Republicans: Party of Despair

“If I believed in what you believe, I’d kill myself.”

I recently said that to someone. The person in question is a Republican, but I don’t say it as a Democrat. I’m not a practitioner of partisan bickering and, in fact, I don’t like the entire sham of a two-party system. I also don’t say it lightly or disingenuously. I meant every word of it.

I’ve attempted suicide before and have often contemplated it many times over the years. When I make a statement like the above, I’m deadly serious. Just thinking about the Republican worldview makes me despair to the point of near hopelessness. If I were to believe that worldview to be true, what would be the point of going on?

I’m reminded of James Gilligan’s recent book, Why Some Politicians Are More Dangerous Than Others. I first learned of it from a book review which offers a great summary (I’ve posted it before, but it’s so important that I’ll post it again):

James Gilligan’s new book, ‘Why Some Politicians Are More Dangerous Than Others’ (Polity Press, 2011) could be reduced to a few key statements, the main one being ‘Republicans are very bad for your health’. Gilligan, Professor and MD at New York State University, has combed the statistics on violent deaths (homicide and suicide), from 1900 through to 2007 in order to determine political causation.

His findings confirm what many have hitherto instinctively and experientially known: murders and suicides increase under Republican rule. Why? Because they also create inequality and unemployment, both of which produce an employer’s market that keeps wages down. In fact, unemployment figures – in rate and duration – have increased during every Republican administration, and decreased during every Democratic administration. Ironically, despite Republican policies that favour employers and cause greater levels of inequality and unemployment, their policies then inculcate shame amongst the unemployed – blind – or to coin a much-favoured Republican word, ‘evil’ to the fact that they are its main cause. The Republican ideology – hypocritical and misanthropic – fosters the most rancid shame that goes like this: can’t find a job? It’s your own fault. Lost your job? What did you do, must have done something. Not rich. That’ll be your own fault too – or ‘thats God’s plan for you’. Addicted? Can’t hold your damn liquor. Single mum? Slut. Had an abortion? Murderer and slut. Moaning about low pay? You should thank god you’ve got a job. The list goes on. It is a terrible, cruel, vicious circle in which people become imprisoned. In short, Republicans are architects of despair that leads to suicide, and of rage that leads to murder.

My emotional response to the Republican wasn’t just emotional. The facts speak for themselves.

Since reading that review of Gilligan’s book, I’ve bought and read it. I might consider it to be one of the most important books I’ve read in my life, despite it not being great literature. It is a simple and straightforward presentation of facts that can’t be rationalized away. The facts themselves aren’t the product of an ideological agenda for they are government statistics recorded over a 107 year time frame. No Democrat started recording this data with the evil plan of more than a century later showing that Democrats are better. It’s just the typical bureaucratic data gathering.

It really is mind-blowing. I wouldn’t ever have expected to come across data that so starkly puts the two parties in contrast. After the shock wears off, though, all that I feel is sadness. I don’t care about blaming one party and praising the other, but the data is what it is. It’s not even to say everything Republicans do that is wrong. It’s just that there is a vast discrepancy between their ideals and reality. Republicans need to do some deep soul-searching.

I honestly don’t know what to do with data like this. Republicans won’t pay attention to it and most people in general would assume that it’s mere ideological rhetoric fancied up in scientific guise. It’s the type of data our entire society, including both parties, doesn’t know what to do about. You won’t hear any Democrat bring this up in a campaign debate. You won’t come across Gilligan being invited on as a guest on all the major news providers.

In this way, everyone is complicit, especially Democrats. As the author explains (pp. 187-8):

What has made it so difficult or seemingly impossible for the Democrats to free themselves from Republican campaign rhetoric’s reversal of the truth and take credit for their success in ending epidemics of lethal violence in this country for over a century? They, and they alone, have done this. Could this be the downside of being ruled by a guilt ethic and inhibiting their aggression so much that they, the Democrats, often fail to defend themselves strongly enough to undo both the misinformation and the damage caused by their Republican adversaries?

It so often comes to culture from my perspective. Gilligan alludes to this in speaking of a “guilt ethic”. Republicans have their cultural worldview and Democrats have theirs, and the two have become intertwined like a codependant relationship.

But can they be separated? Instead of going back and forth between a Democratic decrease of misery and a Republican increase, couldn’t we have a dynamic that allows for continuous progress? Imagine what kind of wonderful society we might now live in if we had more than a century of continuous decrease of murders, suicides, unemployment and income inequality. Why does that seem so hard to imagine for so many Americans and even for so many partisan Democrats?

To return to the personal, I can’t state more strongly how much I don’t want to live in the Republican worldview of fear and hatred, outrage and despair, self-righteousness and judgment, blame and scapegoating. Yet like so many Americans I feel helpless against the power Republicans have wielded for so long. Nothing ever seems to change.

It’s not about my becoming a loyal Democrat and fighting on the side of good. I just want the misery to stop. I’d like to live in a world of hope. Life is hard enough as it is without creating further unnecessary suffering.

There was a line of thought I forgot to follow through on.

I mentioned culture. I was making the connection between an ideological vision and a cultural worldview. What do I mean by that?

The reason I brought up culture was partly just because the quote from Gilligan’s book seemed to allude to it. But I was also thinking of the larger context of my previous writings on ideologies and cultures.

I’m in a conciliatory mood. The campaign season is over. Like most people, I’ve had enough mindless partisan cheerleading for a good long while. Judging others is easy. The hard work comes with trying to compassionately undertand. I feel tired, sad and tired.

However, conciliatory mood aside, I’m not quite ready to roll over and die. This data sticks in my craw. What does it mean? How could this data sit there gathering dust for a century without anyone giving it much notice?

The data apparently didn’t fit the framework of American politics. Or maybe it was ignored because of political correctness. I don’t know. For whatever reason, it had been as if invisible in all mainstream political debate and, as Gilligan’s book has drawn little attention, the data remains invisible for all practical purposes.

Cultural worldviews can become reality tunnels. In this way, people become blind to what otherwise would seem obvious and common sense. This explanation is an important perspective for culture gets past the blame game. Despite how it seems sometime, most people aren’t tying to be willfully ignorant… any more than a bird flying into a window is trying to be willfully ignorant of the window. Likewise, Republicans aren’t trying to create a world of suffering and death.

No one is to blame and everyone is to blame. There isn’t any single thing that is wrong or problematic, no particular belief or value or policy that is in and of itself causing this increase of social dysfunction.

I even feel tempted to say that conservatism shouldn’t necessarily be blamed. Like all humans, there are good and bad conservatives. Like most ideologies, there are good and bad ways conservatism can manifest.

Still, conservatism must be held to account. What I was struck by is that this isn’t just a problem of American conservatives in the Republican Party. Along with the first quote above, I shared in the same earlier post some other research that shows the same correlation with the British conservative party. Of course, we Americans largely inherited our political system from the British and in return our political system has had much influence on the British.

It would be interesting to further test this correlation in other societies. Is the cause of the social problems, is it only particular traditions of conservatism, or is it something else enirely? Ultimately, I don’t know if the exact cause matters.

It’s more important to consider why it continues. Why do Americans vote for a party that leads to the death of other Americans along with leading to other undesirable results? What makes it such a compelling and attractive worldview, despite all the negatives? Why is the connection to the negatives so hard to see or understand?

One could just as easily ask these questions about the Evangelical worldview of apocalyptic End Times. There is something apparently compelling about dark visions. It probably isn’t accidental that the type of person drawn to Evangelicalism is also drawn to the Republican Party.

I wish I understood.

32 thoughts on “Republicans: Party of Despair

  1. I think you’re talking about the Republican “blame the victim” mentality. But don’t despair, not all Republicans hold this view. What we see today is a Republican Party dominated by the most extreme radical voices, this is not how it always was or how it will remain. If this election taught the Republicans anything it is that they have to change and get people who are more moderate because this radical fringe that has taken over the party have alienated too many voters. Ever since Ronald Reagan became President, the Republican Party has moved farther and farther to the right. Reagan himself would be considered too liberal for many of today’s radical Republicans, but again not all. But Gilligan is right in the Democrats’ complicity in all of this, it is a co-dependency. What we need is a common sense third party (or third party candidate), but both the Democrats and the Republicans have made it so difficult for that to happen. But again, don’t despair, things will change and for the better I firmly believe.

    • The last several decades have gotten worse, but it began long before that.

      Gilligan looked at the data across the entire 20th century. The same correlation found in the latter part of the century was also found at the beginning of the century. So, t can’t all be blamed on Reagan or Boomers or anything else external to the entire 20th century Republican Party (and going into the 21st).

      By the way, I added to a new section to the end of the post.

    • As always, I’m not sure how well I communicated my thoughts and feelings.

      I was trying to draw a parallel between my response about suicide and the fact for over a century other Americans have actually responded with suicide (and murder) whenever Republicans have taken control of the presidency. That is a shocking reality we are faced with.

      Considering the Republican worlview, I feel as if there is no place for people like me. In a Social Darwinian meritocracy, I would be judged a failure and hence of little worth. People like me would simply fall through the cracks in a world like that. And no one would care because it would be assumed I deserved it. All the poor and wretched would deserve their fates.

      The response of despair and desparation is apparently a normal response in the world under Republican rule. How else can one explain the consistent increase of murders and suiides that follow after a Republican being elected as president?

      More than a century is a long period of time to see the same repeating pattern. This isn’t abstract data. Because Romney wasn’t elected, there are a large number of people who now won’t die, whose lives have been spared from a death sentence. It’s like with every election, a guilotine blade hangs over the American people. The cycle continues endlessly with only temporary reprieves.

      My despair is insignificant in the big picture. But all the despair that has happened under Republicans is immense beyond imagination. What exactly is it about the Republican Party that has such power to destroy all hope in a large number of people?

      • Even if the data you refer to is true–and I’m not saying it isn’t, I just never heard about it before–suicide is a kind of extreme reaction to a Republican President. Nonetheless, you’re not alone. In a Social Darwin meritocracy 99% of the population would be judged failures and hence of little worth, only the top 1% would be considered a success. I guess my point is that more and more people have rejected that as this election–and exit polls–demonstrate. The Republicans of the 60s and 70s were moderates, people like Nelson Rockefeller, Scoop Jackson, Gerald Ford, countless others. Its only with the rise of the “wild west” conservatives starting with Barry Goldwater (who himself was very concerned about and harshly criticized what became the Religious Right) has the Republican Part become identified with Social Darwinism. But again, most people reject it and it will become extinct.

        • My response was that of emotion. I wanted to express this emotion. I also wanted to give a real world human context to partisan rhetoric. I sometimes act like there is no real or important difference between the two parties, but this data drives home that there is something going on that leads to drastically divergent results.

          Even so, I must admit that I don’t feel ay more inspired by the two party system. It seems inevitable, the entire back and forth with its concommitant increase and decrease of misery.

          Also, I know Republicans and they aren’t bad people, certainly not evil, at least not the average Republican, although I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that many of the Republican leaders are psychopaths and sociopaths. In the end, my sense is that it is the worldview itself that we need to be concerned about. My only concern about the average Republican is that they keep voting Republican.

          I just don’t know. In fact, I will never know what motivates people at this basic level, beyond maybe the standard explanation of groupthink. I can’t even begin to grasp the sociopolitical mechanism or process that somehow consistently, generation after generation, leads to the same results.

          All that I know is the data itself and what the data shows. Ignoring all the interpretations, ignoring the desire to blame, the data taken on it’s own is simply mind-blowing and heart-wrenching. It has such an emotional impact on me moreso for the reason I’m not a partisan Democrat.

          • The mainstream media will never report these data because 1) they’re part of the problem and 2) as you say, it would blow away the two-party system as we know it, and that’s something both the Republicans and Democrats will never let happen. That’s why they took the Presidential Debates away from the League of Women Voters in the late ’80 because the LOWV allowed third-party candidates to participate and ask the hard questions that the two major parties don’t want to touch. But take heart, small but significant changes were made this election cycle and the effects will be far-reaching. 332 electoral votes (Obama) to 206 (Romney) is a landslide in my book. Not that Obama is ideal, but he stands for more of what we’re looking for than Romney. Some of Obama’s policies will definitely help “the least among us,” e.g., health care (not great but better than what he have now), and higher education and student loans just to name two.

        • Let me simplify what I was getting at.

          I don’t want to tell people what I think the data means. I just wish Americans would look at this data and take it seriously. I wish the news media would report onit and politicians debate it. Disagree with Gilligan’s conclusions if they seem wrongheaded, but don’t ignore or dismiss the data (I’m not tlking to you personally).

          The data bewilders me. However, the lack of response by the mainstream bewilders me eve more. I rarely come across data that is so clear in its significance and so centrally important to all Americans. If this data was taken seriously, it would blow away our entire two party system as it is and would force our society to rethink so many things we assumed were true.

          • You have summed up my thoughts exactly: Gilligan has written the most important book I have read in years but the silence that follows is deafening.

          • It’s nice to meet someone else who knows about this book. I read a ton of books. I’m always looking for the hard data because that is where the rubber meets the road. But the mainstream media doesn’t tend to like hard data because it is often inconvenient and doesn’t make for sensationalist infotainment.

  2. From my viewpoint as an evolutionary biologist (wannabe), I see this as a struggle between two competing survival strategies. On the one hand, you have the “traditional” social darwinism which when translated into social or political terms says “What’s bad for you is good for me and mine.” In practical terms, it means if liberals get murdered or kill themselves, so much the better for conservatives.

    On the other hand, you have what I hope is the emerging or transcendental strategy, which says that creating more health, happiness, and opportunity for everyone will improve the lot of the entire human race, and that if you eliminate diversity from the gene or meme pool, even when it differs or disagrees with your own, you are reducing the possiblity for future adaptations if the environment undergoes a sudden shift.

    In essence, most conservatives have traded long-term flexibility and survivability for immediate short term success in an environment that rewards greed and exploitation. They single out a group of people who are “different”, and can be identified as such, and then they dehumanize them, take what they have, and leave them to suffer and die. As you rightly pointed out, this is more a reaction than an actual strategy; it’s a fearful response to changing demographics that point to their ultimate extinction. They are afraid of change. Nothing makes this more apparent than when a conservative mockingly asks “How’s that Hope and Change working out for you?”

    One thing that I never miss an opportunity to point out to conservatives, especially when a practical example presents itself, is that there is no endpoint to the feeding frenzy. When one group of individuals has been consumed, they are forced to identify, dehumanize, and consume another. Former allies become the next victims. Minorities, particularly Hispanics, are caught in the middle of this turning right now. On the one hand, you have conservatives pandering and paying lip service to the Hispanic vote, while in reality, they are crafting policies and legislation that scapegoat and victimize them, on behalf of the ever-dwindling core of “true conservatives”,” real Americans”, and in essence rich white people. The same process takes place on the world stage, as the US becomes ever more desperate for markets and resources. How many puppet dictators have we seen lately who were installed by the US in order to facillitate access to resources, only to find themselves suddently declared inhuman monsters and eliminated when, for whatever reason, they stand in the way of that exploitation?

    When you asked previously about the role of government, or what an ideal government looks like, I would answer that it is one that furthers the other, flexible, diverse, and sustainable evolutionary strategy. It would provide the most opportunity for all, regardless of individual differences. What the individual citizens choose to make of that opportunity would be up to them. With the amount of riches on our planet, there is no reason that everyone cannot be fed, clothed, housed, and have decent health care. Beyond that, creation and possession of wealth should not be the yardstick by which success is measured. Captains of industry should be esteemed only if their accomplishments don’t come at the expense of other individuals’ happiness and well-being, and for the amount of their riches that they return to the social structure that fostered their success. Creative individuals should be supported and valued for the richness and diversity they bring to the human experience. Monks and mystics should be allowed to live in solitude and austerity if that is their chosen path, and their insights should be recognized as a valuable contribution to humanity.

    Although I recognize that we disagree on the specifics, when you look at the situation as a whole, it seems difficult to me to deny the observation that this is a struggle between good and evil. I see an active force that is moving us forward towards a successful evolutionary strategy, versus an opposing force that is seeking to thwart that evolution and mire humanity, and the rest of the planet, in an ever-increasing monolithic cesspool of cultural and genetic stagnation. Whether or not you subscribe to the anthropocentric worldview, it appears that as the current dominant force in the shaping of the earth’s environment, humankind is in a position in which it is critical that we develop the faculties necessary to distinguish between the two. The chances of this happening are greatly reduced when an ever-increasing segment of the population are forced to focus only on obtaining the basic necessities of survival.

    • I think we’re at a tipping point today that began with the so-called “Reagan Revolution.” The millionaires cleaned up at everyone else’s expense, and people have said “enough.” That’s what the Occupy movement was all about. The heterosexual white male is a minority in this country, and that’s what the Republicans didn’t get. Even Peggy Noonan said in her column this week that the reason single women don’t like the Republican Party is maybe because they feel it doesn’t like them. So they have to change or they will fade into irrelevance.

    • I wrote you a comment, but for some reason wordpress didn’t process it and post it. All that I said was that I understand what you say and agree to some extent. However, I feel the data itself is more important than any interpretation. If people would just take the data seriously, I’d be satisfied. After that, I’d be perfectly fine with everyone arguing over intrpretations. Then again, if we waited for the data to be taken seriously by most people, we’d be waiting a long time. LOL

  3. I too think it is a struggle between good and evil. The problem with many conservatives is that they only know others like them. The only thing they know about people who are not like them is what they read in the newspapers. But it can’t continue indefinitely because there are more people who are not like them and who reject that worldview, so they just don’t have the numbers try as they might.

  4. “During the entire 107-year period, there was a net cumulative increase of 19.9 violent deaths per 100,000 population during the 59 years Republicans were in power, and an almost exactly equal net decrease of 18.3 during the 48 years of Democratic administrations.)

    “Examining the data, I conclude that, however I slice and dice them – for example, confining the study to the period before the Great Depression, or before World War II, or after World War II, in order to rule out the possibility that some great but unique historical event, rather than the party in power at the time, could have skewed the data – one finding remains constant: rates of lethal violence (suicide and homicide) rose to epidemic levels only during Republican administrations, and decreased below those levels only under Democrats. As a consequence of that, the sum of year-to-year changes showed a net increase in both suicide and homicide under Republicans, and a net decrease under Democrats , even during these shorter time periods. Given the stability of that correlation between the political parties and the violent death rates, and my inability to disconfirm it, the question that remains is: what does it mean? Why is it occurring, and doing so repeatedly? As a physician, my interest has always been in matters of life and death, not politics, and this foray into politics because of a chance discovery that implicated political actors only happened because of my attempt to learn what was causing these deaths and how we could save lives.”

    Gilligan, James (2013-05-20). Why Some Politicians Are More Dangerous Than Others (Kindle Locations 123-134). Wiley. Kindle Edition.

  5. “An important concept in medical research is called the “dose-response curve.” For example, the more cigarettes people smoke per day, the more likely they are to develop lung cancer: the higher the dose, the greater the response. And the greater the number of years they do so, the more likely they are to get lung cancer: again, the greater the cumulative dose, the larger the response. This provides powerful support for the hypothesis that cigarette smoking is a “risk factor” for lung cancer. Conversely, the more that people exercise regularly (within reasonable limits), the less likely they are to have a heart attack: again, a dose-response curve. The higher the dose of exercise, the greater the protection from heart attacks. So regular exercise is a “protective factor” against heart attacks.

    “Dose-response curves are one of the “gold standards” in medical research. They do not in and of themselves prove a causal relationship between the postulated causal agent (whose “dose” is being measured) and the response (the effect). But the failure to demonstrate a dose-response curve can under most circumstances be taken as evidence against causality. And when there is other evidence that is consistent with the same causal hypothesis, the existence of such a curve can reinforce the likelihood that one has discovered a variable that can make a difference to people’s health.

    “By analogy, we can ask, could Republican administrations be risk factors for lethal violence, and Democratic administrations protective factors? One way to test that hypothesis would be to ask: is there a higher cumulative increase in rates of lethal violence the more years Republicans are in power? And is there a higher cumulative decrease in these rates the longer Democrats are in power? The answer to both questions is yes. Just as with cigarette smoking and regular exercise, the greater the dose of Republican administrations, the greater the violent response, and the greater the dose of Democratic administrations, the greater the reduction in violence.

    “In order to simplify this discussion, I will combine both of those responses into a single number, namely, the net difference in violent death rates between the two parties. For example, if the Republicans over the past 100 years presided over a net increase of 15 deaths per 100,000 per year, and the Democrats, a net decrease of 15, then the difference in death rates between the two parties would be 30. All that means is that the Republicans brought about a cumulative increase of 30 more violent deaths per 100,000 per year than the Democrats did, during the time period being studied; or, to say the same thing another way, that the Democratic administrations resulted in 30 fewer such deaths per year than the Republican ones did.

    “And if there is a dose-response curve at work here, we might expect that, if we studied a smaller number of years, then the net difference between the two parties would be correspondingly smaller: over 50 years, the net difference would be smaller than it was for 100 years; over 25 years, smaller still, etc. And that is exactly what we find when we compare the difference between the two parties’ effects on violent death rates.

    “We can also compare each party with itself alone, and when we do that, we find that the more years the Republicans were in power, the greater the net increase that occurred in violent death rates, and the fewer years, the smaller the increase; and similarly for the decreases that occurred under the Democrats. We find these dose-response curves for both parties for both forms of lethal violence (homicide and suicide ) and for the sum of the two (the total lethal violence rate). The consistency of these relationships across different periods of history and different lengths of time, especially given the number of random adventitious events that could conceivably skew the results in one direction or another, increase the likelihood that there may be a powerful and quite specific causal relationship between the political parties in power and the violent death rates, not just a coincidental correlation . That is, given the sheer amount of “noise” or “static” in a study of this magnitude, what is most surprising, and most difficult to explain away, is the fact that the “signal” comes through so loud and clear – and consistently.

    “For example , there was a net cumulative total of 38.2 more deaths per 100,000 per year under Republicans than under Democrats over the 108 years from 1900 through 2007. Or, to say the same thing another way, the difference between the changes in death rates under the two parties represents 38.2 fewer deaths under the Democrats than under the Republicans. At today’s population level, that amounts to a difference in death rates representing roughly 114,600 fewer violent deaths per year under Democrats than under Republicans. If we look at the net difference between the two parties during successively smaller periods of time, we find that during the years 1912 through 2007, 96 years, the net cumulative difference in death rates between the two parties was smaller than from 1900 to 2007, only 31.9. During the 88 years from 1920 through 2007, it was smaller still, only 27.4; and so on: the fewer the number of years, the smaller the net difference between the two parties’ death rates.

    “If one is looking for evidence of a causal relationship that is responsible for a correlation , this is an important point to discover . Nevertheless, it is true that even this does not prove that these correlations show causation . What is true is that the failure to find a dose-response curve would make it less likely that there was a causal relationship between the two variables that were correlated with each other.

    “Another fact that the dose-response curves reveal is how consistent, reliable, durable, and unchanging the correlations between these two parties and the rates of violent death have been throughout the entire 108 years for which we have data, in their respective (and diametrically opposite) directions – with death rates increasing so regularly and continuously under Republicans, and decreasing just as consistently under Democrats, from the beginning of the period right up to the most recent set of comparisons of the two parties with each other (1992– 2007) or of one party with itself ( 2000–7). That does not mean that every Republican administration attained an absolute increase, or every Democratic one an absolute decrease, during its time in office. What it does mean is that even when slight fluctuations occurred under each party, no net decrease under a Republican administration that was already in the “mountain range” of epidemic levels was ever sufficient to bring it below that to the “valley” of non-epidemic rates. And no Democratic administration’s random increases were ever sufficient to bring it from a “valley” into a “mountain range.” For example, during the Kennedy– Johnson years, 1961– 8, lethal violence rates increased from 15.3 per 100,000 to 18 (and in fact were just below 17 during all but the last two of those years); yet, even at their highest, they never came close to breaking through the epidemic “floor” of 19.4 –20. Likewise, during the Reagan – Bush Sr. years, these rates decreased slightly, from 22.5 to 21.7, yet never approached the “floor” of 19.4– 20.

    “It is not as though the Republican party experienced an epidemic of violent death during one period and then showed a recovery from an epidemic at another time, or that the Democratic party initiated an epidemic at one time and a recovery from one at another. And it is not that either party showed a positive or negative correlation with death rates only in conjunction with a unique and unrepeated national crisis such as either of the two world wars, the Great Depression, the Cold War, or the civil rights revolution, so that that crisis, rather than the political party that happened by chance to be in power at the time of the crisis, might have been the actual cause of the increase or decrease in the lethal violence rates. For both parties, their characteristic correlations with violent death rates are long-term and repeat themselves from 1900 to the last period for which we have comparable data, 2000– 7, with the same pattern continuing through all the historical crises that occurred during this time period.

    “What may be most significant about the comparison between the violent death rates under Republican administrations and those that occurred during Democratic ones is this: it is not the case that the Republicans have a higher net increase in violent death rates and the Democrats a lower net increase, or that the Democrats have a larger net decrease and the Republicans a smaller one. In other words, it is not that one party is bringing about smaller changes in the death rates and the other higher ones, but all in the same direction. Rather, the direction of change under the two parties is opposite. The net changes are only increases under Republicans and only decreases under Democrats.”

    Gilligan, James (2013-05-20). Why Some Politicians Are More Dangerous Than Others (Kindle Locations 337-403). Wiley. Kindle Edition.

  6. “In the largest database previously published on this subject in the United States, a study of the period from 1900 to 1970, Paul Holinger 1 found that age-adjusted US suicide and homicide rates not only correlated with each other (p < .01), they both also correlated with the unemployment rate (p < .01). My own analysis of the much larger database on which this book draws finds the same thing, 2 as have many other studies based on much more limited population samples or time-periods.

    "In an influential study of the double epidemics of unemployment and violent crime in ghetto neighborhoods, William Julius Wilson 3 speaks of the “direct relationship between joblessness and violent crime.” Quoting Delbert Elliott’s research, he points out that

    ""The black– white differential in the proportion of males involved in serious violent crime, although almost even at age 11, increases to 3: 2 over the remaining years of adolescence, and reaches a differential of nearly 4: 1 during the late twenties. However, when Elliott compared only employed black and white males , he found no significant differences in violent behavior patterns among the two groups by age 21.… Accordingly, a major reason for the racial gap in violent behavior … is joblessness."

    "It becomes easy, then , to understand why inner-city black youth facing limited prospects for employment would be drawn into drug trafficking and thus become involved in the violent behavior associated with it. The unemployment rate among blacks has always been at least twice as high as among whites, regardless of whether the overall rate of unemployment is high or low. The truth of the old adage, “Last to be hired, first to be fired,” is thus more than confirmed by the statistics , which also helps to clarify why the homicide rate is so much higher in the black community than in the white.

    "Unemployment rates are not the only socio -economic variable that predicts changes in suicide and homicide rates. In a study of the relationship between income inequality and violent crime, Hsieh and Pugh 4 performed a meta-analysis of some 34 studies exploring this relationship and found that both (absolute ) poverty and income inequality (relative poverty) are significantly correlated with homicide, not just in the United States but throughout the world. Richard Wilkinson 5 has for many years been documenting the relationship between inequality and violence (and many other threats to health) by showing a significant correlation between the incidence of violence and various measures and types of economic inequality and distress, both from his own research and from reviews of the literature produced by other investigators.

    "Another review article observed that “the vast majority of studies of income inequality and homicide rates have employed cross-sectional designs.” 6 The short-coming of that approach is that it leaves the question of what is causing what ambiguous: in a population with a high degree of income inequality, is the increased rate of homicides occurring only among those who are relatively poor, or among the rich, or among both? And if it is primarily caused by the poor , is that because their homicidal behavior is being caused by their poverty, or is their poverty itself caused by the same personality characteristics that make them more likely to commit murder , like being so angry, threatening, and unpleasant to be around that their bosses want to fire them and no one else wants to hire them?

    "That is why longitudinal studies, such as the ones presented in this book, are more useful for purposes of clarifying the causal mechanisms responsible for these correlations. A study by LaFree and Drass 7 shows the advantages of this approach. They did a time-series analysis of the US from 1957 to 1990 that found that increases in economic inequality were followed by increases in homicide rates (for both blacks and whites). In other words, the same population that had not been committing homicides in all the years before the state of the economy changed suddenly began doing so only after there was a recession, millions of people were laid off from their jobs (regardless of their individual personality characteristics or the quality of the work they were doing), and so on.

    "In a study of inequality and violent crime (including homicide) sponsored by the World Bank, Fajnzylber, Lederman and Loayza 8 studied the relationship between homicide rates and two related economic variables, income inequality and changes in gross demographic product (GDP), in 39 countries around the world, and concluded that homicide rates are positively correlated with inequality rates and negatively correlated with GDP both within countries and between countries: that is, higher levels of inequality were associated with higher homicide rates, and increasing GDP levels with lower homicide rates. They also concluded that their data provided evidence that inequality was causing violent crimes, not the other way around, and that the combination of decreasing unemployment and rising GDP reduced both absolute and relative poverty, with both changes leading to lower homicide rates.

    "Land, McCall, and Cohen 9 studied the correlation between six economic variables and homicide rates in cities and states across the United States in 1960, 1970, and 1980, and found that the strongest and most consistent one was between poverty (both relative and absolute) and homicide: “cities, metropolitan areas, or states that are more deprived have higher homicide rates, and those that are more affluent have lower rates.”

    "Inequality of wealth is even greater than income inequality in the United States, and may also predict rates of lethal violence. The two periods in the United States in which, according to Edward N. Wolff, 10 inequality of wealth – as measured by both household wealth (including home ownership) and financial wealth (including ownership of stocks, bonds, cash, and other fungible resources) – reached its maximum , were both periods in which the lethal violence rate was consistently at epidemic levels. These were the period just before the Great Depression (the degree of inequality of wealth peaked in 1929), and the 1980s, during the Reagan and first Bush administrations, during which time wealth inequality reached the highest level since 1929, and recessions became deeper and unemployment higher than at any time since the Great Depression. Conversely, the quarter of a century from 1942 to 1968 (from Roosevelt’s third term in office until the “New Deal Consensus” was ended by the conservative backlash that brought Nixon to power in 1969) was a period of the greatest economic equality of the twentieth century, and it was also, as we have already seen, marked by the longest uninterrupted period of well-below-average, non-epidemic lethal violence rates in the twentieth century.

    "Finally, my own analysis of economic contractions (recessions and depressions , periods of declining GDP) has found statistically significant relationships between those economic conditions and rising rates of suicide and homicide. As we have already seen, the highest suicide rates (17 per 100,000) and the highest total lethal violence rates (26.5) of the century were reached in 1932, during the bottom of the worst economic depression in our history. That was also when the highest homicide rates ever recorded up to that time occurred (9.5 per 100,000). But even higher murder rates, the highest of the twentieth century, 10.8 and 10.9 per 100,000, were reached three times during the longest period of Republican hegemony of the century, the 24 years from 1969 through 1992. That was a period marked by repeated recessions lasting a total of nearly five years, some of which were deeper than any seen since the 1930s; by unemployment rates that reached levels not seen since the 1930s; and by increases in inequalities in wealth and income that had also not been seen since 1929 (i.e., during the last previous period of extended Republican hegemony that extended from 1921 through 1932). This period of extended and repeated economic stress and distress that occurred during five Republican terms in office (with the most socially and economically conservative Democrat of the century, Carter, sandwiched in between them) was also, as we saw in chapter 1, a time during which there was an extended and uninterrupted “mountain range” of suicide and homicide rates that never once dropped below epidemic levels. So we have good reason to think of those three inter-related economic variables – unemployment, recessions, and inequality – as being risk factors for lethal violence.

    "The association between suicide and unemployment has been confirmed repeatedly in dozens of studies, and I think it is fair to say that there is a general consensus now among social scientists as to the validity of this correlation. Many studies have found equally powerful correlations between homicide and unemployment, though these findings have been less consistent than those for suicide. This book is not the place for a full review of the extensive literature on this subject . 11 In line with the majority of the published evidence, my own analysis of the database on which this book is based – which covers the longest time -period and the largest population of any study of this subject – along with that of Dr. Bandy Lee , my research partner , who performed a time series analysis of the data, showed that the correlation between the political parties in power and the violent death rates could be mediated, or caused, by changes in the unemployment rate and in the per-capita GDP (one measure of economic contractions and expansions) that occurred under the two different parties. That leads me to turn to the next step in solving the mystery about murder and its association with the political party ruling the country: is there a relationship between political parties and the three economic variables I have focused on in this chapter: unemployment, inequality, and recessions?"

    Gilligan, James (2013-05-20). Why Some Politicians Are More Dangerous Than Others (Kindle Locations 555-634). Wiley. Kindle Edition.

  7. “the unemployment rate by itself (independent of which party was in power) from 1900 through 2007 correlated positively with changes in all three of the violent death rates that have been measured during that time, to a statistically significant degree ( p < 0.05 for homicide, p < 0.01 for suicide, and p < 0.01 for total violent death rates). A time series analysis performed by Dr. Bandy Lee showed that the effect of the political party in power on violent deaths could be largely explained by the unemployment rate change. Since the parties themselves determine the unemployment rate, however, it is clear that what we have here is a causal circle or an interaction between causal mechanisms, not a reduction to one “true” cause and the elimination of bogus ones. If Republican politicians cause the unemployment rate to rise and the rise in the unemployment rate causes the violent death rates to rise, then it is clear that the Republican party is as responsible as, say, the man who pulls the trigger of the gun, even though it is the bullet not the man that kills the victim."

    Gilligan, James (2013-05-20). Why Some Politicians Are More Dangerous Than Others (Kindle Locations 853-861). Wiley. Kindle Edition.

  8. “Before proceeding further with my investigation , I want to ask my readers: do you find yourself as puzzled as I am by one further mystery about all these murders and suicides – namely, why have these remarkable correlations between political party in power and violent death rates not been noticed up until now? One possible contributor to the overlooking of these correlations by almost everyone 3 who has studied them before may be that, despite the fact that suicide and homicide rates have cumulatively risen during Republican administrations and declined under Democratic ones, the average rates of suicide and homicide over the years each party was in power are almost identical. The reason for this is easy to understand. To simplify the math, suppose that in one ten-year period, the violence rate is going up 1 point per year, from 1 to 10, and in another ten-year period it is going down by 1 point per year, from 10 to 1. If you add up all the numbers and divide them by 10, you find that the average of the two different series is exactly the same, even though the net effect of the two series is exactly opposite. That is precisely what has happened, time after time, over the past century, with the rates cumulatively going up under Republicans and down under Democrats . So while the Republicans have accumulated massive net rate increases over the years, and the Democrats massive net rate decreases, the average rate in all the years taken together is about the same for both parties. The fact that these two pat-terns of changes in death rates have an exactly opposite effect on the welfare of the American people may have been overlooked because of that.

    “The death rates I have summarized here have been part of the public record, and freely available to anyone who wanted to review them, since 1900. In that sense , they have been, so to speak, hiding in plain sight. An additional reason for our collective failure to notice these egregious facts may be directly related to what I just said: because the increases in lethal violence rates that occur under Republicans have regularly been compensated for by the almost exactly equal decreases that have occurred under Democrats, there has been, over time, essentially no net change in violent death rates for the country as a whole. For example, the homicide rate in 2000 (6.4 deaths per 100,000 population per year) was exactly what it had been in 1900, and the suicide rate in 2000 (9.6 per 100,000) was almost exactly what it had been in 1900 (9.2). That is true despite the fact, as we have already seen, that there were huge “swings” in both death rates when the presidency changed from one party to the other.

    “This absence of any net long-term increase or decrease in those rates could easily mislead people into thinking that there were no significant differences between the two parties with respect to the rate of violent deaths during their respective terms in office. That in turn would make it easy to forget that the only times the Republicans’ violent death rates were not in an epidemic range were when they had inherited low rates from their Democratic predecessors. And the only times the Democrats’ death rates were in an epidemic range were when they had inherited those high rates from Republicans.

    “In fact , there is only one reason that our homicide and suicide rates today are not at disastrously high epidemic levels, and that is because the Democrats have regularly undone the Republican rate increases with decreases of equal magnitude. Specifically, the Republicans increased the suicide and homicide rates by net cumulative totals of 14.5 and 5.4 per 100,000 respectively between 1900 and 2007, while the Democrats reduced those totals by almost exactly equal amounts (13.3 and 5.0, respectively). If the lethal violence rates in 2007 were determined only by the Republicans’ influence on them during their 59 years in office, the suicide rate would have been 23.7 instead of 10.4 in 2007, and the homicide rate, 11.8 instead of 6.8. That would have resulted in a total violent death rate of 35.5 per 100,000 , more than twice as many violent deaths as actually occurred – roughly 106,500, as opposed to the 52,000 that there actually were, if we apply those death rates to the current US population level of 300 million.”

    Gilligan, James (2013-05-20). Why Some Politicians Are More Dangerous Than Others (Kindle Locations 454-485). Wiley. Kindle Edition.

  9. “Why has unemployment increased and then lasted longer, and why have recessions occurred so much more frequently and then lasted longer, during Republican administrations than during Democratic ones? And why have declines in unemployment and growth of the economy been so much greater when there was a Democratic president rather than a Republican in the White House? Is this simply a matter of bad luck for the Republicans and good luck for the Democrats? Is it a function of the “business cycle” that operates independently of human political choices, like a force of nature or an act of God that just happens to coincide with times when Republicans are presidents? A misfortune , to be sure, but not their fault?

    “As opposed to that supposition , many experts on the relationship between the political parties and the functioning of the economy have concluded that the latter is very much a function of the difference between the economic policies of the two parties. This has been shown, for example, with respect to why economic inequality increases under Republicans and decreases under Democrats. Writing in 2007, the Princeton political economist Larry Bartels 8 concluded that:

    “”The most important single influence on the changing US income distribution over the past half-century [has been] the contrasting policy choices of Democratic and Republican presidents. Under Republican administrations, real income growth for the lower- and middle-income classes has consistently lagged well behind the income growth rate for the rich – and well behind the income growth rate for the lower and middle classes themselves under Democratic administrations.”

    “Furthermore, Bartels observes that “these substantial partisan disparities in income growth … are quite unlikely to have occurred by chance.… Rather, they reflect consistent differences in policies and priorities between Democratic and Republican administrations.”

    “Bartels also points out that one measure of inequality, “the 80/ 20 income ratio, increased under each of the six Republican presidents in this [post-World War II] period.… In contrast, four of five Democratic presidents – all except Jimmy Carter – presided over declines in income inequality. If this is a coincidence, it is a very powerful one .” 9 He then goes on to show reasons why it “seems hard to attribute this to a mere coincidence in the timing of Democratic and Republican administrations.”

    “To extend the argument, the political economist Douglas Hibbs 10 points out that “Democratic adminis-trations are more likely than Republican ones to run the risk of higher inflation rates in order to pursue expansive policies designed to yield lower unemployment and extra growth.” Hibbs notes that “six of the seven recessions experienced since [1951] … occurred during Republican administrations. Every one of these contractions was either intentionally created or passively accepted … in order to fight inflation.” The cruelest irony of all, in this regard, is that from 1948 through 2005 the inflation rate during Republican administrations has been virtually indistinguishable from that achieved under Democratic ones (3.76 percent vs. 3.97 percent), while the degree of overall prosperity (real per capita GNP growth per year) has been 70 percent higher under Democrats than under Republicans (2.78 percent vs. 1.64 percent), as Bartels 11 has documented. So, while the Republicans have pursued economic policies that have increased unemployment, recessions, and inequality, all ostensibly in order to prevent inflation, they have not in fact succeeded in preventing inflation noticeably better than the Democrats have.”

    Gilligan, James (2013-05-20). Why Some Politicians Are More Dangerous Than Others (Kindle Locations 801-830). Wiley. Kindle Edition.

  10. “Up to now, I have been examining differences that occur over time (1900– 2007) within the same population, that of the US. Now, I want to look at differences between different populations – those of the Red States versus those of the Blue States – that exist at the same time: the year 2000, and again in the year 2004.

    “Regardless of which way of looking at the relationship between political parties and violence I use, I find the same result: more violence in Republican-dominated regions just as there was in Republican-dominated eras, and less violence in the regions as well as the eras of Democratic hegemony. However, these two ways of looking at the correlation between party and violence are not identical in every respect. For example, unemployment rates were not significantly different in the Red States from what they were in the Blue States in either 2000 or 2004. Rather, the difference between Red and Blue States seems to reflect a difference in culture and in the voters themselves.

    “The Red State / Blue State polarization can remind us that the causal arrow runs in both directions: the correlations between Republican majorities in the electorate and higher rates of lethal violence and between Democratic majorities and decreases in violence, may not be due simply to the effects of Republican and Democratic policies on the population. They may also be a result of preexisting attitudes and values of the different population groups that led them to vote for Republicans or Democrats in the first place. It is not merely that the parties’ policies affect and influence citizens’ feelings and behavior; it is also true that citizens ’ attitudes and values shape and influence the parties , not least in the sense that it is their values and attitudes that determine whether or not a given party will win an election and come to power. So, by the time either of the two parties triumphs, the voters who elected them may already be primed with the same values and attitudes as the party they voted for. It is true that much research has shown that the leaders of the two parties are, on average, more politically polarized than the voters are. But that does not negate another finding, which is that there are major differences between the regional cultures of the Red States and the Blue, and between Republican and Democratic voters.

    “Among the many lines of evidence supporting this difference in political culture and personality are studies of the contrasting practices, values, and attitudes concerning guns, militarism, torture, capital punishment, imprisonment, corporal punishment of children and other indices of violence, force, and coercion that differentiated Red States from Blue, and Republican voters from Democratic ones, in the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections.”

    Gilligan, James (2013-05-20). Why Some Politicians Are More Dangerous Than Others (Kindle Locations 1609-1629). Wiley. Kindle Edition.

  11. “To summarize, then, the overall differences in violent death rates under Republican and Democratic presidents are statistically significant (that is, they cannot be explained as a function of chance alone). The correlation is strong enough to override both historical vagaries (the Great Depression, World War II) and individual differences (Eisenhower, Carter). Hence, the mystery: why do rates of lethal violence increase to epidemic levels only during Republican administrations, and decline to “normal” or non-epidemic levels only under Democratic presidencies?

    “Another way of looking at the same data leads to the observation that rates of both suicide and homicide often fluctuate, sometimes increasing and sometimes decreasing from one year to the next, under both Republicans and Democrats. However, as we already know from having seen the steep increases that lead from valleys to mountain peaks under Republicans, and the steep decreases that lead from mountain peaks to valleys under Democrats, rate increases from one year to the next occur more often, and also tend to be larger when they do occur, under Republicans than under Democrats. And the opposite is true: rate decreases are both more frequent, and larger when they do occur, under Democrats than under Republicans.

    “When we add together the sum of all the year-to-year increases and decreases that occurred under each party, we find that the Republican presidencies showed a net cumulative increase in suicide rates of 14.5 suicides per 100,000 population per year from 1900 through 2007. And the Democrats showed an almost exactly equal net decrease of 13.3 suicides per 100,000 per year during their years in office from 1913 through 2000. Similarly, the Republican administrations witnessed a net increase of 5.4 in the homicide rate and the Democrats a net decrease of 5. Thus the total net increase in rates of lethal violence under Republicans is 19.9 (the sum of 14.5 and 5.4), and the total net decrease under Democrats, 18.3 (the sum of 13.3 and 5). There is less than 1 chance in 1,000 that any of these correlations between political party in power and rates of suicide, homicide, and total lethal violence (suicide plus homicide) could have happened simply by chance.”

    Gilligan, James (2013-05-20). Why Some Politicians Are More Dangerous Than Others (Kindle Locations 319-335). Wiley. Kindle Edition.

  12. “Unemployment rates are not the only socio-economic variable that predicts changes in suicide and homicide rates. In a study of the relationship between income inequality and violent crime, Hsieh and Pugh 4 performed a meta-analysis of some 34 studies exploring this relationship and found that both (absolute) poverty and income inequality (relative poverty) are significantly correlated with homicide, not just in the United States but throughout the world. Richard Wilkinson 5 has for many years been documenting the relationship between inequality and violence (and many other threats to health) by showing a significant correlation between the incidence of violence and various measures and types of economic inequality and distress, both from his own research and from reviews of the literature produced by other investigators.

    “Another review article observed that “the vast majority of studies of income inequality and homicide rates have employed cross-sectional designs.” 6 The short-coming of that approach is that it leaves the question of what is causing what ambiguous: in a population with a high degree of income inequality, is the increased rate of homicides occurring only among those who are relatively poor, or among the rich, or among both? And if it is primarily caused by the poor, is that because their homicidal behavior is being caused by their poverty, or is their poverty itself caused by the same personality characteristics that make them more likely to commit murder, like being so angry, threatening, and unpleasant to be around that their bosses want to fire them and no one else wants to hire them?

    “That is why longitudinal studies, such as the ones presented in this book , are more useful for purposes of clarifying the causal mechanisms responsible for these correlations. A study by LaFree and Drass 7 shows the advantages of this approach. They did a time-series analysis of the US from 1957 to 1990 that found that increases in economic inequality were followed by increases in homicide rates (for both blacks and whites). In other words, the same population that had not been committing homicides in all the years before the state of the economy changed suddenly began doing so only after there was a recession, millions of people were laid off from their jobs (regardless of their individual personality characteristics or the quality of the work they were doing), and so on.

    “In a study of inequality and violent crime (including homicide) sponsored by the World Bank, Fajnzylber, Lederman and Loayza 8 studied the relationship between homicide rates and two related economic variables, income inequality and changes in gross demographic product (GDP), in 39 countries around the world, and concluded that homicide rates are positively correlated with inequality rates and negatively correlated with GDP both within countries and between countries: that is, higher levels of inequality were associated with higher homicide rates, and increasing GDP levels with lower homicide rates. They also concluded that their data provided evidence that inequality was causing violent crimes, not the other way around, and that the combination of decreasing unemployment and rising GDP reduced both absolute and relative poverty, with both changes leading to lower homicide rates.”

    Gilligan, James (2013-05-20). Why Some Politicians Are More Dangerous Than Others (Kindle Locations 571-597). Wiley. Kindle Edition.

  13. “As the research on authoritarianism has become more sophisticated in its methodology, one finding has become clearer: namely, that authoritarianism is associated with right-wing political attitudes and values. To speak of right-wing authoritarianism is essentially a redundancy. As Norberto Bobbio, an Italian political scientist, has pointed out in his book Left and Right, right-wing political movements place a positive value on social inequality and status hierarchies just as left-wing political ideologies pursue greater social and economic equality. Thus right-wing politics is completely consistent with the value positions of authoritarian personalities. The preference for authoritarian aggression, that is the use of force by government authorities, is reflected in the greater use of capital punishment and imprisonment in the Red States vs. the Blue States. Altemeyer and his colleagues have concluded, from extensive and repeated studies of authoritarian vs. egalitarian attitudes and values over several decades among Republican and Democratic voters and legislators throughout the United States, that there is a remarkably consistent and statistically significant correlation between authoritarianism and membership in the Republican party, and between egalitarian beliefs and Democratic party affiliations, among both voters and legislators. They found a similar correlation between conservative voters and legislators in Canada, who scored high on the “Right-Wing Authoritarianism” (RWA) attitudes and values scale, whereas those affiliated with liberal party politics scored low. Although most of their research in the US was performed before the “Red State / Blue State” distinction was first made, in 2000, what they found reveals some very interesting inter-correlations between all three of these variables: character, party, and state. In eight studies undertaken during the 1990s, they studied the mean scores of state legislators on the RWA scale, by party and state. They found that: (1) all Republicans scored above the mean on the RWA scale, whether they were from Red or Blue States, with the single exception of those from a Blue State, Connecticut – and even their scores were higher than those of any of the Blue State Democrats; (2) Democratic legislators in Blue States all scored below the mean; (3) the only Democratic legislators who scored above the mean were those from Red States. These results would appear to be consistent with the proposition that culture (Red State vs. Blue State), personality (authoritarian vs. egalitarian), and party identification (Republican vs. Democratic) influence and reinforce each other. 15”

    Gilligan, James (2013-05-20). Why Some Politicians Are More Dangerous Than Others (Kindle Locations 1804-1823). Wiley. Kindle Edition.

  14. “It took many years to establish the link between cigarette smoking and lung cancer. There was clearly an association but causation remained in dispute, in part because the cigarette companies invested huge amounts of money in their effort to cast doubt on the research findings. 1 Nevertheless, the International Agency for Research on Cancer has come up with seven criteria that they conclude can establish beyond reasonable doubt whether a given agent (e.g. cigarettes) could be regarded as causing a given outcome (e.g. lung cancer). I will use their seven criteria here to test whether the political party of the president, itself a proxy for a host of different social and economic policies, can similarly be regarded as causing increases or decreases in the level of lethal violence. To use public health terms, I am asking whether Republican administrations are a risk factor and whether Democratic administrations are a protective factor with respect to homicide and suicide.

    “In adopting the seven criteria laid out for cancer researchers, I follow them verbatim except that where they say cancer I say lethal violence, and where they speak of biological factors I speak of psychological and social factors.

    “1. The link or association between the exposure and lethal violence is strong. The association between exposure to political parties and violent death rates (suicide and homicide) is strong, consistent, and statistically significant. It is only when Republicans are in the White House that the rates of suicide and homicide increase to epidemic levels, and only when Democrats are in the White House that they decrease below these levels. This association occurs repeatedly and without any significant long-term exceptions over a wide variety of different time frames of differing lengths and social circumstances. Even more to the point, the net cumulative totals of suicide and homicide deaths from 1900 through 2007 show large and statistically significant increases during the years of Republican presidencies, and almost indentical decreases during the Democratic administrations.

    “2. The risk of lethal violence increases with more exposure to the agent. The greater the number of years of Republican administrations, the higher the net cumulative increase in rates of suicide and homicide. Conversely, the greater the number of years of Democratic administrations, the higher the net cumulative decrease in rates of suicide and homicide. That is, the higher the dose, the greater the response.

    “3. Multiple studies by different investigators with different groups of people come to the same finding. Although several of the sub-findings have been reported by other investigators, the main thesis of this book has not been proposed before. It is an original observation and one that I hope and trust others will seek to replicate. For the moment, suffice it to say that investigators in Australia and the United Kingdom have, independently of each other and of me, found that suicide rates increased significantly throughout the twentieth century in both countries when conservative political parties were in power, and decreased under liberal governments; and that the unemployment rate correlated both with the political parties and with the suicide rate. 2

    “4. The exposure to the agent came before the violence. The net increases in suicide and homicide to epidemic levels occur only after Republicans are elected to the White House, and the net decreases below epidemic levels occur after Democrats are. While this does not prove the hypothesis (“ after this” does not entail “because of this”), it is important to remember that the hypothesis could and would have been disconfirmed if the data had shown that the epidemics of violence occurred before Republicans came to power, and the resolution of the epidemics before the Democrats did. While events that occur after some other event are not necessarily caused by it, events that occur before some other event cannot be caused by it. Thus, we can say that this analysis represents an attempt to disconfirm the hypothesis, as recommended by Karl Popper, 3 and that it failed to do so. Or, to put it another way, the hypothesis as it stands is consistent with the observed chronological relationships between the hypothesized cause and the hypothesized effect. 2.

    “5. There is a plausible psychological and social explanation for how the agent would cause the violence. Plausible social and psychological explanations for how Republican and Democratic presidencies act as “risk” and “protective” factors, respectively, in the multi-determined etiology of violent behavior have been discussed in previous chapters. To recapitulate, the immediate psychological motive, or cause, of violent behavior in individuals is exposure to overwhelming intensities of shame and humiliation (feelings of failure and inferiority, of being disrespected, rejected, held in contempt, and regarded as worthless, of no value to others, “redundant,” etc.); these feelings can be stimulated and exacerbated by many stressors in the social environment, one of the most powerful and common of which is the experience of being fired from one’s job, or for any other reason suffering a severe loss of socio-economic status; this experience has been more frequent and prolonged under Republican than under Democratic administrations throughout the twentieth century, and compensatory measures to reduce the intensity of the humiliation (e.g. the WPA under Roosevelt) have been more extensive and effective under Democratic than under Republican presidents.

    “6. The link is specific and the agent causes a specific type of lethal injury, namely intentional injury. What I am proposing in this book is that the two political parties have diametrically opposite effects on the causation or prevention of specific types of life-threatening or death-inducing pathology, namely, intentional lethal violence, i.e., homicide and suicide. There does not seem to be a similar correlation between the political parties and overall death rates in America from all causes, nor with the parties and the rates of accidental death. Overall death rates tend to fall every year as medicine advances, and since medical knowledge, once acquired, is, in principle, never lost but only accumulates and grows, it does not fluctuate around a mean from year to year as intentional violence does: it almost always moves only in one direction, toward ever-increasing life expectancies. presidential elections are therefore likely to have only the most remote connection, if any, to the everyday practice of medicine and medical knowledge. Also, any given research project of the type that is responsible for the growth of medical knowledge often takes years to complete and can easily overlap with more than one president without being affected by which party they belong to. Similarly, the yearly incidence of lethal unintentional injuries – the so-called “accindental” deaths – has tended to fall in almost all years since those rates began being measured in 1900. What this demonstrates is that, if there is one thing that is not accindental, it is so-called “accindents,” most of which are preventable – so they in fact have been prevented progressively more effectively, and the preventive techniques, such as automobile seat belts, motorcycle helmets, and so on, once adopted, tend not to be abandoned. Rather, they continue to be preserved and make a permanent contribution to safety, so that, as with medicine, there tends to be cumulative progress in preventing “accindental” deaths, rather than the wide fluctuations in death rates that one sees with intentional injuries.

    “7. The link fits together with what we know from other studies. Every link in the causal chain presented here fits together with findings from other research studies. Both the correlation between political parties and violent death rates, and the interlocking chain of causal mechanisms that explain that correlation, fit together with what we know from other studies of: (a) the association between political parties and numerous forms of socio-economic stress, distress, and inequality – including rates and duration of unemployment; depth, duration, and frequency of economic contractions, recessions, and depression; inequalities of wealth and income, i.e., relative poverty and deprivation – all of which have been shown in social-scientific studies to increase statistically under Republicans and decrease under Democrats; (b) the association between relative economic stress, deprivation or inferiority, including economic inequality, unemployment, economic growth, and lethal violence, which has been confirmed and recon-firmed in multiple published studies, and is indeed one of the most robust findings in the social-scientific literature; (c) the fact that the experience of becoming unemployed or suffering any other major sudden loss of socio-economic status (e.g. being rejected, and defined as worthless and valueless by one’s employer) and thereby subjected to a lowering of one’s socio-economic status, leads to increased intensities of shame and humiliation; (d) the causal association between feelings of overwhelming shame and humiliation and violent behavior – suicide and homicide – has been reported and replicated in every branch of the behavioral sciences, and has indeed, for centuries and millennia, been one of the most ancient and widely repeated observations about human behavior.

    “As cigarette smoking has been shown to increase the rates of lung cancer, so the presence of a Republican in the White House increases the rates of suicide and homicide. And as regular exercise and drinking red wine in moderation have been shown to increase longevity, so the presence of a Democrat in the White House decreases the incidence of lethal violence. Not everyone who smokes gets lung cancer; not every Republican president presides over an epidemic of lethal violence. Not everyone who exercises lives a long and healthy life; not every Democratic president presides over a decrease in violence. What I have demonstrated here is a highly significant link between the party affiliation of the president and the rate of lethal violence in the society, and I have solved the mystery posed by this correlation by indentifying a chain of evidence that can explain what is otherwise an inexplicable association.

    “I want to discuss the larger implications of these findings both for American politics and for the understanding of violence, but, first, I can sum them up with two syllogisms, the premises of which are based on empirical evidence.

    “The first syllogism is the psychological syllogism:

    “Major premise: Feelings of shame and humiliation motivate, and hence increase the rates of, both suicide and homicide.
    Minor premise: Socio-economic distress and suffering in the form of unemployment, relative poverty and the sudden loss of social and economic status stimulate feelings of shame and humiliation.
    Conclusion: Therefore, socio-economic distress and suf-fering, in the forms just mentioned, increase the rates of suicide and homicide.
    (Empirical evidence in support of the major and minor premises and the conclusion are summarized in chapters 4, 5, and 2, respectively.)

    “The second syllogism is the political syllogism:

    “Major premise: Republican administrations increase the level of socio-economic distress and Democratic administrations reduce them.
    “Minor premise: Economic and social distress increase rates of homicide and suicide.
    “Conclusion: Therefore, suicide and homicide rates can be expected to increase during Republican administrations and decrease under Democratic ones.
    (Empirical evidence in support of the major and minor premises and the conclusion are summarized in chapters 3, 2 and 1, respectively.)”

    Gilligan, James (2013-05-20). Why Some Politicians Are More Dangerous Than Others (Kindle Locations 2018-2109). Wiley. Kindle Edition.

  15. “Could that dramatic decrease in lethal violence have been caused by the equally dramatic increase in our imprisonment rate? If the increase in our prison population, beginning in the mid-1970s during Nixon’s second term in office, were responsible for the ending of our epidemic of violence, why did it take until 1997 to bring the epidemic to an end?

    “Our national imprisonment rate had been essentially constant throughout the first three-quarters of the twentieth century at roughly 100 (plus or minus 20) per 100,000 population. It was only in the mid-1970s that it began increasing steadily and rapidly year after year so that today it is over 700 per 100,000. Is there any evidence that this prison -building and prison-stuffing binge was even indirectly responsible for ending the epidemic of violence? Here is some relevant evidence that it was not:

    “1) Since our epidemic of violence involves suicide as well as homicide, it is worth noticing that not even the most avid supporters of mass imprisonment claim that there is any reason to believe that increasing our incarceration rate would have in any way contributed to the decline in the suicide rate that occurred following Clinton’s election. In fact, imprisonment is well known as a major precipitant of suicide, not as a preventer of it.

    “2) Two Democratic presidents, Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt, both inherited epidemics of lethal violence from their Republican predecessors (in 1913 and 1933, respectively), and succeeded in ending those epidemics without making any major increases in the incarceration rate. That is consistent with the conclusion that increasing the imprisonment rate is not a necessary prerequisite for ending an epidemic of violence.

    “3) The series of Republican presidents from Nixon to Bush Sr. (1969– 92) began by inheriting a non-epidemic rate of lethal violence from their Democratic predecessors, Kennedy and Johnson, and turned it, from 1970 on, into the longest uninterrupted epidemic of lethal violence in the twentieth century, despite increasing the imprisonment rate from roughly 100 to 700 per 100,000, for the first and only time in the twentieth century. That increase did not have the slightest effect on the homicide rate, which remained continuously at epidemic levels. That is consistent with the conclusion that increases in the imprisonment rate are not sufficient for ending an epidemic of violence.

    “4) A Democratic president, Bill Clinton, inherited the epidemic of lethal violence left him by his Republican predecessors in 1993, and ended the epidemic without ending the ongoing yearly increase in imprisonment rates.

    “5) Wilson, Roosevelt, and Clinton all inherited epidemics not only of violence but also of unemployment (and other indices of socio-economic inequality, stress, and deprivation) from their Republican predecessors, and ended those epidemics as well.

    “6) The net implication of all the empirical evidence cited in the above five paragraphs would seem to be that increasing the imprisonment rate (as the Republicans did) is neither necessary nor sufficient for either preventing or ending epidemics of lethal violence; but that ending epidemics of unemployment and relative deprivation (as the Democrats did) is both necessary and sufficient for preventing and ending epidemics of lethal violence.

    “As the National Academy of Sciences’ review of this question concluded in 1993:

    “”What effect has increasing the prison population had on levels of violent crime? Apparently, very little.… 174 If tripling the average length of incarceration per crime had a strong preventive effect, then violent crime rates should have declined.… Analyses suggest that a further increase in the average time served per violent crime would have an even smaller proportional incapacitation effect than the increase [in time served] that occurred between 1975 and 1989.… This analysis suggests that preventive strategies may be as important as criminal justice responses to violence. 5 In fact, I must turn the question around and ask whether our policy of mass incarceration might have had exactly the reverse effect. After all, prisons have been known throughout the centuries as “schools for crime” – in fact, graduate schools in crime and violence, or, as my colleague Sunny Schwartz 6 has called them , “monster factories.” We have only been able to fill all the prisons we have built, to the point of severely overcrowding them, by sentencing an ever larger number of people to them for non-violent crimes. And, as I have repeatedly observed over the past 40 years and as all recidivism statistics demonstrate, the most effective way to turn a non-violent person into a violent one is to send him to prison. So we have to ask whether putting more and more non- violent people into prisons for longer and longer times might actually have had the effect of prolonging and exacerbating our epidemic of violence, rather than of mitigating or ending it; and whether the dramatic and rapid reduction in lethal violence rates that occurred during the Clinton administration (1993 –2000) occurred despite the continuing orgy of mass incarceration, rather than because of it.”

    “One last piece of evidence that the policy incarceration had no demonstrable effect on the murder rate is the fact that, in 1970, when our national incarceration rate was about where it had been for the first three-quarters of the twentieth century – 100 per 100,000 population – the murder rate was 8.3 per 100,000. By 15 years later, in 1985, the incarceration rate had doubled to about 200 per 100,000. What was the murder rate? Still 8.3. By another 11 years after that, in 1996, the imprisonment rate had doubled again to more than 400 per 100,000. What was the murder rate that year? Still 8.3. It does not appear that the doubling or even quadrupling of the imprisonment rate over a 27– year period made even the slightest dent in the murder rate , which came down below the epidemic “floor” of 8 (in fact, reaching a low of 6.4 by 2000) only after president Clinton had instituted the economic reforms described in this book; following which, with the election of another Republican president, Bush Jr., the murder rate immediately stopped declining and reversed itself, drifting upward even though (or perhaps because) the imprisonment rate also continued to climb upward.”

    Gilligan, James (2013-05-20). Why Some Politicians Are More Dangerous Than Others (Kindle Location 2221-2264). Wiley. Kindle Edition.

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