April 16, 2008

Is religion the opiate of the Rust Belt masses?

One of the oddities of Obama's remarks about how Pennsylvania's bitter small town losers are taking refuge in conservative religion is how factually off base it is. The heartland of the flourishing conservative Protestantism in the U.S. is not the declining Rust Belt but the relatively fast-growing South.

What's distinctive about the Rust Belt religiously is what a sizable fraction voters, especially non-urbanites, are Catholics, whether Roman or Orthodox (as in the movie "The Deer Hunter," which, by the way, showed that back when the heavy industry towns of Pennsylvania were booming in the 1960s, guys still liked guns). Judging from enrollment at Catholic schools, which has been steadily declining despite the huge influx from Mexico, Catholicism is not succeeding at present at being a refuge for either the economic losers or winners.

For example, in the 2004 election, in which economically-declining Pennsylvania voted for Kerry while economically-growing Georgia voted for Bush, 35% of Pennsylvania voters were Catholics versus only 10% of Georgia voters. Only 13% of Pennsylvania voters identified themselves as white conservative Protestants vs. 26% of Georgia voters.

From the perspective of Obama and his San Francisco supporters, the problem with Pennsylvania and Ohio is not religion, but that, due to high union membership, there are still a lot of white blue collar guys who vote in the Democratic primaries. In contrast, Obama could sweep the South Carolina Democratic primary because, due to low unionization, almost all the white blue collar guys vote in the GOP primary.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

19 comments:

JUms24 said...

With the Vatican tending to steer clear of politics, and Protestant ministers making their political opinions known at least on occasion, it makes more sense to look on the Protestant side for religious motivations in voting. The reason Obama is looking for it is that he figures, since everyone who votes for him has a religious or crypto-religious to do so, everyone who opposes him must be the same. If he said "the Pope started a whispering campaign against me" everyone would laugh at him. In contrast, because of a few conservative ministers expressing antisocialist, pro-American opinions now and again, his "clinging to religion" language has considerable appeal to his faux-pacifist, nominally agnostic cultlike following.

It waits to be seen how long it will take him to declare Obamania the One True Religion, and to condemn Christianity as witchcraft.

Sleep said...

All I want to say is that I think the hardcore Clinton supporters in Pennsylvania, Indiana, etc are not actual Clinton supporters at all. They will by and large defect to McCain when the election rolls around even if Clinton somehow does get nominated. The reason they are voting for Clinton is because right now, the Democrat contest is the only one there is and they are conservatives, so they are voting for the more conservative candidate.

Perhaps Obama was somehow trying to reach these people and turn them over to his side but misspoke terribly.

Anonymous said...

Growing up in the heart of the
rust-belt (Northern Ohio), the only people I remember being obsessed with religion were transplants from the most backward parts of the South-Mississippi valley blacks and Appalachian whites. They don't just 'cling to religion'; they belong to outlandish Prostestant sects whose services and belief system resemble something out of an H.P. Lovecraft novel...they divide their time between marginal employment and their alcohol/crack/meth habits...they send their social security checks to shyster preachers like Ernest
Angsley...they don't read or write and despise people who do...They get blind drunk or stoned and shoot anything that moves, more often people than deer...their political beliefs-if they have any-are an incoherent jumble of paranoid conspiracy theories that would make Oliver Stone blush. They are only 10% of the region's
population, but that is enough to ensure that smart people will stay
the hell out and the rust-belt will NEVER recover. Whether McCain or Obama or Harry Belafonte becomes president, it won't make a dime's worth of difference to the rustbelt.

Anonymous said...

Having done 12 years of Catholic school, my impression is Catholicism functions in mainstream psychic life as effetely and substancelessly as the the Democratic Party. By that comparison, Southern Protestants are the moveon.org liberals vs. the Democrats. They may be insane, but they have some vigor.

Catholicism was cool when it was in Latin, and about torture and suffering and God's incomprehensibility. Back then, you could attract heterosexual priests.

It's "God: Obviously, Look Around: What's Not to Fear?" vs. "Catholicism: Wow!" They sold out. It used to be about the music. Now they try to weasel out of explaining God causing suffering. He's a sitcom dad. Pitiful on so many levels. They used to at least tap into mystical and powerful mental territory. Now it's a bona fide joke.

"Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" has some artistic merit. You had some of the smartest people in the world working in theology, historically. Modern Catholicism is watered down to nothing. They even have the priests talk to the congregation, like Microsoft copying Google lamely.

testing99 said...

Steve -- my family is from PA. I've heard stories going back to the 90's -- 1890's (several generations passed on, bear in mind) that people back then liked their guns and Catholicism just fine. Irish (my own background), Hungarian, German, etc.

The problem with Obama is more class/sectionalism than anything else. He's at the Getty Mansion. Talking to rich heirs and Dot-Com whatevers and so on. Guys who are mega-rich and VERY socially liberal. Who's entire existence is not predicated on earning money but as Larry David showed on Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm, being higher status than the next guy. Stuff White People like on steroids. Think David Geffen and Arianna Huffington on his yacht in Tahiti.

Of course Obama's audience hates, fears, loathes, detests the average working person in PA. They're like Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy learning to her horror that the cars at her Private Chapel belonged to the servants. "What's the point of being rich if ordinary people have nice things too?"

Rich people have a huge problem. Ordinary people have nice things too. So they conduct constant strategies to look down on them. Barack Hussein Obama among them.

He's toast. Come November.

William said...

Obama's bitter remarks were wrong in a lot of was, but they way in which they are most wrong is that nearly all of the truly bitter voters are pretty solidly in the Democratic column. They aren't the Rpeublicans he seems to think they are.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to know what preceeded Obama's remark that it is political frustration that drives fly-over hicks into the evils of God, guns, racism and xenophobia (and thus away from Obama's secular PC elitism with it's distinctive flavors of black racism and open boarders).

Was he defending/explaining why he does so poorly in key general election swing states like OH and PA? Did some SF oligarch note that if Hillary does better in these key deciding states perhaps she should be the Dem nominee if they want to beat McCain?

The quote doesn't seem like something an intelligent political animal like Obama would voluntarily raise unless pressed.

Lawful Neutral said...

People keep saying Obama will lose the general. Well folks, scope out tradesports.com, or one of the other betting sites, and take a gander at those odds. People who put their money where their mouth is disagree by a wide margin, and if you really think they're so wrong, you can take their money.

testing99 said...

Obama is not that smart. Politics particularly national politics are not any place for tyros. He beat Alan Keyes. Color me impressed.

All his problems so far are self-inflicted. If he'd just given the SF billionaires the standard stuff he'd been OK.

William said...

People keep saying Obama will lose the general. Well folks, scope out tradesports.com, or one of the other betting sites, and take a gander at those odds.

I see Obama trading at 46.5 and McCain at 40.4. Doesn't look like a wide margin to me. Perhaps you were just looking at the Obama v. Hillary odds?

headache said...

testing99/Evil Neocon
That's the most sensible thing you have sed so far. If you could just keep off the Iraq/Israel/Jew topics and talk about the stuff at hand, reading your posts would be great! Steve is actually pretty positive about Jews; he just does not buy into the Zionism thing. So there is no reason to keep hacking away about Steve wanting to sell out the Jews or anything dramatic like that. And as for his Iraq arguments, so far he has just been doing the numbers; the ideology has been coming from Neocons and people like yourself.

Anonymous said...

According to the latest figures I can find, the unemployment rate in Pennsylvania is 4.9%. That of course includes Killadelphia. How bad can things actually be out there in small-town and rural PA? Hasn't the worst been over for some time now?

Of course for some Democrats it's always the Dust Bowl-1930s-Grapes of Wrath, but really, 4.9% unemployment -- how bad can it be?

ERM said...

"(as in the movie "The Deer Hunter," which, by the way, showed that back when the heavy industry towns of Pennsylvania were booming in the 1960s, guys still liked guns)"

I haven't actually seen the whole movie but as I recall, they are all Slovaks in the film (a significant ethnicity in WPA), which would make them Byzantine Catholic. Slightly different than either of the above.

Hunting is actually in rather serious decline in PA. It was traditionally, as the movie depicts, the sport of the prosperous industrial white working class. With the decline of this demographic, the sport has had some difficulties. (WPA school children, shockingly, now get only ONE day off for hunting, not two as in my day.) The Game Commission is seriously worried about revenue from hunting licesnse sales, and have taken to sticking it to the remaining practitioners. The 2nd amendment still has a lot of pull for people but it is decreasingly because of urban Catholic sentiment.

uwi said...

I suspect Obama's "bitterness" for small town Pennsylvania is due to his campaign team making him go bowling in Altoona, and suffer the indignity of being seen wearing those extremely uncool, geeky bowling shoes (and the second indignity of being filmed rolling several gutter balls, which he must have just known would elicit chuckles from millions of working-class, white bowlers all over the country).

acilius said...

Now let's think about this for a second. Obama says that he will explain the reason why poor whites in rural Pennsylvania have left the Democratic Party. His explanation sounds condescending. Journalists, bloggers, and other amateur political observers spend days and days going on about how offended all the poor whites in rural Pennsylvania who have left the Democratic Party will be to hear this analysis. But- there are no such people. In fact, poor whites in rural Pennsylvania are as Democratic now as they ever were.

How are poor whites in rural Pennsylvania likely to react to Obama's remarks? Probably the waty other Democrats do, by silently agreeing that poor people who disagree with them are suckers. The polls so far have certainly not disproved this hypothesis. The only movement they've shown in recent days has been toward Obama.

The southern and Plains state rural whites who really have been trending Republican may take offense, but Obama never had a chance in their states anyway.

Martin said...

"Lawful Neutral said...

People keep saying Obama will lose the general. Well folks, scope out tradesports.com, or one of the other betting sites, and take a gander at those odds. People who put their money where their mouth is disagree by a wide margin,..."

A Market - or in this case a betting pool (perhaps not much difference) - is no more likely to know the future than any individual person.

What price was Bear-Stearn trading at?

Hans Gruber said...

What makes you think he wanted to be accurate, Steve? He was just telling his audience what they wanted to hear. Very little about Obama's public career is about actual policy or truth or getting things done, it's about the pursuit of power, which is often at odds with getting things done or the truth. He's figured out he doesn't need truth or facts or achievements, he just needs to be good at rhetoric and lying. And good he is.

Dutch Boy said...

Rust Belt Catholics are among the biggest losers in the New World Order economic system.This system has been characterized by the economist Paul Craig Roberts as labor arbitrage (the moving of capital to venues with the cheapest labor costs, e.g., China).If they weren't bitter at such a turn of events they would be crazy. Their real problem is that they have no political recourse. Recent rhetoric aside, both political parties support this system.

airtommy said...

EvilNeocon said:

Obama is not that smart.


Wrong. He's sharp as a tack, and he's going to win. The main loser in this election will be Likud.

DutchBoy said:

Recent rhetoric aside, both political parties support this system of labor arbitrage


That's disingenuous. The Republican Party is united in their support of this policy, whereas the Democratic Party is split over the issue. The faction of the Democratic Party that supports outsourcing of our jobs is the faction that Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, etc. refer to as the sane Democrats. The faction of the Democratic Party that opposes it is the faction that is sneered at as the "loony-left".