Does Ignorance Breed The Kind Of Weak Mind That Easily Falls Prey To Right Wing Demagoguery?
In this morning's NY Times Charles Blow cites a great many statistics to show why people in the Northeast aren't taken in by the right-wing's siren songs any longer-- and why the GOP now has a minor and shrinking presence in that region. He asserts that "Northeasterners are not so easily duped. Voters there tend to be wealthier, better educated, less religious and more progressive than those in other regions."
Of course there's a correlation between all of these factors-- better educated people tend to be less superstitious, more successful financially, more open to new ideas, etc. College graduates, for example, tend to make more money and are far less likely to allow their lives to be driven by primordial fears and primitive religious dogma. They are less likely to take Rush Limbaugh, Dick Cheney and Sean Hannity seriously and less likely to vote for a political party whose philosophy starts and ends with selfishness and greed.
Across the country, 27.5% of Americans have graduated from four year colleges. Let's compare the half dozen states with the smallest percentage of college graduates with the half dozen states with the greatest percentage-- in terms of how they voted in the 2008 presidential election. (The final figure, in the parenthesis is the median household income of each state.)
West Virginia- 17.3% McCain-56%/Obama- 43% ($35,059)
Mississippi- 18.9% McCain-56%/Obama- 43% ($34,473)
Arkansas- 19.3% McCain-59%/Obama- 39% ($36,599)
Kentucky- 20.0% McCain-58%/Obama- 41% ($39,372)
Louisiana- 20.4% McCain-59%/Obama- 40% (39,337)
Alabama- 21.4% McCain-61%/Obama- 39% ($38,783)
Massachusetts- 37.9% Obama- 62%/McCain- 36% ($59,963)
Maryland- 35.2% Obama- 62%/McCain- 37% (65,144)
Colorado- 35.0% Obama- 54%/McCain- 45% ($52,015)
Connecticut- 34.7% Obama- 61%/McCain- 38% ($63,422)
New Jersey- 33.9% Obama- 57%/McCain- 42% ($64,470)
Vermont- 33.6% Obama- 68%/McCain- 31% ($47,665)
This morning's Washington Post reports that Colin Powell, probably the most admired living man still claiming to be a Republican-- who is being driven out of the GOP by the likes of detested and divisive political figures like Dick Cheney, Karl Rove and Rush Limbaugh-- will be answering his narrow-minded, extremist critics tomorrow morning on Face The Nation. Not all Republicans agree with Limbaugh and Cheney that mainstream conservatives like Arlen Specter, Lincoln Chafee, Wayne Gilchrest and Colin Powell should be "cleansed" from the GOP to make way for some kind of small, narrow, regionally-based party that considers itself "pure" but can only win in states with populations who get all their information from Fox, from Hate Talk radio or from the Buy Bull and where few people are educated or living a middle class lifestyle. Even an extreme right-winger like South Dakota's John Thune is starting to worry. Powell, he told the Times is "one of the greatest leaders of our generation, and he is at heart a Republican." I guess that means Thune's going to have to do penance in front of a Limbaugh alter next week.
UPDATE: So What Do We Do About It?
Morgaine Swann sent me a more clinical-- and more facsinating-- look at this, Attention Liberals: There's No Reasoning With A Reptile. And she isn't referring to Republicans are snakes and lizards, any more than the rest of us. Like many of us, she's looking for an answer. Understanding the problems-- in this case, the way the brain functions-- is a crucial first step.
We need to move Left in this country. We need single payer health insurance, but its proponents are not even allowed a seat at the table. We have evidence of war crimes but it looks as if this administration won't pursue legal redress even though failing to do so violates national and international law. Billions of dollars are still being funneled to private interests with no benefit to the taxpayer. People are still denying the right to marry to an entire segment of the population based on the incorrect assumption that marriage has anything to do with monotheist religion. Women's bodies are still subject to control by the state. It's time for us to live up to the Jeffersonian ideal.
Now, the problem we face is this: How do you pull a majority of the population into a higher level of moral and ethical development? Reason won't work with someone stuck at Level 2. They don't have critical thinking skills and they aren't open concepts or cultures in conflict with the one they're born into. Now that the Republican party is facing its own loss of power and prestige, a threat to its survival, they have completely regressed to Level 1 functioning. Reptiles lack empathy, logic, and are based in rage and fear. It's no coincidence that I just described Dick Cheney's recent media blitz, telling us all we're going to die if we don't torture people in violation of international law even though torture doesn't work.
There is also the additional problem that the leaders of the Right have financial interests in keeping the status quo, and they understand these levels of functioning. They are extremely adept at manipulating people with good intentions but poor educations. The only solution I see to moving us Leftward is education, but we know our schools aren't up to the task right now and we can't wait several generations for change. The only way to reach most people is through the popular media. Short of strapping everyone down and making them watch Rachel Maddow and Keith Olbermann, I don't know how we reach them. I only know that it has to be done.