Sunday, May 27, 2018

Why Would Centrists Be OK with Authoritarianism?

A disturbing new study by David Adler found that centrists show weak support for democracy.

Even after removing people who said they were centrists because they were politically apathetic, the remainder in the middle position were not sold on democracy as a method of political order in any notable way.

As a centrist, I find this particularly challenging.

I think the commitment to democracy depends on an informed study of the alternatives. Most people have enjoyed the benefits of democracy long enough to have forgotten what it cost, and what we had to beat to get here.  The dark lining of the silver cloud of the worldwide democratic norm is that we have forgotten how bad authoritarianism has proven to be, again and again.

I can think of another factor that might account for the rising appeal of authoritarianism, even among political centrists: growing up with family disorder. Family dysfunction is one of the few bad social indicators that is increasing.  To people who live in chaos, tyranny seems like a step up toward order.  Perhaps people living in societies of political order, but who grew up in families of personal disorder, end up centrists who are OK with authoritarianism.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Liberal Arts Colleges Are Grossly Short of Republicans

A new study compares registered Republicans and registered Democrats in the full-time faculty of the top liberal arts colleges.  They found a gross imbalance, swung way toward Democrats. 

Chemistry, economics, and mathematics had a Democrat-to-Republican ratio of more than five to one.  That was the lowest ratio of any liberal arts discipline.

My discipline, sociology, showed a ratio of 44 Democrats for every Republican.  Our sister discipline, anthropology, showed no Republicans at all.

We know that Republicans in higher education gravitate to business and engineering, so are much less likely to end up in liberal arts colleges.

And I can believe that smart college students of a conservative persuasion head toward business rather than higher education for a career.

Still, if we have almost no Republican faculty for the many Republican students to talk to, we leave them to develop their political understanding in the gutter -- from talk radio, blogs, and Russian bots.

Ideological diversity is as important as any other kind of diversity in a liberal arts faculty.  Not more important, but not less, either.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Why Older Cohorts Vote More


I saw this meme on Facebook.  I have not checked its accuracy, but it seems likely:

In 2016
70% of 18 - 29 year olds did not vote
60% of 30 - 44 year olds did not vote
Only 38% of 45 - 64 year olds did not vote, and
Just 15% of 65+ citizens did not vote.

To which I would add, people who vote live longer. 

This is not snark; people who vote tend to be involved in many aspects of their community, and belong to organizations that serve causes larger than themselves. 

People who do those things tend to live longer. 

So the older the cohort, the more it tends to boil down to the involved people, including voters.

Friday, March 16, 2018

The Scariest Hate: From the Low-Achieving Privileged Against the High-Achieving Un-Privileged.


The scariest kind of hate in America comes from people who have not much going for them besides their privileges, against people who are rising despite not having those privileges.

Thus, white racists don't hate black (and other non-white) people as such, but when they are ambitious, smart, hard-working, and rising. Hence, the insane opposition to Barack Obama from low-achieving white people.  They have little going for them but white privilege, and if that is visibly overcome, they feel it as a betrayal.  (This is the premise of White Rage, a book I am teaching this year).

Likewise, misogynists don't hate women as such, just ambitious, smart, hard-working, and rising women, like Hillary Clinton.  This comes mostly from low-achieving men seeing male privilege visibly overcome.

And, I believe, much of the opposition to immigrants comes from people who rely on their citizenship privileges -- even more than whiteness or sharing the majority religion -- to secure their place in American society.  If immigrants, legal and otherwise, come in and achieve without that privilege, that, too, feels like a betrayal.

Sunday, March 04, 2018

Today's "Useful Idiots"


When Russia had a left-wing government, they found gullible liberals to be "useful idiots."

Now that Russia has a right-wing government, it is finding gullible conservatives to be very "useful idiots."

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

I Think Jeff Bezos May Be Planning to Run for President


Jeff Bezos, owner of Amazon, the richest man in the world, might be considering a run for president.

He bought The Washington Post.

He bought a house in Washington, DC.

The most likely place for the highly sought-after second Amazon headquarters is the DC area.

I have little idea what his politics are.

I have no doubt that he would be better than the incumbent billionaire.

That could be an amazing race.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Are Conservatives More Nostalgic Because They Weren't Paying Attention to Others the First Time?


I often find as a teacher that adults who believe "things were simpler when I was young" forget to factor in that, when they were young, they were not responsible for the complexity of the world -- that is what adults did.

Moreover, as parents of teenagers (and teachers of young adults) need to remind themselves constantly, "they aren't selfish, they are just self-absorbed."  Adolescence is the time of caring deeply about how we look to our peers and how they look to us, without realizing all the other people and the great wide world that is also affected by our actions.  Maturity helps us get a proportionate sense of our place in the world.

The greatest privilege is not having to realize that you are privileged. If my world is good, then the world is good.  Caring for others who have been harmed, even when we ourselves have not been harmed, bursts that bubble.  "Caring for the harmed" is also what Jonathan Haidt says is the defining feature of liberals.

So if today we find people in privileged groups - white men, in particular -- finding that "political correctness" forces them to notice harms to others, they might feel a desire not to think about it.  And if they cast back on their youth, they may grow nostalgic for a time when they did not think about harm to others.  Restoring that time would make their America "great again."