Thursday, November 6, 2008

in which I am missing something

Although I spend the majority of my time with people who share my political ideology to at least some extent, I also know a decent number of people who are die-hard supporters of the Other Party. And I don't even have a political identification; I'm registered as an independent but end up voting with one party almost all of the time because I think they more closely resemble what I want for this country.

Given that random information, I would like some Other Party voter out there to explain something to me, without being sarcastic, rude, annoying, demeaning, uppity, or racist. Just an explanation that really states why you are voting Other Party this year if:

You are not racist
You make less than 100 k per year (or even just less than 200-250 k)and/or don't own your own business
You are not religious and are not being told to vote Other Party by some preacher somewhere
You are not afraid of terrorists and/or believe that having a good name on the global stage might be a good thing
You are not in the military
You are not just voting Other Party because you always have and still think that Other Party today stands for the same thing it did fifty years ago.

The other two options I've heard most often cited for why people end up voting Other Party are:


In these two cases, I would like someone to explain to me:

1. Why gun control is the issue you vote with, which trumps all other issues, considering that it has been a minor player in at least this recent election AND considering the fact that given American History, the number of people with guns in this country and the strength/support of the NRA, I really really REALLY doubt that you will ever actually be in danger of having your guns taken away. You might have to wait an extra two days to get one, but seriously, the day you have your guns taken away is the day I actually witness an uprising in this country. It isn't going to happen any time soon.

2. Why the life of a fetus trumps the life of a mother. All the abortion-related legislature that has been put up recently makes very few, if any, allowances for a mother's health or legal rights. I have never understood why pre-life wins over current life. I'm also curious about how ending abortion can possibly have beneficial, or even neutral, societal impacts in the long-term. Look at current population growth and the history of countries where abortion had been outlawed in the past. But, that's another story, and I'm really more interested in having an explanation to the first part.

In general, I am interested in knowing why Other Party proponents are so generally interested in being able to control what other people do in the privacy of their own homes.

Maybe I've missed an issue that turns people Other Party. Or maybe just these accounts for the percentage of the popular vote that went to McCain (in case Other Party wasn't clear. You never know). It scares me that people call Obama "socialist" - his ideas are relatively centrist in general, and less "socialist" than the distribution of oil money in Alaska, which people seem to be ok with.

Maybe I'm just underestimating the tendency for people to cling to stereotype and avoid fact. Or maybe, as I suspect, I'm just missing something.

I hope to avoid too much political back-and-forth, but if anyone wants to answer any of these, I'd be interested to hear it.


T said...

If your questions are serious, I can answer some of them. I can't answer the guns or abortion questions, because I disagree with the Other Party on those issues. But I think I could probably provide an explanation for why educated and intelligent people - and there are many, many out there - side with the Other Party. I think recent politics and this election, for sure, have given the impression that the Other Party stands for only a few things (don't forget gay marriage!), but in reality it's much more nuanced than that and there are a large number of Other Partiers, in particular youth, who feel disenfranchised from their party.

Politics is something personal, and typically people who hold strong political beliefs find it incredibly difficult to understand others' points of view - maybe sort of understand them, but ultimately not really respect them. Typically discussions of politics come up when you're either a) with like-minded people or b) being asked to defend yourself, and it can get thorny. Having spent A LOT of time in situations where I was the political minority in the room, constantly having to be on guard as people belligerently demand to know how you could have those beliefs is off-putting (to say the least).

Liberal Arts Lady said...

I am totally serious - I know that there HAS to be a good reason that isn't the normal bullshit that we hear most of the time. And every time I even make an attempt at finding out what those reasons might be, I hear a lie about Obama, a stereotype, or a sarcastic remark about flip-flopping.

Much of the nuance gets lost, that's very true. But the nuance cited to me most of the time is that of the Other Party gone by, and isn't relevant anymore (for instance, don't tell me you vote Other Party because Lincoln was Other Party. How irrelevant can you get?)

Info me!

T said...

The basic gist of it, as you know, is large government versus small government. A Republican would believe that a smaller government - where individuals or more local governments have greater autonomy - is a preferable situation. Our tax dollars pay for services that not everyone may want to take advantage of (public radio, public schools, public transportation, etc.) and many republicans would want to choose for themselves where they allocate their money and not have it decided on their behalf. They would have everyone in society believe in personal economic responsibility, that it is your duty to provide for yourself and your family and your community and not rely on government to provide for you. You decide how and where to spend the money you've earned. Lower taxes not only allow you more choice over how you spend your money, but they also promote private spending which in turn fosters economic growth.

Now, the recent Republican party has made a muddle of social issues - I would argue at least in part to pander to conservative Christians. However, bear in mind the idea of personal responsibility: gun rights and abortion fit within the ideology in a perfect system (e.g. one where everyone is taking said responsibility over themselves and their actions and accepting the resulting consequences).

As regards the issue of gay marriage, many of the young conservatives I know have no problem with it as its an individual, personal issue. Another perspective I've heard is that the state should not be regulating marriage (a religious institution) anyway, and that civil unions should be de rigeur for all couples. (Then again, many of my conservative friends would lean more libertarian were libertarianism a viable option.) The aggressive militarism as of late I would argue is uncharacteristic of the party, although national defense has always been a priority.

Liberal Arts Lady said...

Ok, I follow you so far! Things I knew, and make sense as concepts.

I guess what I kinda want is a "small government (at least the concept you described) will help me because..." kind of statement, because that's the part I don't get. "because...people are so wonderful that they will obviously willingly give up the portion of their paychecks that is necessary for the community?" "Because...I don't mind all the homeless people hanging around because we don't have any societal safety nets?"

You see where I have conceptual blockage. No snarkiness intended.

I have issues believing someone who says this, especially if they support the very issues you point out that don't actually fit with the personal responsibility ideal. In which case I have to go back to the "uninformed" and perhaps "hypocritical" model of understanding voter decisions.

Is there a good example? Some intelligent person could say "small government actually worked in this case.." ?

T said...

Small government will help you because *you* will have control of your own money to determine how and where and when and why you spend it. It's a fallacy to think that people won't still support, say, the United Way or their church or their other preferred charities with the additional money they have from lowered taxes. Should the government act as a societal safety net? That's a personal question, for sure, but some people would answer "No" in full realization of what consequences that could carry. Many people would say that they already have social safety nets in their family or their community. I see a huge contradiction, personally, in Republicans who for instance are living off of welfare or (and here I'm particularly cold-hearted) Social Security.

However, big government also means that the government has more control over you and your personal life, both in a conspiratorial sense for some but just in a basic, way of life for others. Should the government be able to have a say over what's on the radio, how much you pay for gas, what schools you send your kids to? We've created a complex and ideologically imperfect (for either side) government by now. The party lines are certainly shifting as the government tries to control things (again, gay marriage) that many former conservatives would see as none of their business, thus alienating could-be Republicans who have trouble supporting fiscal liberalism.

Liberal Arts Lady said...

I think it might be a fallacy to think that people would give enough to the community needs to actually support the community - sort of like going out to eat as a group, as most groups come up short on the bill once everyone has contributed. Everyone wants to keep as much of their cash as they can, and even if they have preferred charities that doesn't mean the roads will get fixed.

Still, I can see how that might be a reason to vote Other Party, if you really believe that people WILL pony up. However, it seems a bit like voting for a fantasy, as it's the Other Party that has become very much more "Big Brother" compared to liberals.

Is it safe to say that someone voting Other Party for the reasons you suggest (small government) is willing and aware that they're trading fiscal freedom for social freedom? Because that's the only way I can understand it; otherwise they're voting for a non-entity, something that isn't real.

T said...

Neither party works in effect, so I think it's impossible to say which donation situation (people would give or they wouldn't) is the fallacy. We *know* that the current system is an ineffective limbo - ask anyone who's tried to live off of welfare or off of their social security checks or off of Medicare, and state run programs are not perfect. This, I believe, is a fundamental difference between the right and the left: the right says that people will donate the money when needed, the left says they won't. Anecdotally I can't tell you the last time I was in a group that came up short in cash, at least not without someone immediately pulling out their wallet and throwing more money in and even when it happens it's more often people who are mathematically incompetent. Similarly my undergrad university had no core curriculum, yet students consistently graduated with a full complement of math/science, english, foreign languages, etc. There's no way to know which side is correct.

Things like police, fire, libraries, road services - I don't think, even in the farthest right of venues - that I've heard people disagree with the maintenance of these things. (Libraries brings up book banning, natch, but I can't speak to that as I'm a huge advocate of free speech in all contexts.)

We're all voting for a non-entity. Both sides are corrupt and neither side can or will do all that they claim to want to do. The Republicans as of late have become too Big Brother for many.

I think this is going to be my last post on the topic, because it's much too tiring for me to continue. I know you're being respectful and I appreciate your curiosity, but there is still a fundamental gap in belief systems that I'm not going to be able to bridge in this forum.

Liberal Arts Lady said...

No worries, I appreciate you humoring me this far! Obviously there will be a point where it's a belief system issue - which is why my question was aimed at people who aren't religious, etc., since THOSE belief systems I already understood. And the big gov't/small gov't issue is so vague and unrealistic to me that I wanted a better explanation. Money I can understand, and if that's what it comes down to in the end I might not agree but at least it's less a mystery.

Remind me to include you in my next group outing! Maybe I base my experience too much on dining with grad students. ;) I'm surprised that the differences in trusting people come out this way - who knew the Other Party has such faith in the people?

Thanks for your help!