Marlowe's Shade

Friday, November 19, 2004

The Power of Positive Thinking

The usually left-leaning Economist had an interesting article on why the Republicans won.

IN THE past fortnight, the Democrats have come up with lots of comfort-food explanations of George Bush's victory—from the idea that the rascal stole the election for a second time (there were a mere 3.3m votes in it, after all) to the notion that he rode into Washington, DC, at the head of an army of hooded fundamentalists. But perhaps the most dangerous of all these myths is the idea that Mr Bush terrified the voters into re-electing him. He divided the country along “fault lines of fear”, according to Maureen Dowd in the New York Times; he relied on “fear of and hatred for modernity”, added Garry Wills, polymath and devout Catholic. Sooner or later every Democrat starts saying that the president used terrorism to partisan advantage.

This explanation is dangerous because it contains a measure of truth. The election certainly took place against a background of fear (Islamic fanatics are, after all, bent on killing as many Americans as they can). And the Republicans certainly played the fear card with gusto (as indeed did the Democrats: remember all the talk about reintroducing conscription). But if they are going to extract any useful lessons from their humiliation, the Democrats need to realise that the Republicans didn't just beat them on fear. They clobbered them on hope

For the moment, the American right is better at talking about the future than the left. It is better at exuding optimism. And it is better at addressing the aspirations of an aspirational people.

It makes what I believe to be a very perceptive link between optimism and demographics:

Mr Bush's optimistic message gave him a commanding advantage in pro-growth America. Joel Kotkin, a Los Angeles-based writer who knows as much about the grassroots economy as anyone, points to the close relationship between growth, both demographic and economic, and a propensity to vote Republican. Most of Mr Kerry's base was in stagnant America. Democratic strongholds such as Chicago, Cleveland, San Francisco and Mr Kerry's Boston have been losing people and jobs.

The Wall Street Journal's James Taranto has pointed out early and often that conservatives are outbreeding liberals. The Economist piece concurs.

...the Democratic Party is ceasing to be a mom-and-pop party. Phillip Longman of the New America Foundation points out that the fertility rate in the Kerry states is 12% lower than in the Bush states. Vermont, the home of Howard Dean and perhaps the most left-wing state in the country, produces an annual average of 49 children for every 1,000 women of child-bearing age; in Utah, where 71% of the population voted for Mr Bush, the figure is 91. In deep-blue cities such as San Francisco and Seattle you find more dogs than children.

Part of this is what I would describe as the salmon syndrome. Urban areas in part function as mating grounds for heterosexuals who after college want a plentiful supply of potential parters, but once paired, they make their way upstream to the suburbs and exurbs to spawn. But the result is the same. Raising kids in the city is just too darned expensive.

Spengler paints an even more frightening picture for secular liberals:

Take this simple calculation: 44% of the US population of 285 million as of the year 2000 census were evangelical (or "born again") Christians, according to an August 2000 Gallup poll. Let us assume that these 125 million evangelicals average three children per family during the next generation, and that the non-evangelical population averages 1.6 children per family. Within one generation (assuming a 0.5% death rate for both groups), evangelicals will form a majority of 61% of the population. This does not take into account the higher birthrate of devout Catholics, who tend toward social conservatism.
These are simplistic calculations, but it will not take long for the professionals to produce more accurate ones. Like the French and German general staffs before World War I, the strategists of both US political parties will spend the next four years analyzing demographic tables. Apart from the evangelical surge, the failure of the "youth vote" to buoy the Democratic side was another election surprise. In the future, the youth vote will belong increasingly to the Republicans.

Is that far-fetched? On the contrary, it already is happening. Eighty-five percent of Americans profess Christianity. "Born-again" denominations showed enormous growth during the past generation, while so-called "mainline" (and liberal-leaning) denominations have hollowed out. Catholics have increased, in large measure due to Hispanic immigration.

The Left, if anything, appears to be sinking even deeper into their slough of despond. According to the Economist piece, they need to pull out of this dive quickly:

The Democrats are not beyond redemption. Mr Clinton showed they can triumph in the suburbs by preaching economic growth and social responsibility. But they must abandon all this comforting claptrap about fear being Mr Bush's friend—and start to focus on the much more devastating truth. In America, self-styled progressives look ever more the party of the past, and confessed conservatives are the ones focusing on the future.
papijoe 7:00 AM