When the Walls Have No Windows

This post won’t win me any hometown fans, but I find the topic interesting.

I am from Mahopac, N.Y. It is a hard-nosed, (largely) blue-collar town just north of Westchester County. I would say, conservatively guessing, 80 percent of inhabitants are Republican. Probably 85 percent.

With this blog and Facebook and all, I’ve had much debate with my fellow Mahopacians over the past few months about politics—GOP or Dems, Palin or Obama, etc … etc. And I would say there is a background divide: With certain notable exceptions, those classmates/people who are college educated and who attended non-local schools (with some level of difficulty for being accepted) almost always vote Democrat and lean strong liberal. Those who have not attended college, or who went to a two-year school or a local Pace/Mercy/Puchase/etc, then stay in the area, almost always go Republican.

Why? I’m not sure—but I have a theory that will result in my flogging.

I’m not an overwhelmingly smart man. I know this … have accepted this. But, despite that, I have made an effort to see the country and, best I can, the world. That’s one thing I got at the University of Delaware (not Harvard by any means)—the idea that there’s a whole lot out there, and you have to try and see it/grasp it/embrace it/understand it. As a kid I was surrounded by few blacks or Hispanics or gays or Muslims or … well, anything other than white Christians. Hence, one of my life goals was to get to know people who didn’t look/sound/think like me. That sort of exposure is invaluable, because it paints a much more accurate—and textured—image of the world. If you just listen to Fox or read, oh, the Post, you might think the majority of urban blacks are welfare-sucking slogs. Of course, they’re not. If you just listen to Fox or read, oh, the Post, you might believe gays to be evil and immoral. Of course, they’re not. If you just listen to Fox or read, oh, the Post, you might think all taxes are total wastes of money. A suggestion—go to the city, and visit Covenant House or the local YMCA or Boys Club or 8,000 other entities that depend on government funding to survive.

I certainly don’t consider Mahopac Republicans I know to be bad people, and no one should be fully defined by political decisions. But I do believe—strongly—that many of these folks are sheltered and lacking exposure. They stay in one place, save for the yearly vacation to Florida, Vegas or the Jersey Shore. They don’t need to meet people of different races/sexualities/ethnicities/religions, because they know what they know, and that’s enough. They are told by Sarah Palin and Mitt Romney and Jim DeMint that they are “the real America,” and they believe it because, heck, who doesn’t want to be the real America? Then, as those same politicians dissolve their unions and give massive tax breaks to the wealthiest Americans and focus on “the death tax,” they applaud because, well, Obama is a socialist Muslim, and socialist Muslims are bad.

Not that they’ve ever met one …

18 thoughts on “When the Walls Have No Windows”

  1. I appreciate your view Jeff, but check out the Democrats demographic for the most part – educated folks/public sector, yes, but huge lower-income, urban, union workers (I realize, huge generalization, but you are, so I will). I see your conclusion, but your observation implicitly is that, generally speaking republicans are less educated (less-smart? – I hope you don’t equate intelligence to stacks of diplomas – trust me as an attorney, degrees don’t equal intelligence) and more sheltered than Democrats. I beg to differ. Venture out and check some articles on even the demo of the tea partiers – Wall Street Journal has a few articles that hopefully will broaden your test sample on who is cultured and who aint. This coming from a guy that’s not a huge fan of them. Enjoy your columns.

  2. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/15/us/politics/15poll.html

    This New York Times/CBS poll proved that those involved in the Tea Party movement are generally better educated than the general population. So, Jeff, you’re wrong. Those that are educated and want to take care of themselves tend to end up voting Republican. Those that need the government to do for them what they can’t, or more likely won’t, do for themselves end up voting Democratic. Neither of these is universally true, but statistically, this is where the chips tend to fall.
    So, you’re wrong. I’d say you deserved your flogging.

  3. I would say education isn’t a factor.
    Exposure to different cultures and people does make a difference.
    I live in Eugene, OR. Eugene is the complete opposite of Mahopac.
    The University of Oregon has always been considered one of the most liberal schools in America.
    Recently the UO was declared the most LGBT tolerant University in America. http://www.oregonlive.com/pacific-northwest-news/index.ssf/2010/08/university_of_oregon_ranks_no_1_in_gay-friendliness.html
    There is tolerance for Buddhism, Hinduism, Wiccans, Etc.
    However there seems to be little tolerance for Christians. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jesus_with_erection

    I guess it just depends on where you place your intolerance.

  4. CNN has some exit polls from 2008 you might want to look at:

    http://www.cnn.com/ELECTION/2008/results/polls/#USP00p1

    The education one breaks it down into five catagories: no hs diploma, hs diploma, some college, college graduate, and advanced degree.

    Obama actually won all 5, but his biggest margins? The first, and the last. It’s a bell curve. So, his biggest margins were people that never graduated high school…and people with graduate degrees.

  5. Seriously, this guy’s a reporter and he couldn’t take 10 seconds to check the educational breakdowns of Ds, Rs, and Tea Party supporters? Good grief. No wonder the bloggers in their basements are taking over.

  6. Does education imply political interest? Everyone’s arguments suggest that they want their political party to have the majority of these voters, creating the assumption that a formally educated voter is worth more than otherwise.

    The best I could find before my waning attention span dwindles was this paper – http://emlab.berkeley.edu/~moretti/citizen.pdf

    If you don’t have the time, patience, or desire to learn, the summary is “In the US, yes, but in the UK, no.” although the methodology here is skewed enough that the conclusions are far from useful. The author mentions that he didn’t count those unregistered to vote, which would completely change his results.

    So are the formally educated more likely to be politically active or at least vote? Here is a resounding “I don’t know”

    I would like to see anything else anyone else can find on the subject though.

  7. Well, there’s another thing to take into consideration. Those CNN exit polls I posted? There’s another interesting one, further down, that breaks down the 2008 into college degree/no college degree…and then race.

    Just *white* people with no college degree? 58% McCain.

    And *that* is who Jeff is talking about; not just people without education, but *white* people without education. And they voted 58% for the candidate who lost.

  8. Being from Mahopac, I disagree with your description of being surrounded by “White Christians.”
    That sounds like Kansas. “White Ethnics” is a more accurate description of the makeup of the area. Predominately Italian, Irish Catholics and a small Jewish population. These are working class folks that relocated from the boroughs of NYC and could not afford Westchester and wanted a safe place to raise their family. This was during the “white flight” era and as a group they felt abandoned by the Democrats.
    They were largely responsible for the election of Ronald Reagan and built better lives for themselves. That is why the area is SOLID REPUBLICAN.

    1. Bobby, first, you’re referring to Putnam County: 2010, not Putnam when I grew up there. Second, “white flight” is right—and disgusting. You might wear this badge with pride, but those whites who fly from diversity are the reason I—and many others I know—hated the Mahopac mentality back in the day. Fear of outsiders. Using the n-word with regularity; etc … etc. Truth is, Putnam was solid Republican because the people were solid uneducated and naive about Republican policies that, self-admittedly, rewarded the wealthy and counted on that wealth “trickling” down. Nothing to be proud of there.

  9. Frank D (#9) and Jeff (#10) — What exactly is the point? So 58% of non-college-educate whites voted for McCain. Big deal. 98% of all blacks voted for Obama. The latter is more indicative of a problem than the former. (Remember, a majority of whites, overall, voted for Obama, so the whole whites-and-race theme is both idiotic and lazy.)

  10. Jeff (#12) — Saying the “n-word” might be disgusting, but how is so-called “white flight” “disgusting”? Are you seriously suggesting that people who live in deteriorating areas should stay there in the name of diversity? If so, that’s the dumbest thing ever.

    1. Joe, “White flight” is when whites leave an area because of an increased minority presence. It is NOT, by definition, a “crumbling area”—unless you consider the two synonyms (blacks arrive, building crumble). I happen to live on one of the most diverse streets in America—who I can assure you many of my former Mahopacian cohorts would have “fled” from. I still remember growing up and a nearby street’s residents passing around a petition to keep a black family from moving in. I remember my good friend, black, having TWO crosses burned in his yard. I remember hearing the n-word regularly. Many of these people (well, their parents) probably did flee the Bronx and Queens and Staten Island, but often because of what they saw around them. Not crumbling neighborhoods, so much as dark faces.

      By the way, all that said I very much appreciate you posting here. I like the differing opinions.

  11. Pearlman, I am not referring to Putnam County: 2010, I am referring to Mahopac in the 1980s when I went to High School there. Look in your yearbook and see how many Italian and Irish names are there. Those families moved up from the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn in the late 1970’s when those areas were crumbling.Some of those folks were racist but the main reason they moved is because the neighborhoods they grew up in became unsafe due to CRIME. NYC was crumbling at that time due to a bad economy and lack of resources to adequately police those areas.Many of these families felt the Democratic Party that they grew up with abandoned them and the Republican Party embraced them. The DID create better lives for their families in Mahopac and that is why the area is predominately Republican in 2010.

  12. Jeff,

    Are you suggesting the Democratic party, the ones who started the Ku Kux Klan, who were the home of Robert Byrd and George Wallace, the ones who got the FBI to bug Martin Luther King, the one whose senators tried to filibuster the 1964 Civil Rights act, don’t have a troubling racial history??

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