E Unum Pluribus

 

Hiding-in-a-closetUK Conservatives had quite a good week–certainly better than the pollsters who predicted a Labour win or a hung parliament. Even exit polls didn’t suggest an out-and-out Tory majority. This raises the possibility that a significant number of people interviewed after voting lied about how they voted.

In a March 18, 2015, column in the Guardian, Alberto Nardelli suggested that the inherent difficulties in “designing the sample population, and the quality of the data available when doing so” were key to explaining why a near-landslide Likud victory in Israel’s recent election was not projected by exit polls. But he only obliquely considered the implication of the statement that the “quality of data” was bad because people simply didn’t tell the truth.

Granted, one or two swallows does not a summer make. But it’s worth wondering if something biases polling away from conservatives, and if so, if there are implications for the 2016 US elections.

Some personal insight may be illuminating.

I served as a political appointee in George W. Bush’s White House. I hold–on most issues, by most measures–a center-right perspective. I am also gay and have been open about this for nearly 30 years.

I mention this so to establish credibility when I say that I find it far more difficult socially to acknowledge that I’m conservative than to be openly gay (and many gay conservative friends would echo this sentiment). Even directing a policy office as an openly gay man, in a White House that took what I found to be a horrible position supporting a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage–an issue that ultimately spurred my resignation–I was never made to feel any personal opprobrium, judgment, or discrimination. No one ever said to me, “How can you, as a Republican, be gay?”

I found the world outside much harsher. Just recently, a colleague remarked in my presence that he could not understand how any gay person could be a Republican. I let it pass without rebuttal (more on that in a minute).

In the academy, where I work now, many simply seem to find it too difficult to imagine that someone could be openly gay and hope that the Supreme Court decides in favor of protecting same-sex marriage, yet simultaneously believe it a mistake to federalize health care and to gut our economy to prevent the possibility of man-made global warming, believe lower taxes and a smaller government offer the best hope of shrinking poverty, hold personal responsibility and a strong military to be our best hedges against an uncertain world, and see school choice and free enterprise as the best way to further opportunity for all to reach a better life. (In this habit of thought, the motivation to vote for McCain or Romney is attributed to racism, and opposition to Hilary Clinton to sexism.)

This failure of imagination has been reinforced by decades of a left-leaning E Unum Pluribus ethos that strives to break us up into competing interest groups–each with a pet social justice grievance or two that can only be righted by increased government intrusion and more progress toward public bankruptcy. The result is a kind of mass cognitive dissonance that explains the unimaginable by deeming anyone who falls out of lockstep progressive thinking as, at best, mentally ill (in my case, possessed of an internalized, self-hating homophobia) or, at worst, motivated by evil intentions.

This is where I think exit polling may have run into trouble.

I didn’t answer my colleague’s comment in small part because I knew the effort would be low-yield, but mostly because experience has taught me that it would also be high-risk. I knew that it could be quite unpleasant to out myself as a conservative and then feel myself judged a bad person by a group of strangers for the rest of what otherwise promised to be a nice, if obligatory, evening.

I suspect that like me, many voters who tipped for the Tories or Likud this year couldn’t anticipate any upside to admitting their true views to pollsters, and had had enough experience in what passes for the public marketplace of ideas to reflexively shade the truth.

There are 12 comments.

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  1. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller
    @AaronMiller

    Sad but true.

    It’s difficult for conservatives to walk the line between politely letting false ideas and accusations slide for the sake of harmony and being assertive enough to keep conservative arguments part of normal conversations without being similarly boorish.

    Once that battle is lost — once liberals succeed in suppressing conservative discussion and making liberal ideas seem like common sense — then the struggle becomes not to be fired, boycotted, sued, or ostracized for simply daring to utter traditional norms. The price of conservative speech is increasing.

    It’s becoming rare even to maintain deep friendships across party lines. I don’t mean casual acquaintances that watch movies or sports together and laugh late into the night. I mean friendships in which people can share their full selves.

    It goes to show: there can be no true peace without justice. We can only be good neighbors if both sides can speak and live freely.

    • #1
  2. DocJay Inactive
    DocJay
    @DocJay

    I have a gay conservative patient who gets shunned for his conservatism.  Tough road you walk yet I’m pleased to see you have been able to live openly.  I only wish society was as accepting of conservatives ;-)

    I think you have a point about those polls and folks who are scared to deal with conservative viewpoints.

    • #2
  3. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    I have long rejoiced whenever it turns out that people lie to pollsters.  It’s better when our political candidates are unable to be poll-driven.

    • #3
  4. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    It’s an endlessly upsetting thing to my gay and trans conservative and/ or Christian friends that their being gay or trans is far less of a problem to their church and political friends than their being conservative or Christian is to their liberal friends. The former is a bigotry that society prepares them for, the latter not so much.

    It’s a particular issue for trans friends; violence is a big part of the community’s concerns, and while ugly speech is a more widespread issue on the right, actual transphobic violence is almost exclusively limited to the left.

    • #4
  5. Devereaux Inactive
    Devereaux
    @Devereaux

    JoE has hit on one of the truths of the world today. Liberals are the rioters, the haters, the ones throwing disparaging insults. Just as a small example, note that there were a small but forceful group that caused a small riot to protest the electoral victory of the conservatives in England. Picture conservatives doing that.

    I expect that at the root of all this is the fact that most conservatives simply want to be left alone. While they may disagree with others, they don’t find such disagreement generally impinges upon them. So, eg. SSM may be viewed as morally wrong and a bad direction to take a society, but mostly they won’t be affected by it.

    Liberals, OTOH, simply believe they are right. It is a very Puritan view of the world, and it is not therefore surprising that our most vehement liberals are in the NE of the nation; out West where life is hard, there isn’t time or room for such self-delusion.

    • #5
  6. Ricochet Member
    Ricochet
    @DeepStateDoc

    Aaron Miller:Sad but true.

    It’s difficult for conservatives to walk the line between politely letting false ideas and accusations slide for the sake of harmony and being assertive enough to keep conservative arguments part of normal conversations without being similarly boorish.

    Once that battle is lost — once liberals succeed in suppressing conservative discussion and making liberal ideas seem like common sense — then the struggle becomes not to be fired, boycotted, sued, or ostracized for simply daring to utter traditional norms. The price of conservative speech is increasing.

    It’s becoming rare even to maintain deep friendships across party lines. I don’t mean casual acquaintances that watch movies or sports together and laugh late into the night. I mean friendships in which people can share their full selves.

    It goes to show: there can be no true peace without justice. We can only be good neighbors if both sides can speak and live freely.

    The price of conservative speech is increasing.   

    Indeed.  Conservative thinking or, actually any thinking that is not orthodox left, is considered to be actual violence on more and more campuses

    • #6
  7. J Flei Inactive
    J Flei
    @Solon

    To thine own self be true, let the haters hate, that’s how I see it.

    By the way, in Latin, you have to change the case of the words, not the order, or it just means the same thing.  The title should be ‘E Uno Plures’ i think.

    • #7
  8. Grendel Member
    Grendel
    @Grendel

    Solon JFlei:To thine own self be true, let the haters hate, that’s how I see it.

    By the way, in Latin, you have to change the case of the words, not the order, or it just means the same thing. The title should be ‘E Uno Plures’ i think.

    Ex uno plures.

    E/Ex is like A/An in English.  The form is determined by whether the next word begins with a consonant or vowel.

    The one-position-determines-all totalitarians described in the OP are probably also confounded that your center-right friends might disagree with you on gay marriage, and even believe that homosexual activity is fornication, and yet work amicably with you on the rest of the agenda for a free society that you cite.

    • #8
  9. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    Solon JFlei:To thine own self be true, let the haters hate, that’s how I see it.

    By the way, in Latin, you have to change the case of the words, not the order, or it just means the same thing. The title should be ‘E Uno Plures’ i think.

    I think I’d prefer that language be used in a way that maximized comprehension than in a way that was pleasing to the wise. I don’t think that anyone could have failed to understand the meaning here, but if DrJoe had used the correct language, relatively few people would have understood.

    • #9
  10. aardo vozz Member
    aardo vozz
    @aardovozz

    In a world where the politicians lie to the voters,why shouldn’t the voters lie to the politicians?

    • #10
  11. Ricochet Member
    Ricochet
    @DeepStateDoc

    James Of England:

    Solon JFlei:To thine own self be true, let the haters hate, that’s how I see it.

    By the way, in Latin, you have to change the case of the words, not the order, or it just means the same thing. The title should be ‘E Uno Plures’ i think.

    I think I’d prefer that language be used in a way that maximized comprehension than in a way that was pleasing to the wise. I don’t think that anyone could have failed to understand the meaning here, but if DrJoe had used the correct language, relatively few people would have understood.

    My Jesuit high school latin teacher would be horrified but the truth is that I thought the point would be best made using improper Latin grammar.

    • #11
  12. Ricochet Member
    Ricochet
    @DeepStateDoc

    Grendel:

    Solon JFlei:To thine own self be true, let the haters hate, that’s how I see it.

    By the way, in Latin, you have to change the case of the words, not the order, or it just means the same thing. The title should be ‘E Uno Plures’ i think.

    Ex uno plures.

    E/Ex is like A/An in English. The form is determined by whether the next word begins with a consonant or vowel.

    The one-position-determines-all totalitarians described in the OP are probably also confounded that your center-right friends might disagree with you on gay marriage, and even believe that homosexual activity is fornication, and yet work amicably with you on the rest of the agenda for a free society that you cite.

    When I visit my husband’s family in a small rural town in the deep South we often attend Sunday services at their evangelical Protestant church.  We have no illusions that we have big disagreements with most of the congregation on issues of marriage and even homosexuality itself.  What we appreciate, however, is that despite this we are always made to feel welcome, loved and part of the flock. QED

    • #12
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