....LMB: "Schisms"....

November 16, 2004

David Neiwert is one of the first folks online I've seen to correctly identify the idelogical voter split in this country (urban vs. rural, not red states vs. blue states) and also come up with some ideas of what to do about it.

I think David is asking the right questions: why do rural folks dislike liberals? How can we change the Democratic party so that its policies include the needs of rural people? This is good, democratic (small "d"), egalitarian thinking.

Unfortunately, I don't think that's the popular set of questions at the moment. I think most liberals are instead asking: why won't those stupid rednecks vote for us? Don't they know we're doing what's best for them? What miniscule, symbolic steps can we take to trick them into voting for us?

I'm being a little harsh, but I think my central cynicism is accurate. Most of the post-election liberal musings I've seen have everything to do with message-craft and vision and strategy, and zero to do with finding out what voters want and giving it to them, let alone actually working with these folks as equals and collaborators.

Posted by Jake at 12:01 AM | TrackBack (0)

I think you got it. There has to be a real connection between the sides, not just "our propaganda is better than your propaganda".

Business-as-usual in the Dem. party won't get it done. But those with cushy positions there are determined to keep Howard Dean out, 'cause he might clean house.

Posted by: jeff at November 16, 2004 07:40 AM

Wow, Jake. First thing I’ve read of yours in at least a year upon which I fundamentally disagree. First off, there is certainly a “red state” dimension to this which goes right to your rural vs. urban question. Rural folks dislike liberals because “liberal” has been made into a metaphor for “Yankee federal government lovers who don’t understand my issues and want to interfere with my life”, by a sustained post-Goldwater Republican propaganda campaign (The Right Nation: Conservative Power in America). The truth of it matters little because rural folks aren’t engaged enough in politics to be able to parse the rhetoric and discover who their real friends and enemies are – they’re too busy earning a living, raising their kids, hunting, fishing, and watching NASCAR (politics is for liberals). The fact that this essentially anti-Yankee bile has bled somewhat from the south (although it’s still mightily concentrated there) doesn’t change its Dixiecrat roots.

Second, on what shall we collaborate with these “abortion = murder, gays are ungodly, let the poor pull themselves up by their own bootstraps, creationism is a theory as valid as evolution, we’ll bring democracy and Jesus to the rag-headed heathens no matter how many we have to kill”, anti-liberal partisans and what makes you think they’d be interested no matter what it was. They had a southern, “end-welfare as we know it, more cops on the street, execute-the-guilty” moderate and hounded him until they found something (which at least half of them had done themselves) to justify their partisan bile and demonize him for.

This election was lost in the middle, among moderates who were made uneasy about choosing Kerry by the administration’s scare-and-smear campaign and their own failure to get engaged and do their homework. Those are the people Democrats need to reach and their policies already “include the needs of rural people” at least in stark contrast to Republican policies. The rural folks failure to understand that, in the absence of a choice by them to get engaged, indeed has “everything to do with message-craft and strategy. By their own admission, Bush voters didn’t even know what their own candidate’s policy positions were, why would you assume it has much at all to do with policy?

Posted by: shep at November 16, 2004 11:56 AM


This is an important topic. I'd say we're witnessing the slow death throes of liberalism and the collapse of the Democratic party as any answer to right-wing demagogury of the Republicans. One can only think of the Weimar Republic preceding the rise to power of the Nazis.

The poster before me typifies the demoralization of liberal types who base their assumptions in classist stereotypes without anything to prove how one particular set of people actually think. After all, if you think of these people with such contempt and ignorance, how can you expect any better from them?

The truth is the Republican party knows exactly what they're doing. They're far better at fake populism than Democrats and liberals. They're able to, in one part, manipulate and distort inherent class hostility within the working class and channel them into hostility at one set of rich and middle-class people -- those who happen to be liberal -- instead of the others who happen to be right-wing defenders of wealth and exploiters of the very people they court. There's also the ability to whip up fears and insecurities of the more ignorant and backward layers of the population with cynical religious pandering, but it's the fact that the classism and suspicion and downright contempt of rural people that is pervasive in the liberal milieu that is a major part of the problem. The Democrats and liberals don't even bother to campaign in rural places in the first place, abandoning them to Republicans and they wonder why things turned out the way they did. Absolutely clueless are the liberals. One town in Ohio I once lived in (and have thankfully moved out of) has Republican headquarters in the middle of town and I'm not even aware if there's a Democrat office there. And there's also the domination and monopoly of right-wing garbage in local politics, media, and churches in many of these places, which are cut off from alternative outlooks. Indeed, the only connection Democrats have to these places are local unions and farmers organizations, most of which are pretty much powerless and inert these days anyway.

There's also the fact that the Democrats ran a contradictory campaign trying to pander to the right-wing
and trying weakly to court anti-war voters, who as it turns out are less important. The Republicans ran a coherent, albeit reactionary and sinister, campaign that exploited the incompetence and indecisiveness of the Democratic leadership. It is because of this that the Republicans are able to fake their way to being in line with perceived class interess of the rural population.

So in essence, the Democrats have much to do with rural backwardness as the Republicans do. Of course, most liberals are in denial about this...but that's the truth. Jake, your criticism is justified.

Posted by: Eric at November 16, 2004 07:23 PM

shep wrote:

"Second, on what shall we collaborate with these 'abortion = murder, gays are ungodly, let the poor pull themselves up by their own bootstraps, creationism is a theory as valid as evolution, we’ll bring democracy and Jesus to the rag-headed heathens no matter how many we have to kill', anti-liberal partisans and what makes you think they’d be interested no matter what it was."

Wow. Now thats a massive stereotype. How does that help at all? That just sounds like the kind of rhetoric that comes from Savage himself. Imagine seeing that written about you...what would you think about liberals associated with that type of thinking?

I agree with points that the author makes, especially on the idea that liberals believe themselves to be the ones who are fighting for the "disenfranchised." There's plenty of that in the middle of our own country. Here we are screaming about the rights of workers and poor all across the globe and while at the same time cursing rural americans as backwards and stupid. Ironic?

I have been thinking along those lines regarding religion and values and all that. It has to be made clear that Christian values are not all that is wrong with this country, in fact, there are some pretty solid philosophic and moral tenents to that religion. Just like many other religions. The thing is it has to be made clear to Christians that they should be not just tolerant, but ACCEPTING of the views and beliefs of others. They dont have the only answer. Live and let live and all that. And they have to be convinced that its not their job to be the moral police of the USA.

Overall I agree with you Jake, and with the article, and the main point here.

Posted by: r.a. at November 16, 2004 09:03 PM

Putting aside party labels, platforms, and demographics, I have to admit that I haven't a clue as to what any American expects, demands, or even would like to see from its government, from the local level on to the federal level. When I talk with people about politics and policies, I try to start from the water and sewer pipes and work my way up. And I am not speaking metaphorically.

Posted by: Miss Authoritiva at November 16, 2004 10:20 PM

I agree with you and with David Neiwert 100%. It's irrelevant whether or not I think fundamentalism is stupid, which I do. Most of the people supporting the Christian push to invade our privacy are pretty much just punishing us because they think we have it better than them and don't give a good goddamn about them. Which, in some cases, it's clearly true that we don't.

Posted by: Amanda at November 17, 2004 05:31 AM

Eric wrote:

"The poster before me typifies the demoralization of liberal types who base their assumptions in classist stereotypes without anything to prove how one particular set of people actually think. After all, if you think of these people with such contempt and ignorance, how can you expect any better from them?”

First of all, the partisan stereotype (it can’t be classist, because many of these people are among the world’s richest) speaks for itself. They self-testify their anti-liberal, anti-gay, anti-woman, liaise-faire capitalist, pro-execution, pro-imperialist beliefs, ludicrously justified with Christian rhetoric. If you don’t have any contempt for the fundamentalist’s beliefs (I am not speaking of moderate Christians), then perhaps it is you who is ignorant and I really am demoralized.

My point was that among the Bush faithful, policy doesn’t matter one wit and Democrats won’t win them over whatever they try to do. There are many rural moderates who can be won and that contest isn’t about policy prescription either. It’s about marketing. Eric makes my point for me, including parroting Republican propaganda about liberal contempt of rural voters: “There's also the ability to whip up fears and insecurities of the more ignorant and backward layers of the population with cynical religious pandering, but it's the fact that the classism and suspicion and downright contempt of rural people that is pervasive in the liberal milieu that is a major part of the problem.”

Posted by: shep at November 17, 2004 09:35 AM

Shep, my friend, what are you talking about? Now, the rural Bush voters are among the richest in the world? This wasn't about the financial aristocracy that controls the Republican party as well as the other Big Business party, but your outlook concerning rural Bush voters. The fact that you do not bother to look into the underlying causes why rural voters may vote against their interests is quite typical of many liberals. Policy doesn't matter to them, after all, and the Democrats won't win them overall no matter what, you say...It's all about marketing? This completely misses the point, but I guess it's easier to treat them like mindless consumers. But your overall conclusion is that the Democratic party is an instrument the working class (something that is being proven untrue with each passing year) and how dare they vote Republican. Many of these rural Bush types have justified hostility towards liberals and government, but they just do not see that Republicans and neo-cons are duping them at every turn. The answer isn't to dupe them into voting for Democrats who are also out to defend their wealth.

And the Republican propaganda about liberal contempt for rural voters? One of the clever and insidious aspects of propaganda is to take something that is true and manipulate it to one's advantage to serve one's nefarious purposes, something that the Republicans have done successfully. One only has to take a small sample from the left's invective towards rural people, in general to know the sad truth to all of this. And Kerry's flip-flop thing? True. Kerry couldn't decide if he wanted to appeal to right-wing militarism or the anti-war left (the former won out) and all the Republicans had to do was to exploit it. Just face it, the Republicans schooled the left with only a minority support of the entire eligible voting population (contrary to corporate propaganda about Bush having a majority mandate).

Posted by: Eric at November 18, 2004 04:49 PM


You need to re-read both the demographics of Bush voters and the piece by Neiwert. Bush support among the wealthy (people making more than $150,000 a year) was a key to his win. And yes, many of these people live in rural areas (how’s that for liberal elitism?).

Second, Neiwert’s exact thesis is about Republican propaganda success in the context of the failure of Democrats to “talk” to rural voters:

“And the chances are that what you'll hear, at nearly any hour, in nearly any locale, is Rush Limbaugh. Or Michael Savage. Or maybe some Sean Hannity. Or maybe some more Limbaugh. Or, if you're really desperate, you can catch one of the many local mini-Limbaughs who populate what remains of the rural dial. In between, of course, there will be a country music station or two.

That's what people in rural areas have been listening to for the past 10 years and more. And nothing has been countering it.”

That’s political propaganda, my friend. Message marketing. That’s why rural voters vote against their own long-term interests by electing Republicans who are the true elitists and who’s policies are antithetical to rural voter interests:

“In political terms, it means coming into direct opposition to corporate agribusiness -- stripping them of their oversized place at the federal trough, closing the huge tax loopholes that allow them to devour whole tracts of land, dismantling their horizontal and vertical integration of the agricultural economy. It also means confronting "the Wal-Mart economy," the spread of which has done so much to devastate rural small businesses.”

I’m glad to agree that Democrats have not been as strong a bulwark against corporate hegemony as they probably should but it's pretty hard to speak truth to that sort of power and still get elected to anything. In any event, Democrats generally aren’t trying to give away the farm to ADM, which is the exact agenda of Republicans. Rural voters, through a witches-brew of ignorance about true party policy differences and partisanship resulting from generations of anti-Yankee resentment and skillful manipulation by Neoconservatives, just don’t get it. That doesn’t make them evil or me (or Neiwert) elitist for stating that simple fact.

Democrats can certainly improve their policy approaches and the biggest shame (and campaign-issue failure) of the Kerry campaign was co-opting immoral deficit spending by failing to condemn the mammoth transfer of debt to later generations and write policy to address it. But they offer a starkly better alternative for rural voters than Republicans and the only thing urban liberals resent is attempts to ensconce Christian fundamentalism into public policy and stupid choices by uninformed and/or partisan-brainwashed voters. Re-read your “left’s invective” with that in mind and you’ll see what I mean – they won’t be heard saying that rural voters “hate America” or are “Godless”, which are common invectives hurled at liberals from the right. Rural voters, especially from the south, are projecting, mostly as a result of the eager help of propagandists like Limbaugh and Coulter.

There’s simply no reason for liberal contempt of rural voters, other than "hating the sin". There’s no equivalent to the right-wing hate machine on the left and they’ve won practically every major battle on public policy since the Civil War. Feeling morally superior because of usually being on the ethical side of public policy? OK, I’ll give you that one. But modern right-wing politicians (the former Dixiecrats) and the rural voters who help put them in office continue to prove that it may be well-earned.

Posted by: shep at November 19, 2004 08:20 AM


"There’s no equivalent to the right-wing hate machine on the left..."

Micheal Moore, Al Franken, Janine Garopalo (sp.?) Alec Baldwin, Ben Afleck...(99% of Hollywood, I won't waste any more bandwidth)AL Gore screaming "he betrayed this country!"
Ted Kennedy "lie after lie after lie..."
Nancy Pelosi whenever she opens her mouth, Hillary who has toned down lately (we know why) 99% of the music industry, George Soros and his pals who pay less % in taxes than someone earning 35k a year but refer to "tax cuts for the rich" to infuriate the po' folks, Dan Rather and most of the main stream media, The NEW YORK TIMES and most of the largest print media including magazines Time, Newsweek...

...the Professer aaaaannnd Mary Ann, here on Gilligan's Isle.

Whoops, Mary Ann is from Kansas (red state)Ginger is from Hollywood. Mary Ann was always cuter!

Posted by: chupic at November 23, 2004 01:24 PM


Come even close to matching Ann Coulter’s slime with quotes from Al Franken (or any one else you name) and I’ll concede your point (even though none of them has remotely the audience Coulter and Limbaugh controls):

"I am often asked if I still think we should invade their countries, kill their leaders, and convert them to Christianity. The answer is: Now more than ever"

"John Kerry has said that we need to 'de-Americanize' the war -- I guess on the theory that the 'de-Americanizing' process has worked so well for the Democratic Party"

"Gays usually bring up the argument about all the straight couples living in 'sham' marriages, but I see no point in dragging the Clintons into this"

"The only time liberals pretend to like the military is when they claim to love soldiers so much they don't want them to get hurt fighting a war"

"There is no surer proof of Christ's divinity than that he is still so hated some 2,000 years after his death"

"The only standard journalists respect is: Will this story promote the left-wing agenda?"

"What actually happened during the Clinton presidency? No one can remember anything about it except the bimbos, the lies, and the felonies"

"The current Democratic Party is a crowd of idle, rich degenerates, the likes of which hasn't existed since the czar's court"

"It is outrageous for Northern liberals and race demagogues to try to turn the Confederate flag into a badge of shame, in the process spitting on America's gallant warrior class"

"The Episcopalians don't demand much in the way of actual religious belief. They have girl priests, gay priests, gay bishops, gay marriages -- it's much like the New York Times editorial board"

"If Democrats want to talk about middle-class tax cuts, couldn't they nominate someone who hasn't been a poodle to rich women for the past thirty-three years?"

"Like the Democrats, Playboy just wants to liberate women to behave like pigs, have sex without consequences, prance about naked, and abort children"

"Both parties run for office as conservatives. Once they have fooled the voters and are safely in office, Republicans sometimes double-cross the voters. Democrats always do"

Posted by: shep at November 24, 2004 09:47 AM
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November 16, 2004

Tales of Media Woe

Senate May Ram Copyright Bill- one of the most depressing stories of the day that didn't involve death or bombs. It's the music and movie industries' wet dream. It criminalizes peer-to-peer software makers, allows the government to file civil lawsuits on behalf of these media industries, and eliminates fair use. Fair use is the idea that I can use a snippet of a copyrighted work for educational, political, or satirical purposes, without getting permission from the copyright-holder first.

And most tellingly, the bill legalizes technology that would automatically skip over "obejctionable content" (i.e. sex and violence) in a DVD, but bans devices that would automatically skip over commericals. This is a blatant, blatant, blatant gift to the movie industry. Fuck the movie industry, fuck the music industry, fuck the Senate.

Music industry aims to send in radio cops- the recording industry says that you're not allowed to record songs off the radio, be it real radio or internet radio. And now they're working on preventing you from recording songs off internet radio through a mixture of law and technological repression (although I imagine their techno-fixes will get hacked pretty quickly).

The shocking truth about the FCC: Censorship by the tyranny of the few- blogger Jeff Jarvis discovers that the recent $1.2 million FCC fine against a sex scene in Fox's "Married By America" TV show was not levied because hundreds of people wrote the FCC and complained. It was not because 159 people wrote in and complained (which is the FCC's current rationale). No, thanks to Jarvis' FOIA request, we find that only 23 people (of the show's several million viewers) wrote in and complained. On top of that, he finds that 21 of those letters were just copy-and-paste email jobs that some people attached their names to. Jarvis then spins this a bit by saying that "only 3" people actually wrote letters to the FCC, which is misleading but technically true. So somewhere between 3 and 23 angry people can determine what you can't see on television. Good to know.

Reuters Union Considers Striking Over Layoffs- will a strike by such a major newswire service impact the rest of the world's media?

Pentagon Starts Work On War Internet- the US military is talking about the creation of a global, wireless, satellite-aided computer network for use in battle. I think I saw a movie about this once...

Conservative host returns to the air after week suspension for using racial slur- Houston radio talk show host (and somtime Rush Limbaugh substitute) Mark Belling referred to Mexican-Americans as "wetbacks" on his show. He was suspended for a couple of weeks, and then submitted a written apology for the racial slur to a local newspaper. But he seems to be using the slur and its surrounding controversy to boost his conservative cred with his listeners.

Stay Tuned for Nudes- Cleveland TV news anchor Sharon Reed aired a story about artist Spencer Tunick, who uses large numbers of naked volunteers in his installations and photographs. The news report will be unique in that it will not blur or black-out the usual naughty bits. The story will air late at night, when it's allegedly okay with the FCC if you broadcast "indecent" material. The author of this article doesn't seem to notice that Reed first claims that this report is a publicity stunt, but then claims it's a protest against FCC repression. I'd like to think it's the latter, but I'm not that much of a sucker.

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