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Moving to the Right - What Causes It? - Mo's Journal
April 8th, 2008
09:35 am

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Moving to the Right - What Causes It?

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From:artaxastra
Date:April 8th, 2008 02:12 pm (UTC)
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I don't think it's that people get more conservative with age -- I think it's that positions move. When you ask most people, they have about the same strong beliefs at 70 that they did at 25. But where those postions are on the political spectrum has changed.

My grandmother was a suffragette. She went away to college from the rural South before WWI, and then instead of moving home got a teaching job and lived on her own. She drove her own car, bought with her own money, and was the first woman to vote in her county as a 25 year old in 1920. She absolutely believed in the right of women to birth control, campaigned for Margaret Sanger and sex education, married and chose to limit her family to one child. In the 1920s, she was a flaming radical short skirted independant woman liberal.

I remember her fifty years later as the woman who wouldn't allow me to go to a segregated school or listen to rock and roll, who was terrified of "dope controlled hippies" who go around beating up old ladies. Who believed that non white people were simply a lower rung on the evolutionary ladder, and had to be taken care of with gentleness and maternal care, and occasionally firmness for their own good.

Her positions had not changed. But in 1977 no one was saying women shouldn't vote. I grew up with that as a given. No one was saying women shouldn't be allowed to drive. Of course I would learn how to drive when I got older. No one was saying that condoms should be illegal, or that little girls shouldn't even know what their period was when they got it. It was a given. We won.

When you and I are old and crusty, our grandchildren may think us hopeless dinosaurs for supporting same sex marriage! After all, no one should marry and everyone should live in polyamorous pods! And we don't support the complete banning of plastic packaging! We use microwaves! Whatever the battle of the future will be, we'll probably be dinosaurs, still taking positions that were liberal way back there at the turn of the century.
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From:mofic
Date:April 8th, 2008 02:21 pm (UTC)
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I think what you are describing does happen, but I think there's a whole lot of true movement to the right, too, as exemplified by Charlton Heston. It may be that his homophobic views were always there and they were just what everybody he knew believed in 1965 or whatever, so they only sound conservative now. But clearly his views on race and on gun control completely changed, unlike your grandmother. Btw did you mean what you said ("wouldn't allow me to go to a segregated school") or did you mean integrated? Anyway, I think there are lots of people who stay the same while society changes, like your grandmother, but lots of others who are all for socialized medicine and equal rights for black folk and gun control in their youth and then change their minds when they're more established.
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From:artaxastra
Date:April 8th, 2008 02:33 pm (UTC)
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I think in terms of homophobia, that's one where everyone was in 1965. When I was researching for politics some years ago, in a 1960 survey 98% of Americans believed homosexuality was wrong, and more than 70% believed homosexuals should be jailed. So yeah, in 1965 it's not a liberal position. It's a position in outer space, supported by ten guys in the Mattachine Society. It's quite possible that his views were exactly the same in 1965 and 2005, but how society viewed it changed. In the 2004 election lead up polls, about 45% of Americans still viewed homosexuality as wrong. And not oddly at all, older people slanted strongly to the negative and younger people to the positive.

I think gun control is the same way. In 1940, everyone owned a gun except for Quaker families and some urban families, usually recent immigrants or people living in ethnic neighborhoods. In the South, every household had at least one gun. Everyone hunted. Only people who lived in cities too large to have any access to open land didn't hunt. Everyone ate game. To say people shouldn't have guns to my grandparents would be like saying people shouldn't eat. It would make far more sense to them to ban cars than guns. It's only during my lifetime, since the 1960s, that a large part of the groceries aren't shot on the hoof, that hunting has become a recreation that half the people in the family choose to participate in, rather than a necessary way of getting food. I learned to shoot as a child. Because it's an important skill that people need, like driving a car or using scissors. And I think to a lot of older people, especially outside the Northeast, that's what it still is. They're not thinking about gun violence in urban areas, but about a way of life that is not so long ago.
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From:mofic
Date:April 8th, 2008 02:43 pm (UTC)
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I think we're talking at cross purposes. I already acknowledged that homophobia was pretty much universal. But with gun control, here we're talking about someone who was calling for gun control in 1968 and changed 180 degrees on the issue. And I think he was not unusual - people who wanted socialized medicine and increased funding for public education and separation of church and state and equal rights, etc. and changed to the opposite positions later. It may be as simple as what executrix suggests - that once people have more they want to protect their possessions. But I don't know - I think there's more to it, but I don't know what.

Edited at 2009-08-04 06:42 pm (UTC)
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