Cultural Identity, Country Music, and Voting Behavior
Digby has an epiphany about the difficulty Democrats have in appealing to Red State voters while watching the CMA Awards and examing the lyrics of a Gretchen Wilson-Merle Haggard duet.
Interestingly, my roots are very much Southern and I technically still live in the South (Virginia’s DC suburbs) and like Merle Haggard quite a bit, yet find Gretchen Wilson and her grammatically “uncorrect” song quite annoying. Still, there’s no doubt that she and the likes of Toby Keith (who I also find grating) are wired into something real about the rural consciousness.
Digby seconds a notion that Chris Bowers has been developing for over a year:
[T]he electorate is, in general, non-ideological, not interested in policy, and generally unmoved by the day-to-day minutia of political events that, within the blogosphere, are treated as cataclysmic events. Sure, most people hold general political beliefs, but in general national voting habits are motivated by something else–something more basic.
This isn’t a startling revelation to political scientists by any means. But the implications are worth considering:
As we look for ways to motivate voters in November, we need to remember the powerful role that identity plays in political decision-making. As progressives, we shrug off concepts such as the “battle of civilizations,” but if you look closely at demographic data, maybe it is a battle of civilizations taking place after all. We may very well be living in an era of identity politics. Who knows, maybe every era of American politics is an era of identity politics.
There’s not much doubt about that. The candidate who polls the best on the insipid question “Cares about people like me” invariably wins.
Part of being perceived as caring, though, is a sense of authenticity that regular people can relate to. Guys like Al Gore and John Kerry, perhaps unfairly, struggle with this. Michelle Malkin recently had great fun at the expense of Gore and the Hollywood gliterati over their well-intentioned but tin eared approach to environmental activism. Gore may well be right on the policy (or, at least, in the idea that we need to take things seriously) but one can’t lead if one is perceived as a goofball.