April 5, 2008

Jacksonians vs Academics?

In The Democratic Tribes at War Michael Barone gives us something to think about. In discussing the geographical breakdown of the Clinton/Obama votes he writes:

In state after state -- from New Hampshire and Michigan to Texas and Ohio -- Obama runs unusually strongly in counties with large universities. Academics -- and I include here those who choose to live in university towns as well as those actually in or teaching school -- seem to find Obama particularly appealing.


Clinton's highest percentages come in counties with large numbers of Latinos and what I call Jacksonians. You can see the latter in counties in what is loosely called Appalachia -- southwest Virginia, southern Ohio, the north end of Georgia, non-metropolitan Tennessee, northern Alabama, northeast Mississippi, all of Arkansas, southern Missouri, eastern Oklahoma, east and central Texas.


What's behind these sharp divisions? You could sum it up by saying that Jacksonians are fighters and academics (and public employees) are not. Jacksonians fought fierce battles against Indians as they moved southwest; they have always made up a disproportionate share of the American military (and were on both sides in the Civil War).

As historian David Hackett Fischer writes in "Albion's Seed," they believe in natural liberty -- I'll leave you alone if you'll leave me alone, but if you attack my family or my country, I'll kill you. Academics are, to say the least, lightly represented in the American military, and in economic terms they tend to compete with the military for public dollars. They seek honor for the work of peace as fiercely as Jacksonians seek honor for the feats of war.
This explanation seems rather simplistic, though I can certainly identify with the section I highlighted above. I remember when my daughter was born and as I gazed at her across the delivery room I had a conscious thought that has stayed with me these twenty-four years: "I would kill for her." I also do prefer a "live and let live" ethos. I don't think it's the government's business to tell me how to conduct my private life. It's also the sentiment that I see all over the state, especially in rural Nevada where we make our home.

On the other hand, we are a community and need to learn to live together, support the community through our civic involvement and, yes, with our taxes.

Still, I consider myself an academic as well, though my life is not centered in academia. I am reasonably well-read, tend to really mull things around before coming to any conclusions, and I feel quite free to continue to explore other ideas even after it appears I've made up my mind. I detest war and celebrate those who work for peace. Still, I support Hillary for a variety of reasons not the least of which is her tenacity in the face of adversity which Barone takes note of in his article.

Barone concludes:
Polling suggests that the Democratic nominee may not be able to count on the losing candidate's tribes in November. Academics and young people and blacks may not turn out in extraordinary numbers for Clinton, as they have for Obama, and the upscale may prefer McCain to a tax increase.

Similarly, Jacksonians, the elderly, the downscale and Latinos may prefer the very Jacksonian McCain to Obama. All of which should worry the super-delegates who must determine who wins the Democrats' tribal war.
I think it may all come down to which of these groups feels most strongly tied to the larger tribe of the Democratic Party. Those ties have become weaker, especially since 2006, as Democratic leaders disappoint the rank and file time and time again.

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