Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Trending Positive

One thing about being educated in America in the second half of the 20th Century: you forget just how rare you really are:
About 30% of Americans 25 and older have at least a bachelor's degree; in 1988 that number was only 20% and in 1968 it was 10%.
Re-read that. And for you Republicans, let me spell it out. Less than 1/3, one in three, Americans. Have. A. College. Degree.
Hard to believe, I know, considering the high price businesses place on a college education in the workforce. And note that this is after the Vietnam War when pursuit of a college degree was the best way to avoid the draft. You'd think the percentages would be much higher. Curiously, that rate is second highest in the world (Canada is number one,) but it's slipping.
So how is this "trending positive"? Well, over the longer term, politically speaking...well, let me have Petrilli finish his thought:

As less-educated seniors pass away and better-educated 20- and 30-somethings take their place in the electorate, this bloc will exert growing influence. And here's the distressing news for the GOP: According to exit-poll data, a majority of college-educated voters (53%) pulled the lever for Mr. Obama in 2008—the first time a Democratic candidate has won this key segment since the 1970s.

Or, as Karl Rove so eloquently put it, "As people do better, they start voting like Republicans - unless they have too much education and vote Democratic, which proves there can be too much of a good thing."
Rule of Thumb: Smart people vote Democratic. Dummies vote Republican.
Not that this is the salvation this nation needs. After all, it still means that 70% of the country doesn't have a college degree, and the current graduation rates have about 17% of people 25-34 with degrees. Now many of those are likely in the armed services and will get their degrees on the GI Bill's dime, so let's be generous and say it will be twenty percent by the end of 2015 (allowing for the Iraq and Afghan pull outs).
This means we have a short window to show our stuff, to encourage the less-educated folks in the heartland to stop listening to people who want them to remain dummified, and to pay attention to the world around them. We have to defuse the old Nixonian "east coast intellectuals" trope, which has evolved into the wide perception of "liberal thought," period.
In other words, we have to lift people up to our vision while not talking down at them. From my observation within the walls of cyberspace, that's not going to be an easy trick. Liberals tend to assume that the people they want to lead want to be led, but here's the thing: autocracy works in an atmosphere of violence, fear, and hatred, but is not well-suited for a free society. Free societies tend to think freely, and the tendency of liberals in a free thinking atmosphere is to, well, overthink things.
Not that this is a bad thing, but you have to keep in mind that 70% of the people considering your thinking don't have a grounding in philosophy beyond the Good Book, have never heard of Descartes much less Sartre, and are going to be put off by that kind of roaming thought-process.
You have to find a visceral connection to these people, too, because you aren't going to win many elections with the 17% of the people with degrees that are represented in the 2008 exit polls. As much as we liberals poo-poo the Blue Dog Democrats, like it or not, they represent a large enough voting bloc that they cannot be ignored, and indeed, have to be put first.
On a practical basis, as I pointed out yesterday, it means making a connection between a complex issue like the bank bailouts, the greed of bankers, and the opposition viewpoint that greed is good, and then selling that image to these voters. It means calling the heads of Citibank and Goldman Sachs "fat cat bankers," even if their past campaign contributions put you in power.
It means making an issue like a public healthcare option so identifiable to the mass public that they can't help but support it, so much so that Joe Lieberman has to shrug his shoulders and give up. Maybe a "Katrina" moment would do it, where we see who is most affected by the lack of insurance: the most vulnerable among us. People just like the people we need to help get liberals elected.
It's Christmas time, it could work, you know.
We do best when we talk up to people, not down to them.