10 April 2013

Demographic delusion

I've long made a point of reading right-wing sites.  Not comprehensively or to the point of nausea, but I do read them.  The reason is that you can't understand the other side's thinking just by reading paraphrases of it by those on your own side -- you must read what they themselves have to say, in their own words, to get an accurate picture.  This is very apparent when seeing how the left is perceived from within the right-wing alternate-reality bubble.  Right-wing descriptions of leftist thinking are usually an absurd caricature which no actual leftist would even recognize.  It's because they form their picture of us not by reading what we ourselves say, but from how others within their own bubble paraphrase it.  I don't want to make that error.  In order to combat conservatism effectively, we need to understand it accurately.

It was in that context that I ran across a link to an article titled "Demographics favor the GOP -- unless they blow it".  This seemed so jarringly at variance with conventional wisdom that I simply had to take a look.  Is there some huge flaw in our grasp of demographic trends that we've somehow failed to notice?

As it turns out, no.  The article makes two major points:

(1) Population is migrating from blue to red states, shifting the balance of electoral votes and Congressional seats in favor of the latter.

(2) Highly-religious people (the Republican base) have more children than secular people, so the former will grow in numbers relative to the latter over time, tipping the balance of the "culture wars" back toward the right.

The problem is that both of these trends have been ongoing for quite a few years now, and they are not having the effect the right-wingers apparently expect them to.

It's true that migration is increasing the populations of some red states, but it's also turning those states distinctly purple.  Florida, Virginia, and North Carolina have become swing states, and even Texas may come within reach in the next electoral cycle.  Most states in the South have large black populations (and Texas has a large Hispanic population); add in an influx of more liberal migrants, and what had been a red state becomes competitive.

As for the religious advantage in birth rates, this has been true for decades and was certainly true for the period from 2000 to today.  Oddly enough, though, during that period the non-religious percentage of the US population has grown explosively, now standing at 20%.  That's not because of atheists or secularists out-breeding fundamentalists, obviously.  It's because of increasing numbers of people abandoning religion, a trend which has accelerated as the public face of religion is increasingly a fundamentalist face, disfigured with ugly, cranky, bigoted attitudes which look ever more outdated as social attitudes change (people under 30, even self-identified Evangelicals, are much more accepting of gays than the older generation, for example).  Religious and secular people aren't separate species that "breed true".  They're people with different ways of thinking, who can change those ways of thinking, and the change is pretty consistent in direction.

A somewhat similar phenomenon is happening with the "gender gap" as Republican state legislatures devise new ways of degrading and humiliating women who seek abortions.  Women are not becoming a bigger percentage of the population, but the Republican party is getting more proficient at offending them.

There's no reason to expect these trends to stop, much less go into reverse.  If the right-wingers are counting on demographics to save them, they're ignoring the evidence of what's actually happening on the ground.

17 Comments:

Blogger Kay Dennison said...

I applaud you!!!

10 April, 2013 06:06  
Blogger Leslie Parsley said...

"If the right-wingers are counting on demographics to save them, they're ignoring the evidence of what's actually happening on the ground."

Not surprising, given their history of misreading the pulse of the nation or even election polls.

10 April, 2013 06:08  
Blogger Ahab said...

"The reason is that you can't understand the other side's thinking just by reading paraphrases of it by those on your own side -- you must read what they themselves have to say, in their own words, to get an accurate picture."

EXCELLENT point. You must get information from the horse's mouth. I visit Religious Right websites and infiltrate the occassional right-wing event for this purpose.

"Right-wing descriptions of leftist thinking are usually an absurd caricature which no actual leftist would even recognize. It's because they form their picture of us about us not by reading what we ourselves say, but from how others within their own bubble paraphrase it."

I've seen this laughable tendency at everything from Christian homeschooling conferences to large-scale right-wing political gatherings. It's painfully obvious that many of them never bothered to research the groups and policies they condemn.

"(2) Highly-religious people (the Republican base) have more children than secular people, so the former will grow in numbers relative to the latter over time, tipping the balance of the "culture wars" back toward the right."

Christian homeschoolers and Quiverfull folks operate under this assumption, but it's deeply flawed. It assumes that offspring will be xerox copies of their parents, ignoring the fact that many people adopt different religious and political beliefs than their parents hold.

10 April, 2013 07:10  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Right wingers are a special lot. It would be much worse for them if dems figured out how to increase turnout. Texas should've been blue a long time ago. That bubble is a comforting place.

Vic78

10 April, 2013 09:10  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Kay: Thanks!

Leslie: It's odd. Don't they realize that the trends they point to have been running for a couple of decades and yet their position has gotten worse, not better?

Ahab: And your blog provides a very valuable service by posting reports from those events. As for the enemy's inability to read us in our own words, they seem to fear stepping into anything beyond their alternate-reality bubble. It's fear of being contaminated or led astray by the Devil or something.

And thank goodness religious beliefs don't "breed true", or we'd never have gotten out of the Dark Ages.

Vic78: I'm glad to see some real effort being focused on Texas. Blacks and Hispanics combined make up more than half its population, and it has more than its share of poor and uninsured people. We can win it -- and that's the end of the Republicans as a national party.

10 April, 2013 16:44  
Blogger Shaw Kenawe said...

I think it was Karl Rove who bragged that the rightwingers create their own reality.

They certainly did in the last election. when their pundits were convinced that Romney was going to win. They ignored reality; and even when it hit them in their faces on that Wednesday morning in November, they refused to understand, blaming the false assertion that Mr. Obama promised to give people "free stuff" as the real reason Romney lost.

So long as the rightwingers refuse to look at reality, they're going to spend a lot of time recovering from getting hit in the face with it.

11 April, 2013 05:51  
Blogger between-the-lines said...

Good for you to read the right-winger blogs. Very few people will do that. It's as if they think they're going to get 'contaminated' or something. Maybe they secretly realise that their own views are not as well thought out as they ought to be.

The sad thing is that many left-wingers seem just as much in a bubble, or mental ghetto, as right-wingers.

Both also equally out of touch with normal folk.

No wonder society's in such a mess!

11 April, 2013 06:42  
Blogger Norbrook said...

I've often said that it will take several election cycles of losing before reality sets in. I've been astonished by the continued assertion by conservatives that Latino voters are a "natural constituency" for them, based on a set of assumptions that are not borne out by actual polling data.

11 April, 2013 12:44  
Blogger Green Eagle said...

I remember working on a film in Israel a few years ago. The Israeli members of the crew were very afraid of the breeding of the Orthodox Jews. My feeling was that the great majority of these Orthodox kids were going to get to the age of sixteen or eighteen and go "screw this- I want a decent life." And I think the same thing is going to happen here. Sad to say, the same 25% or so of the population seems to be perpetually susceptible to right wing snake oil, but they don't show any signs of being able to breed themselves into a majority.

11 April, 2013 16:58  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Shaw: Some right-wing commenters on sites I read are already drifting back to claiming the polls are skewed by party ID and so forth -- just like before the election. By November 2014 they'll be back in full self-delusion mode, and hopefully get another nasty surprise.

Between: The sad thing is that many left-wingers seem just as much in a bubble, or mental ghetto, as right-wingers. Both also equally out of touch with normal folk.

That's far from true. With the possible exception of gun control, I can't think of a single issue where the mainstream of left-wing opinion is so blatantly contrary to verifiable reality as is the case pretty much across-the-board on the right. There's no left-wing equivalent of the right's creationism, global-warming denialism, rejection of Keynesian economics, belief in trickle-down economics, belief in the magical job-creating power of tax cuts for the rich, etc., etc., etc.

Norbrook: It may take the loss of Texas to jerk them back to reality. The idea that Hispanics are natural social conservatives is very persistent, despite the polling evidence that Hispanics are becoming more liberal on issues like abortion and gay marriage (that is, they're assimilating into the American mainstream, as immigrants have always done).

Green Eagle: I hope you're right about Israel. Certainly the ultra-Orthodox there are as scary as the Christian Right here -- and as alien to normal people. Israel is one of the world's best-educated countries, though, which should help them maintain a secular mainstream culture.

11 April, 2013 18:37  
Blogger Eric said...

"EXCELLENT point. You must get information from the horse's mouth."

Or, in this case, the horse's ass.

12 April, 2013 09:34  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

no surprise, when all is said and done, resort to name-calling, right, Eric?

12 April, 2013 11:15  
Blogger Eric said...

This from someone who's too chicken to sign his own name.

12 April, 2013 12:14  
Anonymous Mugsy said...

On my personal (not blogs') Facebook page, most of my "friends" are the Rednecks I went to High School with. I had to stop visiting my Facebook page b/c every visit was a trip through the looking glass, where our Marxist, Communist Kenyan usurper president was looking to confiscate all the guns so they can't fight back after he comes to tax them into paying for gay marriages in order to fight Global Warming.

12 April, 2013 13:09  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Eric, I'm unclear on whom you're trying to insult here. I assumed "horse's ass" was a reference to the right-wing sites, but if it was aimed at Ahab, it's out of line and not welcome here.

Mugsy: Looking glass is right. The right-wing alternate-reality bubble is as unreal as Alice's Wonderland, but unfortunately far less trippy. When you know people who lean that way, the only solution I've found is to just exclude political discussions from the relationship, otherwise they'll poison it.

12 April, 2013 14:18  
Blogger Eric said...

I think it should have been obvious that I was referring to the wingnut sites. The horse's mouth/horse's ass juxtaposition makes that clear to the discerning reader. If I'm not welcome here, just come right out and say so.

12 April, 2013 14:45  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Obviously it wasn't obvious. No need to get nasty, you're only unwelcome if you start directing it against me or allies.

12 April, 2013 15:02  

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