Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Political gnosticism

Bruce Murphy says that there is a paradox in the pattern for voting in the Supreme Court race. The area with the most severe crime - Milwaukee County - voted for the candidate that was criticized for being more sympathetic to criminal defendants while those area with less crime - e.g., the counties surrounding Milwaukee voted for the candidate who was - although he was also criticized for being lenient toward criminal defendants - was probably perceived to be less sympathetic.

I think the campaign was about more than crime. Both sides criticized the other candidate as "soft on crime" and I think that the claims made by the Gableman camp came to stand in for the type of cue that we normally get from partisan affiliation. He was the "conservative" and the public is smart enough to know that, at the level of the supreme court, ideology matters even if they don't always understand how it matters.

In that sense, there really is no paradox in the fact that Butler carried heavily Democratic areas. He was perceived as the "liberal."

But Murphy's claim of a paradox in attitudes about crime is nevertheless valid. I think his explanation that residents of high crime areas are "more likely to know someone who has run into trouble with the police or is unjustly accused, and thus more likely to value those “loopholes” that our constitution established to protect the innocent" requires some evidence.

Another hypothesis is that black voters in particular have come to associate calls for "law and order" with racial insensitivity. Some of the reasons for this are valid (cops can act like a occupying force) and some are not (politicians stoke resentment over these issues).

Murphy says that those in low crime areas are "removed from the harm done by erroneous convictions or police brutality" and that "[i]t’s easy to support getting tough on all those bad people you’ve never met, and harder perhaps to see the value of constitutional protections for an accused criminal."

Again, I'd like to see some evidence that attitudes on these issues do differ among these populations. But even if they do, another hypothesis might be that those in high crime areas come - not to accept it - but to see it as inevitable; as the way that things are. They don't really think it can be different - nothing in their experience suggests this - and so are not attracted to those who claim to be able to make it so. Indeed, the fact that communities can come to believe that public safetly is impossible and that this actually contributes to further crime and disorder is one of the tenets of the "broken windows" approach to law enforcement.

Murphy's "paradox", though, should be attractive to those on the left. We all like to think that the position or canidate that we favor arises from our superior understanding. Gnosticism is not just for religion.


Anonymous said...

Suburban areas have lower crime rates because the voters prioritize the issue and elected public officials that will get tough on crime. One of the reasons urban areas are crime havens is because they don't take it seriously as an issue and elect public officials that won't take it seriously either. Given this, the voting pattern would seem to make sense.

Voters tend to live in the sort of community that they deserve. Communities that don't prioritize individual responsibility and civic responsibility end up broken. Communities live or die from the bottom-up, not the top-down. We can't solve the crime problem in Milwaukee until the majority of the people in the community are willing to live by a code of values that won't tolerate crime any more. So long as the police are the enemy, snitching is a dirty word, and people continue to vote for soft-on-crime candidates, there won't be any progress on the crime issue.

Anonymous said...

Wow. That's just stupid.

Dad29 said...

"[i]t’s easy to support getting tough on all those bad people you’ve never met, and harder perhaps to see the value of constitutional protections for an accused criminal."

Murphy's analysis is a bit flawed.

My experience with 'conservatives' would be different. It was 'conservatives' who questioned the FBI's action at Ruby Ridge; it was 'conservatives' who screamed loudest regarding Waco--and 'conservatives' who were flatly opposed to the kidnap of the Cuban native boy in Florida.

'Conservatives' believe in the restraints proposed by the Constitution, and in principled application of criminal statutes.

I suspect that 'conservatives' on the whole are far more chary of Government and its powers than are 'liberals.'

Jay Bullock said...

Suburban areas have lower crime rates because the voters prioritize the issue and elected public officials that will get tough on crime.
Wow. I can't tell if this is really good satire, or serious.

Suburban areas have lower crime rates because crime rates are closely correlated to, among other things, poverty. Period.

Dad29 said...


Of course you forgot the OTHER correlations--like to single-parent households.

Single-parent householding is THE precursor to poverty.


Marcus Aurelius said...

I give you credit Folkbum for using the word correlate, it is a minor but important difference. Did you all know people with larger feet are better spellers?

Anyway, what has always bothered me is people with a sense of entitlement and no gratitude. Those people are the danger to society. That is a common characteristic I see in criminals they are owed and they are the only ones who look out for #1 and anyone who gets in the way of #1 is a threat that can be handled anyway necessary,.

Poverty can be mostly circumstance or it can be combination of mindset and circumstance, criminality is almost always mindset.

Anonymous said...

"Single-parent householding is THE precursor to poverty."

It's also the prime cause of the crisis facing Milwaukee Public Schools. You can rail all you want about the "bad teachers" and the "pencil-pushing bureaucrats" but the main cause of the problems is the fact that no one makes many of the children show up for class or pushes them to do their work.

This is the one area where conservatives abandon personal responsibility completely and load all the blame on MPS.

There are problems with MPS, to be sure, but people don't go into teaching to get rich.

Marcus Aurelius said...

Single parenting a problem? Come on, Murphy Brown can do it, so too Madonna.

Terrence Berres said...

"Political gnosticism"

Doesn't that title require that the post include an explanation of the correct pronunciation of "Voegelin"?