John Simkin Posted August 23, 2004 Share Posted August 23, 2004 There was an interesting article by John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge in yesterday’s Sunday Times about American Conservatism. (It was an extract from their new book, The Right Nation: Why America is Different). The authors claim that America is the most conservative country in the western world. It points out that it is the only developed nation that does not have a full government-supported healthcare system and the only western democracy that does not provide child support to all families. The American people tolerates lower levels of government spending than other advanced countries. Combined with a tax system that favours the rich, this has resulted in greater inequalities than in other industrialised country. For example, one in six American households earned less than 35% of the median income. In Britain, one of Europe’s more unequal countries, the proportion of similarly disadvantaged households is one in twenty. These high levels of poverty has a dramatic impact on the crime-rate. Americans have the death penalty and strict sentencing laws: its imprisonment rate is five times that of Britain, the toughest sentencer in Europe. Most conservatives in American support the Republican Party. Unlike in other industrialised countries, political views have little to do with class or wealth. The best predictor of whether a white American votes Republican is not his or her income but how often he or she goes to church. In 2000 Bush won just 54% of the votes of those Americans who earned more than $100,000 a year; but he won 79% of the votes of those whites who went to church more than once a week. This probably helps to explain why low income Americans vote for politicians committed to reducing taxes for the rich. This enables Bush (a president’s son who was educated in elite schools) to successfully play the populist card. Twice as many Americans describe themselves as “conservative” (41%) as describe themselves as “liberal” (19). America definitely has more “conservatives” than other industrialised countries. However, this does not fully explain their electoral success. Conservatives in America are much better organized than other political groups. This is especially important in a country where around 50% don’t bother to vote. How different this is to America in the 1960s. Liberal administrations advocated the creation of a European-style welfare state (Great Society programme), imposed greater restrictions on firearms, mounted campaigns to outlaw executions, legalised abortion and introduced not just racial equality but positive discrimination in favour of minorities. When Barry Goldwater opposed these measures in 1964, he was beaten by a greater margin than anyone before or since. However, Lyndon Johnson’s prophecy, when he signed the Civil Rights Act in 1964, that he was “signing away the south for 50 years” proved accurate. Southern whites, who before had been loyal to the Democrats, now became passionate supporters of the Republicans. The conservative movement’s main crusade has been against big government. This has been a total failure. Government spending goes up every year (although less and less goes to those in real need). Although the polls suggest that John Kerry might win this year’s presidential election, it is unlikely to change too much. The Republicans are likely to retain control over both houses of Congress, most of the governorships and the majority of state legislatures. Anyway, the Democrats are still a relative conservative party by European standards. They rely for their cash on big business and wealthy individuals. As a result their policies will be aimed at the conservative voter. The chance of obtaining a “liberal” America seems pretty remote. Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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