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August 10, 2006

While I Realize It's Extremely Boring, Let's Take A Brief Look At Reality

Apparently there's some kind of batsignal for the U.S. punditocracy that tells them all what to write each week. This week their orders are to inform us that the Democrats had better watch out for those far-left elitists like Ned Lamont, who will with their extreme anti-war positions lead them to defeat just like George McGovern did.

I don't have it in me to track down links to the 10,000 versions of this. But here's a representative sample from David Broder:

The people backing Lamont are nothing if not sincere. But their breed of Democrats -- many of them wealthy, educated, extremely liberal -- often pick candidates who are rejected by the broader public. Many of the older Lamont supporters went straight from Eugene McCarthy and George McGovern in the 1960s and '70s to Howard Dean in 2004. They helped Joe Duffey challenge Sen. Tom Dodd in Connecticut for the 1970 Democratic nomination on the Vietnam War issue, only to lose to Republican Lowell Weicker in November.

This might make you wonder certain things—like, was opposition to Vietnam the "wealthy, educated" position? I know it's fun to listen to stories from Uncle Dave B., and extremely boring to look at reality. But let's give reality a shot just this once. Here's a Gallup poll from January, 1971:

Wha--? This must be some crazy anomaly, right? Everybody knows the far-left, highly-educated elitists hated Vietnam, while the bedrock real Americans hung in there to the end!

Actually, no. Here's James Loewen writing in his book Lies My Teacher Told Me (from which the 1971 Gallup poll is scanned):

These results surprise even some professional social scientists, [but] [s]imilar results were registered again and again, in surveys by Harris, NORC, and others... Throughout our long involvement in Southeast Asia, on issues related to Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, or Laos, the grade school-educated were always the most dovish, the college-educated the most hawkish.

Huh. That makes you wonder what equivalent polls are saying about Iraq today. Here's Gallup about six weeks ago:

Weirdly, as you see, more education doesn't necessarily push you either way on Iraq. It seems to make you more ambivalent—while those with less education are both the most dovish and the most hawkish, with little ambivalence.

We're almost done with reality here, because I realize it's irritating and makes things less fun at the cocktail party at David Brooks' house in Chevy Chase. But here's a Gallup poll from April of this year on the general foreign policy views of Americans:

Here the results are absolutely clear: internationalism is the elitist position, while people become more isolationist the less money and education they have. Shockingly enough, whenever Bush inveigles against "isolationism" he doesn't mention that.

Whew! Well, that's enough reality for today. Thank goodness our opinion leaders don't have to trouble themselves with such things, because then they might have to spend more than thirty seconds writing each column.

(I snipped some of the isolationism poll to save space. You can see the entire results here.)

Posted at August 10, 2006 06:43 PM | TrackBack

I love the use Loewen made of these polls in his classes. I paraphrase:

"OK, students, here we see the breakdown of opposition to the War. People with a lower level of education were less in favour of withdrawal, the better educated were more in favour. How do we explain this?"

"The better educated had a better idea what was going on... more wordly... less knee-jerk patriotism... more cosmopolitan so they had more empathy with the Vietnamese..."

"All excellent answers! Slight problem - I reversed the figures. The true results were that less educated people were more likely to favour withdrawal while those with a higher level of schooling were more likely to say we should stay on. Now how do you explain the figures?"

--Embarrassed silence--

There is of course a fairly obvious way to explain the results, but not one people who have shelled out for a college education are comfortable in acknowledging. Although I guess alternatively one could just put it down to the fact the less eductaed were more likely to be fighting the war, if one wanted.

Posted by: RobW at August 10, 2006 07:21 PM

Incidentally, I'm not entirely sure what to make of those internationalist/isolationist results but that's because I wouldn't be sure what those terms mean in the American context. I'm an internationalist myself - which means I'm violently opposed to rich nations invading who they like in pursuit of "humanitarian intervention".

Posted by: RobW at August 10, 2006 07:25 PM

Even if everything Broder (et al) says was right, what is his argument? That folks should forget their morals/what they think is right just to be on the winning team? I'll keep my soul, thanks.

Posted by: Lloyd at August 10, 2006 08:24 PM

Yeah, I think that Broder has it wrong on more than one level. Broder says the people backing Lamont are rebels. The reality of it is that the people backing Lamont are actually main stream middle of the road democrats. Lieberman has become quite conservative and really out of touch with voters. Since most people see Iraq as a huge mistake it seems misleading to say they are rebels. Broder and the Republican Party would like to convince people that Lamont voters are on the fringe but it is the Bush policy supporters who are now on the fringe.

So this is not what you would call a tug of war rather an outing of an out of touch politician who could not read the writing on the walls.

I think the republicans will continue to try and portray their democrat opponents as weak on defense and will continue to use their scare tactics like they recently have done with any occurrence of terrorist activity factual or fictional by blowing it all out of proportion. They have a need to hide the fact that Bush has fallen down on defense since their jobs are now at high risk come November.

And how important is Lieberman any way? The loss of Lieberman is hardly a gripping drama except perhaps to himself. But I think Broder is correct when he says it is really a vote against Bush policy which is what Lamont represents.

I think RobW has the correct interpretation of the data on your graphs. When one is faced with their own possible death by being inducted into military service as fodder for war it is not too unreasonable to assume that many become quite dovish.

Posted by: rob payne at August 11, 2006 12:23 AM

Rob's correct, when the Draft was on the best way to avoid the Great Camping Trip was stay in school. If you dropped out before graduation, well the ole Princible sent your name in and about a month later your number came up. If you graduated, you were almost guaranteed the summer before you got your notice.(a lot depended on your grades)If you had good grades and looked like you'd go to colledge, you might make it to December if you didn't go. If you had the means to go to colledge, you were home free as long as you stayed in class. One good way to aquire the means was ROTC. (Thus the Hawkish stance as you had to be dedicated to the cause to get your money and deferment. The theory also being, far better to be an officer than enlisted. No heavy lifting and toting, more pay and perks, better camping equipment, first in line at chow,etc., no break on the getting shot at part if you were Infantry though.) No guarantee, but maybe that explains the 1971 numbers. You figure everyone involved except the old lifers was 18 to 21 and really had NO IDEA what was happening. Still just kids. (now I'm crying, I stil see them in my dreams)

Posted by: at August 11, 2006 02:26 AM


Interestingly, this is the same punditocracy that has cried out against abortions and stem cell research, yet stands up for the death penalty, torturing illegally incarcerated prisoners to death, committing war crimes and supporting genocide in the name of God. They don't want poor people to have abortions or spend tax money unnecessarily on science in order to save lives.

The BushCo Propaganda Corporation is going to need plenty of fresh warm bodies to die committing war crimes for them in lieu of their own children, not to mention plenty of tax dollars looted from the treasury to pay for their kids' educations at the finest institutions possible. These wars will last until their own children grow old enough to be able to profit from them as well!

Posted by: americanintifada at August 11, 2006 02:38 AM


They stole the money from social security the real reason why it must be destroyed. If there is no social security then no one will ever know how much they plundered it plus this has the extra added attraction of not having to pay it back. See how they are actually saving us money?

Posted by: rob payne at August 11, 2006 03:03 AM


I see now! It's the old MBA adage: "It takes money to make money, as long as that money is not your own!" Brilliant! We are seeing Peter Principle Incompetence in full force and these people have proved that the scum, indeed, rises to top!

Posted by: americanintifada at August 11, 2006 03:08 AM


It is getting to the point where I cannot tell the difference between toilet trout and piranha. The Peter Principle is the secret to life and the expanding universe. I recall when working for Lam Research the power went out so we all had to evacuate the building and it took our mighty leader three hours to make up his mind if he should let us go home or not, three hours. One seldom sees such iron will and decisive thinking in modern life. Someday I hope to see him again on the planet moola moola.

Posted by: rob payne at August 11, 2006 03:18 AM


I was a civil servant for 5 years and management positions were so undesirable that the job only attracted undesirable people. That was more than 30 years ago and I doubt if the post office is any different today than it was back then. I am surprised that there aren't daily incidents where disgruntled employees go berserk. It's the nature of the beast!

Posted by: americanintifada at August 11, 2006 03:29 AM


That sounds familiar somehow as I worked for the Parks department for a couple years at Sam MacDonald Park near Big Basin. The ranger, my boss, worked quite hard ordering pencils and paper when needed. I got the easy jobs, the first day at work I had to bury a dead cow that had been rustled and left along a path. Needless to say I worked fast as the cow was fairly ripe which left me with an impression that the ranger knew I would be starting work there at least a year and half in advance, that is how smart he was. I think the cow was a former employee anyhow.

Posted by: rob payne at August 11, 2006 03:41 AM


I think you're lucky to be alive today!

Posted by: americanintifada at August 11, 2006 03:46 AM


How true. You should have seen how I wept over the cruel fate that befell the cow. Shortly after that with the start of the draft and my memories of the dead cow I decided it was my duty to become a nun. It was the least I could do.

Posted by: rob payne at August 11, 2006 04:03 AM


I hope your stint as a nun got you plenty of action from horny little Catholic girls!

Posted by: americanintifada at August 11, 2006 04:10 AM

I might have been a bit subtle. The reason Loewen provides for the results - towards which I lean - is that education is all too often a form of indoctrination; the more you have of it, the more likely it is you will embrace orthodox doctrines. This explains, as Chompers tends to point out, why elite objections to military adventurism tend to be nuanced and tactical, rather than moral. It is obviously a generalisation one should handle with great care, but still...

It is to this "fairly obvious way to explain the results" that the theory that those with lower educational qualifications - i.e. the working class - were likely to have a more personal understanding of the costs of the conflict, in the threat the draft had to those young enough to qualify and the experiences of the mostly lower-income soldiers who fought and of their families and friends, was an alternative. I think both explanations are true to an extent, but I prefer the former and mentioned the second mainly out of fairness.

Posted by: RobW at August 11, 2006 05:16 AM


Frank Zappa gave this sage advice years ago: "Drop out of school and go to the library before the mediocre educational system rots your brain!" Indoctrination into becoming Good Little Amerikkkans is still the only thing offered. If one really wants to learn anything, it will not be offered in any curriculum provided in public or private schools. Bush, Clinton, Rumsfield, MacNamara,, are living proof that an elitist education does not mean a superior one. But what the fuck do I know? I dropped out of college when the Vietnam War was "de-escalated" and I no longer needed the deferrment!

Posted by: americanintifada at August 11, 2006 05:33 AM

I come from an extremely conservative, blue-collar family that listens to Rush and O'Riley and all that crap. And yet they are all against the war. Why? Because I'm the only G of my generation who's not currently in the military. My brother's in Iraq right now. Us po' folks know the cost of a war in lives.

Posted by: BRG at August 11, 2006 07:07 AM

You can probably tell from the way I type and spellthe way my story went. At least the Army taught me how to shovel horseshit, a skill I will be using later on today even, and has served me well through the years.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at August 11, 2006 07:57 AM

The punditocracy (and Dem campaign consultants) has no use for empirical evidence. Case in point: David Brooks.

I wonder about the educational backrounds of those who read the major opinion mongers....

Posted by: et alia at August 11, 2006 08:34 AM

I should have listened to my shiftless barrio buds and stopped after surviving the eighth grade with Sr. Alexis, instead of listening to her constantly insisting that I go on to high school and beyond or be forever damned.

Posted by: Jesus . Ochoa at August 11, 2006 09:17 AM

Let's also please try and dispense with the notion that education--even post-graduate education--makes one "elitist".

From my vantage point, education has less to do with one's social standing these days than does income. As those of us with college degrees who still labor at the lower rungs of wage ladder can attest, income is the more powerful social determinant and it is not as neatly tied to education level as people believe.

Not to mention that it seems to me that this country could stand a clearer definition of what exactly constitutes a cultural "elite". I think once people start thinking about what elitism really is--how people express their sense of being better than their fellow citizens--we'll gain a better understanding of the factors that underlay it.

Posted by: spaghetti happens at August 11, 2006 09:18 AM

'Here the results are absolutely clear: internationalism is the elitist position, while people become more isolationist the less money and education they have. Shockingly enough, whenever Bush inveigles against "isolationism" he doesn't mention that.'

Well duh. This is the standard schoolyard bully trick, "only babies suck their thumbs, you're not a baby are you?" In republican circles, this is known as 'rallying the base.'
That after 3 or 5 or 6 years the numbers in reality are so aligned against the spin shows that Bush is now even turned into a lousy bully.

Posted by: Nathan at August 12, 2006 02:59 PM

Unfortunately the 1971 poll proves the knuckleheads' case. Two-thirds wanted out of Vietnam in 1971, yet McGovern lost 3-2. Ergo, voters will punish anti-war Democrats.

Look at the 1970 off-year election results. Conservatives did very well. That was the year of the Nixon "Southern Strategy." It was the year Al Gore Sr. lost.

Yet two-thirds of Americans were for pulling the troops out. Just as today two-thirds are for pulling the troops out.

What that tells me is we need to say more than "pull the troops out."

Posted by: Dana Blankenhorn at August 12, 2006 04:07 PM

I wrote this at digby's comments, too:

Very useful mindfuck--and of course the pundits then and now deserve to be clocked upside the cateloupe for selling the bullshit that only rich yuppies and hippies are anti-war--it was a little more complicated: those same non-college-grads who wanted to bring the troops home, when polled, said they were for nuking North Vietnam.

And they were also for clocking hippies upside the canteloupe.

History is complicated. Which is why the empty-headed pundits should be banned from trying to comment on it.

Posted by: Rick Persltein at August 12, 2006 04:18 PM

One word for the 1971 results...


That is all.

Posted by: justmy2 at August 12, 2006 05:39 PM


vietnam was the democrats' war, not the republicans'.

no reason why anti-war voters would vote democrat instead of republican. nixon ran as the peace candidate in '68.

key concept that seems get lost . . .

Posted by: nathan at August 13, 2006 12:40 AM

Too right. It wasn't the anti-war position people were voting against, it was the damn hippies.

Digby's analysis on this is really good: What people are identifying themselves with when they say they are "moderate" or "conservative" is people who comport themselves in a "normal" fashion, who don't say things like "fuck the pigs" in public, who don't dress funny or paint their face, who don't burn flags or make dirty jokes about Jesus and Mary, who aren't into "free love", who don't try to freak them out.

But this year, there's no anti-war movement out there full of teenagers who paint "Fuck" on their foreheads and have unconventional haircuts (because damn few haircuts seem that unconventional anymore) and live unusual lifestyles or any of that. It's just ordinary people and they don't actually go out into the streets much (and when they do, the press doesn't report on it much anyway).

Today's anti-war movement appears to be the mother of a dead soldier who just keeps asking why he died, and her supporters. That sends a very different message, and it's one everyone already gets.

Posted by: Avedon at August 13, 2006 05:46 AM


David Broder has become an Old Goat. He is not thinking clearly, and he has straddled the middle of everything so long, well - he has no cajones left! He is dead wrong about Lamont and CT.
Lamont is an intelligent progressive, I wont fool with 'libral' or 'conservative' -- they no longer have much meaning. But Lamont will be a fine Senator from CT and he may grow into a national leader. Let's hope so; fresh blood in that field is badly needed. Meanwhile, all this "meaning" attached to the Lamont victory we read about will wear off, Lieberman will continue to be a jackass and be taken ever less seriously until he just evaporates -- remember his Presidential campaign?
He has become a self-serving fool. Yes, I am name calling now, for J.L. deserves it. He's Mister Impossible. Soon he'll be but a memory.
Get out there and work and vote. This year we have a big and good chance to balance our government; it must be done!

Posted by: JimSantaFe at August 13, 2006 03:52 PM