Monday, August 06, 2007

Retro vs. Metro

Prior to the last election cycle, a website that sought to explain the division in American electoral politics cropped up.

Retro America’s commonalities are religiosity; social conservatism; an economic base of extraction industries, agriculture, nondurable goods manufacturing, military installations; and a commitment to the Republican Party.

Metro American states are loosely held together by common interests in promoting economic modernity and by shared cultural values marked by religious moderation; vibrant popular cultures; a tolerance of differences of class, ethnicity, tastes, and sexual orientation; and a tendency to vote Democratic.

In a great macro sense, it explains a lot. But even in Retro America, things are starting to change. Voting patterns based on old "extraction" industries are not as strong as they once were. The advent of the internet has made even people in rural America aware of the need for their children to have a better education and understanding of the world around them. And many people from rural areas are not as keen on the war in Iraq as they once were. The reality of the loss of loved ones in a foreign land with no perception of greater security for the country is eroding their faith in the President who says it's necessary to stop terrorism.

The economic hardships brought on by massive debts -- from medical debts to mortgages -- are breaking down the commitment to conservative free market political alliances.

Certainly these people are not becoming "Metro" in their worldview. They still have their traditional values; but there is also a realization that their children have to eat. With their relatively low incomes getting eaten away by real inflation and debt, more and more Retro voters are starting to question the wisdom of continuing to vote with a political party that supports narrow wealthy interests -- especially when it is against their own interests.

Traditionally, the conventional wisdom says that people vote their pocketbook. Does this explain why Metro political groups seem to be gaining strength? It also seems to be true that progressive faith-based organizations seem to be winning the war of ideas within the politically active faithful.

All in all, the Retro vs. Metro explanation of American political voting patterns is not as strong as it once was.

No comments: