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Tuesday, August 07, 2007


good lord. Who ARE the Democrats anyway? Are they just conservatives that find religious fundamentalism aesthetically displeasing?

I've always said that Democrats are just Republicans who'll let you have an abortion.

Not for long.

Democrats are just Republicans who'll let well-to-do White women like themselves have an abortion. Or is it the other way around ? I get so confused...

If we want to look at what's positive (in an incremental way), we can see the waning of the DLC, Howard Dean heading the DNC, increased public awareness and activism...

And while some want to place this sort of thing at Kos' feet or whatever, it really actualy *does* belong to the Nader campaign in 2000, because that got a lot of people worked up and subsequently traumatized. Dean saw the light, and basically invented the netroots, raising most of his money from individuals online.

Things are improving here and there, but certainly not in the leaps and bounds we would hope. America can only take on so much self-evaluation at a time, after all. We're putting off the inevitable confrontation with ourselves over being an empire... The Iraq war has shown us the truth about ourselves, but how many have the eyes to see?

Despite the fact that I worked on Nader's campaign in 2000, voted for him in 2000 and 2004, and will vote for him again in 2008 if he runs, I don't give him any credit for the increased awareness and activism of the past few years. I'd say nearly all the credit belongs to one person: George W. Bush.

And the flip side of that is that if the Democrats win the presidency in 2008, you can count on that increased awareness and activism coming to a screeching halt.

"Democrats are just Republicans who'll let well-to-do White women like themselves have an abortion. Or is it the other way around ?"

Well-to-do white women are just Republicans who'll let Democrats like themselves have an abortion?

John, I think you're mistaking the importance of self-identification. This self-identification stuff is notoriously poor at correlating to actual policy preferences.

The relevant example here is that over 70% of Democrats think Hillary Clinton wants to withdraw all US troops from Iraq. It's probably the case that the nature of marketing magic allows voters to project their own policy preferences onto candidates - it's a fairly universal result.

buermann: You're right that people are often (mis/under/ill)-informed about the positions of their candidates, and that might be part of why they favor Hillary by such a wide margin--but at the same time, those same misconceptions would apply with the other candidates as well, so I don't see that it would actually undermine the results (or conclusions). And in fact I imagine that nearly all of them would say that Gore is more liberal than Hillary, and yet they still favor her overwhelmingly if he's added to the list.

In the case of self-identifying as liberal or conservative, though, I do think it's worth listening to what people are saying.

Regarding PIPA, BTW, it's ironic that you'd mention that particular study, because I did an extensive analysis of it (and a followup as well) that shows that PIPA fudged the results to make Kerry voters appear better-informed about their candidate than Bush voters were about theirs. After seeing how much they misrepresented the results, I no longer trust PIPA's reports.

Thanks for the comment and citations.

"people are x-informed about the positions of their candidates"

I think the evidence points to an attribution of their own preferences to the candidate lacking any better information. You're absolutely right about PIPA fudging on Kerry (actually, weren't Kerry supporters "further of the mark"?), which I think demonstrates that point pretty well when you compare the results to corresponding to PEW and CCFR public attitude studies on the same policy questions.

"those same misconceptions would apply with the other candidates as well"

Yes, but I'm not sure that it's in the way you think. Edward's actually comes closer to supporting a full withdrawal, but fewer Democrats think he holds that position than they do Hillary: in effect Hillary is perceived as the most thoroughly anti-war candidate while the least pro-war candidate among the top three "electables" is perceived as the opposite.

"I do think it's worth listening to what people are saying"

So do I, but self-identification isn't a meaningful measure of anything they have to say.

I don't think self-identifying as "liberal", "conservative", or "moderate") tells you much about whether the individual is liberal, conservative, or whatever is in between.

Take a look at what people actually believe on issues and what you see is that the nation is overwhelmingly liberal. (E.g., universal, government-funded healthcare; Social Security; environmental protections, worker safety protections, etc.) Even many supporters of the Republicans, who call themselves conservatives, support these liberal positions. A lot of them think the Republicans support them, too, because they use the right code words. (And look at the number youngish conservative voters of the last 20 years who thought it was only Democrats who were censorious or supported the War on Some Drugs.)

I'd agree that in some measure people are projecting their own positions on their candidate--though that begs the question of how or why that person became their candidate in the first place. Why are they projecting them on Hillary instead of Obama? And as I said, I don't doubt that Democrats would generally rate Gore as being more liberal than Hillary, yet they prefer her over him by an overwhelming margin.

On self-identification, I agree that it doesn't necessarily speak to someone's actual positions; my father is a straight-ticket Republican voter but in terms of his beliefs he's actually a raging liberal, and my mother is practically a socialist even though I imagine she'd say she was moderate to conservative. But I don't agree that self-identification is therefore worthless. What's important about it is how people perceive themselves and how that perception guides their choices (or the framing of their choices). If someone doesn't self-identify as liberal, they're going to stay away from candidates who are identified as liberal and they're going to reject positions that are portrayed as liberal--whether or not they might support them if they weren't presented in that way.

So I totally accept the "most people are progressives but just don't know it" talking point (and have deployed it myself many times), but I don't think their latent liberalism neutralizes their self-identified anti-liberalism. Rather, I'd say it's just the other way around.

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