New England’s Liberal Conservative Non-Schizophrenia; Or Something
Robert Whitcomb ruminates over the “psychological” conservatism of New England:
New Englanders are in fact more psychologically conservative than most of the rest of the country, whatever the social and economic liberalism ascribed to them by the press.
That their rates of divorce, illegitimacy, alcohol and other drug abuse, personal bankruptcy and other signs of social dysfunction are less than most of the country’s speaks to the region’s social stability (call it “conservatism”) compared to, in particular, the Sunbelt.
There, many folks like to call their states “conservative” but the chaotic personal lives of so many folks belie that description.
Without digging around, my sense that Whitcomb is correct, here. But then he goes on to allude to a sort of dispositional conservatism, at least when it comes to politics:
Why do New Englanders tend not to make big changes in their political representation, whatever the national gyrations?
I’d guess it’s because they’re more wary than most of the country of promises of change. And they don’t have as schizophrenic views about government as many Americans: They know that any advanced society needs a lot of it.*
Well, not quite. Look what happened in Maine, where Republicans swept through Augusta, winning the Governor’s race and both legislative Houses. Or New Hampshire where both Congressional and Senate seats are now held by the GOP and the legislature flipped to Republican super-majorities (after drifting Democratic in recent years from its own version of Yankee Conservatism). No, New Englanders aren’t immune to making big political changes. At least not all of them.
Perhaps it would be more insightful to look into why 4 of the 6 New England states seem to be political outliers this year and, generally speaking, why dispositional conservatives are so politically liberal. I think Whitcomb is close to identifying it when he says, to paraphrase, New Englanders recognize that modern society requires big government. In other words, there are plenty of New Englanders (particularly, it seems, in Mass., RI, CT and VT), who are interested in conserving the current state of political affairs because they benefit directly from the status quo via jobs or benefits or entitlements. So, in this case, dispositional conservatism reinforces political liberalism. Oh, and self-interest.
*As an aside, regarding that schizophrenic conservatism exhibited elsewhere, here we see a similar thought process as that exhibited in today’s aforementioned ProJo editorial concerning “fiscal hyper-hypocrisy“.