The new culture war

CNN’s analysis of Sarah Palin’s speech raised the issue of a culture war.  Alex suggested that she made a polarizing presentation, pitting small town against urban areas.

I don’t agree.  Even large cities are full of smaller neighborhoods.  Parents, especially mothers, can resonate with the issues she raised.  She can attack in ways men can’t  – she puts the knife in with a smile and you almost don’t know what happened.

If CNN is correct, and they are in part, it’s a recognition that politics is not all liberal – conservative, the “X” axis.  It’s also a “y” axis of what I was taught was called parochial – cosmopolitan.

Parochial isn’t a religious term here, although those who are on the parochial side are more likely to be religious (but not of the inclusive religions of Buddhism or Universalists). They treasure community, individual effort toward shared values, and fairness. They are more populist in outlook.  More team sport (football, basketball, baseball).

Cosmopolitans are urban, not just in location, but also in attitude.  They are less connected, more individualistic – individual players, even as part of team sports.

Parochials look at first glance like conservatives, and cosmopolitans tend to look like liberals.  However, when you blend both x and y axes, you start to understand the nuances.  I had a couple of friends who were very much alike in political viewpoints.  The Republican supporter of Ronald Reagan was a conservative cosmopolitan, very close to the center.  The Democratic party worker for Ted Kennedy was a liberal parochial, also very close to the center.  Close enough to one another for a strong friendship, but fundamentally quite different.

Many in the leadership of the Democratic party are liberal cosmopolitans.  Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are good examples.

Other Democrats are almost liberal parochials.  Bill Clinton and Al Gore were (they’ve become cosmopolitan after 8 years in DC). Bill RIchardson still is.

Rudy Gullianni is a conservative cosmopolitan.   And despite his Mormon faith, so is Mitt Romney.  Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin are conservative parochials.

You will see some cosmopolitans in the small cities.   You will see parochials in urban neighborhoods.  John McCain appeals to conservative cosmopolitans.  Sarah Palin appeals to parochials in general.  Looks like a winning combination.


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