Why Conservative Middle America Is So Angry

In response to my last couple of posts—which implored Americans to vote for Barack Obama in the upcoming US Presidential election—those who disagree with me (both here and via email) often put forward arguments that basically amount to one thing: that I should have a better understanding of conservative “middle America” (of course, when they say “conservative” in this case, what they really mean is “Christian fundamentalist”). Indeed, they seem to think that everyone across the world should try to gain a better understanding of them. Well for one thing, understanding is a two way street: one of the biggest problems the outside world has with fundamentalist middle America is their apparent unwillingness to try and understand the rest of the world, and the effect of US foreign policy on it. Besides, they seem to be confusing understanding with agreement—just because we don’t agree with them, doesn’t mean we don’t understand them. Indeed, I suspect the majority of people understand fundamentalist middle America quite well, as they are—let’s face it—so simple.

They believe in the complete, literal word of the Bible, and that those who don’t are “evil”, or at least “misguided”. Hence they always vote Republican, because only Republicans are willing to accept the literal “truth” of the Bible. They also think America is the greatest country in the world, and that everybody else thinks (or at least should think) the same way. This leads them to think that the US has a God given right to impose its values on the rest of the world, and that anybody who disagrees with this must be “anti-American”. There is no room for anyone to criticise any aspect of US foreign policy, because the US can do no wrong, as it is on a mission from God. In short, they have a very simplistic, black and white, good versus evil, “you’re either with us or against us” kind of attitude to the world. Yet the real world simply does not work this way, and this not only creates problems for people outside of middle America, but ironically—indeed, especially—also for middle America itself.

Take for example the fact that middle America is so famously “angry”. Why should they be, when they think they live in the greatest place on earth, God is on their side, their party of choice is in office, and nobody else has the military power to argue with them? I think it’s because they suffer at least as much from the economic mismanagement of the current administration as everyone else, with their tax breaks for the rich (so ordinary people effectively have to pay more tax, or suffer from poorer government services and infrastructure), as well a record oil prices (which are a direct result of the war in Iraq) and all the consequences of an astronomical, all-time record national debt. Not to mention the fact that many people’s mortgages are (or at least in danger of becoming) worth more than their houses. And on top of the economic problems, many of them have children who sacrificed their lives for their country (and as such their God as well). Anybody else would simply vote the Republicans out of office, but fundamentalist middle Americans can’t do this, because they think it would be against God’s will. Yet God isn’t giving them the living standards and security they actually want, and he is sending their children out to die. But to think that God isn’t doing the right thing by them would be unthinkable, so they can’t even consciously recognise their real problems, let alone do anything about them. So they lash out at whoever they have previously defined as their enemy, blaming them for all of their problems. But this just leads to unnecessary and counterproductive conflict between themselves and everybody else, because they are lashing out at the wrong people, instead of doing something about the real causes of their problems. No wonder they’re so angry!

Here yet again is a demonstration of the enormous dangers of blind faith, brought about by religion. It makes middle America unable to solve its own problems, while at the same time forcing them to oppose those who may actually be able to help them. By ending the Iraq war, Barack Obama would reduce America’s astronomical debt, and most importantly, save the children of all Americans from needlessly and senselessly sacrificing their lives in an unwinable war. Yet for fundamentalist middle Americans, voting for Obama would be unthinkable, for the very simple reason that he is a Democrat (even though he is also a Christian). And shamefully, it has to be said, they very likely wouldn’t vote for him because he’s black: when people have an overly simplistic, black and white view of the world, racism is inevitable, as they cannot accept those who look, think or act differently to them—black people are, well, black, while fundamentalist middle Americans are, of course, white. So instead of supporting Obama’s policies to try and solve their problems, they have to demonise him instead—witness the phoney outrage over Obama’s “lipstick on a pig” comments I mentioned in my last post, for example. Not only have fundamentalist middle Americans blindly accepted the blatant falsehood fabricated by the Republicans that Obama was insulting Sarah Palin, they have actually actively assisted in spreading this lie. Here too is an example of my contention that these people don’t really believe what they think they believe: if they really did, then why would they have to lie to support it?

Perhaps the greatest irony of all is that this overly simplistic, black and white, good versus evil, “you’re either with us or against us” attitude is in direct contradiction to the teachings of their Lord Jesus Christ. What about “thuo shalt not lie”? “Love thy neighbour”? “Turn the other cheek”? Or “let he who is without sin cast the first stone”? Clearly this philosophy indicates that there is good and bad in everyone, and that we should be understanding and tolerant toward the misdeeds of others. No one is purely good, or purely evil. We all make mistakes. Yet fundamentalist middle Americans think those who share their simplistic beliefs are “all good”, and those who don’t are “all evil”. In the case of US political parties, this means the Republicans are “all good” (no matter how much damage they do), and the Democrats are “all bad”, no matter how beneficial their policies may be. They also think America can’t possibly have ever done anything wrong, so that anyone who dares to suggest they’ve done anything wrong is labelled as “anti-American”. This way of thinking is in direct, total and utter opposition of the teachings of their Lord Jesus Christ. This once again demonstrates the sort of utterly contradictory and delusional thinking that fundamentalist religious belief leads to.

No matter how much I hate George Bush and the policies of his administration, I honestly do not believe he is evil. I think he is simply a victim of the same religiously derived self delusion and ignorance that fundamentalist middle Americans themselves are. And an ignorant, deluded person should not be allowed anywhere near the White House. I am happy to say that I do not believe John McCain is ignorant or deluded, but I certainly think Sarah Palin is, as are many other Republicans in positions of power. I don’t know if it’s possible for me to reach any conservative middle Americans reading this, but in the vain hope that I might be able to, please consider what I have written here very carefully, and seriously consider voting for Barack Obama. You will be doing yourself, other middle Americans and the rest of the world a huge favour, for which we will all be very grateful. After all, the price of democracy is eternal vigilance, but there can be no accountability when your vote is predetermined by your religious beliefs—in which case, America might as well become a monarchy.

Ultimately, I think this is a great example of my contention that blind religious faith actually makes people less happy, rather than more happy as is commonly supposed. People need to feel they are in control of their own destiny, but they can’t do that when they constantly have to pander to God’s will. That’s why we invented democracy in the first place: so we can exercise our own free will, not God’s.

P.S. I’m sure some fundamentalist Christians who read this will try to say it is unfair I am criticising them, as fundmantalist Muslims are so much worse. Well yes, I agree that fundamentalist Islam is currently the most oppressive religion of them all. But sadly, I am unable to comment on elections in conservative Muslim countries, as they don’t have them—and they likely wouldn’t be able to read my blog in any case. I am commenting on the US Presidential election as I would like to think I may be able to have a positive influence on the outcome—and my audience is largely American as well.

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Hmm… George Bush may or may not be evil, but Dick Cheney certainly is, and I’m not joking! Cheney first came to national prominence as the calm, apparently rational Congressman from Wyoming, who gave the administration’s spin on everything during Watergate. To him, the disaster of Watergate is not that Nixon trampled on the Constitution and broke the law, but that he DIDN’T get away with it! He’s been on the WRONG side of just about every issue since then. And people fall for his soft-sell routine. I would not be surprised to learn that he eats babies for breakfast.
What you say about blind faith makes much sense, but it has just as much to do with “bread and circuses” as it does with religion. Since I have moved into “Bush country” about two years ago, I have met an awful lot of people who care only about football, NASCAR racing, hunting, fishing, Jesus Christ, “family values” and chewing tobacco, in that order. If you provide people with enough distractions that they care about, they’ll ignore the fact that you’re scamming them. It’s why magicians always hire sexy girls wearing brief costumes to be their stage assistants: to DISTRACT the audience. The hand IS quicker than the eye, especially if the eye is already wandering.
The attention span and ability to concentrate for prolonged periods of most Americans has been dwindling for a couple of generations now. There are a lot of factors which play into this, but no one wants me to go through that litany here. Suffice it to say that in an era in which most Americans would rather watch “reality TV” than read a book, you can sell just about anything with a pretty girl and enough distractions… even bald-faced lies… and the McCain campaign is well aware of this.
As for “understanding conservative middle-America,” the Republicans again understand that if you appeal strongly enough to their fears, you can get them to vote against their own best interests, as George Bush did in 2004. This time The Fear is not about terrorists, but Fear of a Black Man, let alone a black man as president. I know enough of my neighbors to know that all too many of them are looking for any excuse they can latch onto to vote against the Negro. The very fact that Barack Obama is his party’s nominee means we have made great strides regarding racism in America, but it is still a very potent force in American politics and American life. Before we go patting ourselves on the back about how much progress we’ve made, we should do something that proves it!

  
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Otis R. Needleman

Otis R. Needleman’s avatar

Sachiko, never have I seen so much say so little. Unless you have visited the American heartland, you are just verbally masturbating. You haven’t a clue. Yes, rightly or wrongly many will not vote for Obama due to his race. Happily, there are many other fine black Americans who are FAR more qualified to be President, such as Representative J.C. Watts and Condoleezza Rice. As a nation, we don’t know enough about Obama to be comfortable with him, and what little we know is unsettling. I find your comments about Governor Palin ludicrous. I think you must be jealous. Sarah Palin is a wife, a mother of five, someone who has done something besides modeling for a living, and a woman who has been elected governor of an American state. And your comment about America doing the world a favor by electing Obama is rather self-serving, don’t you think? America has done the world plenty of favors, and, as usual, is ALWAYS cursed. Perhaps this is why many conservative Americans throughout the country have such a low opinion of the rest of the world – no matter what we do, good or bad, the rest of the world curses us, so why care about the rest of the world? A tsunami? Hey, they hate us anyway; keep those donations in your pocket. Famine? We didn’t cause it and they’ll just steal the aid anyway. Face it..when Hurricane Ike hit the response from the rest of the world was…zero. So don’t try to tell us who to vote for, and we’ll mind our own business when disaster strikes in the rest of the world. Fair enough?

  
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Originally Posted By Otis R. Needleman
As a nation, we don’t know enough about Obama to be comfortable with him, and what little we know is unsettling.

What’s so unsettling? That he’s a black democrat who has a real chance of becoming president?

I find your comments about Governor Palin ludicrous. I think you must be jealous. Sarah Palin is a wife, a mother of five, someone who has done something besides modeling for a living, and a woman who has been elected governor of an American state.

All I said was that she is ignorant and deluded, just like I say about George Bush and any other creationist. So are you trying to say I’m jealous of every female creationist? Why only females?

And your comment about America doing the world a favor by electing Obama is rather self-serving, don’t you think? America has done the world plenty of favors, and, as usual, is ALWAYS cursed. Perhaps this is why many conservative Americans throughout the country have such a low opinion of the rest of the world – no matter what we do, good or bad, the rest of the world curses us, so why care about the rest of the world?

You are exactly proving the point of my article here! Why does what’s good for you have to be against what’s good for the rest of the world? Why does it always have to be conservative middle America vs. the rest of the world? We’re all in this together you know – we should stand together!

You are also proving my point that nobody can criticise you in any way without being accused of blaming you for everything, which neither I nor anybody else is doing. As my article says (and indeed, as Jesus said), there is good and bad in everyone (including America), and everyone makes mistakes (including America). You need to learn to recognise – and take responsibility for – your mistakes, so you can correct them. It will make things better for you, and the rest of the world too.

  
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Originally Posted By Firefly
Suffice it to say that in an era in which most Americans would rather watch “reality TV” than read a book, you can sell just about anything with a pretty girl and enough distractions…

Yep – I hope to demonstrate that you can sell something good and positive with a pretty girl too. :-)

And I agree that Dick Cheney really does seem to know what he’s doing – perhaps he really is evil…

  
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Yep – I hope to demonstrate that you can sell something good and positive with a pretty girl too. :-)

Give us something good & positive, and I’m sure you can sell it to us.

Tsk, tsk, tsk—I’m guessing that was a hollow compliment you offered me on your last post, after all. To ask if you could pick my brain and then spew forth this diatribe against conservative middle Americans, lumping them into one big group, with language so lacking in substance it could scarcely even be called piffle. I am truly disappointed.

I honestly don’t know where to begin to start with the corrections. As I have said before, you find ignorami of those sorts in conservative middle america, but you find just as many and just as ignorant people on both sides of the aisle. I did mention that middle america is angry because no one tries to understand them, and you just proved my point with that oversimplified view of social conservativism. We know that understanding is a two way street, that’s why we are angry that we make all the effort to understand others, and people will regurgitate that same old line “You’re from Iowa/Alabama/Nebraska, etc? Oh, why do I care what you have to say, you’re just a bible thumping redneck!”

To say that our anger is from the economic mismanagement of the administration is naive. If you take a look at the red states, we’re mostly agricultural in our output. We are naturally going to be a lot poorer than the industry and information tech rich coastal areas, that is just a fact of agricultural based commodities. The benefit of that is, is that our exports aren’t as vulnerable to price swings. Also, since land is much more plentiful in the midwest, housing prices are much cheaper, meaning people are less impacted by the mortgage crisis.

The only way that midwesterners are financially impacted by the current situation is oil prices, and getting out of Iraq is not going to be some quick fix to that. If you haven’t been paying attention to the market, the price of oil has plummeted from a high of $147/barrel to $92/barrel over the last 3 months. We are still in Iraq. The reason is there has been a reduction in demand (In part due to China increasing fuel prices domestically), as well as a strengthening in the US dollar (in which oil is priced) against foreign currencies.

Let’s get back to your comment about bible thumpers, now, shall we? It is worth noting that McCain is not one, and he managed to win the Republican nomination over Mike Huckabee, a Baptist minister, creationist & southern governor. If you look at a large number of the states McCain won were in the south (FL, SC, MS, NC, KY, TX), prime bible belt territory, and many states there he didn’t win, he finished a close second. This shows that a majority of Republicans & mid-American conservatives are not what you think they are. He only chose Palin because he is afraid of losing the race without christian conservative support. I will agree, however, that christian conservatives need to be jettisoned from the party, as they are holding the rest of us back.

As for your comment about fear of a black man, no doubt some might vote that way, but that was the exact same tactic Clinton tried to use against Obama in the primaries. You seem to ignore the fact that Colin Powell, Condoleeza Rice, JC Watts & other prominent African-Americans are republicans. I find it funny that when a black person rises to prominence on the left side of the aisle, it is “a shining example of what is possible” and “they are a true credit to their race,” but when they rise up as republicans, it is always “they are just stooges for conservatives” Why can’t people on the left be happy for someone who achieves a position of importance, regardless of their political affiliation? I always wonder if Colin Powell had managed to run and gain the nomination, what would the left use to combat his popularity? You also seem to think that all liberals will vote for Obama, & wouldn’t be scared off by his race. What makes you think that, blind faith? I might remind you that Robert Byrd, the current president pro tempore of the senate, was a KKK member in his youth, and Fred Phelps, leader of the Westboro baptist church, is a registered Democrat?

Sorry I’ve gone on for so long, but it just had to be said. I’m sure I left out some, but I don’t want to occupy all of your website.

  
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Hi Sagredo,

I am very sorry to hear you have taken my post in the way that you have, as it seemed to me you were only a conservative fiscally – you appear to be quite progressive socially, even though you are a republican. I thought it would be very clear that you are not the kind of person I am talking about, which is why I deliberately used the phrase “conservative middle America” (instead of just “middle America” as people usually do), to make it clear I was not talking about everyone in middle America. If you can think of a better way to describe the group of people I’m talking about, please tell me – I did think of the obvious “conservative Christian middle America”, but that’s just such a mouthful! Using such terms is necessary for a discussion like this one, but they will always have limitations.

I will say this though: I think it is always the people at the lower end of the socio-economic scale who suffer the most from economic mismanagement, and $92 a barrell is still a hell of a lot more than oil cost before the Iraq war. I also find it hard to understand why a fiscal conservative like yourself would vote for the neo-cons anyway, as it seems to me the Clinton administration was far more fiscally responsible, turning around the debt left behind by the previous Bush administration, only to have it brought back up to record levels by the current Bush administration. Please explain!

  
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I just want to tell every one that In thing no one is better for the post of USA present but one which I like most and his name is Bill Clinton

  
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Alright – I have given a lot of thought to Sagredo’s criticisms, and racked my brains to try and think of a better way to describe the group of people I’m talking about. Although they are almost always referred to as simply “middle America” by the media, I did want to make it clear that I knew not everyone in middle America thought this way, hence my original use of the phrase “conservative middle America”. But it seems that even this was not specific enough, as many relatively moderate republican voters like Sagredo still consider themselves “conservative”. So I have changed the wording throughout most of my article to “fundamentalist middle America”, and added a sentence explaining this in the first paragraph. I have also added a few extra sentences to the end, to sum up and clarify my argument that middle America’s problems are a consequence of blind religious faith.

  
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Oh yes: as to why the non-fundamentalist “conservatives” like Sagredo are angry, I suspect it’s because – by calling themselves “conservative” middle Americans – they are lumped together with the fundamentalists, as indeed he thought I was doing in my article. I’m sure this would piss me off too! However, I wouldn’t call myself a conservative – I’d probably say I am a “moderate republican”.

  
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Dear Sachiko,

As an american, I always appreciate being able to speak to foreigners like yourself and hearing their views on my country. I have mostly met progressive intelligent and secular people from Europe and Hong Kong and Taiwan. I agree with you generally about this election – and no, not just because you’re hot :)

I agree with you that while America has done some benevolent things like the Marshall Plan, we have also exported assassinations and genocide to other countries(Phillipines, Iran, Indonesia, Vietnam, Latin America etc) in the name of certain business interests, and of course this affects you and everyone else. I’m impressed that you care enough to follow this election and read up on world events. Most people in my country and in the world seem to be too apathetic and lazy to study these issues and form opinions of their own.

I understand that fundamentalist christianity is a big problem in this country but I’m constantly surprised by secular right wing republicans who still support bush(including my father!). They don’t buy the religious b.s. but they still support him for different reactionary reasons.

But I’m also don’t support obama. Are you aware that Obama’s foreign policy advisor is Zbigniew Brzezinski? This does not encourage me at all. I don’t believe that obama and his team will pull out of Iraq. I believe his betrayal of Pastor Wright was pathetic and shows his true colors: he’s a spineless opportunist.

Please tell me what you think.

  
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Originally Posted By Doug Graves
But I’m also don’t support obama. Are you aware that Obama’s foreign policy advisor is Zbigniew Brzezinski? This does not encourage me at all. I don’t believe that obama and his team will pull out of Iraq. I believe his betrayal of Pastor Wright was pathetic and shows his true colors: he’s a spineless opportunist.

I too was disappointed when Obama decried Pastor Wright’s comments, but I can’t say I blame him – I think he did what he felt he had to do politically. This whole episode was a very sad reflection of the US media’s handling of politics, and the kind of personal smearing that always seems to sideline US elections, which Obama had no choice but to defuse. He has made a commitment to getting the US out of Iraq, and I think we have to take him at his word – after all, the alternative is a promise to stay there! There hasn’t been any discussion in the Australian media of Zbigniew Brzezinski, so I don’t know much about him. Can you or one of my other well informed readers tell me a little more?

  
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Oh yes: I too am constantly amazed by secular Bush supporters – there’s the fiscal conservatives like Sagredo (who I can somehow understand but strongly disagree with, especially as the neo-cons are anything but fiscally conservative), but secular people who are reactionary Bush supporters are really hard to fathom. If anybody can help me to understand them, please post your thoughts here!

  
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Sachiko,

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zbigniew_Brzezinski

Brzezinski was president Carter’s national security advisor. in my opinion he is a ruthless “one-world” intellectual who supports military aggression in order to open up countries for exploitation by global corporations

for obama’s exit strategy for iraq i recommend reading http://www.politico.com/blogs/bensmith/0308/Power_on_Obamas_Iraq_plan_best_case_scenario.html

  
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Sachiko,
as for the secular bush-supporting republicans, they are either blind republican-voting people(usually because it’s their family’s tradition) or they are very anti-islam and anti-arab and want extreme military measures to be taken against what they perceive as anti-american arab countries.

  
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Hi Doug,

Thanks for the links! It seems that although Brzezinski was hawkish by democrat standards, he still isn’t any comparison to the neo-cons, and at the end of the day, the foreign policy of the Carter administration was still far better than that of the Bush administration. Also, I’ve noticed that Obama likes to choose people who do not necessarily share his own views (witness his choice of Joe Biden as VP), so that he can have the benefit of alternative points of view, which I think is admirable (contrast this to the “tell me what I want to hear” attitude of the Bush adminsitration).

Regarding his exit startegy from Iraq, I think this is simply a sad reflection of the fact that the US has made a huge mess there, and even with the best of intentions, getting out will be very difficult.

About secular republicans, I think you are right: some do just vote for them because of their family tradition, and it is sadly true that secular people can still be rabid anti-Islam/anti-Arab extremists.

  
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Dear Sachiko,

You’re still a Goddess and I worship you but …. ;)

No matter how much these facts are ignored in the interest of having hope for change, Obama’s another lying puppet opportunist who will sell out anyone and anything(like pastor wright his personal friend and spiritual advisor for how many years?) and I think it’s obvious he will do this same thing on Iraq, the economy and many other important issues. And people like Brezizinski are extremely creepy and in many ways they’re just as bad as the neo-cons and the whole bush/cheney team.

I believe that in the end Obama and McCain serve the same masters and will screw things up in the same manner. In some ways Obama’s worse, his lies and empty rhetoric are giving false hope to naive misguided people. this can be more demoralizing and damaging than the more blatant and in your face corruption of McCain and other republicans. A choice between these two is no choice at all in my opinion.

  
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Hi Doug,

I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree on this one! I think it is abundantly clear that Obama is a far better alternative than the neo-cons – I mean, let’s face it, who wouldn’t be? He surely isn’t perfect, but the sad reality of politics is that a lot of competing interests have to be served. And at the very least, he isn’t a religious fundamentalist looking for an excuse to bring about the end of the world.

I think one of the big problems we liberals have in advancing our political agenda is that we are, by nature, free thinking individuals, and we like to vote accordingly (or even not vote at all). But on the conservative side, they’ll all be lining up behind the ballot box to return the republicans to office. I think we have to learn to compromise in the short term, so we have a better chance of advancing the political agenda we really want in the long term. We really can’t afford to be too idealistic about this.

  
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A few more points I’d like to add:

1) The republicans have openly stated their intention to appoint judges to overturn Roe vs. Wade, so every time they’re re-elected, we are running the risk of abortion becoming illegal in the US.

2) Ditto for the teaching of creationism in sciece class, which should greatly concern all atheists.

3) Just as Obama had to decry Pastor Wright’s comments for political reasons, so he will have to answer to his election promises for political reasons. Even if he is nothing but a cynical politician, he knows that if he wants to be re-elected, he will have to at least make it look as though he’s following through on his election platform. This is still a whole lot better than a continuation of the worst foreign policy in US history – no matter how bad Brzezinski might be, the foreign policy of his previous tenure was still far better than what we have now, with an openly illegal foreign invasion.

  
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@Sachiko

Thank you to Sachiko for making that edit, you are right, I do get miffed when lumped in with all the religious right wingers. I think they are a cancer on the republican party. As for some of the other comments, I’m a conservative by choice – my parents are dyed in the wool liberals, have been since before I was born. Ironic I was born into a liberal family in Iowa, and had to move out to LA to become a conservative. Secondly, I never said I support Bush. I’ve never voted for the man. Just because I am registered as a republican does not preclude me from voting for democrats in the general election. I simply vote that way as they were the lesser of two evils, in an almost literal sense in the last two elections. I support fiscal conservatives, like the good old republicans: TR, Ike, Reagan, etc. I wish the republican party would get back to its roots.

  
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Hi Sagredo,

I’m glad we were able to clear up our little misunderstaning. :-)

You are certainly an interesting character – you seem to turn all the usual preconceived notions about US politics on their head! Anyway, I hope you can continue to give us your input in future.

  
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Originally Posted By Sagredo
Secondly, I never said I support Bush. I’ve never voted for the man. Just because I am registered as a republican does not preclude me from voting for democrats in the general election. I simply vote that way as they were the lesser of two evils, in an almost literal sense in the last two elections.

I think this is a reflection of my philosophy on elections: they may not necessarily give us who we want to vote for, but it is often necessary to vote against one of the candidates. And this is certainly how I feel about the religious right and the neo-cons, who sadly now dominate the republican party.

  
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You’re right on that count. I think it is greatly due to the electoral college in the US. It limits the growth of any potentially viable third party, which means the two existing major parties can be as slow to change as they want to be. If the people were allowed direct elections, then candidates would have to appeal to the wider population, not specific voting blocks, allowing for more parties to gain prominence. Moderate republicans wouldn’t tolerate the religious right anymore, we can get back to our basic principles of fiscal responsibility and civic duty. Either that, or we would be able to leave the party all together & become libertarians.

  
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