Critical Thinking By Educated Voters Burst Neocon Bubble
The Democrats got their 7-million vote victory majority November 7th and regained control of Congress in good part from
educated voters who think for themselves.
Those with post-graduate degrees, people schooled to analyze issues and make critical judgments, were among the first to
see through the web of lies spun by the White House.
Eventually, even those who initially believed the lie Iraq had WMD learned over time when none were found they had been
lied to and got angry and got active.
By contrast, despite significant defections, Bush kept the majority of his evangelical Christian following. Perhaps
people whose belief requires them to accept Biblical miracles “on faith” have a mindset to believe whatever the White
House tells them.
It’s not that college-educated voters are unswerving Democratic loyalists. If the Republicans put up another Abraham
Lincoln, they’d get my vote, too. But Americans will not tolerate blatant liars forever. And after six years of his
lies, more and more voters, starting with best educated, have come to regard Mr. Bush as a pariah.
Bush is now so unpopular his congressional backers were scuttled by mere association with the word “Republican.” As
columnist Robert Novak wrote November 9th in the Washington Post, “Republicans lost almost everywhere the president
campaigned during the past week.” Added the Post’s David Broder, the only New Hampshire Republicans to survive were
those not on the ballot.
President Bush’s support is found in the states with the lowest education levels. In the 2000 national election, states
with lower college graduate populations such as West Virginia (15.1%), Kentucky (18.9%), and Louisiana (19.6%) all voted
States with highest percentages of college graduates--- Connecticut, (36.8%), Massachusetts, (36.6%); and California,
(30.6%) voted Democratic.
There were exceptions to this but they were few: Colorado, with a population of 35.5% college graduates went for Bush.
Wisconsin, where just 25% of residents holds a college degree, went for Gore.
But if you added up all the “Red” states in 2000, you’d find, on average, only 24.7% of their populations hold a college
degree. And if you averaged the percentage of “Blue” State college-educated, the figure is 31.2%. That’s a significant
Massachusetts, which may have the most universities per acre, voted strongly Democratic that year. South Dakota, with
many fewer colleges, was Bush Country.
According to ABC News of Nov. 14, “College graduates voted 53-45 percent for Democrats---the Democrats’ best margin in
this group in exit polls since 1982.” ABC added, “voters by a 14-point margin were more apt to say they were voting to
show opposition to Bush(36%) than to show him support(22%)…the anti-Bush voters were great enough in number to make the
difference for the Democrats.”
There are political scientists who believe voters’ college education plays little, if any, role in how they mark their
ballots. Professor Thomas Holbrook of the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee says there is “some correlation” between
voting and education but “level of education is not among the important factors.”
Holbook thinks “party identification” and whether people consider themselves liberal or conservative, is far more
important than education. But might it be possible, though, the more college-educated voters in a state, the more likely
it is to vote Blue?
One group that does correlate closely with Blue voting are holders of post-graduate degrees. In the 2004 election, Kerry
got 55% of those who had done postgraduate study compared to 44% for Bush, although Bush that year won among college
graduates, 52% to 46%. Now, college voters favor Democrats by eight percent.
It’s also been noted more women than men are voting Democratic and columnist Ellen Goodman writes “Women voters swung
election.” (November 28th) But the reason may not have to do with their gender. As political scientist Thomas Schaller
of the University of Maryland has written, “Women, who are already a majority of college graduates and law school
students, continue to further feminize the American electorate with each passing election cycle.” (Italics added) Might
the reason be women today are better educated?
As for religion, evangelical votes might have to do with whether the believer accepts the miracles of the Bible on
faith. There are millions of church-goers who take the Gospel literally. If they believe a miracle because the Bible
says so, might they not also believe the political gospel preached by the White House?
Fundamentalists, said to form the backbone of the religious right, predominate in the Red state strongholds stretching
across the mid-South from Virginia through Texas.
My evidence is anecdotal, but my travels suggest patriotism is defined by many in this region as whatever the president
says it is. They are “God and country” folk, even when the country is off-track and it's getting harder each day to
believe God is Bush’s advisor.
Dr. Thomas Schaller, an associate professor of political science at the University of Maryland, has written “poorer
whites vote more Republican” and “the South remains, as ever, the most religious region of America.” He describes it as
a region of “NASCAR men” who are “white, non-college educated, rural, married Christian men.”
In the 2004 election, President Bush got 78% of the white evangelical/born-again vote compared to 21% for Kerry.
My belief is anger over a president’s lies begins with those individuals best able to see through a web of political
deceit. It only makes sense those holding post-graduate degrees, particularly Ph.D.’s, who have written dissertations
requiring considerable analysis, are likeliest to lead such a charge. And as they tend also to be “opinion molders” who
are more politically active and more likely to vote, they are able to sway others.
Red states and Blue states that have traditionally gone for one political party may not remain that way. Just as
Americans suffering from the Depression swept the Republicans from office virtually everywhere in 1932, so every state
could go to the Democrats if anger at Bush rises.
I could be wrong. Voting patterns may correlate with skim milk consumption or the purchase of economy cars. My hunch,
though, is it is education that inspires inquiring minds and evangelism that influences people to accept authority
without question. In sum, rather than gender, party affiliation, income, or religious denomination, the key to how
people vote turns on their ability to think for themselves. It’s critical thinking on the part of educated voters that
burst the neoconservative bubble in 2006.
(Sherwood Ross is a Charlottesville, Va.-based media consultant to political candidates and labor unions. Reach him at
sherwoodr1 @ yahoo.com )