TUESDAY, JULY 6, 2021
A strange claim, with a kernel of truth: In our view, Kevin Drum advanced a strange claim over the weekend:
He said that we liberals are mainly to blame for the so-called culture wars!
That's actually what he said! Below, you see the headline which appeared on his post, and you see the nugget passage:
If you hate the culture wars, blame liberals
I've made this point many times before, and I want to make it again more loudly and more plainly today. It is not conservatives who have turned American politics into a culture war battle. It is liberals. And this shouldn't come as a surprise since progressives have been bragging publicly about pushing the Democratic Party leftward since at least 2004.
Now, I'm personally happy about most of this. But that doesn't blind me to the fact that "personally happy" means nothing in politics. What matters is what the median voter feels, and Democrats have been moving further and further away from the median voter for years...
We'll be honest. We don't remember Drum making this claim in the past. (That doesn't mean he didn't.) Plainly, though, he made the claim, loudly and plainly, in last Saturday's post.
Many commenters disagreed with his assessment. We find his assessment hard to agree with too.
In our view, the methodology Drum used to support his claim was badly flawed. This is what he did:
He looked at the way liberal and conservative attitudes have changed in recent decades with respect to a set of seven issues or questions. He found that liberal voters have moved "to the left" on those seven questions to a larger extent than conservative voters have moved "to the right."
We're not even saying that's false! But the seven questions Drum reviewed aren't necessarily the questions which have driven our elections or our ideological wars. Nor is either tribe necessarily "starting a war" just because it moves to the left or the right on some particular issue.
Here's the link to the earlier post where Drum displayed the data sets upon which he based his assessment. (Headline: "Here’s a partisan history of the culture wars since 2000.") As you can see, first up was the question of "immigration."
Immigration has played a major role in our culture war debates. But this is the polling question Drum chose to work from:
"Do immigrants strengthen our country because of their hard work and talents?"
He found that Republican opinion has largely stayed the same on this question over the past several decades. By way of contrast, Democratic voters have moved quite strongly in a positive direction, by some 35 points.
That said, our debates about immigration haven't concerned "immigration" per se. Our debates have involved illegal, undocumented or unauthorized immigration—a type of immigration where the tribal divide is so heated that we can't even agree on what we ought to call it.
(We also can't seem to agree on what to call the "Democrat Party." This clown show has persisted for decades, exclusively on the part of the right.)
All in all, we'd say the seven questions Drum reviewed have little to do with the actual topics around which our culture wars have revolved. Kevin's methodology struck us as weak, and the conclusion he drew seemed highly counterintuitive.
It's very much worth paying attention to the unhelpful ways we liberals do fuel these wars. Also, to the way the major newspapers in Our Town have sometimes adopted the conservative line in these stupid debates.
For example, the 2000 election largely turned on a pledge by Candidate Bush—the pledge that he would "restore honor and integrity to the White House."
(Translation: No more oral sex! Also, no more lying about oral sex! No more lying in general, but mainly about oral sex!)
To help Bush push that pledge along, the New York Times and the Washington Post spent twenty months inventing crazy claims which they crazily claimed Candidate Gore had said. This was said to show that Gore "had a problem with the truth," much like his boss, Bill Clinton.
Go figure! The major newspapers in Our Town peddled this gong-show for years. In truth, it came from the Post and the Times more than it came from the RNC or the right.
The 2016 election turned on the same general "character" theme. In real time, Drum himself complained, at substantial length, about the way the New York Times kept pimping the various claims about Candidate Clinton's deeply troubling alleged misuse of her deeply troubling emails.
To an amazingly large extent, that's the topic the election turned on. It represented the final act in a 25-year culture war about alleged "character issues" involving Clinton, Clinton and Gore.
Commenters found Drum's assessment hard to believe. We had the same reaction.
Still, Our Town's unhelpful conduct in this area routinely makes matters worse. In the past few years, it has seemed to us that Our Town has been playing a larger and larger role in the promulgation of these unhelpful, possibly self-destructive wars.
("Defund the police" anybody? Has anybody ever come up with a murkier slogan, or one which was more unhelpful? Unfortunately, there's plenty more where that came from, a point we'll be chasing all week.)
It seems to us that Our Town has increasingly played an unintelligent, losing game in these culture wars. We're going to keep that thought in mind all through the course of this week.
We're hoping to switch ourselves over to Einstein. There aren't a whole lot of them here.