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April 19, 2012

Getting more than two bits’ worth
Posted by Avram Grumer at 03:15 AM * 129 comments

Over in the current Open Thread, albatross commented about a Salon article. The article’s about whether there’s are meaningful differences between the Big Two political parties and the author finds some, but admits that both parties operate within what’s commonly known as “the Washington Consensus”. One of albatross’s complaints is that “Voting for the marginally better candidate means that there is no way to push back on the ruling class consensus”, which reminded me about something I’d been meaning to write about for a while.

Voting is a lousy way of influencing politics. In a two-party system, your vote is basically one bits of information: donkey-vs-elephant. The choice of whether to cast a vote or not is a second bit. Toss in a primary election, and you’ve got a total of four bits, which isn’t even enough information to define a single English letter.

But there are other ways. For example, remember back when candidate Obama said he was gonna repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and then got into office, and President-Elect Obama was more like yeah, not right away, but we’ll probably get around to it in the first year, and then towards the end of the year President Obama was like sure, I’m committed, but I’m not saying when, and it didn’t get done that year, or the year after, and it looked like he was going to put it off to his second term? And to make matters worse, there was that offensive defense of DOMA. Remember all that?

What happened then was that gay rights advocates turned off the money spigot. Contributions from gay rights groups (and individuals devoted to gay rights) dropped 58% in 2010 compared to the 2006 mid-term elections. And then the Dems actually started moving on the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. The following year, the Obama administration announced that it would no longer defend DOMA in court, presuming it to be unconstitutional. Not bad, eh?

And remember the defeat of SOPA/PIPA? It was just three months ago! All those pages going dark, all those kids unable to do their homework because Wikipedia was offline, good times. A nasty piece of legislation with lots of money behind it was defeated without a single voter having to step into a booth. How’s that for pushing back on the ruling class consensus?

Sure, this required action by people of unusual wealth and/or influence; I doubt Wikipedia would’ve gone black if Jimbo Wales had been opposed to doing it, and I don’t know if there’d have been nearly as big a splash if the protest hadn’t involved cutting off a resource that journalists use daily. But ordinary people can be part of a movement that pulls in people of wealth and influence. I’m sure many of you have attended rallies, or written to your congresspeople, or both. I’m pretty sure writing has more effect on the president’s behavior than what you do in the voting booth this November, especially if you live in state that leans towards one party.

Comments on Getting more than two bits’ worth:
#1 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2012, 04:14 AM:

Agreed, direct pressure in the form of turning the flow of money on or off, or presenting an online petition or email campaign on a single issue seems to be working both faster and more reliably than voting, and allows a lot more issues to be dealt with in a short time. I just signed the ACLU petition against CISPA, ungodly offspring of SOPA, so we may get a jump on the next head of the internet privacy hydra. Even better, direct action on the internet has put pressure on large corporations to pull out of ALEC, something that probably wouldn't have been possible with a vote or even pressure on congresscritters.

#2 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2012, 07:32 AM:

I think that, here in the UK, we're barely at the realisation stage. And, the way things such as party funding work, individual MPs don't seem to chase money in the same way. There's a tight limit on what they can spend. A candidate can't really spend enough to pay for TV adverts, for instance, so he would be dependent on national party advertising. On the other hand, the national party is limited to a much smaller sum, multiplied by the number of candidates, but it adds up.

And the national party gets some stonking huge donations from relatively few individuals, outside the restricted election period.

And we don't have Primaries. People don't have to run continuous campaigns aimed at the public.

There are times when it feels as though politics in the UK can only be improved by the use of a set of manacles, a snooker table, a set of balls, a snooker cue, and a mallet.

#3 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2012, 07:37 AM:

Perhaps one common theme with these examples of pushback against the Washington Consensus is that they happened among groups whose internal communications could bypass the broken and corrupt US media.

#4 ::: Ken Brown ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2012, 08:08 AM:

Voting isn't *meant* to change policies. Its meant to choose representatives. That's not the same thing at all.

Then those representatives make laws or administer them, and its at that stage we would have to influence policies. And that's hard. All the old methods still have some use: bribery, old-boy networks, letters to MPs, petitions, conspiracies, consultations, threats, whatever. But none of them are exactly models of open government. And all of them are vulnerable to being dominated by the mega-rich and big corporations.

One of the problems of UK politics compared with US is that what happens next is far more likely to go on behind closed doors without reference to people outside their immediate circle. ("Yes, Minister" really was a realistic depiction of some parts of British politics) British governments are far too used to thinking of themselves as elected dictatorships.

In America the checks and balances are (slightly) more visible, but more importantly the different levels of government - federal, state, county and so on - are more used to a degree of autonomy from each other. In Britain the central government has, over the last century or so, more or less reduced local government to being its agent, compelled to carry out its orders. The constitutional changes of 1997-2001 rewound some of that, especially in Scotland, but constitutional change isn't on the agenda for England right now.

And the current lot don't even know how to run a coalition as a coalition. Its basically everyone taking orders from the Prime Minister with a couple of Liberals bleating on the sidelines. Or at least it *looks* like that. If there is real policy debate going on behind the scenes they are hiding most of it behind the usual firewalls.

In the end the ulitmate guardian of democracy is riot. If the government pushes too far, the people have to hurt them, or at least their uniformed servants. I mean hurt in the literal sense - pain, blood, broken limbs and all that. Otherwise they can do anything they want. It wasn't elections that got rid of Margaret Thatcher. It was the Poll Tax riots that convinced members of her own party that she had become a liability and a threat to their own careers.

#5 ::: Nina ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2012, 08:44 AM:

The big way to get a politician's attention is to field a primary candidate against them. Another big lever is to get involved with your more local politicians. Influence or replace them; they have a bigger influence on the national guys than you will.

And getting to know your local politicians is useful for when you want something purely local fixed, like a dangerous intersection or getting rid of an outdated local ordinance (clotheslines are now thoroughly legal in my neighborhood, yay!)

#6 ::: Zander ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2012, 09:17 AM:

Sadly, Ken is right. Democracy that can only be meaningfully influenced by large amounts of money is not democracy, it's plutocracy. The only way for those without money to exercise a democratic right in a plutocracy is by breaking the laws that have been set up to maintain the power of the plutocrats, and not stopping till the objective is achieved. What comes after that, of course, is another and far more difficult question.

#7 ::: Mea ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2012, 09:23 AM:

The don't ask, dont tell example also illustrates that voting IS an important component in the overall strategy to push policy. I have a lot of complaints against the dems that can only be effectively pushed via coalition pressure politics as you discuss, but I also know that those tactics are going to work much better with a Democrat in office than a politician who is beholden to my ideological opponents.

#8 ::: Henry Farrell ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2012, 10:27 AM:

Paul Pierson says something related in this comment on Rick Perlstein's Nixonland.

[interest] groups care about policy. Elections are means for them; they are not the end. One way to see this, as Lee Drutman was saying to me yesterday, is that if you look at business and their e fforts to put money into the political process, something like a tenth of what they put into the political process goes to elections. The rest of it goes into lobbying. So they care about elections, and I am not trying to say that elections don't matter, because they matter a lot. But they're not the only thing that matters by a long shot. Groups care about policy and they have unique capacities that individuals don't have. This is the second reason why we should care about groups - they have unique capacities that allow them to influence governance in a way that atomized voters have a much harder time doing. They can mobilize massive resources, and coordinate these resources. That's extremely important, especially in the American political system, which is so fractured, where there are so many places where politics is happening. Groups can stay in there for the long term.
#9 ::: Gray Woodland ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2012, 11:01 AM:

Voting is a lousy way of influencing politics.

Ain't it, though? It's an indispensable tool of collective self-defence for all its feebleness; but to mistake it for anything more is cockeyed octopodism of the first order.

When faced with the inbuilt asymmetry of a representative democracy, in which the essential choice is between "Bosses for the Bosses" and "Bosses for the Masses", I don't feel much like taking bets on the general tendency of the system.

This doesn't mean that boss power is destined to increase without limit, or even at all. But to expect to reverse the trend by voting alone, strikes me as like trying to drive a car uphill by jamming one's foot very resolutely onto the brakes.

The vote is not the engine, and it's not a very acceptable steering-wheel either.

#10 ::: tykewriter ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2012, 11:29 AM:

I've been wondering for some time if it would be possible to influence the policies of certain political parties by offering them a shit-load of money subject to particular conditions.

@ Dave Bell:
There are times when it feels as though politics in the UK can only be improved by the use of a set of manacles, a snooker table, a set of balls, a snooker cue, and a mallet.

Who's to be manacled to the snooker table, who's taking the shot, and what's to do with the mallet?

#11 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2012, 11:33 AM:

The vote is one tool of democratic politics. It is a crucial one, inasmuch as it is the one that is used for choosing representatives, but it is not the only one. There is a range of tools available to the citizen, including the expression of voice through lobbying, letter writing, demonstration (whether in protest or support). There are also actions such as strikes that may be used to indicate the popular will, or a segment of it.

#12 ::: Neil in Chicago ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2012, 12:53 PM:

We can only change the campaign finance laws by electing people who will enact those changes.

I don't see how we're not screwed.

#13 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2012, 01:00 PM:

Tykewriter, #9: That's exactly what's happening now, especially with the super-PACs. "We'll give you a shit-ton of money, but you have to let us direct what bills get passed and structure them to our advantage." It's one step short of flat-out bribery (at least from a legal standpoint) and hence not actionable. Or, from their side, "it's him as pays the piper as calls the tune."

#14 ::: tykewriter ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2012, 01:22 PM:

Lee, I was thinking more of influencing fringe parties rather than mainstream ones. How much money would it take to make the BNP or the EDL promise to tone down their anti-Muslim hysteria? Or promise to do something faintly, but not totally, ridiculous. The political equivalent of going cross-gartered.

Bi-metallism for instance.

#15 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2012, 01:47 PM:


I think it's easier to use a smallish amount of money to influence the ecosystem of common ideas than to directly buy a political party's position on some issue. Small ideological publications generally don't make much money, so a few million dollars can support that kind of publication and keep it pushing on your agenda. Similarly, there are a lot more people who would like to think and write and speak about policy for a living than jobs for such people, so a think tank willing to give such people jobs doing just what they want, subject to some written or unwritten ideological bounds, is probably pretty effective at getting your desired agenda a public hearing.

Even better, if most of the people funding this kind of thing have some shared ideological bounds (like "stirring up hatred against the rich is not okay"), then you can have effective censorship of some ideas even without any kind of formal legal restrictions on speech. My sense is that this explains some of what happens in US media, both for good and bad. Some ideas (whether overt racism or calling for rich and powerful people to be held accountable for crimes) just don't help your career prospects, and so are rarely expressed.

#16 ::: Q. Pheevr ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2012, 02:23 PM:

In a two-party system, your vote is basically one bits of information: donkey-vs-elephant. The choice of whether to cast a vote or not is a second bit. Toss in a primary election, and you’ve got a total of four bits, which isn’t even enough information to define a single English letter.

Well, it's not exactly four bits, is it? If you decide not to vote, then you don't get to set the value of the donkey/elephant bit. And in a primary, you may have more than a two-way choice to make (depending in part on how early your state's primary is in the season)—or you might have no (meaningful) choice at all.

But let's suppose that in the end it averages out so that every eligible voter does indeed get four bits of input. If the voting-age population of the United States is 229.7 million (as of the 2010 census), then collectively they should be able to write about 109.5 MB of policy. For comparison, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2012, is downloadable as a 2.1 MB pdf file. That's a pretty big piece of legislation, at 487 pages. The 111th Congress passed 383 bills that were signed into law, of which quite a few were one-pagers doing things like naming post offices after various worthy people. So I suspect that the collective information input of the American voting public might actually be sufficient to account for all the legislation enacted, especially once you factor in the votes cast for senators and representatives in addition to the presidential election... but only if:

1. everybody who was eligible actually voted, and
2. the encoding method were as efficient as pdf

...neither of which is true.

#17 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2012, 03:19 PM:

albatross, #14: Some ideas (whether overt racism or calling for rich and powerful people to be held accountable for crimes) just don't help your career prospects, and so are rarely expressed.

I'll buy that WRT your second example, but how can you have missed it that overt racism is fashionable again? The dog-whistle variety was brought into style by Reagan, but since Obama got the nomination, the old-fashioned straight-out variety has enjoyed a remarkable comeback. Also, sometimes it's not anti-black but anti-Latino (generally expressed as "illegal immigrants", but everybody knows that only means "from Mexico" and it applies to anyone with a Latino name anyhow), and that's downright popular.

#18 ::: heckblazer ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2012, 01:05 AM:

Money certainly helps in politics, but it isn't everything. Meg Whitman blew $144 million of her own money in the last California gubernatorial race and she still lost to Jerry Brown and his $36 million campaign.

From what I've heard, most politicians aren't terribly happy about having to spend all of their spare time begging for money. The problem is that neither party wants to unilaterally disarm, and there's a bunch of Republicans who think they can win the game of escalation.

The core problem with lobbying is that elected officials are human beings with limited time and expertise. It's just not possible for them to read all of every bill or to be an expert on every topic. This where the lobbyist advantage comes in. Most people have no strong opinion on, say, manufacturing standards for plumbing fixtures. Plumbing fixture manufacturers however care a lot, and will be sure to strongly voice their opinions to their representative. Representatives will listen too, since even though lobbyists obviously are biased, they generally are experts on their subject. And if the representative only hears one side of an issue that will affect their vote, even if they know they have only heard a biased version from one side.

Supporting lobbyists and activists you agree with helps (my rule of thumb is that "special interests" are usually "constituents I don't like"). Supporting local politicians is important too, since local office is where future senators and presidents come from. The current rise of the GOP didn't just happen, it's been the result of decades of organizing and institution building.

Related to this is that while the big, loud issues may not change much, the way presidential administrations deal with the quiet, technical issues also matter. Under Obama nutbar conservatives like Janice Rogers Brown have not been appointed federal judges. Under Obama the DoJ civil rights division has actually been interested in enforcing civil rights laws. Under Obama the NRLB hasn't been completely eviscerated. Under Obama the EPA has toughened mercury emissions standards. Eventually all the little things add up to a big thing.

In closing, here's a quote from Barney Frank:

But some people in the media act like Washington is some autonomous entity that’s operating with no connection to the public. I had a woman stop me the other day, she said, “I’m very angry about Congress. What are you guys doing?” I said, “Who’s your congressman?” “Oh, I don’t know,” she said. “Well, see, I vote for me,” I said. “I’m happy with me. Why are you blaming me for the people you vote for?”

#19 ::: Doug Burbidge ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2012, 05:09 AM:

Some other voting systems give more bits -- Australia's preferential (aka instant runoff) is one such. I can vote for the no-hope candidate who actually best fits my views first, and for one of the two candidates who actually have a hope of winning later on my ballot. This shows up in aggregate, and causes major parties to say, "Oh, look, minor party X is getting votes -- there's a demographic there that we can pander to."

I'm not saying it's perfect of course, but I strongly suspect it's better than nothing.

#20 ::: Ken Brown ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2012, 10:30 AM:

Actually the main benefit of preferential voting is that it lets voters put their favourite candidate first, and then vote for the party they least dislike that is likely to actually get in. So it represents a transfer of choosing power from parties to voters. In multiple seats it also allows voters to reject an unpopular individual while supporting other candidates from the same party. In First-Past-The-Post elections (like most ones in UK and US) if you want to get rid of an indivudual you don't like you usually have to vote for a party you like less.

In that, preferential voting is the exact opposite of the party list system, which maximises the power of party bosses and minimises that ov the voters. Too many commentators obfuscate the issue by calling both kinds of system "Proportional Representation". There is no such thing really. Proportionality is a measurable property of any voting system - some systems are more proportional than others, but there really isn't such a thing as "PR" opposed to non-PR. Also proportionality is only one of many potentially desirable properties of voting systems. There are others!

#21 ::: Ken Brown ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2012, 10:52 AM:

Also every system helps minor parties - they just help different ones.

FPTP is very good for geographically concentrated minor parties, which obviously includes regionalists, nationalists and separatists. This has had a huge effect in the UK, where it has helped Scottish, Irish, and Welsh nationalist parties establish themselves. (That there are very few successful regionalist parties in the USA just goes to show that they are less culturally diverse than we are, he says, ducking and running away...)

OTOH FPTP is very bad for popular parties with widespread support. The British Liberals, in their various guises and alliances, have varied between 10% and 25% of the popular vote for most of my lifetime, but because its spread thinly over the whole country they come second or a close third an awful lot, but don't win much.

Preference systems in single-member seats are good for minor parties that are popular but rarely win. In particular outlying left- or right-wing parties. In a two-party system both major parties are drawn towards the centre. So, for example, in Britain lots of left-wing socialists have typically voted Labour even if their personal opinions are to the left of Labour policy - which seems to be the case for somewhere between 5% and 10% of the population.
(That effect is more extreme in the USA where an actual majority of the whole population come out as more liberal than the Democrat party on many issues in opinion polls). Preferential voting, such as AV, gives those supposedly more extreme candidates a chance. This is especially important in local politics as such voters are likely to exist all over the country, but be concentrated by neighbourhood - for example far-left voters are often in inner urban districts and in university towns. In Britain its likely to be beneficial to Greens and Independent Socialists and possibly to UKIP who present themselves as the acceptable face of xenophobia.

It is widely supposed that AV would be good for the Liberals, but I'm not so sure. Their support is more widely spread, and anyway they have shot themselves in the foot (if not the head) by their close identification with the Tories in the last couple of years (yes, the coalition is popular with many people - but they are going to vote Tory, not Liberal, at the next general election)

As preferential voting moves to larger districts that elect more members it gets more proportional, even more so if the counting system is changed from AV to one of the transferable vote methods such as STV, which is better for widely spread parties (and no doubt why the British Liberals have always wanted it)

The national list system, the most proportional system of all, also benefits minor parties, but different ones. Its bad for separatists and nationalists, and bad for highly locally concentrated parties (such as many far left groups, and at least until recently the Greens). It tends to be good for far right parties and for religious parties, who are often no-where anywhere near a majority but have quite a lot of supporters all over the place.

#22 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2012, 11:47 AM:

At least in New York, candidates can run on multiple party lines. So one could, say, vote for Obama on the "Working Families Party" rather than on the Democratic line, thus giving your vote to Obama but also expressing support for him following more progressive policies.

Although I've noticed that people seem more likely to use the Conservative line to pull Republicans to the right than to use WFP to pull Democrats to the left.

#23 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2012, 01:19 PM:

Q. Pheevr @ 16: But with a winner-take-all system, it all reduces down again to one bit: donkey or elephant. Well, one bit per elected position.

For each race, donkey and elephant each come with their own, set bundle of policy positions, which the voter can't line-item support or reject -- you only get to set one bit. One can choose to set another bit to "none" or "other" by not voting or voting third party, but then one doesn't get to set the donkey/elephant bit, as you pointed out.

Then the number of bits set to "donkey" is counted, the number of bits set to "elephant" is counted; the numbers of bits set to "none" or "other" are ignored.

Then the "winner" bit is set to donkey or elephant, whichever had the greater number -- and the values of all the others are discarded. The "winner" bit is the only one whose value influences policy.

There are two places to add more information given this process. First, you can try to influence the policy bundles of the donkey/elephant choices you'll be offered next time. Primary elections might be a way to do the latter, or you might have to start earlier in the process, with analog activism*. Second, you can try to influence the policy decisions of the winner, which always requires analog activism.

(You can also try to get the voting process to change to one that allows the voter to set more bits, like IRV.)

*I mean "analog" as opposed to a binary donkey/elephant bit -- not analog in the sense that it has to take place off the internet. It can be digital analog activism.

#24 ::: Q. Pheevr ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2012, 01:30 PM:

Caroline @ 23:

But with a winner-take-all system, it all reduces down again to one bit: donkey or elephant. Well, one bit per elected position.

Indeed. That's pretty much what I had in mind when I said that the encoding procedure was inefficient....

#25 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2012, 01:40 PM:

Ursula @22: I voted WFP for a whole bunch of years, then they seemed to get kinda corrupt (don't remember the details now), so I stopped. There are calls to end multiple-party listings in NY, but I really value them, at least in part because it lets me vote for people who do not appear on the Conservative line (Conservative does not always equal Republican).

#26 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2012, 02:51 PM:

Ursula @ 22; Melissa Singer @25: I also appreciated the NY ballot, because I eliminated people who got the RTL endorsement. Sadly, I no longer have that kind of ballot available.

#27 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2012, 09:43 PM:

The really effective tool for voters is preference voting in a multiple-member constituency: the single transferable vote. This gives the voter the ability to rank-order their preferences across party lines and give smaller parties a chance. It's given smaller parties in Ireland, and in the Australian senate quite a leg up. However, it must be noted that it has had no such effect in Malta where the population is divided right down the middle between clericals (Nationalist) and anti-clericals (Labour) and tends to vote straight ticket.

#28 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2012, 09:48 PM:

Ginger: me, too. But I think RTL lost their line a few years back (didn't get enough votes), so I switched to Conservative.

#29 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2012, 04:43 PM:

Four bits is optimistic. If you live someplace where one party dominates, whether by local preference or by redistricting, your vote on election day is usually meaningless. If (as is the case now) nobody close to power will do some things (end the war on drugs, stop domestic spying, stop endless aggressive wars, stop running deficits every single year, refrain from covering the big banks' bad bets), then there is no election day signal that you can send to express your concern about those things. Your input is simply not wanted on those matters.

#30 ::: Kevin Reid ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2012, 07:40 AM:

In a two-party system, your vote is basically one bits of information: donkey-vs-elephant. The choice of whether to cast a vote or not is a second bit.

Nitpickery: Depending on the second bit, you haven't got the first bit, so there are only log2(3) ≈ 1.58 bits.

#31 ::: cleek ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2012, 01:18 PM:


indeed, what we have is not a binary bit, but a trit. it can take three states: no vote, D, R

#32 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2012, 10:01 PM:

A creepy precedent wrt free speech.

This is the sort of thing I was hoping to have a Democratic president willing to push back on. The fact that this kind of prosecution is bipartisan policy is one reason Obama won't be getting my vote this November.

#33 ::: Mycroft W ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2012, 11:08 PM:

...and in other news, I just voted Conservative (well, *Progressive* Conservative) for the second time in my life. And so did a lot of my province. With luck the slime will wear off by the next election.

"We found out that change might take a little longer than we thought," said the new leader of the Official Opposition. Well, yeah, when the change involves conservativing all the way back to about 1937. And our perhaps not as effective as we'd like, but very "straight up" Muslim mayor called them on their "we're sorry if you were hurt by what we said" apology, which was kind of fun (when it wasn't annoyingly necessary).

Yeah, I'm ranting a bit. Sorry.

#34 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2012, 09:52 PM:

More bipartisan impunity: If you or I destroyed evidence in a federal case, we'd do hard time. But not everyone has to worry about such things..

If you would like to vote to change direction on this issue, you get zero bits--nobody anywhere near power is going to be taking on the CIA, NSA, or other spy agencies. In some countries,like Pakistan and the United States, the intelligence services are simply too powerful and dangerous for any politician, no matter how popular or well-intentioned, to take on.

#35 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2012, 09:52 PM:


#36 ::: Michael Kwiatkowski ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2012, 11:12 AM:

I wouldn't so casually dismiss voting. Third party candidates can help send the message that voters have alternatives is Democrats and Republicans don't do as they're told. In 1992, George H.W. Bush's compromise with Democrats on raising taxes led to a backlash that culminated in the candidacy of H. Ross Perot taking enough of the conservative vote to let conservative Democrat Bill Clinton win.

#37 ::: cleek ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2012, 01:04 PM:

Third party candidates can help send the message that voters have alternatives is Democrats and Republicans don't do as they're told

but they don't send that message. all they can do is swing the election to the party that's furthest from the 3rd party.

we do not have a parliamentary system. we have a two-party system. and regardless of which names those two parties go by, we will have a center-right party and a center-right party. ideologues will be forever discontent (as they would be in any system of governance, frankly).

#38 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2012, 01:27 PM:

cleek, #37: Except that at the moment, we have a center-right party and a radical-extremist-right party. Or have you not been paying attention?

Note: Don't give me that line of crap about there being no difference between the two parties. If you're gullible enough to think that, then you haven't been paying attention.

#39 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2012, 02:05 PM:

Lee @ 38

But on most of the issues I care about, there isn't any difference between the two parties. Neither of them is proposing to let local communities have the same level of self-governance, over the same range of issues, that they had pre-LBJ--much less what they had traditionally.

And the current Republicans are about as radically Right as the Democrats are radically Left. (Seriously: "let's have the social norms around sex and religion that we had in 1965" is not that conservative.)

#40 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2012, 03:18 PM:

And the current Republicans are about as radically Right as the Democrats are radically Left. (Seriously: "let's have the social norms around sex and religion that we had in 1965" is not that conservative.)

Oh, right. Want to have the social norms around race that we had then, too? How about foreign policy? Tax policy?

Want to have the same technology we had then? Anyone who wanted to go back to 1965 technology would be an obvious loon.

My point is that going back to those SOCIAL norms isn't any saner.

But then I'm one of the people who would be shoved back into a box by that policy. I would have to sneak around and pretend to be straight, and if I were found out I would lose my job with no recourse, and probably be ostracized from my family and community as well. Depending on the circumstances, I could be jailed or committed to a mental institution (especially if I were a teenager; this latter fate might include lobotomy or experimental brain surgery, though that was dying out by the mid-60s).

And if a gang of thugs decided to beat me senseless, or even kill me, they would most likely not be prosecuted. If they were, the claim that I "approached" one of them would be enough to sway the jury against conviction, and sway the judge against any serious penalty, or possibly get him to dismiss the case outright.

Oh, and never mind being Wiccan. Fired outright, again with no recourse, rituals interrupted, people beaten and killed. THAT went on into the 1980s. Margot Adler doesn't talk about it, but it's well known that she would have been cohost of All Things Considered if she hadn't been Wiccan at a time when that scumbag Jesse Helms was a) trying to pass a law that would deny bulk-mail permits to any organization advocating "witchcraft," and b) trying to get CPB's funding cut again.

In a way, your statement is true. It's not conservative to want to go back to 1965 mores wrt sex and religion. It's radically regressive, and anyone who advocates it or believes in it is my personal enemy. As in, I will not conceal my hatred for such people, since they're advocating a world in which I cannot live—literally one in which people like me are hunted down and destroyed.

I sincerely hope that's not you, Sam. If it is, my civility will be strained.

#41 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2012, 03:31 PM:

Xopher @ 40

Note that "not radical" and "a good idea" are only co-incidentally overlapping in my mind. (Similarly, proposing a return to the 1965 tax system would probably be a bad idea, but it would be rather different from actual socialism.)

#42 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2012, 03:42 PM:

Well, you said it wasn't conservative. I do think it's radical. I'm glad you don't think it's a good idea.

#43 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2012, 06:08 PM:


The agenda you're discussing would indeed be monstrous, but it isn't remotely likely even with united Republican government. In 1960, persecution of gays, Wiccans, and blacks was popular policy--not something the ideologues wished they could get past their base, but something demogogues used to get and keep power. The rhetoric of the crazy end of the GOP is indeed nasty, and there are places where that matters a great deal, but the actual policies pursued by Republican administrations don't follow the crazy end of the rhetoric off the deep end.

On many important issues, there are important differences. But the differences in rhetoric are much bigger and are played up by both parties. On foreign policy and national security and civil liberties, the two parties are strikingly similar--to the point that I don't really expect a Romney administration to be noticably different from an Obama administration in those areas. On domestic policy, there probably will be some differences, but much smaller than the differences in rhetoric. For example, I expect that the feds will ignore state laws and raid legal medical marijuana dispensaries at will under a Romney administration, just as they have during the Obama administration. Probably we will deport a lot of illegal immigrants under Romney, just as we have under Obama (who has deported more per year than any previous president, as I understand it). Under Romney, I imagine that wrongdoing by large politically connected corporations and high-level political officials will seldom or never be punished, continuing the Obama administration's policies. I expect that under Romney, as under Obama, we will see education policy focused heavily on high-stakes tests. I imagine Homeland Security will keep growing in money, staff, and power under Romney, as it has under Obama. And so on.

There are places where there will be differences. Romney will probably fight for DOMA in court, and probably wouldn't have ended DADT. Romney's supreme court appointments will probably be worse on a lot of issues I care a lot about. They're not identical. But in far too many areas, they actually are about the same.

#44 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2012, 06:23 PM:

SamChevre, #39: Bluntly, you've just told me, and every other American woman on ML, and a fair proportion of the men here as well, that WE DON'T MATTER. That you don't give a flaming shit what happens to us because those things don't matter to YOU.

I am so angry right now that I don't think I'd better say anything else, lest I descend into name-calling.

#45 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2012, 07:14 PM:

albatross, I was responding primarily to the claim that advocating going back to the mores of 1965 isn't extreme. It is.

I see your point, though. But the differences between the parties are enough to make a difference, IMO.

And, really, who knows what Romney would do in office? He's a whole lot of different guys depending on what state he's in and which primary is coming up. What he'd actually do in the White House if gods forbid he should end up there, I cannot well imagine.

#46 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2012, 09:48 PM:

Lee @ 44

That is a comment that I both disagree with and resent.

Disagree with, because "the mores of 1965 around sex and marriage were better than those of today" is a position that is common among women. To agree with one group of women versus another is not fairly described as "women don't matter."

Resent, because arguing that "we should do what we did within adult memory; it was better" is not a radical position (which is what I did) is a rather different than "we should do what we did within adult memory; it was better". It is possible to argue that there are non-radical bad ideas.

That said, I'm completely convinced that children raised to married parents are much better off, on every statistical and anecdotal measure I know, and it is undeniable that that is the experience of a minority of children now, and was the experience of the vast majority of children in 1965; on that point, I'm in favor of those mores.

#47 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2012, 10:12 PM:


It seems to me you're thinking of a specific set of ways you think common values and their political expression were better 50 years ago than they are today. But if you don't spell out which ones, each reader is likely to fill in the blanks based on his own assumptions and important concerns. So when you talk about those values and policies being better or at least sensible ro want to return to, you may be thinking of more intact families, or strong unions and low-skill labor paying a living wage, or better run schools, or whatever. But your readers may be thinking of Jim Crow or the Red Scare or gays being treated very badly or whatever.

My guess is that this sort of different parsing of the same image or idea is behind a lot of the visceral reaction that liberals and conservatives have to each others' images.

#48 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2012, 10:16 PM:

SamChevre @ 46: Seriously: "let's have the social norms around sex and religion that we had in 1965" is not that conservative.)

That's a vague statement. Perhaps you could unpack which particular social norms you mean? Here's what I see in 1965 social norms around sex and religion:

Homosexuals are immoral and/or mentally deranged.

Masturbation is a sin (religious view), and a sign of arrested mental development (Freudian view).

A woman who can't have an orgasm during vaginal sex with a man is frigid.

A woman with a libido as strong as a man's is a nymphomaniac.

Girls should get married straight out of high school, or college if their father decides to support them in getting a more affluent husband by earning an "Mrs. Degree" -- home economics is a suitable major.

Domestic abuse is a private, shameful matter, which a wife is responsible for correcting by doing a better job of manipulating her husband.

Because careers are severely limited for women, they must get by on low salaries, or marry whoever they can get and hope for the best.

You can't control your fertility reliably. The pill is first introduced in 1965, but isn't available in all the states until Eisenstadt v. Baird in 1972.

A woman seeking help from a doctor, whether a gynecologist to control her fertility, or a psychiatrist to deal with distress, was virtually guaranteed to be dealing with a male doctor likely to have views about her proper role in relation to men.

This is an incomplete list. I suspect that Lee may have had some similar points in mind when she posted.

#49 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2012, 10:55 PM:

That's certainly the sort of thing I thought Sam meant.

#50 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2012, 11:52 PM:

And in 1965, there were states where a woman couldn't have a bank account, let alone a credit card, in her own name without her husband's permission.

#51 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2012, 12:00 AM:

I posted about something very much related to this on LiveJournal a while back. Here are the salient points, with a few additions specific to this discussion:

In an argument elseNet, someone asked me how I could possibly consider myself better off now than I would have been 50 years ago, since it used to be that only poor women had to work and now only the very rich don't have to.

Why do I consider myself better off now than the women of the 1950s and 1960s? Let me count the ways...

- I can own property in my own name.
Technically, this was true prior to the 1950s, but now nobody is going to give me an argument about it.

- I can have a credit card in my own name.
This was definitely NOT true prior to the 1970s; I remember that fight.

- I can make a living without having to have a husband.
It used to be that the only positions open to single women were low-paid secretarial/clerical work or traditionally-female jobs like teaching and nursing, which didn't pay all that well either.

- If I am not hired for a job for which I am qualified because I am female, or if I am paid less in that job than a man doing the same work, I have legal recourse.

- If I am told that I have to fuck my boss to keep my job, I have legal recourse.

- I can sign a contract without being told that my husband has to approve it first.
Still not true in some very rural regions, but overall yes.

- I can rent an apartment without having to have a husband.
This is related to the ability to sign a contract in my own name, but it's also true that for a long time, many landlords simply would not rent to a single woman because she was assumed to be a prostitute.

- I can retain my birth name after marrying and continue to vote under that name.
Hooboy, do I remember this one, since it played out in my hometown! A prominent female attorney got married, kept her name because of her professional reputation, and the next time she went to vote, was told that she couldn't because she had to have her REAL name on her voter registration card. Boy, you never saw a lawsuit progress so fast -- she was pissed.

- If my husband beats or rapes me, I have legal recourse.
This was definitely not true until the 1980s or thereabouts.

- If my marriage is failing, I can obtain a divorce without having to pretend to engage in an adulterous affair, and without being socially ostracized thereafter.
And WRT "children raised to married parents are better off"... I submit that this is emphatically NOT the case in a home where one parent is abusive, whether physically or emotionally. I know that a number of people here will agree with me, based on what I see in the Dysfunctional Family threads. I also submit that it doesn't matter whether or not those two parents are the same gender, if the rest of the relationship is healthy.

- I can legally buy birth control even if I am not married.
I remember that fight too.

- I can get health and life insurance as an individual.

- Unless I am unconscious or have been declared legally incompetent, I can make my own medical decisions.
And it takes a serious legal procedure, and real evidence, to have me declared incompetent -- it won't be done on my father's or husband's say-so.

- I can run for political office and stand a reasonable chance of being elected, without my husband having had to hold the office first.
This was true on the local level a while back, but now it's also true on the state and Federal levels. It is also not considered a Big Deal if I am appointed to a political office.

- If I fall in love with another woman, there are places where we can live openly as a married couple, with all the legal benefits pursuant thereto.
And this is very new.

Most of these things boil down to this: both socially and legally, I am considered more of a human being now than I was 50 years ago. Whether or not I have the privilege of being kept is irrelevant. (Will it surprise anyone to hear that the person I was having the argument with was a white guy of my own generation?) And one American political party -- NOT both of them, just one -- is trying very hard to take most of that away from me again.

DO NOT tell me that living in 1965 was better. DO NOT tell me that there's no difference between the two parties. ESPECIALLY do not tell me how similar they are on the things that matter to you when you are white, straight, and male, because that IS saying that I don't matter, and fuck that shit.

#52 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2012, 12:17 AM:


Can you point to any evidence that the mainstream of the Republican party and/or voters have any intention at all of reversing those things? For example, perhaps you can point to the legislation passed during unified Republican control of government that, say, took away womens' right to sign contracts in their names?

The parties differ on important things, including abortion, gay rights, and religious freedom. But a whole lot of what you're talking about here is absolutely not on the table politically. Nobody anywhere near power is talking about forcing women to take their husbands' names, or preventing them getting credit intheir own names. Even at his lowest and craziest, Santorum argued that birth control ought not to be guaranteed to be legal bythe constitution, not that it should be banned. (And the other Republican candidates had very little regard for his position on that issue, as I recall from the couple debates Whise transcripts I read.).

Perhaps you can make some predictions about what changes to laws you would expect as a result of electing Romney?

#53 ::: geekosaur ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2012, 12:31 AM:

albatross, after seeing what turned out to be on the table in Wisconsin, any assertion of what can't be considered on the table politically is suspect. (That doesn't mean that *everything* is on the table; it *does* mean that things that one might naïvely believe could not be challenged likely *will* be.)

#54 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2012, 12:37 AM:

albatross, you're missing the point. SamChevre said that the two parties aren't very different on the things that matter to him, and that wanting to go back to sexual and religious mores circa 1965 isn't all that radical/conservative. That's what Lee and janetl and I have been objecting to.

The GOP war on women is a huge difference between the parties, obviously. This implies Sam doesn't think women's issues matter to him very much.

And, of course, things are very much better for women now (not to mention for pagan queers) than they were in 1965. To trivialize that difference...well, it's infuriating.

#55 ::: geekosaur ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2012, 12:46 AM:

Oh, and one more point: allowing the rhetoric now because the reality "isn't on the table"... well, there's a fair amount of history telling us that, if it's not challenged while it's rhetoric, it *will* be on the table eventually. This is how the unacceptable *becomes* acceptable to people.

#56 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2012, 01:02 AM:

SamChevre @39, if there's truly no difference between the Big Two parties from where you're standing, well, awesome for you. That means you don't have to care about the upcoming presidential election, because the outcomes are identical for you. Granted, that means you're probably going to be frustrated by the amount of news coverage it takes up, but you can relax and not care how it comes out.

I'm mystified as to why you think it'd be a good idea to return to the days when anybody who wasn't white, heterosexual, cisgendered, and Christian could be openly harassed and discriminated against without legal consequence. I'm further mystified as to why you think a forum like this one, frequented by people who fall outside of that narrow intersection of categories, would react well to your endorsement of a return to those days.

I noticed your comment to Xopher @41, but I'm at a loss for how to reconcile it with your comment @39.

(And parenthetically, the belief that we should go back to how we did things before is properly described as neither conservative nor radical, but reactionary.)

As far as children raised by married parents goes, the largest change in that is due to the spread of no-fault divorce laws, adopted by the states over the course of the 1970s and early '80s. If the federal government were to require the states to go back to 1960s divorce laws, that would be overriding the self-governance of local communities, the very thing you were complaining about.

#57 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2012, 01:44 AM:

albatross @ 52: The parties differ on important things, including abortion, gay rights, and religious freedom. But a whole lot of what you're talking about here is absolutely not on the table politically.

One of the items on Lee's list was about domestic violence, and another was about rights in the workplace. In the senate today, 31 Republican senators vote to not re-authorize the Violence Against Women act. In Wisconsin, the Republicans recently repealed the state Equal Pay Enforcement Act.

A year ago, I wouldn't have believed that these would be on the table: forcing a woman to have a wand pushed up her vagina in a medically unnecessary procedure, allowing employers to demand a note from the doctor as to why a woman needs a prescription for birth control pills before having it covered on their employer health insurance, and telling poor women that the state medical program won't cover abortion of pregnancies resulting from rape or incest.

#58 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2012, 02:35 AM:

albatross, #52: I don't think you can possibly be aware of just how much that comment sounds like you're patronizingly telling me to calm down and stop being hysterical.

Once again, if you're not seeing these things being PUT on the table, repeatedly, at both the state and federal levels, you have NOT been paying attention.

#59 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2012, 03:13 AM:

albatross @52:
Even at his lowest and craziest, Santorum argued that birth control ought not to be guaranteed to be legal by the constitution, not that it should be banned.

I would be more comfortable with that assertion if I had more faith in where Santorum, and many conservative Republicans, draw the line between "birth control" and "abortion".

Many very prominent pro-life advocates have publicly asserted (incorrectly) that birth control pills are abortifacents. And these people have the ear of the Republican party. So, in the same spirit that you've been looking for the cracks in the Democratic platform, in which horrific policies grow, I'm afraid I can't trust Republicans to mean quite what I wish they did mean by that statement.

As far as I'm concerned, the Republican party is not acting in good faith on the subject of women's rights. janetl @57 has some concrete examples of where this has led. And that's entirely consistent with the pronouncements of both the party's media figures and its politicians. I'm not confident that if we got the inconvenient Democrats out of the way, they would stop pushing these things.

(And even if they did, I'm afraid my rights are not something I want "in play" as a political football, even if they're off the actual legislative table. I don't respect politicians who do that.)

In much the same way that you have become fairly querulous at the Making Light community about Obama's failures in the area of national security overreach and privacy intrusion, I'm feeling rather tetchy with you about this topic.

#60 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2012, 03:22 AM:

albatross @52, there are two streams (at least) of conversation going on in this thread, and you're confusing them.

Lee's comment @51 is clearly a reply to the branch SamChevre started up, about mid-'60s social norms. That ultimately branches off from ct 39, which talks about "the two parties", and doesn't limit itself to the scope of just the presidential election.

While Romney himself is a fairly boring pro-big-business technocrat who'll likely consider himself somewhat beholden to social right-wingers if he winds up in office, the larger party is host to some much more radical types. Had you heard about the calls for repealing part of the 14th Amendment a couple of year ago? There were at least three senators supporting those hearings, including the Senate Minority Leader. And did you notice the state of Arizona recently redefining pregnancy to start before fertilization?

In a conversation about the parties in general, in which someone has waxed nostalgic about the social mores of 1965, nobody's under any obligation to restrict themselves to the official platforms of the presidential candidates.

#61 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2012, 03:37 AM:

albatross @52: Even at his lowest and craziest, Santorum argued that birth control ought not to be guaranteed to be legal by the constitution, not that it should be banned.

How low and crazy was Santorum last June? That was when he appeared on Meet the Press and said he thought "that life begins at conception, and that that life should be guaranteed under the Constitution" and "any doctor that performs an abortion, should be criminally charged for doing so".

#62 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2012, 09:49 AM:

Xopher @40:

Thank you.

I made several attempts to respond to SamChevre's remark and wound up not posting them because I could not get past the anger and pain his statement caused me -- to the extent that I could not produce a response that was civil in tone.

I still feel like crying every time I read it...

Blessed be.

#63 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2012, 11:13 AM:

This "social mores of 1965" stuff and a particular tone of talk about attitudes toward marriage and family reminds me that I meant to post something about the anti-marriage amendment here in Minnesota and what happened in a forum about the constitutional law implications of it. (The forum went into more than that, but that's what the initial theme was.) Partway through her talk, the woman supporting the anti-marriage* amendment segued into talking about families and divorce, and made it quite clear that she was supportive of a movement to make divorce much harder if not impossible to obtain. She used a number of terms in what sounded like dog-whistle fashion; "low-conflict marriages" was prominent among them. She also strongly implied that getting a divorce on the grounds of domestic violence was a morally unacceptable choice, referring to divorce in marriages "where only one person wanted a divorce" as something that should be legally more difficult to get.

Dog-whistle words get my attention, because the conversation gets a little warped around them, and I get curious about what thing is passing overhead large enough to upset the local tides of conversation. It's starting to look like the anti-GLBT rhetoric is being bolstered and joined by anti-divorce rhetoric, and particularly anti-divorce rhetoric that says it's all to make things better for the children, and that refers to a specific point in time, generally in the early sixties. (Which is, in its way, interesting, because "the Sixties" is a signifier in itself, and not quite of the same thing the people using the rhetoric are talking about. And I'm starting to think that's no accident. Excuse me while I get my tinfoil discussion-watching hat. Sigh.)

Anyhow, I think something's going on, and it looks like it might be the surfacing of an anti-divorce campaign which would have (or require) rollback of women's rights in various ways. Anybody else seen that dog-whistle language yet? Or am I seeing something that's not there?

* The anti-marriage amendment would amend the Minnesota state constitution to limit marriage to one man and one woman. Amending the state constitution at all is a rather big deal around here, even before considering who's trying to do what with this proposal.

#64 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2012, 11:19 AM:

Lori, I'm glad I was able to give voice to some of that.

Keeping a civil tongue (sts) wasn't easy for me either, nor was that my first try at a response. And I took out some intemperate language at Preview.

#65 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2012, 01:07 PM:

Sam Chevre @ 39

İn my capacity as MLs correspondent from the seventeenth century, İ'd just like to mention that where i come from if , in 1700, you had proposed going back to the social mores of forty-seven years ago, that would have been a pretty radical suggestion.

Just because there people here who have lived there needn't mean that it isn't a foreign country.

#66 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2012, 02:42 PM:

elise, #63: While I can't say that I've heard that kind of dog-whistling yet, I would be completely unsurprised for that to be the next wave of the batshit-crazy. After all, we already have several states which allow "covenant marriage", which is pretty much a repeal of the right to divorce.

And here's SamChevre @46: I'm completely convinced that children raised to married parents are much better off, on every statistical and anecdotal measure I know, and it is undeniable that that is the experience of a minority of children now, and was the experience of the vast majority of children in 1965; on that point, I'm in favor of those mores.

There are a couple of things I'd like to point out about that, now that I've had a night's sleep.

First off, that is precisely what you're talking about here -- a suggestion that divorce should be severely restricted or eliminated, based on a "for the CHEELDRUN!" platform.

Secondly... is he really arguing that over 50% of American children grow up in single-parent households? If so, I call shenanigans and want to see some hard evidence.

#67 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2012, 02:55 PM:

Lee (66):* gives the 2010 figure for children in the US living with both parents as 69%, down from 77% in 1980.

*ultimate source: US Census Bureau, Current Population Survey

#68 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2012, 03:04 PM:

I wonder a little about the statistics linked to by Mary Aileen.

Are gay couples raising children included in "two parents," which looks (after a quick look) to cover only heterosexual pairings? Or are they included in "only mother/only father"?

If the latter, then I call foul on the numbers. I know including two-homosexual-parent families might not make a huge statistical difference, but they are still two-parent families.

Of course, in 1965's world, I could not have owned a home without my father co-signing for the loan (assuming I could have gotten one in the first place; more likely he would have had to take out the loan), nor could I have reproduced as a single person without being made to feel ashamed of my choice--and I certainly could not have done it via a sperm bank.

#69 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2012, 03:26 PM:

Mary Aileen, #67: Thanks! Further interesting information from that link:

* In 2010, there were about 75 million children ages 0–17. Sixty-nine percent of them lived with two parents (66 percent with two married parents and 3 percent with two biological/adoptive cohabiting parents), 23 percent lived with only their mothers, 3 percent lived with only their fathers, and 4 percent lived with neither of their parents.

* Among children living with two parents, 91 percent lived with both of their biological or adoptive parents, and 9 percent lived with a biological or adoptive parent and a stepparent. About 70 percent of children in stepparent families lived with their biological mother and stepfather.

* About 5 percent of children who lived with two biological or adoptive parents had parents who were not married.

* The majority of children living with one parent lived with their single mother. Some single parents had cohabiting partners. Twenty percent of children living with single fathers and 10 percent of children living with single mothers also lived with their parent's cohabiting partner. Out of all children ages 0–17, 5.0 million (7 percent) lived with a parent or parents who were cohabiting.

* Among the 3.0 million children (4 percent of all children) not living with either parent in 2010, 54 percent (1.7 million) lived with grandparents, 21 percent lived with other relatives only, and 24 percent lived with nonrelatives. Of children in nonrelatives' homes, 27 percent (200,000) lived with foster parents.

* Older children were less likely to live with two parents—65 percent of children ages 15–17 lived with two parents, compared with 68 percent of children ages 6–14 and 73 percent of those ages 0–5. Among children living with two parents, older children were more likely than younger children to live with a stepparent and less likely than younger children to live with cohabiting parents.

So, far from being "the experience of a minority of children now," well over half of all children in the US actually do live with both of their biological or adoptive parents -- even blended-family situations make up a relatively small percentage.

#70 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2012, 03:28 PM:

Mary Aileen @ 67

Thanks. I got that wrong. From the Census, it looks like the number of children living with two parents was slightly over 85% in 1965, and is almost 70% today.

It would be significantly less spoons-demanding to participate in this dicussion if it were clearly recognized that I think that some ideas with which I disagree are neither radical nor insane.

#71 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2012, 04:06 PM:

SamChevre: I accept that you disagree with these ideas. I don't accept that they are not insane. They are. I'm not sure they aren't radical.

Another one not mentioned: in 1965, and up to occasions in the 1980s, single mothers, especially minors and minorities, could be, and were, forced to give up their children to adoption. By which I mean that when they went to the hospital, they might not actually be allowed to see the child that just came from their body, or hold it, before it was carried off. Even if they'd said they'd like to keep it. And where that level of intervention wasn't allowed, the pressures put on them to "not ruin the child" by keeping it, or allowing it to go to a nice family, were almost as criminal.

Is that REALLY so much better for the children than letting them grow up with a single mom? Or, more importantly, are the social mores that made that seem like an acceptable way to protect those infants really better than giving those moms the chance -- no, Right -- to decide for themselves?

I am the child of a single family household. Not one like that - my parents divorced, and my mother had a decent professional career. But I take deep umbrage from anyone who says that I would have been better off with my father and stepmother just because there were two of them.

#72 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2012, 04:15 PM:

SamChevre: I accept that you disagree with these ideas. I don't accept that they are not insane.

There we go. Sam, the disagreement is over whether the ideas are insane. I and several others here a) think they are and b) think that the fact that you don't comes at least in part from the fact that you are less personally affected by the changes than we are.

You've stated that you don't actually think they're a good idea. I accept that.

#73 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2012, 04:17 PM:

SamChevre @70:

It would be significantly less spoons-demanding to participate in this dicussion if it were clearly recognized that I think that some ideas with which I disagree are neither radical nor insane.

It would be much easier on everyone concerned, then, if you were to be a little clearer, on what you agree with. Not what you think is or is not radical, nor yet insane, but what you think is right, particularly with reference to politics.

Or, if you want to talk about your original point about whether the Republicans are radically right or not, and whether the Democrats are radically left, how about talking about it? Not as an unsupported assertion, but as a list of evidentiary points?

Then be prepared to have them discussed, dissected, and argued with.

Alternatively, don't go in the pool. Accept that the base assumptions of the majority of this community and yours don't line up. Many of the people in the community think that the people you are aligning yourself with, both rhetorically and (I suspect) electorally, are either following some very wrong-headed priorities, or are actively harmful to the body politic. You may not come out of this discussion victorious, or even respected.

This may or may not be fair, but a bunch of people here are struggling a lot to be fair under what feels like a deeply personal, powerful and ruthless assault on their value as citizens and economic entities. It behooves you to be realistic about how much they're going to manage it without more explanatory effort than you may have time for, in the wider context of your life.

#74 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2012, 04:24 PM:

#67-70: Given that some of the two-parent households in the Census figures are step-families, it may be that 50% of all US children (will) live in a single-parent household at some point in their lives. I'm not sure how one would go about digging up those statistics, however.

#75 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2012, 04:27 PM:


I can't see any way at all to come to an agreed upon definition for insane or radical in terms of social or political beliefs of this kind. Can you?

I am very sure I don't want to see policies that screw people over for being black, gay, female, or non-Christian, and I don't care whether we call those policies radical or not. (If a majority accepted those polices, as they did in living memory, in what sense would they be radical.).

I think there is an interesting and worthwhile discussion to be had somewhere about how to balance different systems of belief about sex and religion and related morality. Like, if I want to live and raise my kids in a much more religiously conservative community and environment than the US default, is that okay? How far can I go along those lines?

For example, I suspect my kids' Catholic school would probably fire any openly gay teachers there. (FWIW, I hope not, and wouldn't support that. But it is consistent with the Church's teachings, and might very well be supported by a majority of the parents sneding their kids there. Should that be allowed?).

If someone else wants to raise their kids in an entirely different way--say, sending their kids to a school where any reference to religion in school at all might get a teacher fired or reprimanded, would that be okay?

And how do we resolve these questions in a society where we don't all agree on fundamental values? To what extent is it okay for minority-belief groups to live in ways that contradict the majority's beliefs? And how does that change when the majority beliefs change?

The more we allow localized control of those decisions--less Federal oversight of local laws and private organizations--the more we allow people in the minority to live as they want to live, but also the more we allow stuff that's offensive and sometimes really awful.

#76 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2012, 04:31 PM:

I just realised that my "not like that" could be read as judgement or even condemnation. It's only meant as acknowledgement that a 30 year old divorcee has fewer challenges as a mother than a teenager.

#77 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2012, 04:40 PM:


Fair enough. I see a lot of the discussion about Republican plans for more or less going back to the 50s in terms of womens' and gay rights in much the same light as the discussions, common on right wing boards, of how Obama and the Liberals are just itching to impose socialism. (In Obama's case, I guess that means favoring slightly higher marginal tax rates on millionaires.)

Now, I may be misunderstanding the danger here. For a variety of reasons, I personally am not very likely at all to be affected by the kind of laws that woud be imposed in Santorum's fondest dreams, and that probably makes it easier for me to discount the danger.

The pattern of conversation is parallel in these two cases--rhetoric that inflates the policy differences between the parties in the interests of making the next election seem like a choice between radically different futures. But I'll admit I may simply be missing why the differences really are much bigger than they look to me. I expect that even if Republicans win the white house and both houses of congress, we will not see (for example) a return to DADT, or banning of birth control devices/pills, or a return to the awful mistreatment of gays that was common in the past, or womens' legal rights being eroded in any major area other way other than maybe brtn.

#78 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2012, 05:01 PM:

albatross @ 77 says it better than I can currently manage.

#79 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2012, 05:04 PM:

I'm not sure how I feel about the word "insane" in political discussions. On the one hand, I look out into the world and see certain people straight-facedly advocating policies that seem to me obviously ruinous. On the other, I'm aware that calling another person insane is essentially putting oneself in the position of a medical professional and making a diagnosis at a distance, which is a fundamentally dishonest thing to do. On the gripping hand, politics is a manifestation of culture, and therefore a form of distributed fabulism, so arguably all political opinions are insane. So I'm conflicted.

"Radical" is a different matter. A radical wants to get at the root of things, to make a fundamental change to society. Our current Republican party --- which seeks to reestablish a de-facto aristocracy by undermining every social reform that balances the power of capital --- is indeed radical. The labor (and other) reforms to which they are opposed were radical in their time; an improvement can be radical. The American revolution, the federalist movement, the abolitionist movement, the civil rights movement, the feminist movement --- all of these were radical. So were the fascists, the communists, and various other nasty groups. "Radical" is neither an insult nor a term of praise, but a description of the scope of change one wishes to bring about. If your society has undergone a radical change, and you wish to change it back, you must be a radical, because moderation is inadequate to the scale of the task.

#80 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2012, 05:55 PM:

albatross @77: The pattern of conversation is parallel in these two cases--rhetoric that inflates the policy differences between the parties in the interests of making the next election seem like a choice between radically different futures.

Have you been paying attention to what's been going on in Wisconsin these past couple of years? If you're a unionized employee, that's your future at stake.

As far as birth control goes, I don't expect a federal ban (at least not any time soon), but I could see Romney appointing Supreme Court justices who might be inclined to overturn Griswold v Connecticut, at which point millions of Americans would have to fight to retain the right to contraception on a state-by-state basis. Some of them would lose. Even in states where the right was fought for and retained, the fight would soak up money and energy that could be spent on other causes. (Also, see Abi's ct above about the how the right has been blurring the line between birth control and abortion.)

#81 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2012, 06:20 PM:


And more than that, in state after state the Republicans have been passing bills that restrict the right to vote. They're doing this NOW, even with a Justice department that has some interest in pushing back against those restrictions. What they'd try if they had a Republican Justice department cheering them on and a fully supportive Supreme Court is not something I'd care to find out.

#82 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2012, 08:57 PM:

So what I'm noticing is that SamChevre, @39, believes that "let's have the social norms around sex and religion that we had in 1965" is "not that conservative", by which he means not that he agrees with it, but that it's a fairly moderate, mild position, not any kind of fire-breathing radicalism.

Meanwhile, albatross, @77, sees liberals' "the discussion about Republican plans for more or less going back to the 50s in terms of womens' and gay rights" as an exaggeration of Republican views, the equivalent of how Republicans freak out and scream about socialism every time someone suggests raising marginal tax rates up to levels lower than Reagan had them at.

And SamChevre's 78 says that albatross's 77 speaks for SamChevre. Right?

So I'm wondering, which is it? If I think that there's a sizable Republican contingent that wants to roll sexual mores back to 1965 or 1950, am I accurately describing a view held by some number of non-radical Republicans, or am I exaggerating Republicans views wildly?

Is the fifteen-year gap critical? Maybe if I think Republicans want to go back to '65, well, that's fair, but if I think they want to go back to '50, woah, I'm nuts?

#83 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2012, 11:40 PM:

Avram, I think this comment of yours back @56 bears further discussion:

[I]f there's truly no difference between the Big Two parties from where you're standing, well, awesome for you. That means you don't have to care about the upcoming presidential election, because the outcomes are identical for you. Granted, that means you're probably going to be frustrated by the amount of news coverage it takes up, but you can relax and not care how it comes out.

Which is indeed a valid point, and leads directly to the conclusion my partner reached when I quoted it to him: "So that means you aren't going to bother voting, right? Because you don't see any difference between the two parties, it doesn't matter to you which one wins."

Anyone who simultaneously says that they don't see any difference between the two parties, but oh yes, they're going to vote... well, that's a bit of an internal contradiction, isn't it? At that point, it's worth mentioning that they must see some difference that's worth supporting (or, in some cases, NOT supporting), and perhaps they could go into more detail about just what that difference is.

#84 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2012, 11:47 PM:

I've noticed that "the two parties are the same anyway" is essentially a Republican meme. There are gullible people outside the GOP who believe it, and that is its purpose: to discourage people from voting. High turnout favors the Democrats, and always has, which is why the Republicans do everything they can to make it harder to vote, or as in this case promulgate the idea that voting is futile.

#85 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2012, 12:12 AM:

I know non-Republicans who argue that there's no difference between the Big Two. They're generally people outside the political mainstream --- anarchists, revolutionary socialists, etc. They don't vote, so at least they're consistent.

#86 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2012, 12:53 AM:

Albatross @ 75: I don't know for sure what label I would put on the idea of "going back to 1965 values" other than personally repugnant. *I* think it's insane (in the layman version of the term), but the only reason I personally mentioned insane or radical is because SamChevre did.

That being said, Avram @ 79 has one definition that seems to make sense.

The question of, as one of the quotes in ML's sidebar says, how far you're willing to go in letting someone be wrong about things is... not easy. My personal feeling is that the line should be consistent regardless of ideology, and should stop before the points of abuse, isolation, or inability to be properly informed.

What I mean: I heard once that one of the policies of the Amish is that their young adults around a certain age are *expected* to go out into the world outside and see how other people live (before presumably returning home to live out their days within their own tradition. This makes sense to me: it makes of their choice of way of life an informed choice. It's also something the most actively abusive religions don't allow, because their views wouldn't stand up to the scrutiny.

Where the line is drawn in cases of right to work vs. ideology is not an issue for me alone to decide. In the case of right to work / right to ideology, I tend to default to the right to work side. For one, there's that question again of whether the doctrine can stand up to reasonable opposition. For another, the cases are fewer and farther between these days where someone with a strong minority viewpoint has to feel obliged to work in an environment that is ideologically toxic to them. It will happen, I'm sure, but there are many kinds of schools out there now.

However, that brings us to choosing to live, and raise others to live, in a manner significantly different from the mainstream. Which I think should be a protected right, so long as: A) Nothing illegal or abusive is taking place (this alone kills the majority of such things that I find too repugnant to stand.), B) the children so raised are educated to a level equal to or better than public school (including in sciences: even a creationist should be able to handle high school physics or chemistry, and learn the scientific method), C) people therein do have a chance to test their faith against the outside world, to see and experience people who are different, and D) attempts to convert outsiders to their beliefs do not include attempting to alter legal or governmental policy by means other than majority vote or other constitutional means (I am a radical in that I don't think anyone should be able to buy votes with excessively large campaign contributions, either... That ship has kind of sailed, though.). There might be other criteria not occurring to me this moment. In short, though, I'm okay with a multiplicity of schools, doctrines, etc. As long as they understand and maintain that multiplicity. This may, however, be the voice of privilege. On the surface, I appear non-threatening to most.

#87 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2012, 01:00 AM:

Lenora Rose, #86: I would describe the idea of "going back to 1965 values" as ethically and morally repugnant, for reasons which have been laid out in some detail upthread. Any set of values which includes the beliefs that women and racial minorities are second-class citizens, and that gay people are dangerously mentally ill, cannot be described any other way.

#88 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2012, 12:37 PM:

A friend of mine recently told me a story. Her son was talking to two of his friends — all three being American men, about 26 years old — about how much he loved the 1920s. The music, art, literature, and philosophy that was happening then were so vibrant that he'd love to have a time machine and go back and experience it personally. He asked them what time they'd like to visit. They looked at each other, and burst out laughing. One was African American, and the other was Asian. The African American friend said, "This is the best time!"

The friend's son is white.

#89 ::: Cassy B ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2012, 07:29 PM:

Janet L @88: Reminds me of a conversation I had with a coworker, years ago. He'd just been to one of those Medieval Times restaurant-shows; you know, jousting, fake-medieval language, eating with your HANDS... and he opined that he'd love to go back the the Middle Ages for real.

I boggled.

I pointed out, gently, that the lives of serfs were generally nasty, brutish, and short. "No problem," he blithely replied, "I'd be a noble."

I pointed out that even nobles had mediocre food, no indoor plumbing, and lice. And that he couldn't possibly be a noble, anyway. "Why not?" he asked. "You're Jewish," I replied. "So?"

This ignorance of history quite literally took my breathe away.

When I was able to speak again, I explained pograms. I explained ghettos. I explained that in most parts of Europe it was illegal for Jews to own land or practice most trades, and in certain countries it was illegal to be Jewish at all....

I weep at the education of our youth.

#90 ::: Cassy B ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2012, 07:54 PM:


Bad fingers. No biscuit.

#91 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2012, 08:13 PM:

My mother said that the 1950s were a good time to raise children, but she didn't want to live in them again.
I think the Republicans are aiming not for the 1950s (which is bad enough, IMO), but for the 1850s - or maybe the 1750s in France. Far too many of their leading (or loudest) members seem to think that non-white, non-male, apparently non-Christian, apparently non-heterosexual people should be at best second-class citizens. And that, IMO, makes them people who want to overthrow the Constitution and the US government.

#92 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2012, 11:07 PM:


Republican partisans and mouthpieces are constantly talking about the huge differences between the parties. They'll even make stuff up or ignore stuff to puff up the differences. So I don't think it's exactly a Republican idea. Seriously, go read some right wing blogs or columnists, hear about how this administration is surrendering to the terrorists, turning the US into a socialist country, etc. Or go watch or read the transcript of the next Romney speech,and see whether you notice even the smallest hint that the parties aren't that far apart.

#93 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2012, 11:08 PM:


#94 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2012, 12:28 AM:

Cassy B @89, well, I suppose if he can imagine that he's living in the middle ages, and lucky enough to be born a noble, he can also imagine being born a gentile.

Or maybe he wants to go back to Muslim Spain?

#95 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2012, 02:18 AM:

albatross @92:

Verily, but if I hear another performance of Variations on Clinton Did It Too In C Minor when I discuss any Republican failing of any sort, I think I will strangle myself with my own optic nerves.

#96 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2012, 09:53 AM:


I'm specifically responding to Xopher's comment that "the parties are pretty much the same" is a Republican meme. It looks to me like the opposite is true--the Republicans, like the Democrats, have an incentive to play up the differences between the parties to motivate their base to come out.

I don't recall ever using the actions of the previous administration to justify actions of the current one, either under Bush or Obama. That's the tune Clinton Did It Too is sung to. Indeed, the Obama administration has added several new verses for future Republican administrations to sing. The Romney administration, if there is one, will be using this administration's actions to justify their executive power grabs. If instrad there is, say, a second Clinton administration or something after Obama's second term, then I expect that administration will sing a very similar tune.

#97 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2012, 09:57 AM:


That's like the common observation that the great majority of people who "remember" past lives remember being princes or nobles or royalty of some kind, whereas the great majority of humans have been farmers of some sort, usually poor as church mice by our standards, and often hungry and without a whole lot of rights.

#98 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2012, 10:01 AM:

albatross @96:

You don't use that tactic because (a) it's beneath you (for which, thank you), and (b) you don't come at these discussions from a set partisan viewpoint.

That's not to say that I haven't heard it more times than I like to even think about.

#99 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2012, 10:28 AM:


I can't answer for anyone's words but my own. I suspect one point of difference between what I am saying and what Sam is saying is that I'm interested in laws and policies, whereas he seems to be talking about values. If we transition to a society where divorce, unwed motherhood, and homosexuality become socially unacceptable most places, but without intrusive laws and policies to forbid or punish people for those things, that's a worse world than the one we live in in many ways, but it's not locking gays up for being gay or repealing laws against domestic violence.

Now, I think that kind of social transition is extremely unlikely. Polling data shows an interesting mix. This Pew Center Report says that while about half the people think homosexuality and abortion are morally wrong, almost 90% think having an affair is wrong, and about a third think that sex between unmarried adults is wrong.

There is a connection between values and policies, obviously. Even if Republicans wanted to start arresting people for being gay, that would be enormously unpopular and would trigger a huge backlash--which is one reason they probably won't try it, and why they won't succeed if they do.

#100 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2012, 10:36 AM:


Fair enough. One real difficulty having discussions where I'm outside the mainstream is that it's common to have my argument or statement parsed as though it was some other comment from someone I don't agree with at all. In an election year, it's hard for Democrats to hear most opposition to Democrats as anything but a partisan attack from Republicans. (The same thing is true the other direction.). I always want to push back on that, since it reclassifies what I'm saying into "the other team's rhetoric--do not read."

#101 ::: Cassy B ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2012, 11:21 AM:

albatross@97, What such people don't seem to realize is that we, at least those of us fortunate enough to live in first-world countries and with enough spare cash to be able to afford a computer and an internet connection, are living in a Golden Age. Right now. Oh, I'm not saying it's flawless; its deeply flawed in many significant ways. But we're not, for the most part, in real danger of dying in a cholera epidemic or a smallpox epidemic; one bad harvest does not mean that our children will quite literally starve to death, people of non-majority sexuality or religion aren't nearly so likely to be murdered either judicially or by lynch mob; likewise people of non-majority ethnicity may still be treated shabbily but at least have some legal recourse; women can own property rather than BEING property....

Not a perfect world, and the gilt peels in many places, even in the first world. But still a Golden Age compared to, well, ANY previous age that I've ever read about.

#102 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2012, 09:06 PM:

There's an interesting riff on the Good Old Days memes in Colonel Butler's Wolf, one of Anthony Price's mystery novels. Colonel Butler is socially conservative, believing that things were done better in Edwardian master-and-servant days, and clashes on the subject with a more liberal-leaning colleague who believes the present is better -- but it's the colleague who has the common delusion of "I would have been one of the masters", and Butler holds his belief despite knowing perfectly well that he himself would have been one of the servants.

#103 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2012, 10:09 PM:

Accidentally posted this on the wrong thread instead of here - sorry...

The Republicans think different times were better for different people. Policemen, for instance, now weren't they happier before Miranda and the exclusionary rules and those other activist decisions by the Warren Court? On the other hand, corporations are people too, my friends, and they're still a minority (except maybe in states like Delaware), and would a corporation want to have to live back in the early 1800s, when they could be living in the early 2000s instead? No way, not unless they were one of the privileged few, like Hudson's Bay or the Dutch East India Company, and even for them things were still pretty primitive.

#104 ::: Mycroft W ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2012, 03:37 PM:

On "if there's no difference, why vote?":

Whether I get Republican North or the less socially-unacceptable friends of Corporations isn't something I have any push in - literally where I live (a trained monkey could get elected in my riding, as long as she has (C) after her name).

But if I don't vote, the chance that I won't get to next time goes up - infinitesimally, but it goes up. The lower the turnout in an election, the more likely that the government will put in disenfranchisement laws and figure they can get away with it, because nobody cares enough to vote them out after they do it.

And the thing is, my mother votes because her mother couldn't. I vote, if for no other reason, because responsible adults, who weren't allowed to at one point, are in my personal experience. It has happened (it did happen through most of recorded demographic history). It can happen again.

Even in the two-party USA, this is a legitimate use of a third-party vote. If the choice is "vote for a third party" or "stay home", it doesn't affect the chance of one's least-preferable candidate (which these people claim are equivalent) getting in at all. But the difference between "irrelevant vote" and "stayed home" *has* an effect.

Plus, I've heard that South of the Border (forgive us, we're Canadian) they vote for more things than just Congress, Senate, and President on Election day. Maybe there's a difference between those other things one might be concerned about.

Context: I declined my ballot for Senator-in-Waiting, because telling the world that "it's not binding, it's not working, and it's not helping; fix it or get rid of it and save the costs" is worth more to me than "vote for nobody" or "vote for random". But that doesn't mean I shouldn't vote.

#105 ::: Mycroft W ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2012, 05:05 PM:

Argh - preview told me "something's wrong here." But wouldn't trigger the "what" part of the brain.

For "demographic", read "democratic". Work's been too much in my head recently, it seems.

#106 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2012, 05:24 PM:

Mycroft @104:

Plus, I've heard that South of the Border (forgive us, we're Canadian) they vote for more things than just Congress, Senate, and President on Election day. Maybe there's a difference between those other things one might be concerned about.

Yup. In Minnesota we will be voting on the proposed anti-marriage amendment to the state constitution.

#107 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2012, 07:16 PM:

Mycroft, #104: I actually agree with all your points there. I see the entire "so you won't be voting then, right?" thing as a carom-shot argument, designed to push the other person into trying to explain why, if they really think there's no difference between the two parties, they still feel the desire to vote (because most of the people who make that argument will say they're voting). It's a way to make them bring their unexpressed assumptions out into the light of day. What happens then depends on what said assumptions are.

#108 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2012, 08:51 PM:

Mycroft, thanks for that insightful analysis. I actually find it encouraging.

#109 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2012, 09:14 PM:

Trying to answer the questions I can usefully answer. Spoons supply somewhat better[1]

abi @ 73

It would be much easier on everyone concerned, then, if you were to be a little clearer, on what you agree with. Not what you think is or is not radical, nor yet insane, but what you think is right, particularly with reference to politics.

What I think is right is to engage with fellow-citizens, with experience informing their comments, as fellow-citizens, and not in ways that are designed to make it impossible for them to speak. I'm trying to argue about language and participation, not social mores[3]; that's why "radical extremist" in 38 pushes my buttons, but "repugnant" in 87 does not.

Avram @ 82 and albatross @ 99

If I think that there's a sizable Republican contingent that wants to roll sexual mores back to 1965 or 1950, am I accurately describing a view held by some number of non-radical Republicans, or am I exaggerating Republicans views wildly?

Well, 1965 vs 1950 is important; the Civil Rights Act has already been passed, and the Pill is in widespread use[2], in 1965.

But (IMO) you are accurately describing a view held by a significant number of Republicans (probably 20% of the voters, maybe 40% of the activists--think of it as the Santorum vote), who are not unreasonable, and not insane, but who are too much of a minority in the Republican Party to get even the Republican Party to do much that addresses their concerns. (The anti-war Left would, IMO, be the Democratic analog.) It's a fair description of some people in the party, but not of the party as a whole.

1) It may help with "where are you coming from?" to note that everyone in that narrative except my family and the guy with hallucinations is openly gay.
2) If someone has access to this article it probably has an actual rate.
3) It may be worth noting that I have not voted since 2002.

#110 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2012, 09:15 PM:

I my voter information booklet for the June primary has two propositions to vote on, one of which is supposed to be some kind of fix for the term-limits prop that passed in 1990. (I would rather lengthen the limits than shorten them, if we have to have term limits.) I'm pretty sure there's some local measures, but I haven't seen the sample ballot yet.

#111 ::: SamChevre has been gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2012, 09:16 PM:

only 2 urls, but one probably looks commercial.

#112 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2012, 09:10 AM:

Correction to 109, fn3. "Everyone" should be "everyone except MP and the mechanic".

#113 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2012, 03:17 PM:

How big is that contingent? This Pew report suggests that about 10% of the population qualify as "staunch conservatives. I think an earlier survey showed about that many people who were socially conservative on all five questions on a poll (gay marriage, gay adoption, abortion, morning after pill, stem cell research). About 20% of the public strongly opposes gay marriage, but that's more like going back to the mores of 1990 than 1950.

My guess is that the set who would want to go anywhere close to those 1965 or 1950 mores or laws is probably a fraction of the staunch conservatives.

Is there polling data that makes this more clear? I keep thinking it's very easy to make up stories about people you don't know very well, and much more informative to actually find out what people say they believe and what they do.

#114 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2012, 11:36 AM:

Where has the war on terror gone since we killed Osama?

What happens when you piss off the state? (Also, what does our domestic surveillance program look like?)

Will this guy ever see the inside of a jail cell for overtly breaking the law in a way that would get you or me sent to prison?

Again, your vote is worth much less than one bit in these areas--our input is simply not wanted.

#116 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2012, 04:50 PM:

Open threadiness: This sounds pretty bad. The claim is that the NYPD or some subset of their officers were intentionally using sexual assault on women as a way of both intimidating the women out of the movement, and provoking the men in the movement to violence for which they could then be arrested.

I would once have assumed this was some kind of made up claim, and assumed that any such thing going on would get mainstream media attention. I no longer believe it, not after the weird near-blackut of official news from the preemptive arrests in St Paul.

#117 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2012, 02:52 PM:

Political threadiness:

Today NC votes on a constitutional amendment that would make marriage between one man and one woman the only domestic legal union that would be valid or recognized in the state.

Not only would this amendment outlaw same-sex marriage, which is already illegal in NC anyway, but it would also outlaw civil unions. It would also forbid state, county, and city governments from offering domestic partner benefits, regardless of the genders of the partners involved. IANAL, but the language of the amendment is so broad that it could have other unexpected legal effects -- similar language in Ohio resulted in domestic-violence convictions being overturned because the victims were not married to their abusers. Domestic violence protection applying to unmarried people was eventually upheld by the Ohio Supreme Court, but it took 3 years.

The Civitas Institute, despite being a right-wing group, has put together a very nice, neutral, and informative interface to the early-voter demographic statistics for this primary election. Despite the recent phone poll showing 55% support for the amendment, the early voting statistics lead me to believe the vote could go either way. Early voting turnout was high among voters in cities, among young voters, and among Democrats, all groups that are likelier to vote against the amendment. (I'm aware that not all Democrats will vote against the amendment, and that not all Republicans will vote for it. But still, the fact that a majority -- almost 53% -- of primary ballots requested in early voting were Democratic ballots does tend to suggest a lot of votes against the amendment.)

I voted against the amendment during early voting last week. I just went through my contacts list to see if there was anyone I should call and remind -- and realized that I've already talked to all of my contacts who live in NC (in person, online, or by phone), and all but two of them have reported that they already voted. Just texted the remaining two. (I'm certain one of them will vote. So there's really only one person who's at all in question.)

Any North Carolinian Fluorospherians, please go and vote against the amendment if you haven't already. If you have friends or family in NC who might listen, please call/text them and ask them to vote against the amendment today.

#118 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2012, 03:04 PM:

Caroline @117:

It's charming how, when faced with marriage equality, many conservatives suggest that civil unions are a sufficient alternative.

But given the chance to take civil unions away, they're right there. All over it.

I fervently hope that the amendment does not pass, because it's going to take time, effort and money to undo when the younger generation, who overwhemingly don't give a toss about this issue, have to clean up the mess their elders are making right now.

(Because I believe, to the core of my being, that the tide is turning, and that these laws are an extinction burst. Which doesn't make them any less hurtful, of course.)

#119 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2012, 04:16 PM:

Yeah, I think it's time to seriously consider an organized boycott of states that have such amendments. That's all the southern states and a few others, if NC's amendment passes.

Trouble is, it's 29 states. That's a lot of boycotting.

So I propose we start with the states whose constitutions ban same-sex marriage, civil unions, and all marriage-like contracts between same-sex persons (actually they go further, but never mind). That's just Virginia and my erstwhile home, Michigan.

But of course that means not buying US-made cars, mostly. And that mostly hurts the poor in Michigan.

But at this point I don't care. If Michigan becomes a rusting hulk that everyone flees, well, I ended up in New Jersey (and much better off) the last time that happened, and lots of people I know did well by moving elsewhere. Let it become the new Mississippi.

Virginia's even harder to attack economically. Its data centers carry more than 50% of the nation's internet traffic, according to W*k*p*d**. For now I'd just say don't vacation there, and look at products to see where they're from and don't buy VA seafood, peanuts, or tomatoes.

Then it gets harder. The states that ban SSM and Civil Unions are many. And then also the tourist attractions in those states are in the liberal areas, so to get at the economy of the whole state you have to hurt the progressives first. Not going to Disney World is easy (at least for me), but skipping Mardi Gras (and Southern Decadence) is a little more of a hardship (for lots of gay men, though again not for me), and do we really want to boycott WisCon? Ugh.

So abi's right; there's a lot to undo. And looks like boycotts are not going to be viable at this stage. (Later, when there are only one or two states keeping their bans—my bet would be on South Carolina and Alabama, the last states to repeal their anti-miscegenation laws—we can boycott them.)

So what else is there? How do we pressure the worst states (MI and VA) with means other than boycotts?

#120 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2012, 04:34 PM:

Well, when WorldCon site selection comes up, we can compare if the states have an amendment and how bad it is...though even I don't think that should be decisive by itself.

So let's see...according to this page, there are no contested bids in 2014, and London is outside this whole mess anyway.

This would count as a point in favor of Spokane and against Orlando for 2015.

For Finland and against Kansas City in 2016.

I'm not sure about Japan vs. New York. Japan wouldn't ordinarily be part of the whole equation (I'm primarily interested in pressuring US States), but it doesn't allow same-sex marriage and New York does. So maybe.

Against New Orleans in 2018. No opposing bid yet, but there's time.

NZ vs. Boston in 2020 is about the same case as Japan.

But of course that's getting fairly distant. There are efforts in NZ to change the law, and they might be successful before 2020.

#121 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2012, 09:56 PM:

Bloody hell.

Our NPR station has called it. The amendment passed in NC.

Bloody fucking hell.

#122 ::: J Homes ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2012, 11:29 PM:

Xopher @120.
"NZ vs. Boston in 2020 is about the same case as Japan.

But of course that's getting fairly distant. There are efforts in NZ to change the law, and they might be successful before 2020."

Even if not, civil unions seem to be working better here than they appear to in the USA, possibly because we don't have the same hordes of enthusiastic bigots actively trying to game the system to deny the civilly united the rights that go with marriage.

If the law doesn't get changed, it is likely to be because the present law works well enough that further change, although desirable, is not seen as urgent, including by those who really would be affected.

I think even our bigots would find things to revolt them in the NC obscenity.

So I would respectfully request that you remove 2020 from your consideration.

J Homes.

#123 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2012, 10:23 AM:

Okay. Picked myself up, dusted myself off, had a cup of coffee and a vitamin-rich green smoothie. Powered up to keep working, communicating more than two bits, and bending the arc towards justice.

It looks like we will have to clean up this mess. Best get started.

#124 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2012, 12:50 PM:

J Homes, it will be some time before 2020 really impinges on my consciousness as an issue to be considered. A LOT could happen between now and then. Including a SCOTUS ruling against the DOMA and establishing that states really DO have to give Full Faith and Credit to one another's contracts, as the US Constitution states. (Unlikely, but possible.)

If that happened, all same-sex couples would have to do to be legally married in any state would be to travel to a state where SSM is legal, and that would put tourism pressure on the topic, leading to rapid change (Alabama would hold out). In that case we wouldn't care about NZ's law, and it wouldn't be a factor.

In other words, don't worry about it. I'm not campaigning against the NZ 2020 bid on that or any basis.

#125 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2012, 08:11 PM:

On getting more than two bits by controlling the money spigot: I hadn't donated to Obama's campaign this go-round. But after his public statement of support for same-sex marriage today, I gave him $50, which for me is a sizable amount of money.

There is a political risk in publicly voicing support for same-sex marriage -- especially the day after NC, which was a swing state in 2008, showed just how many voters are still mired in fear and ignorance about it. I'm very pleased that Obama had the courage to take that risk and speak up.

I wish he'd had the courage before now. And I can understand people who feel like he doesn't deserve cookies for doing what he should have done long ago. But rewarding good behavior is an effective means of behavior modification.

#126 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2012, 11:04 PM:

Annnnd Rand Paul shows himself to be a total scumbag, again.

#127 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2012, 12:07 AM:

Caroline @ 125: I hadn't gotten around to contributing to the Obama campaign yet, either, and was also moved to yesterday.

#128 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2012, 05:14 PM:

One more item in the GOP's continuing quest to cement their title as the pro-ignorance party...

The House GOP recently pushed through a bill that cancels the American Community Survey (the survey replaced the Census long form and is the major source of local demographic and related information between decennial censuses).

Among the other lowlights of the bill, it also bans the National Science Foundation from funding political science research and bans any federal spending to implement Obama's proposed National Ocean Policy.

More details here and on the ACS cancellation in particular here

I should point out that most of this is unlikely to stick, at least not right now. The House version of the bill (one of the 12 appropriations measures) isn't going to pass the Senate and Obama has promised a veto even if it did. And there is likely to be substantial pushback inside the GOP on the ACS cancellation.

#129 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2012, 09:27 PM:

Maybe free speech is just not consistent with running a global empire in which our dictates are enforced by flying killer robots.

Of course, legitimate speech opposing our client in Yemen will never be punished. Only a dirty hippie would suspect such a thing. And by legitimate speech, I mean speech that fails to piss off too many powerful people or have too much influence.

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