December 11, 2006
Words And Numbers, Democrats And Republicans

I have been studying the differences between Democrats and Republicans for decades, and I thought I knew all the important ones (Republicans are better off than Democrats, more educated on the average, more likely to be married, and so on, and so on).  I am not even surprised by some of the less important differences.  (Though I do wish my Democratic friends would watch less television and get more exercise — for their own good.)

But I was surprised in 2004 when I saw a column by the New York Times token conservative, David Brooks.  What Brooks showed is that those who make a living with words (English professors, journalists, et cetera) were more likely to contribute to the Democrats, while those who make a living with numbers (accountants, engineers, et cetera) were more likely to contribute to the Republicans.   In short, the words guys tend to be Democrats, while the numbers guys tend to be Republicans.

This surprised me, but it should not have since it explains many of the differences between the parties.  Consider, for example, the strong support that Democrats gave John Edwards in 2004.   As I noted when Edwards declared his candidacy, the North Carolina senator had no executive experience, and no achievements as a senator.  He is, in short, completely unqualified to be president.  But he did well in the 2004 primaries, and is still taken seriously as a candidate by most journalists.  (For a hilarious example, see this post on a Richard Cohen column.   The Washington Post columnist is, as he admits (boasts?), not very good with numbers — and he was completely snowed by sweet talkin' John Edwards.  Columnist Jim Pinkerton, who worked for Reagan and Bush 41, looked at some numbers and found a different John Edwards.)

Or consider the swell of support for Barack Obama (or, as Tom Maguire likes to call him, Barack Hussein Il Jong Obama).  His resumé is not completely empty of political achievements, like John Edwards' resumé, but it is fair to say that Obama has not accomplished much in his short political career.  But he is, or so I read, another sweet talkin' guy.

Neither man would be taken seriously by Republican voters.  There are too many numbers guys in the party.

It is not hard to think of other differences that can be explained by this split between words guys and numbers guys.  For instance, when Democrats discuss education, they talk mostly about intentions and judge their candidates on how beautifully they express those intentions.  Republicans are more likely to talk about achievements (or, sadly, the lack of them), something that can be measured.

I won't add more examples, but most of you can probably think of other differences between the two parties that can be explained by this split between the numbers guys and the words guys.

Which way of thinking about public policy is better, numbers or words?  Almost always it's numbers.  And that's one reason that Republicans are generally better on policy than Democrats.

Cross posted at Jim Miller on Politics.

(As a few of you may already have guessed, I was prompted to write this post by Eric Earling's take on the differences between the two parties.  I'm not disagreeing with Earling, just giving another way to look at the question.)

Posted by Jim Miller at December 11, 2006 11:19 AM | Email This
1. The poem that begins, "I think that I shall never see, a poem as lovely as a tree," if memory serves correct, is a beautiful and emotional poem but devoid of logic.

The words stir emotion. Therein lies the foundation of your observation. Liberals (writers) think emotionally, conservatives think logically.

This is the foundational principle of the difference. No matter how many facts and figures you throw at liberals, they will twist them to fit an emotional belief. Example, show a liberal a graph of increased spending for education compared with the test scores going down proportional to the spending increase and they will say we need more money. Why is that? Because they have an emotional belief that more money should result in higher scores. Their belief makes them very shallow. That is why liberals have no understanding of the foundational principles of this Country. The framers had studied history and had deep understanding of the proper role of government.

There comes a point when the facts overwhelm their emotions and suddenly they turn to the cure all. "You have your interpretation and I have mine." My Conservative son-in-law says when a liberal says that he means, You know you are right, I know you are right, but I don't want you to be right.

Posted by: Bull Maxon on December 11, 2006 11:56 AM
2. This distinction is right. And because, for the most part, women are words people and men are numbers people, women are disproportinately Democrats. And because biology sees fit to insure there are more women in this world then men, only one conclusion is possible: Numbers people--and the GOP--are doomed.

Posted by: DJ on December 11, 2006 12:10 PM
3. Leftism is a religion - it requires nothing more (or less) than total faith in its dogma, regardless of what objective evidence is presented that refutes it.

Posted by: H Moul on December 11, 2006 12:17 PM
4. Speaking as a professional writer, we're not all for the Dems.

Posted by: Tyler Reddun on December 11, 2006 12:20 PM
5. Why is it the libs tend to characterize conservatives as overweight and undersexed?

Posted by: Jack Burton on December 11, 2006 12:22 PM
6. There seems to be an awful lot of confusion, or propaganda, these days as to what a true Conservative actually believes. Hang tight - to answer this, we'll have to get into some ideology..

We're all "ideological" at our cores because it shapes us as individual human beings - it's how we tell right from wrong, it guides our thoughts and actions, and ultimately it informs our decision-making for which political policies we will support, and for whom we'll actually vote.

Since political endeavors are more successful the more agreement and common understanding that we can achieve, it is useful, at least, to examine the differences between modern Conservatism and Liberalism.

The following are key differences between these two competing ideologies:

I. Conservatives believe in the primacy of individual freedom and liberty - whereas Liberals see this as inherently dangerous. Liberals believe in the virtues of group grievance politics over personal freedom.

II. Conservatives believe that the resources on this planet are for our use. Liberals believe that Mother Earth is a sacred deity, and that ultimately, humans only pose a threat to it.

III. Conservatives believe that more government always means more coercion, and that more coercion always means less freedom. Liberals believe that wielding massive governmental power, by the hands of Liberals, can only bring goodness and harmony to the cosmos.

IV. Conservatives believe in personal responsibility and seek to be rewarded by meritorious efforts in a free marketplace. Liberals believe that weakness and victimhood are virtues to be exalted, exploited, and rewarded, and that collective power over successful individuals is the way to even the score.

V. Conservatives believe that peace among humans must be achieved, maintained, and safeguarded. Liberals believe that the weaker one becomes, that justice and peace just break out, and spread naturally - contrary to all of human history.

VI. Conservatives believe that life is not a "zero-sum game", but a "win-win" for all. Liberals believe that if someone succeeds, that someone else therefore suffers.

VII. Conservatives believe that our sacred Rights are inherent as humans (endowed by our Creator), and are therefore, inalienable to the efforts of man. Liberals believe that all of our Rights are granted to us, and may be taken away, by really smart, well-intentioned, and benevolent Liberals in government.

VIII. Conservatives believe that humans are each endowed by their Creator with varying talents and differences, and that basic human nature is immutable. Liberals faithfully believe that through scientific manipulation, wishful thinking, and fascistic coercion that government can force human nature to change, and therefore, that they can achieve an ever-elusive nirvana called "equality" among us.

IX. Conservatives hold that innocent human life is precious, and at all times it should be cherished and protected. Liberals believe that some human lives are a lot more important than others, and seek to punish the successful or exterminate the least powerful among us in order to free up more resources for redistribution by Liberals - for the common "good" of the Earth of course.

X. Conservatives believe that racism is an abomination in all forms. Liberals believe that selective racism is a wonderful practice if it achieves their goals.

XI. Conservatives believe that some people, organizations, civilizations, cultures, or practices are better than others, judging by their merits - by what they actually achieve. Liberals measure success by how well they emotionally feel about things, and that being beholden to objective, truthful judgments is an ongoing plot by Conservatives to be unfair, cruel, or threatening.

XII. Conservatives believe that blind devotion to invented concepts such as the perversions of forced "diversity", "tolerance", "equality", etc. are fraudulent at best. Liberals believe that faithful pursuance of unproven, unachievable fabricated social concepts represents the new path to human enlightenment - even when factually proven to be greatly destructive to huge number of individuals.

Whaddya think - Are you a Conservative?

Posted by: Jefferson Paine on December 11, 2006 12:22 PM
7. You forget that women, as a group, tend to not vote until menopause. Politics bores them.

Posted by: H Moul on December 11, 2006 12:23 PM
8. On another level, it's the difference between the compelling drive to talk about stuff, rather than actually do something about it. Or, as Rush has often said, the preference for symbolism over substance.

A lot of what fueled optimism on the part of those supporting the '94 revolution was that so many of the candidates wanted to accomplish specific conservative objectives, with little apparent interest in buying the franchise of a long political career. Not that it didn't happen anyway in some cases.

One big difference that I've always pointed out is that few libs that I've talked to have any understanding of economics in public life. They may understand how a lemonade stand works, but not the consequences of regressive tax rates or the state becoming the de facto husband/father in the case of unmarried mothers. They don't "want to be ruled by the bottom line," as if they can cancel the law of gravity with the wave of a hand. They have no clue as to the true inclusive nature of economics and the descriptive and predictive nature of economics challenge their sacred cow normative beliefs.

Posted by: scott158 on December 11, 2006 12:28 PM
9. Dear Mr. Bull

George Orwell lives! (In the person of Bull Maxon today.)
True conservatives have been spinning in their graves at about 1800RPM since Smirky McFlightsuit took office. The long-forgotten precepts of balanced budgets, lower federal spending, protecting environmental assets, and smaller, less intrusive governments all have been trashed by your boy.
I miss the days when folks calling themselves "conservative" were conservative.
Fifty years ago if somebody had said that the "conservative" party had spun up the national debt 49% in about 5.5 years, they would have been laughed off the stage. But I suppose that's okay, as the MITM (man in the moon) is gonna pay it off. After all, what's $8 Trillion among friends?
The same "conservative" failure holds for almost all of Smirky's magical feats, e.g., wars, environmental giveaways, warrantless wiretapping, torture, and a fixation with somebody's sexual orientation.
Fifty years ago if somebody had said the liberal party was the only one who would balance a current accounts budget in the next 5 decades, they would have had to undergo a psychiatric exam.
Apparently, "conservatives think logically" but they can't add numbers or read much, instead preferring to dream about nothing much anything other than (1) tax cuts and (2) overly intrusive religious kooks demanding to run our lives.

Posted by: Dictionary Owner/User on December 11, 2006 12:28 PM
10. "Whaddya think - Are you a Conservative?"


Posted by: Bill Cruchon on December 11, 2006 12:29 PM
11. DJ, one factoid that numerous people have pointed out is that the gender gap isn't quite as clear-cut as people assume. If a woman is married, the probability of her being conservative/republican rise dramatically. It's like saying that the unions are Democrats, when actually nearly all unions support Dems, but with 40% of the membership in disagreement. Just as blue cities have a faithful remnant of conservatives.

Posted by: scott158 on December 11, 2006 12:38 PM
12. Similar to Eric's earlier discussion about the differences between liberals and conservatives it doesn't take long for an anti-Bush ranter to make their appearance (#9). What in the world are these people going to do with themselves in January of 2009?

Posted by: Bill Cruchon on December 11, 2006 12:42 PM
13. And to think Log Cabin republicans can't even get married legally in this country. That might slightly up the stats. =P

Posted by: Cato on December 11, 2006 12:46 PM
14. I have always believed that conservatives base their philosophy on logic and reasons while liberals base theirs on feelings, so your finding on numbers vs. words is not a surprise to me.

Posted by: C. Oh on December 11, 2006 12:49 PM
15. Wow, those are some pretty blanket statements about women voters, and they make me feel like an anomaly. I became politically active as a conservtive at 16, voted every election from age 18 except for the period of time I was out of country and bugged the crap out of all my female acquaintances to also vote, no matter what political persuasion, have a passion for language and literature, and have always been a strong conservative. I think the difference between liberal and conservative comes from examining cause and effect objectively, studying and understanding history, and having a healthy enough self-esteem that you have no need to be a victim.

Posted by: katomar on December 11, 2006 01:12 PM
16. So if we test this hypothesis on the most important policy decision of this Republican administration, even a cursory examination suggests that the number-crunching neocons were wrong virtually every time:

1. Number of WMDs in Iraq -- wrong
2. Nubmer of high level contacts between Iraq and al Qauda -- wrong
3. Number of U.S. casualties predicted -- wrong
4. Number of Iraqi civilian casualties -- wrong
5. Number of US soldiers required -- wrong
6. Number of tours of duty for US soldiers -- wrong
7. Number of $$$ required -- way wrong
8. Number of days (I mean, years) required to accomplish the mission -- wrong
9. Number of Iraqi soldiers and police ready to take over the job -- wrong
10. Number of times the GOP believed it could fool the American people into believing the Iraq War has made the United States and the world safer -- wrong

Did they get any numbers right?

Of course, the level of Republican success with the numbers in Iraq does not disprove your hypothesis that Republicans make better policy decisions because they think in terms of numbers, but it does suggest that I, at least, would prefer to have someone else both doing the numbers and making the policy.

Posted by: doc benton on December 11, 2006 01:15 PM
17. doc benton and Dictionary Abuser: you guys are so cute!

Thanks for the amusing non sequiturs.

Posted by: sro on December 11, 2006 01:28 PM
18. Help for Leftists:

(1) Republicans (members of a 'Big Tent' Party) and Conservatives (adherents to a political philosophy) are NOT one and the same.

(2) George W. Bush and his fellow NeoCons are definitely Republicans, and they are definitely NOT Conservatives

(2) NeoCons and 'Compassionate Conservatism' are rooted in Big Government [Brother] socialism and proselytization by force

Posted by: Jefferson Paine on December 11, 2006 01:29 PM
19. Cato, not only can Log Cabin Reps not get married, but neither can siblings, minors, nor can one marry more than one other person, etc. etc.

What a surprise! When marriage is between 1 man and 1 woman no other combination or variation or personal choice is included. Quite simple really.

Posted by: Right said Fred on December 11, 2006 02:13 PM
20. Hey Doc, don't want to dimunish the importance of the war on terrorism, but I would have to take excemption to your categorizing it as the most important policy decision of this administration. I would assume FDR, Truman and JFK would have made the same basic policy decision in regards to the war on terrorism, don't really consider that the logic to put water on the fire of Islamic-terrorism while the coals are just beginning to burn something that would be debatable.

The most important policy decision of this administration was on how to deal with the economy after inheriting a recession from the Clinton economy bubble and the potential collapse of the economic markets due to 9-11. I would say that the Republican policy on economics did far better than say what the democrats would have done, which would have led us into another depression a.k.a FDR.

Posted by: Doug on December 11, 2006 02:21 PM
21. So Fred, do you have a problem with the Vice President's 'Log Cabin' daughter becoming a mother? I sure don't, in fact I think according to GOP stats married households are the preferred to non-married households.

Don't you want Mary Cheney's daughter raised in a happy wholesome environment with two married parents? Or are you in the belief that homosexuality is a sin and her demon spawn will burn in hell with all the liberals in the world? =P

Posted by: Cato on December 11, 2006 03:12 PM
22. Cato@21: There are a bunch of us that believe that homosexuality is a sin and that those who persist in that behavior are destined for Hell unless they repent. We believe it because the Bible says so and, since NOBODY is qualified to decide which parts of the Bible are from God and which aren't, we accept the whole thing. We don't take any satisfaction in the destiny of such people; quite the contrary, we grieve for them because not a few of us are related to or know such people.

As to the child, God doesn't make children responsible for the actions of their parents, nor do any persons who have a drop of compassion in them.

I'm sorry you feel compelled to spew such venom at people who believe there is a Supreme Being to whom we have to be obedient. You exhibit the very hate you falsely accuse us of.

Posted by: sro on December 11, 2006 04:04 PM
23. Cato: There is nothing sacred about government sanctification of "gay" marriage. This is merely an agenda of using government power in an attempt to forcibly legitimize a pratice that most people find abhorrent - because they know it's not healthy for the family or society.

Mary Cheney and her lesbian friend did not spawn anything - that's the point. Don't you believe that every child should have a mother AND a father? Why would you want to glorify a fatherless "family" as a social ideal which should be deemed by government force as equally viable as if it were as valuable to society as a legitimate family??

Posted by: Jefferson Paine on December 11, 2006 04:04 PM
24. SRO: Oh no, you got me all wrong. I was just making fun of Fred for his misguided Gay Marriage comparison. You can believe whatever you want, 1st Amendment assures you that right (within reason). A lot of conservatives used to have "biblical issues" with inter-racial marriage as well. A true conservative would do what's best for the economy and let gays get married and let homosexuals deal with their afterlife issues themselves.

Jefferson: Don't you believe that every child should have a mother AND a father? Nope, I'm sure they can be raised just as well by two loving gay parents. Dan Savage does it, I'm sure Mary Cheney and her partner can do it too.

Why would you want to glorify a fatherless "family" as a social ideal which should be deemed by government force as equally viable as if it were as valuable to society as a legitimate family??

Why would it not be? I know people from fatherless families who went to great things with their lives. What the hell does the Govt. know about raising children? I see you guys bitch all the time on this blog about how horrible the public education system is in this country.

Posted by: Cato on December 11, 2006 04:58 PM
25. @9, which warrantless wiretaps are you talking about?

A. JFK and RFK wiretapping MLK, Jr
B. Slick Willie's administration wiretapping Princess Diana
C. All the above

Posted by: Obi-Wan on December 11, 2006 06:56 PM
26. To DJ @#2, As a Republican female that makes her living using numbers, not words, I find your statement not only highly offensive but silly as well. Your conclusion is also ridiculous. (Check post # 11) There have been several articles published over the last couple years pointing out that Conservatives are the ones procreating, (while liberal wackos are joing the Voluntary Human Exstinction movement), the fertility gap is 41%, but after adjusting for age and income it goes down to 19%. So in conclusion, there are projected to be significantly higher percentages of conservatives in the coming generations since children tend to be of a similar political persuasion as their parents.

To H MOUL #7, I've always been fascinated with politics and I volunteered on my first campaign when I was in Jr High. There are alot of women that vote & care about politics, especially ones that are not originally from Seattle.

Posted by: SweetNSassyInSeattle on December 11, 2006 08:00 PM
27. The problem with Republicans is that there are a lot of RHINO's. They work with Liberals in the Democrat party to protect their turf. I have disliked the spending of the Republican Party and the special deals they make. Liberals love to say conservatives are the party of spend spend spend. Because people can not remember. Under President Reagan he increased spending but wanted to cap expenditure on non military spending to 4%. Guess what the Democrat run House and Senate increased spending by over 10%. Over half of the deficit increase under President Reagan was due to this increase expenditures for entitlement programs. And remember Senator Kennedy Saying in 2001. If we do not increase spending 14% per year we are cutting entitlement programs. Defense department normally passes its audits of expenditure. But the Education Department has never passed an audit. I love their comment "I dont know what we spent the money on but it was for a good cause." So where is the proof that Democrats are not big spenders. I bet they can control the pork for a year or two but then they will increase it even more. There are only a handful of true conservative Republicans just like there is a handful of Conservative Democrats but they are a minority in our Federal Legislature. Most of our representives are Moderates and Liberals. At least some of the most liberal Republicans have been replaced by Conservative Democrats. It will be interesting to see what happens will they bend to the Democrat Liberal rules or will they try to stand on Conservative Values. Will the threats of no help(Funding) getting reelected be enough to make them vote with Liberals. Time will tell.

Posted by: David Anfinrud on December 12, 2006 06:53 AM
28. I am closing the comments because the latest comments are all off topic, some wildly so.

Stefan has provided a public area where you can raise your own concerns, or make your own rants. Use that area instead of spoiling the discussion of a post.

Posted by: Jim Miller on December 12, 2006 09:28 AM