Tea Party Welfare

Books About Conservatism and the Tea Party
By Timothy Noah, The New York Times

“Today, nearly all political centrists are Democrats. And with the rise of the Tea Party, Republicans are experiencing another 1964 moment. Indeed, Theda Skocpol and Vanessa Williamson report in their exceptionally informative book, “The Tea Party and the Remaking of Republican Conservatism,” more than a few Tea Partiers “dated their first political experience to the Goldwater campaign.” But there are important differences between the two movements. For one, the Tea Party, unlike the Goldwater insurgency, has managed to win elections and thereby obtain some power at the national and state level. For another, the Tea Partiers’ anti-­government ideology is tempered by quiet support for Social Security and Medicare. That’s because the activists themselves tend to be middle-aged or older. Tea Partiers aren’t opposed to government benefits per se, according to Skocpol and Williamson; rather, they’re opposed to “unearned” government benefits, which in practice ends up meaning any benefits extended to African-­Americans, Latinos, immigrants (especially undocumented ones) and the young. A poll of South Dakota Tea Party supporters found that 83 percent opposed any Social Security cuts, 78 percent opposed any cuts to Medicare prescription-drug coverage, and 79 percent opposed cuts in Medicare reimbursements to physicians and hospitals. “So much for the notion that Tea Partiers are all little Dick Armeys,” Skocpol and Williamson write. The small government Tea Partiers favor is one where I get mine and most others don’t get much at all.”

“This poses a particular problem for a conservative Republican like Rep. Paul Ryan, who favors privatizing Medicare and shifting more of the financial burden onto recipients. But it’s also a problem for anyone seeking to lower the budget deficit, because it’s the “earned” benefits like Social Security and Medicare that are mainly responsible for runaway government spending. On the other hand, although Tea Partiers, who tend to be comfortably middle class but not wealthy, hate paying taxes, they don’t necessarily mind when other people pay taxes; the South Dakota poll had 56 percent of Tea Party supporters favoring a 5 percent increase in income taxes for people who earn more than $1 million a year.”

This is what I’ve been pointing out again and again.

The Tea Party conservative (and the fiscal conservatives who support them) isn’t against big government and isn’t against welfare. Rather, they are against big government that helps other people who aren’t like them: minorities, immigrants, and the young.

The GOP strongholds are the Deep South and the Far West which are the regions that receive the most federal benefits, meaning they receive more federal taxpayer money than they pay in federal taxes. The Far West, in fact, has been dependent on government funding since the 19th century simply to make the region habitable.

I see the same thing in Iowa. Eastern Iowa isn’t as dependent on farm subsidies and so Eastern Iowans don’t elect politicians to make sure they get this type of government welfare which means they more often vote for Democrats. Western Iowans, however, are dependent on government welfare through farming subsidies and so they vote for Republicans who always get federal funds for their constituents.

These kinds of conservatives will complain about spending other people’s money. Yet they are perfectly fine with other people’s money being spent on themselves and on what they care about (e.g., abstinence-only sex education, oil subsidies, military, etc). There is this fundamental disconnect from reality that is mind-blowing. If the Tea Party got rid of government, it is people like the Tea Party supporters (along with others living in Republican-voting states) who would be among those who would suffer the most.

They benefit from the welfare such as farm subsidies created by progressives and attack progressivism. They’ll tell the government to keep its hands off of their Medicare. Where do they think Medicare comes from? Who do they think pays for it? It’s just plain bizarre.

Re: How to Lose Readers (Without Even Trying)

Sam Harris has an awesome post in response to the anti-tax anti-statists (who often seem to be anti-humanists, especially the Randian types). There was a particular part that caught my attention (emphasis is mine):

image“And lurking at the bottom of this morass one finds flagrantly irrational ideas about the human condition. Many of my critics pretend that they have been entirely self-made. They seem to feel responsible for their intellectual gifts, for their freedom from injury and disease, and for the fact that they were born at a specific moment in history. Many appear to have absolutely no awareness of how lucky one must be to succeed at anything in life, no matter how hard one works. One must be lucky to be able to work. One must be lucky to be intelligent, to not have cerebral palsy, or to not have been bankrupted in middle age by the mortal illness of a spouse.

Many of us have been extraordinarily lucky—and we did not earn it. Many good people have been extraordinarily unlucky—and they did not deserve it. And yet I get the distinct sense that if I asked some of my readers why they weren’t born with club feet, or orphaned before the age of five, they would not hesitate to take credit for these accomplishments. There is a stunning lack of insight into the unfolding of human events that passes for moral and economic wisdom in some circles. And it is pernicious. Followers of Rand, in particular, believe that only a blind reliance on market forces and the narrowest conception of self interest can steer us collectively toward the best civilization possible and that any attempt to impose wisdom or compassion from the top—no matter who is at the top and no matter what the need—is necessarily corrupting of the whole enterprise. This conviction is, at the very least, unproven. And there are many reasons to believe that it is dangerously wrong.”
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That is what socialism has to offer us. Socialism reminds us that humans are inherently social animals. Humans literally can’t survive without others. Many infants die if they aren’t touched, despite how well they are fed.
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It was odd that Sam Harris had to or even wanted to explain that he wasn’t a socialist. He clarified his position by pointing out that he is a libertarian in many ways:
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And I say this as someone who considers himself, in large part, a “libertarian”—and who has, therefore, embraced more or less everything that was serviceable in Rand’s politics. The problem with pure libertarianism, however, has long been obvious: We are not ready for it.Judging from my recent correspondence, I feel this more strongly than ever. There is simply no question that an obsession with limited government produces impressive failures of wisdom and compassion in otherwise intelligent people.
 – – –
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It was disconcerting how many people felt the need to lecture me about the failure of Socialism. To worry about the current level of wealth inequality is not to endorse Socialism, or to claim that the equal distribution of goods should be an economic goal.
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His reponse just goes to show you how little socialism is understood. Chomsky is both a socialist and a libertarian. Chomsky explains that libertarianism arose out of the the socialist workers movement.
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To put it simply, socialism promotes an egalitarian society that is fair and just. Socialism, however, doesn’t necessitate the equal distribution of goods. It only requires the equal distribution of opportunities and equal public benefits for public investments. Socialism is the opposite of our present plutocratic socialism. Instead of redistribution to the few, the benefits of our shared society go to benefit to all who are a part of that society. It’s the simple understanding that no person is self-made. Even Sam Harris understands this despite apparently, in his defensiveness, not realizing that socialism isn’t such a crazy idea.

Ruling Elite: Anti-Democratic Fiscal Conservatives

I was trying to explain why democracy matters to a conservative, but I was having a hard time.

Even though he believes in representative democracy, he has an elitist strain in that he doesn’t trust the average American, especially not the poor and minorities (even though he isn’t overtly/consciously classist and racist). He seems to think most Americans who don’t vote are simply lazy or something. He blames those who are disenfranchised rather than blaming the system that disenfranchises them. And he seems to think that the majority of Americans who support liberal policies (such as progressive taxes and social security) are simply stupid, ignorant or manipulated (in particular, what he perceives as stupid and ignorant poor minorities being manipulated by the liberal elite). But when average Americans stop being mindlessly apathetic and organize through grassroots democracy, he trusts them even less (Protesters are just violent thugs or potentially so, using force or the threat of force to unfairly get their way. How dare they try to force their majority opinion on the minority ruling elite! How dare they stop submitting to the paternalistic aristocracy that knows what is best for them!).

He does mean well (and I honestly mean that, no sarcasm implied). But he is an upper class white guy who grew up when the country was booming, when Americans were proud of their post-war global dominance, and when few would question the cultural dominance and political rule of whites and Christians. On the other hand, it was also an era of reigning liberalism (the whites and Christians ruling then were an entirely different breed than our present right-wingers). People at that time were joyfully and licentiously freed from the oppression of World Wars, the Great Depression, and Prohibition. This particular conservative and others of his generation benefited from the liberal and progressive policies that made this country great: public-funded infrastructure that helped create a massive manufacturing industry and high paying jobs, public-funded education that created a well-educated generation that didn’t go into debt becoming educated, a progressive tax rate that built the middle class, and on and on. He even worked in public-funded state universities for much of his career. But he sees none of this… or else just dismisses it or somehow sees it as not very important.

From his viewpoint: Fiscal liberals are simply naive despite having have accomplished all of these great things that he personally benefited from. And fiscal conservatives are somehow being realistic despite their policies (Starve the Beast, Two Santa Clauses theory, trickle-down economics, tax cuts for the rich, massive military spending, corporate subsidies, etc) having created and grown the permanent debt (and having eliminated the surplus when a Democrat created it with no help from Republicans)… along with, after decades of fiscal and social conservative rule, having created a society that is heading in the complete opposite direction from where society was heading during the era of liberalism and progressivism.

He basically is a libertarian, although more of what I’ve heard called an Establishment libertarian (ya know, the type that is represented by the billionaire corporatists at the CATO Institute: Rupert Murdoch, Koch brothers, etc; i.e., the plutocratic ownership class). As an upper class white man, he is largely detached from the experiences of most Americans. He is reluctant to admit that most Americans disagree with him. But even when admitting this he still dismisses that majority position. Despite his valuing freedom and fairness, despite his being personally moral, he just can’t bring himself to trust the dirty masses. He genuinely fears ‘mobocracy’. He is fine with a minimal democracy as long as it is run by a ruling elite that dismisses and ignores the majority (which is what our present government does). As someone invested in The Establishment, he has much to lose if real democracy were implemented. He seems to somewhat hold to the right-libertarian position that the rich don’t need government and the poor don’t deserve government.

Last night, I heard a perfect example of this type of person. It was on NPR and one of the guests was from the Heritage Foundation which is ultra-conservative. He argued that it would be wrong for a minority of workers to be allowed to force unionization on a majority of workers who didn’t support unionization. That is fine as far as it goes. However, it is hypocritical for someone like him to make this argument as he doesn’t trust democracy in the first place. Even if a majority of workers voted for unionization he would still consider it suspect because a majority is mobocracy (two foxes and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner; the opposite view being it’s better to have one fox and two sheep with a ‘representative’ government where the fox is the representative who decides what is best for all). Also, these kinds of right-wingers are perfectly fine with a minority ruling elite forcing their views on the majority of the population. They are being disingenuous in picking and choosing when they do and don’t want to support democracy, rather conveniently they tend to only support it when it favors their own positions and power.

It really sucks, though, to be this kind of conservative at this point in history, despite all the power conservatives wield. My conservative discussion partner mistrusts the poor, the working class (especially if unionized), minorities, traditional social conservatives (i.e., religious minorities who consistently vote Democratic), protesting activists, and the “Liberal Elite” (that he perceives as controlling the government, the media and academia). He even has some strong suspicion about big business when its involved in politics, but more because he is worried about government controlling businesses rather than the other way around. I guess the only people he truly trusts are people just like him: upper class or upper middle class, fiscally and socially conservative (i.e., right-wing) WASPs. This, of course, combines with the general conservative mistrust and sometimes outright fear of change. He is part of a shrinking demographic and all of the types of people he mistrusts are growing demographics. The fastest growing demographics are hispanics and blacks (both groups tending to be social gospel Christians), atheists and the non-religious, progressives and social liberals.

Such right-wing WASPs know they are losing political power and social influence, but they aren’t willing to relent with grace and generosity of spirit. They believe this is their country. They believe they deserve their position as the ruling elite and deserve their social and cultural dominance. This is why they’ve fought so hard in the culture wars which was their last stand and they’ve lost that war. The Tea Party was their final battle, their Last Hurrah. The average Tea Party supporter is to the right of the average Republican. And the average Republican, of course, is to the right of the average Democrat (and also to the right of the average Independent). But what many don’t know is that the average Democratic politician is to the right of the average American. These right-wing WASPs are so far right that they are starting to fall off of the end of the political spectrum.

They have good reason for worrying about their own growing irrelevance and obsolescence (aging implied as many are of an older generation). They maybe can’t save themselves at this point (at least not in their traditional role), but they sure can do massive damage to our democracy in trying to save themselves from having to share power equally and fairly with others. Pushing further to the right in reaction only guarantees and quickens the demise of their rule.

So, what is their plan to counter this seemingly inevitable trend? Obviously, democracy (including a functioning representative democracy) is the greatest enemy of their desire to maintain power and influence. But how to effectively undermine democracy while keeping a facade of democracy to keep the masses docile and obedient?

Well, propaganda is their best tool, especially considering they have the most influence over both mainstream politics and mainstream media (i.e., corporate media conglomerates). As Chomsky and others have pointed out, the propaganda model has been effectively used for a very long time. Unlike the past, ruling right-wingers can’t solely use and overtly rely upon violence to oppress the US population. More subtle methods are required: controlling the narrative of public discussion and of perceived consensus reality.

Another method is to shift the location of the reigns of power. When they ruled society through majority force and ruled culture through majority dominance (i.e., majority of WASPs), they could rule the government and so a functioning representative democracy was in some ways less of a danger. But they now mistrust the government since it has been for much of the 20th century becoming more egalitarian (by which I mean less dominated by the single demographic of male WASPs).

The neo-conservatives and neo-liberals (Establishment libertarians fitting in the latter category) have a similar strategy with only a slightly different emphasis. Both seek to privatize power or to otherwise control government by outside manipulation. This is how corporatocracy has shifted to inverted totalitarianism (a banana republic that continues to go through the motions of democracy, a puppet government ruled by a shadow government).

Other more average right-wing WASPs (such as the libertarian-leaning social conservative I was interacting with) aren’t among the ruling elite, although as upper class Americans some of them have a fair amount of influence on the ruling elite, and so they instead have a strategy of disempowering the federal government (that has been, at least in the past, the greatest force of civil rights). They do this by localizing power which means concentrating power at the local level where it can be better controlled (local religious and business organizations that are tied into the local Establishment of ruling elites, and yet also — unknowingly to the average conservative — more loosely and covertly (through professional and personal relationships) tied into the national and international Establishment of ruling elites; this being a way of ruling behind the scenes far away from the sanitizing sunshine of democracy). This is an attempt to return to pre-Progressive 19th century crony capitalism when local politicians and businessmen regularly colluded for power and profit (a time when the private army of Pinkerton agents was larger than the US military).

I should clarify an issue. Yes, there are conspiracies in the world. But most of this isn’t conspiracy. It’s just people acting in accord with other people (often family and friends) who share their interests, who share their way of viewing the world, who share their background. Humans have the tendency to identify with those like themselves and research shows this is even more true for right-wingers who are predisposed to groupthink and identity politics. The Establishment isn’t necessarily nefarious in a conscious or intentionally planned way. It simply represents the relationships shared by the upper classes (personal and professional, political and business, community and religious). The upper classes socialize with other upper class people. There is nothing surprising about that. The poor do the same, but it’s just that the poor don’t have the power and influence to form a similar establishment.

What these minarchist conservatives and right-libertarians don’t understand (or, in some cases, maybe understand perfectly fine) is that plutocrats, corporatists, crony capitalists, corrupt politicians and manipulative elites can control a small government just as easily as they can control a big government. In some ways, especially in a multiculturally diverse democracy, it probably is even easier for them to maintain their power on the local level of small government. Similarly, they can control an unregulated market just as easily as they can control a regulated market. The only thing that can stop corruption and concentration of power is a functioning democracy. The greater the democracy (i.e. the more it involves direct democracy, civic participation and grassroots activism) means the greater the protection against those who don’t want democracy.

All of this obviously makes me sad, even despairing at times. It almost makes me lose all hope in humanity. I was trying to explain to this particular conservative why a functioning democracy matters, why the majority matters. Thinking further about it, I came up with a way of explaining it which maybe conservatives could understand. It uses free market economics which they claim to love so much. Here it is:

Trying to have a democracy that ignores and dismisses the majority on a consistent basis is like trying to have a free market that ignores and dismisses the majority of small business owners and workers. A free market works (at least in theory) because there is competition. Likewise, a democracy can only work if there is competition. However, if the ruling elite clamps down on political competition by disenfranchising the majority, then that is no longer a free political system, no longer a functioning democracy. An economy where two corporations nearly monopolized every market couldn’t accurately be called a free market. So why, in context of a government where two parties nearly monopolize all politics, do we insist calling it a free democracy (or even a free republic for that matter)?

To claim the US is a functioning democracy is a convenient fiction used to assuage the guilt of our individual and collective moral failings, a way of avoiding the awareness of our individual and shared responsibility that would otherwise require individual and shared action to alleviate the injustice.

This free market metaphor for democracy might be close to reaching him in a way he could understand, but I still have doubts that he (and those like him) can be reached. His fear of commoners is just too great. He knows in his heart that most Americans disagree with him (because if he didn’t know this on some level, he wouldn’t respond with such gut-level mistrust). He’d rather disempower the majority than to risk genuine democracy (with all of its messy civic participation). As a well educated professional, he sees himself as having earned his wealth and power. Therefore, he believes his opinion is worth more than the opinion of the poor and the working class, maybe worth more than the opinion of even most of the middle class that is now struggling (the conservative belief in meritocratic rule where meritocracy is conflated with plutocracy). He isn’t entirely detached from the lower classes. He didn’t grow up super rich, but neither did he grow up poor. He just doesn’t understand, maybe can’t understand. Most importantly, he doesn’t comprehend on a gut level all of the privileges and opportunities of being a well off white male and all of the public-funded programs and polices that have allowed him to succeed. He lives in a fantasy shared by many other well off white males.

It saddens me because he is so normal, so typical. If you met him, you’d just think he was a genuinely kind and friendly person (which would be an accurate assessment on the personal level). He goes to church and he volunteers. He is always helping other people. For certain, he isn’t a greedy narcissist, a soulless sociopath, or anything like that. He simply is blind to those who are different from him. Or not exactly blind. On some level, he fears those who are different and fears what he thinks they would do to this (to ‘his’) country that he believes was built by WASPs like him. He is intelligent and well educated, but he just can’t understand.

This kind of moral split reminds me of Derrick Jensen’s analysis. In his books, Jensen describes how people become dissociated between different parts of their lives. For example, someone can do things at work that others would find emotionally distasteful or morally horrifying, and yet these people often can go home to play with their kids without any thought about what they were doing a few hours before. The two parts of their lives are absolutely split. I think a similar thing happens with personal life and politics. People can make political decisions (as politicians or as voters) about strangers that they could never make about their own loved ones or their own neighbors or the members of their own church.

When that dissociation breaks down, people make very different decisions. An example is that data shows social conservatives tend to vote against stem cell research, but if they personally know someone who could be (or could have been) saved by stem cell research they tend to vote for stem cell research. Morality can’t function when there is no personal investment and many people aren’t able to connect personally to strangers. Research, however, has shown liberals are better at and conservatives worse at empathetically connecting with strangers (it’s even a criticism conservatives make of liberals because they see caring about strangers such as foreigners as implying a split loyalty). Conservatives are what Ernest Hartmann calls thick boundary types. What this means is that a conservative makes a great surgeon in being able to disconnect their emotions from their work but also can make morally questionable decisions for the same reason of that disconnection.

As usual, I’m left with no clear conclusion, no understanding of how to move forward.

Is it simply a matter of people never changing? Is it true that change only happens when the old generation dies and new generations gain power and influence? If so, that is sad. Does this mean that in hoping for change I have to hope for the death of people like this conservative along with the death of the old generation of narcissistic Boomers (and those on the cusp of the Boomer generation) who have held onto power for far too long? That is a depressing thought. I don’t wish harm on them, but I do wish that their harm against others would end. I see the right-wing reign coming to an end and yet I fear that the after-effects of their reign could last for the rest of my life.

Liberals are the New Fiscal Conservatives

In a recent post (Cenk Uygur on Tax Cuts for the Rich), I asked the following question:

What is the motivation for Republicans being for and Democrats being against tax cuts for the rich? Many like to argue that both parties are in the pocket of the wealthy elite. But if that were the case, Democrat politicians should support tax cuts for the rich as much as Republicans do.

I often agree with those who criticize the two party system. It is mostly a sham, but I wouldn’t say it’s entirely a sham. Also, I’d point out that Republican and Democrat isn’t equivalent to conservative and liberal. I often argue that there are important differences that shouldn’t be ignored. I’ve often written about these differences, but one of my best posts on the subject (Liberal Pragmatism, Conservative Dogmatism) was where I gathered all of the data showing examples of how liberal policies are effective in the real world.

In that post, the most interesting examples are where the real world data contradict the ideologically commonsense assumptions. For instance, what many pro-lifers don’t understand is that pro-choicers also want to decrease the number of abortions. To the pro-lifer, it’s just commonsense that illegalizing abortions will decrease the numbers, but in this case commonsense is incorrect. Countries where abortions are illegalized have high rates of abortions and countries where abortions are legalized have low rates of abortions. It does make sense once you have all the data, but if you’re basing your decisions on ideology instead of data you will come to an incorrect conclusion.

My argument in that post was that liberals (who may or may not identify as Democrats) are more likely to prefer basing decisions on data… and the data does show that liberals are a very well-educated demographic. I explored this issue of liberal intellectualism and conservative anti-intellectualism in previous posts such as these: Conservative Mistrust & Ideological Certainty (part 1) and Conservative Mistrust & Ideological Certainty (part 2). The point I was making in those posts was that there are many conservatives, including intelligent conservatives, who are epistemologically mistrusting of all data, especially from the social sciences. There isn’t much that can be done about such people because there is no way to have an objective discussion with them. Their attitude of epistemological mistrust of data leads to an epistemologically self-enclosed worldview. It’s like talking to a Christian apologists. Such people have come to a conclusion before discussion even begins and any new data is meaningless.

Still, I like to believe that most people can be influenced by new data. I’ve come across examples of conservatives with very open minds and very rational intellects. Conservatism may make one more prone to anti-intellectualism, but that is a far cry from saying all or even most conservatives are therefore anti-intellectuals. In another recent post (Conservative Critics of Conservatism), I detailed some of the conservatives who I’ve come to respect for their independent thinking.

With Cenk Uygur’s video (linked at top), I was reminded of the example of economics. Conservatives love to talk economics because they’ve honed their rhetoric and talking points to near perfection. I even can agree with or can deem worthy some conservative criticisms which involve economics. There is some validity to fiscal conservatism, but the problem with fiscal conservatism isn’t in the ideology itself. Rather, it’s in those who use the ideology as rhetoric for winning votes. This is where data becomes so important which is why I just posted some of this data: National Debt, Starve the Beast, & Wealth Disparity. Both conservatives and liberals perceive themselves as moral (many seeing themselves as morally superior, maybe especially conservatives who think of morality in hierarchical terms), but I think an important aspect of morality is humility (Is that a liberal value? Conservatives do seem to have a talent for acting righteous.). I personally believe, which may simply be my liberal bias, that we should try to suppress our urge to be righteous until after the data is analyzed. If the data supports your position, then by all means untether your righteousness… but (with emphasis on that “but”) if the data doesn’t support your position, then instead of looking to criticize the data and rationalize your position maybe you should do some soul-searching.

Anyways, inspiration for this post began with thoughts I had about the data in the post about the national debt. In the post itself, I didn’t add any of my own commentary. I merely quoted in length the commentary of others and gathered some videos and charts. I wanted to add some commentary and so decided I should just start a separate post.

Whenever considering US politics (especially in terms of liberalism and conservatism), I usually think of one of my favorite sources of info: Beyond Red vs. Blue (and here is a short NPR segment about it). This is a survey done by Pew. They divided the US population into 9 demographics.

The two wealthiest demographics are the Enterprisers and the Liberals, the former being staunch Republicans and the latter being almost equally divided between Democrats and Independents.

Interestingly, the vast majority of Republicans identify as conservatives and so do almost half of Democrats with liberals being the minority in the Democratic party… which would seem to imply that the political debate truly has been pushed to the right and that Americans quite possibly have a confused sense of what conservative means – see: America: Conservative & Progressive and US Demographics & Increasing Progressivism. By the way, I noticed Wikipedia has some interesting articles: Conservative Democrat, Blue Dog CoalitionNew Democrat CoalitionLiberal Republican, and Rockefeller Republican. From the article, Conservative Democrat: “Prior to 1964, both parties had their liberal, moderate, and conservative wings, each of them influential in both parties… After 1980, the Republicans became a mostly right-wing party… while the Democrats, while keeping their left wing intact… grew a substantial moderate wing in the 1990s in place of their old conservative wing”. Only the Democrat party seems to be presently maintaining both liberals and conservatives within its membership. Conservatives out-number moderates in the Republican party, but moderates out-number liberals in the Democratic party. Furthermore, 35% of Liberals identify as moderate while only 14% of Enterprisers identify as moderate (which means many of the Liberals within the Democrat Party are moderate Liberals and the far left Liberals are probably those who identify as Independents). This means that the Democratic party (including the Liberal Democrats) now represents the moderate political position (socialists, elitists?). However, the perception that Americans have come to have, as provided by the mainstream media, is that Republicans are moderates and Democrats are far left.

Both the Enterpriser and Liberal demographics have the same percentage of those in the upper economic bracket, but what distinguishes the Liberals is that they have a higher percentage (than the Enterprisers) of those from the lower economic bracket and so Liberals also have higher percentage of those who have experienced unemployment. Besides the wealth issue, both have high percentages of small business ownership and high percentages of trading stocks and bonds, but Enterprisers have the highest rates among all 9 demographics and Liberals have the third highest rate in both categories. So, these two demographics represent the two ideological ends of the spectrum of the wealthiest Americans (However, if you’re talking about the wealthy elite ruling the country, Enterprisers fit that description better than Liberals). Also, both are the two most highly educated demographics with Liberals being slightly better educated on average and, according to other data (Response to Rightwing Misinformation and Liberal Pragmatism, Conservative Dogmatism), Democrats in general have higher IQ on average than Repbulicans (so maybe, if Enterprisers are the wealthy elite, Liberals could be considered the intellectual elite… although both demographics are relatively wealthy and well-educated as compared to the rest of the population and so there is a limit to how well they fit their respective stereotypes).

In terms of my present discussion, the differences between the two are what interest me… and, unlike what conservatives say in their moments of empty rhetoric, one of those differences isn’t that liberals lack real world experience in business and economics. Here are some of the actual differences:

Who exactly are they?

Enterprisers are more white, more male and slightly older than the national average.
Liberals are nearly identical to the national averages in terms of race, gender and age.

Enterprisers are most loyal viewers of Fox News which is their main source of news.
Liberals watch tv news the least of all demographics and get news from the internet the most of all demographics.

What do they support?

Enterprisers show the strongest support for the Patriot Act.
Liberals show the least support for the Patriot Act.

Enterprisers mostly think preemptive military attacks against other countries can sometimes be justified.
Liberals mostly think preemptive military attacks against other countries only rarely can be justified.

Enterprisers are the least in favor of raising minimum wage.
Liberals are strongly in favor of raising minimum wage.

Enterprisers are the strongest in favor of privatizing social security.
Liberals are strongly opposed of privatizing social security.

Enterprisers are the most opposed to government guaranteeing health insurance to all citizens.
Liberals are the least opposed to government guaranteeing health insurance to all citizens.

Enterprisers are the most in favor of outsourcing American jobs.
Liberals are strongly opposed to outsourcing American jobs.

What are their views about government financial issues?

Enterprisers are the most in favor of cutting taxes, especially tax cuts for the rich.
Liberals are the most opposed to cutting taxes, including tax cuts for the rich.

Enterprisers put less priority on balancing the budget deficit than any other demographic.
Liberals put more priority on balancing the budget deficit than any other demographic.

Enterprisers show the least support for raising the taxes in order to reduce the deficit.
Liberals are the only demographic to show majority support for raising taxes to reduce the deficit.

Enterprisers show the least support for lowering defense/military spending to reduce the deficit.
Liberals are the only demographic to show majority support for lowering defense/military spending to reduce the deficit.

Enterprisers show the most support for lowering domestic spending to reduce the deficit.
Liberals are evenly split in their support for lowering domestic spending to reduce the deficit.

I could add even more examples, but this gives a basic comparison (if you want to see the data for yourself, here is the pdf: http://people-press.org/reports/tables/242.pdf).

Basically, Enterprisers are social conservatives and fiscal liberals and Liberals are social liberals and fiscal conservatives.

Enterprisers are against any policy that favors the poor, the working class, and minorities; and are for any issue involving conservative morality and fundamentalist religion (such as wanting creationism to be taught in schools). Enterprisers, besides being neocons, are simply the religious right writ large with power and money. It’s because of the Enterprisers that the religious right have taken over the Republican party. One would be mistaken to think the religious right is simply represented by uneducated white southerners.

Liberals, despite also being mostly rich whites, support any policy that helps the poor, the working class, and minorities. It’s odd that Liberals support all the policies that directly cost them while only directly helping others. As a liberal, I assume that these Liberals believe that helping the least helps the entire society (which is proven by the data on wealth disparity comparisons: Mean Bosses & Inequality). As Enterprisers are the most religious demographic, Liberals are the least religious demographic. Liberals take seriously the Constitutional doctrine of separation of church and state. In general, Liberals seem to value the Constitution more than Enterprisers or at least they are less willing to sacrifice (e.g., against torture and the Patriot Act which Enterprisers strongly support).

Enterprisers are on many of the issues 10-30% stronger in their opinions than Liberals. Enterprisers are the most conservative of conservatives (to be precise they are the most conservative on social conservative issues while the most liberal of all demographics on fiscal liberalism… which esentially makes them typical neoconservatives who are presently the leaders of the Republican party). Liberals also are the most liberal of liberals, but the difference is that Liberals seem more moderate on most issues. As I pointed out earlier in this post, there are more moderate liberals than moderate conservatives and there are more moderate Democrats than moderate Republicans. For example, even though Liberals show the most support for domestic spending (i.e., social programs), they were evenly split on this issue. There are few things more important to a liberal than social programs and yet liberals apparently hold fiscal conservatism as at least equal to their social liberalism. The only thing Liberals value more than fiscal conservatism are issues involving civil and constitutional rights.

The reason I compared these two groups is because they represent the two wealthy demographics among conservatives and liberals. So, I thought they should be fairly representative of two distinct worldviews of those who have power in this country. However, I should point out again that there are many conservatives in the Democrat party whereas liberals in the Republican party are almost non-existent. In the context of Washington politics, most Democratic and Republican politicians are probably closer to Enterprisers than to Liberals, at least in terms of actual policy decisions (whether or not in terms of rhetoric). For example, Obama’s health insurance plan which Republicans have called socialist is based on a proposal made by Republicans in the 1990s. So, conservative ideas from a decade ago are now considered to be far left ideology. This demonstrates how far right has shifted the entire political spectrum.

The data I’m using is a few years old (2005). I’d like to see some more recent data that has this much detail. Even so, the fact that Republican politicians remain staunch defenders of tax cuts for the rich seems to show the data hasn’t changed much since Bush was replaced by Obama. I don’t know how many Democratic politicians would fit the Pew description of the Liberal demographic, but definitely this kind of liberalism does manage to maintain some small influence over Democratic politicians. Even though Democratic politicians may not be staunch opponents of tax cuts for the rich, the liberal influence within the Democratic party does keep them from being staunch supporters.

As one last comment, if you support fiscal conservatism (as real world policies rather than mere rhetoric), you’d be wise to vote Democrat (or, if as a conservative you can’t stomach the idea of voting for a Democrat, maybe you should at least consider a third party). All of the recent Democratic presidents have been, going by the actual results, more fiscally conservative than all of the recent Republican presidents. However, if you simply like the sound of rhetoric and don’t care about the real world, then by all means keep voting Republican.