America's evolving ideological demographics
American society is dynamic in a demographic sense unlike almost any other society in the world
America’s electorate voted decisively for the left on November 6th – for a larger, more dominant state apparatus; for ambitious programs aimed at solving social problems via state intervention; for reigning in private enterprise; and for taxation. In terms of foreign policy, they voted for a non-robust, nonconfrontational, “nuanced” policy; a policy of blending in with the militarily impotent social democracies of Europe, with the exception of targeted killings of terror suspects.
The choice obviously reflects the political persuasions of American society as it is. Urban, often single women have become a powerful political group. Latinos have become a strong political force; Asians as well. Around half of American society is now non-white. Homosexuals have become a powerful political group. Blacks, still largely poor but more politically organized, came out to support the half-African Democratic nominee virtually unanimously. Secular, college-educated suburbanites heavily influenced by the ideological fads and cant promoted by mainstream media form a loose group.
White men, generally a conservative stronghold, have lost political influence, and the conservative families of Middle America who favored the Republican nominee were outnumbered. President Obama received only 37 percent of the white vote.
What should be kept in mind is that American society is dynamic in a demographic sense unlike almost any other society in the world, changing as immigration, democratic inclusion, upward mobility, and empowerment bring new groups into influential positions in the electorate.
In today’s environment, members of ascending groups tend to see collective rights and state power as their ally and weapon, and to see America’s individual rights creed as something that was not meant to work for them. They want new legislation and constitutional interpretations; they want additional benefits paid for by those who have already reaped the fruit of the American dream; they want control of legislatures and courts so that their version of “social justice” will prevail.
The Democratic Party is the political home of ascending groups that want more power. Many young Americans, who see themselves in an intrinsic opposition to the existing establishment, instinctively identify with the Democratic Party.
What generally happens to members of ascending groups in America is that they arrive – sometimes with assistance from government programs, but not without their own “elbow grease.” And as they do so, their ideological orientations tend to shift away from the romance of state power toward an aspiration for individual freedom in civil society and property rights. Having gained equality, they will be more concerned with protecting their freedom, less orientated toward group solidarity, and more toward universal human rights.
Of course, this process, which was outlined by German sociologist Karl Mannheim in the early 20th Century, is not categorically applicable. Some groups do not evolve politically as they have advanced socially and economically; American Jews, for example, retain a devotion to “social justice” and in the majority vote for redistributive and interventionist social policies. And it is also true that with upward mobility and integration, groups lose their hold on members, with the less successful clinging to collectivist views.
Another factor, which has massively impacted the process, is Marxism, either explicit or implicit, taught by several generations of American university professors. This has left a widespread detritus of received beliefs as well as guilt about wealth and success. A recent survey found almost half of young people have a positive impression of socialism.
Indeed, the omnipotence of Marxist assumptions is so deeply engrained in educated Americans that they do not even recognize it, nor do they understand that the president they have elected holds Marxist views; instead they insist that naming his views as such is an ideological slur, rather than an empirical observation.
Among the members of any ascending group are those who are capable of transcending its prevailing ideology of seeking group benefits in deference to belief in constitutionally guaranteed individual rights and freedoms that put the onus of upward mobility on the individual, on his or her character, efforts, and natural gifts. Today, in America, there are women and members of all minorities who reject identity politics; who see efforts to secure their political support on the basis of sex or ethnicity as a patronizing “plantation politics” (typical of “machine politics”); who fear that interventionist social programs distort the mentalities and even retard the progress of members of minorities.
The hope for America’s future as a liberal society in the classical sense – a society in which freedom is its first and highest principle, a society where the citizens, not the state, are custodians of its moral values – lies with wise members of the very groups that have just opted for a statist program diminishing individual rights.
These vanguards hold the promise of regaining America’s sense of unity and purpose as a nation of free citizens with equal rights and opportunities protected by law, feeling responsible for themselves, and determined to reach out to all around the world who want the same.
Aaron Rhodes is a co-founder of the Freedom Rights Project. He was director of the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights between 1993-2007, and helped found the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran in 2008
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