratic nominees, and then again from 2008 to 2012 when Obama won a second term?

In fact, the shifts described by Tesler and Pasek are an integral aspect of the intensifying conservatism within the right wing of the Republican Party. Many voters voicing stronger anti-black affect were already Republican. Thus, in 2012, shifts in their attitudes, while they contributed to a 4 percentage point reduction in Obama’s white support, did not result in a Romney victory.

Some Republican strategists believe the party’s deepening conservatism is scaring away voters.

“We have a choice: we can become a shrinking regional party of middle-aged and older white men, or we can fight to become a national governing party,” John Weaver, a consultant to the 2008 McCain campaign, said after Obama’s re-election. Mark McKinnon, an adviser to former President George W. Bush, made a similar point: “The party needs more tolerance, more diversity and a deeper appreciation for the concerns of the middle class.”

Not only is the right risking marginalization as its views on race have become more extreme, it is veering out of the mainstream on contraception and abortion, positions that fueled an 11 point gender gap in 2012 and a 13 point gap in 2008.

Given that a majority of the electorate will remain white for a number of years, the hurdle that the Republican Party faces is building the party’s white margins by 2 to 3 points. For Romney to have won, he needed 62 percent of the white vote, not the 59 percent he got.

Working directly against this goal is what Time Magazine recently described as the Republican “brand identity that has emerged from the stars of the conservative media ecosystem: Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, Ann Coulter, and others.”

It is not so much Latino and black voters that the Republican Party needs. To win the White House again, it must assuage the social conscience of mainstream, moderate white voters among whom an ethos of tolerance has become normal. These voters are concerned with fairness and diversity, even as they stand to the right of center. It is there that the upcoming political battles – on the gamut of issues from race to rights – will be fought.

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/02/06/the-persistence-of-racial-

Why America Can’t Pass Gun Control

By Steven Hill and Robert Richie, The Atlantic, December 2012

Hint: It’s not the NRA or a gun-loving culture.

The horrific tragedy at Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Conn., is the latest grisly episode in what has become a muted debate in the United States: what to do about gun violence and well-armed mass murderers. But we will make a prediction: Even in the face of this national tragedy, President Obama will have little success enacting substantive gun control.

Here’s why: Obama can read the political map as well as anyone, and he knows that, just as in the past after previous brutal tragedies, the politics of gun control rest on complicated terrain. Many gun control advocates blame the lack of policy action on America’s gun-loving culture and the influence of the National Rifle Association (NRA), but that’s too simplistic. Already in the wake of the Newtown carnage we have seen a slew of pundits drawing the wrong conclusions, just as they have after previous tragedies.

Sure, Americans like their guns more than other nations, but polls often have shown a majority of Americans wanting more gun control, with two-thirds calling for more regulation following the Columbine massacre in 1999. But the political system – including the Democratic Party — has failed to respond. And it’s not because Democrats and Obama are afraid of the NRA’s deep pockets, as so many pundits are wrongly concluding. Quite the contrary, the NRA has money because it is powerful, not the other way around. And the NRA is powerful because it is clever at working the clunky architecture of our political system, which gives immense clout to a tiny slice of swing voters in a handful of congressional districts.

To understand the importance of this factor, Obama and gun control advocates have to grapple with the fact that Mitt Romney carried 228 out of 435 House districts (52.4 percent) despite losing the national popular vote to Obama by 4 points. According to an analysis by FairVote, the median House district (the 218th) is one that leans 52 percent Republican. Cook Political Report analysis found that of the 234 Republicans elected to the 435-seat U.S. House in November, fully 219 came from districts that were carried by Mitt Romney. That means that these Republicans don’t need to worry much about challenges from the left or accommodating the president over the next two years. It also means that Democrats will have a very steep uphill climb to retake the House in 2014, since their candidates would have to run well ahead of their presidential nominee in at least a dozen Republican-leaning districts.

Just like our recent presidential election was settled in only a handful of battleground states, control of the U.S. House of Representatives comes down to only about 35 districts — fewer than 10 percent of the 435 districts — every two years. That gives overwhelming power to undecided voters who live in these swing districts, many of which are rural and conservative-leaning. This set-up also gives enormous power to the NRA, because many NRA members live in these rural swing districts.

So the Democrats and Obama know that the NRA doesn’t have clout because it has lots of money — it spent $18 million in congressional elections in 2012 — but the contrary. The NRA has money because it has clout. And it has clout because it has a lot of votes in key battleground House districts and battleground states voting for president and U.S. senators.

Back in 2000, Republican strategist and NRA board member Grover Norquist summed it up nicely, saying, “The question is intensity versus preference. You can always get a certain percentage to say they are in favor of some gun controls. But are they going to vote on their ‘control’ position?” Though many voters back gun control, says Norquist, their support doesn’t really motivate them when they go to the polls. “But for that 4-5 percent who care about guns, they will vote on this.”

Things have hardly changed since Norquist made those comments. The NRA’s job is made easier because it can target its resources at the three dozen swing districts like a military strategist dividing quadrants on a battlefield. That allows a small number of NRA voters to form a potent single-issue voting bloc, since a change in 5 percent of the vote in any swing district can make all the difference. The NRA has power not so much because of its deep pockets but because of the fundamental design of our geographic-based political map in which representatives are elected in single-seat, winner-take-all districts.

Many Democrats believe that strong support for gun control has cost their party key elections in such rural states as West Virginia, Missouri, Ohio, Arkansas, Colorado, Pennsylvania and elsewhere. They believe that Al Gore lost the presidential election in 2000 in his home state of Tennessee because he was on the wrong side of this issue.

That led to Democrats ducking and even pandering on this issue. Who can forget the ridiculous sight of John Kerry trumpeting his own prowess as a gun owner when he ran for president in 2004. When Democrats regained the House after the 2006 elections, they did so largely based on victories by Democrats winning in Republican-leaning districts. Knowing that support for gun control could cause them to lose their race, no matter how broad national support was, most of those winning Democrats backed the NRA positions. And in his first term, President Obama continued the Democratic duck, not even pushing to reauthorize the lapsed ban on semi-automatic weapons.

The reality is that the dynamics of winner-take-all elections allow gun control opponents to form a potent single-issue voting bloc that far outweighs their minority status — much like anti-Castro Cubans in Florida have pushed Democrats as well as Republicans to go hard on Castro. Despite lobbying from his liberal constituency, Obama has not fundamentally changed the Cold War era policy towards Cuba, due to fear of how that would play among a key bloc of swing voters in a key presidential swing state. Democrats know how to count not only votes but swing votes, whether in battleground states or battleground House districts.

That gives pro-gun swing voters and their advocates like the NRA tremendous influence in our political system. American pundits and political scientists often portray multiparty democracies elected by proportional representation, such as in Italy and Israel, as being beholden to tiny political parties of extremists who hold their governments hostage. Yet they fail to recognize how the dynamics of our own winner-take-all electoral politics allow well-organized political minorities such as those represented by the NRA to mobilize anti-gun control swing voters to push a radical agenda on the mainstream.

Looking ahead to 2014, control of the House once again will come down to the outcome of 35 or so close races. To earn a House majority, Democrats will need to sweep nearly all of them,  largely in districts where a pro-gun control position doesn’t play well. The math of the 2014 election is daunting, since Democrats can’t win control of the U.S. House without winning more than a dozen districts where Mitt Romney defeated Barack Obama in 2012 — and that assumes that the Democrats sweep all 207 districts carried by Obama. So this dilemma for President Obama and the Democrats will not be settled easily.

Obama might manage to use the passion unleashed by this latest tragedy to re-authorize the ban on semi-automatic weapons. But any hope that he will lead an effort to enact substantive gun control is pure fantasy. Tragically so. When it comes to gun policy and the House, demography is destiny.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2012/12/why-america-cant-pass-gun-control/266417/

Copyright © 2012 by The Atlantic Monthly Group. All Rights Reserved.

The Obama Election: Lessons for a Political Movement

The Obama Election: Lessons for a Political Movement

By Harriet Fraad, Monday, 26 November 2012  Truthout | Op-Ed

Obama was elected to arrest US fascism, not because he can deliver hope, jobs, prosperity or a fulfilling life to the majority who elected him; but that majority can become a movement that will achieve those goals.

Obama has not delivered on the economic promises of hope and change he offered in 2008. He added a new conflict in Pakistan to the other two losing imperial wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that cause thousands of senseless deaths and create millions of enemies for America. Why did Obama win? What lessons are there for us to learn from his victory?

First, I want to offer some background information about the votes in this election. In times of economic and social pain, people tend to look for different and more extreme solutions to their problems. The social status quo in their nations fails to provide adequate jobs and decent lives. In nations like Greece, France and Spain, we are watching people polarize between the Left and the Right, between anti-capitalist socialism and fascism. (These nations have long had parties socialist in name only). The US does not have a viable Left. However we do have a Right fascistic movement with a particularly American program. Romney approached that program in the primaries. His vision was characterized by a politics for the top 20 percent that throws the rest of the American people under the bus.

The American fascistic tendency has a religious face. Those who are born again in Christ, evangelicals, Orthodox Jews, fundamentalists or Mormons are worth saving. Others are condemned. Like Hitler and Mussolini, the far right extols marriage between submissive women and dominant men who have numerous submissive children. The same, “traditional family” Hitler and Mussolini endorsed, is endorsed by many Mormons, evangelicals, Southern Baptists, fundamentalists, Orthodox Jews – especially Hasidim – and Catholics. Those who question hierarchical religion, such as spiritual progressives and non-believers, are condemned. Church state separation is damned. In the words of Jerry Falwell, “The Idea that religion and politics don’t mix was invented by the Devil to keep Christians from running their own country….”

Related features of a US fascistic agenda shared by other fascist movements and political parties are a mythical past of unmitigated American glory, homophobia, misogyny, extreme nationalism, anti-intellectualism and anti-multiculturalism. In a particularly strange manifestation, the US fascistic agenda includes hatred of immigrants in a nation of immigrants founded on ethnic cleansing of the only native people originally here. Throughout Romney’s campaign, there emerged occasional and powerful fascistic memes such as the violent reformulation of rape, the rejection of science – climate change and conception. These offer a retreat from frightening realities down a slippery slope toward imaginary pasts that were neither inclusive nor ideal. For most, Obama’s victory was built on uniting those constituencies who are condemned by the Right. It was that majority of Americans who voted to defeat a fascistic agenda. I believe they did so not because Obama will deliver the better lives his policies have thus far failed to deliver. Instead I believe that they voted for Obama to reject US fascism.

Pro-Obama constituencies are emblematic of a new America. Asians, Hispanics and African-Americans, referred to as “minorities,” are the actually the new majority. Most American children are what is called “minorities.”

The women who supported Obama were not part of the “gender gap” that was so widely reported. The majority of married women backed Romney. Romney garnered 53 percent of married women’s votes. It was unmarried women who strongly supported Obama. Fully 68 percent of unmarried women voted for Obama, as opposed to only 30 percent for Romney. Unmarried women supported Obama by a more than 2-to-1 ratio. For the first time in recorded US history, the majority of US women are single That is not only because women grow older and live longer than men. For the first time since the census began in 1880, the majority of women in what is referred to as prime fertility ages, 18 to 34 years old, are unmarried. These women voted against what was known as Romney’s “war on women.” Unmarried women are another majority that is largely unrecognized as a political force.

Still another group that is unrecognized is non-believers. We have never had a US president or presidential candidate declaring himself a non-believer, even though non-believers constitute 20 percent of Americans. The Mormon religion captures only 2 percent of Americans. One in five Americans is a non-believer. Approximately 40 percent of US citizens state that they attend church. However, they do not. Because of the false impressions delivered by US media, the truth is actually distorted. In actuality, less than 20 percent of US citizens attend church. There are fewer people attending church than the number saying they are non-believers. Non-believers are off of our public radar even though they are growing as fundamentalists, evangelicals, established Christian denominations and Catholics are decreasing their numbers. Non-believers voted for Obama. Non-believers are fully 30 percent of young Americans under 34 years old. They, like unmarried women, are an unrecognized political force.

Young people are another Obama constituency. They have suffered terribly in the last four years, but three out of five of them voted for Obama. They too are a powerful and not yet organized constituency. They differ from older Americans in that a majority of young people from 18 to 29 prefer socialism to capitalism.

Gays are yet another constituency for Obama. It is estimated that one out of 10 US citizens is gay. An impressive 76 percent of gays voted for Obama.

Obama was elected as a way to hold back the tide of US fascism with its misogyny, nationalism, militarism, homophobia, anti-intellectualism, anti-multiculturalism, anti-labor, and religiosity. Obama cannot deliver hope, jobs, prosperity, or a fulfilling life to the majority who elected him. The past election cost more than $6 billion. Obama cannot desert his economic backers. He will not create the 22 million decently-paid jobs that would be the equivalent of the 11 million or more jobs FDR created during our last Depression. (Our population has doubled since the last Great Depression). FDR created those jobs because there was a mass Communist and Socialist movement that threatened the capitalist system by exposing capitalism as the source of the Great Depression. FDR raised taxes on the rich to 94 percent. Those taxes financed government jobs and programs. The mass US Communist and Socialist movements impelled many powerful capitalists to support radical changes that would stop the threat to the entire capitalist system.

It took approximately 50 years for the alliance of capitalist giants, anti-labor forces, racists, religious fundamentalists, and anti-civil rights, anti-women’s rights, anti-intellectuals, anti-multiculturalists and anti-gay rights groups to tear down the protective legislation that FDR and his government put in place.

This election showed that there is a basis for a powerful movement based on toleration of difference, economic rights and equality, full civil rights, women’s rights, gay rights, multiculturalism, an educated population and church state separation. That coalition lives among the constituencies that prevented a fascistic agenda. It is that coalition that reelected a president who did not deliver his promises of peace or prosperity. At least he was not a fascist.

We can do better. It is time for the US to create a democratic and socialist movement for tolerance, separation of church and state, equal opportunity and full human recognition. This time we will not be fooled into enacting regulations to protect and support our vision, while leaving the majority of the wealth and with that wealth, the power, in the same capitalist hands that brought America down. That wealth must be used for the majority, the 80 percent who own only 11 percent of America’s wealth, while the top 20 percent own 89 percent of our wealth. The demographic of the movement we develop is right there in the election results. It is time to build a movement based on that strong coalition.

Copyright, Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.

 

http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/12852-the-obama-election-lessons-for-a-political-movement

Not Afraid to Talk About Race by Charles Blow

New York Times, June 7, 2012
Hey, I heard that: “Oh, no, the black columnist is writing about race, again.”

Yes, I am. Deal with it. The moment we allow ourselves to be browbeaten out of having important discussions about issues that persist, we cease to command the requisite conviction to wield the pen — or to peck on a keyboard, but you get my drift.

Varying political views among racial and ethnic groups are real.

They have always informed our politics, and no doubt they will continue to do so. The idea, naively held by many, that the election of the first black president would nullify racial grievances, bridge racial differences and erase racial animosities has quickly faded. We find ourselves once again trying to wrestle with the meaning and importance of race in our politics.

In fact, one could argue that examinations of racial attitudes in politics have become more fraught as racial motives, political objectives and accusations and denials of racism and reverse-racism serve as a kind of subterfuge hiding resentments and prejudices.

Either racial attitudes are naked, blatant and visible, this thinking goes, or they’re nonexistent, manufactured by race baiters and hucksters as devices of division. The middle ground, sprinkled with land mines made up of racial labels, is now a place where fair-minded people dare not tread.

That’s a shame.

But it’s not going to stop me. Strap on your lead boots and let’s go for a stroll.

A Pew Research Center American values survey released this week offers fascinating insights into how racially divergent values and the changing racial compositions of political parties influence our politics.

Let’s look at the racial makeup of the two major parties: from 2000 to 2012 the percentage of Republicans who are white has remained relatively steady, about 87 percent. On the other hand, the percentage of Democrats who are white has dropped nine percentage points, from 64 percent in 2000 to 55 percent in 2012. If current trends persist, in a few years the Democratic Party will be a majority minority party. But the largest drop in the white percentage has been among Independents: they were 79 percent white in 2000, but they are only 67 percent white now.

The racial diversity among Democrats and the lack of it among Republicans means that the two bases bring differing sets of concerns to the national debate.

For instance, blacks and Hispanics are far more likely to believe that poverty is a result of circumstances beyond a person’s control than a result of lack of effort.

Blacks and Hispanics also look far more favorably on the role of government, particularly as it relates to guarding against poverty and evening a playing field that they feel is tilted. Seventy-eight percent of both blacks and Hispanics believed that government should guarantee everyone enough to eat and a place to sleep, while only 52 percent of whites agreed with that idea.

This is not to say that minorities who favor a stronger government want more government handouts. There was very little difference in the percentage of blacks, Hispanics and whites who believed that poor people have become too dependent on government assistance programs (it’s pretty high for all three groups, at 70, 69 and 72 percent, respectively).

They seem to want a chance, not a check.

To wit, 62 percent of blacks and 59 percent of Hispanics say that we should make every possible effort to improve the position of blacks and other minorities, even if it means giving them preferential treatment. Not surprisingly, only 22 percent of whites agreed with this idea. Only 12 percent of Republicans — almost all of whom are white — agreed. This percentage has been decreasing since 2007, while the percentage of white Democrats who agree has been increasing.

Now what does that mean for the presidential race?

A staggering 90 percent of Romney supporters are white. Only 4 percent are Hispanic, less than 1 percent are black and another 4 percent are another race.

Of Obama’s supporters, 57 percent are white, 23 percent are black, 12 percent are Hispanic and 7 percent are another race.

And what of the all-important swing voters (those who are undecided, who lean toward a candidate, or who say that they could change their mind)? Nearly three out of four are white. The rest are roughly 8 percent each blacks, Hispanics and another race.

That might explain why the Pew poll found that the swing voters lean more toward Obama voters on issues like civil liberties and the role of labor unions, but are closer to Romney voters on the role of social safety nets, immigration and minority-preference programs.

Put another way, Romney voters and swing voters — who are both overwhelming white — agree on the more racially charged issues.

Pointing out these correlations is not only valid, it is instructive and helpful. In large part this election will be about the role of government in our lives, and different racial and ethnic groups view that particular issue very differently.

The economy always looms large, but for those who feel left behind by the economy even when it’s roaring, but especially when it sputters, social safety nets and governmental activism can also have tremendous weight.

The trick will be to have a conversation about the direction of the country that takes that into account but lifts the language to a level where common goals can be seen from differing racial vantage points — to show a way to be merciful to those struggling while providing a path to financial independence and social equality. Contrary to what many Americans think, most people do in fact want a hand up and not a handout.
http://campaignstops.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/06/07/not-afraid-to-talk-about-race/?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=edit_th_20120607