Knight Ridder Election 2004
 Around the World
 Special Reports

 Back to your local site:

  Related links Smart, lively commentary from mostly right-leaning bloggers.

Talking Points Memo: Joshua Micah Marshall's take from left of center.

Blogs for Bush: The other side's take on all the action in the Democratic primary.

Welcome to Red State/Blue State, a feature presented by The Anniston Star of Anniston, Ala., and The Philadelphia Inquirer.

In the December 2001 edition of the Atlantic, David Brooks wrote an essay titled "One Nation, Slightly Divisible," in which he suggested that America is divided largely into two political cultures, one "red" and one "blue." His idea is based on those electoral maps in 2000 that colored majority-Republican states in red and majority-Democratic states in blue. Brooks' witty essay pictures the red-state voter as trending rural, a salt-of-the-earth type, concerned with individual liberty and family values, whereas the "blue" voter trends urban, more of a book-reader, a Beltway-savvy intellectual, the environmentally conscious soccer mom or dad.

Cliches? Maybe. But Brooks does have his finger on two very strong currents in the American votership. It's not that Pennsylvania is a "blue state" or Alabama is a "red state." It's that our two political cultures don't talk to each other much, or even know much about each other. To bridge that gap, we've brought together two "red" voters - John Franklin and Cynthia Sneed - and two "blue" voters, Terri Falbo and Timothy Horner. Each week, they'll ponder and debate the issues arising in the election campaign. The hope is that they'll model an intelligent discussion, a great big conference room where red and blue sit down together.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Got a question? 

Do you have a question you'd like to see our Red State/Blue State contributors tackle? Send your suggestions to:

(0) comments

Monday, August 30, 2004

Joe Franklin, Red Stater 

Question Number 5: What makes you a conservative? What are the values that underlie your allegiance to your chosen form of political belief?

Conservatism has been my way of life since its beginning. My heritage is from conservative Christian parents and fore-parents. The values instilled in me by my parents consist of an honest day's pay for an honest day's work; if you don't work you won't eat; "waste not and want not"; if it's broken, fix it; don't throw it away; and pay as you go. All these values lead to a conservative way of thinking. If conservatism is instilled in your thought processes, how can one think otherwise when it comes to politics?

I am not aligned with any political party. I have voted in Democrat and Republican primaries and then voted a split ticket in the General Election.

I have never made a direct contribution to either of the national parties. I have however contributed to a few candidates from both parties. I can find weaknesses in both parties, but have more difficulty identifying with the liberals (Democrats).

My conservative belief has lead to my feeling that government has grown way beyond its fiscal responsibilities. I do not feel that the government owes me anything. It appears to me that most liberals think otherwise.

My home state, Alabama, has historically been a Democrat state. Progress and industrial grown began in this state in my early adulthood at or about the time that the state gravitated toward a two-party system. This too has influenced by conservative thinking.

My moral values prohibit my identification with some of the liberals' thinking on issues such as pro-homosexuality and abortion (suggesting that tax money be used to pay for such). I don't know if these are issues for any branch of government. However,
they have been made an issue!

My family background, my personal observations and experiences have contributed toward the development of my political conservatism. Even though I have acted foolishly at times in my personal life - I am no liberal!

(0) comments

Cynthia Sneed, Red Stater 

Question Number 5: What makes you a conservative? What are the values that underlie your allegiance to your chosen form of political belief?

My decisions are based on the party platform. The political party that holds the White House and Congress sets the economic agenda for the most powerful nation known to civilization. The party in power chooses federal judges, Cabinet members and determines policy for the economy, domestic programs and national defense issues. My primary issues are taxes, education and national defense.

I am a free-marketer and believe that the economy grows and everybody is better off if taxes are low and government interference in markets is low. We have undisputed proof that the capitalist system and the free market economy create wealth. For example, the latest housing surveys find that the average size of a European dwelling is 976 square feet, compared to 1,875 in the United States. The average size for poor households in the U.S. is 1,228 - or about 25 percent larger than the average European home. When you break it down to dwelling space per person, the differences are comparable - 395 feet for the average European to 721 for the average American and 428 for the average poor American.

Two economists, Fredrik Bergstrom and Robert Gidehag, compared the number of households that have modern conveniences, including clothes washers, dishwashers, microwave ovens, TVs, personal com-puters, VCRs and automobiles. In 11 of the 13 categories, Americans households were more likely to have the convenience than households in ANY of the European countries. In Sweden, people have more phones and cell phones than Americans do but we have more of everything else.

Bergstrom and Gidehag report, "Major living standard surveys carried out in the USA show the poor to have a surprisingly high standard of living."

For instance, 46 percent of "poor" American families own their own homes. More than three out of four have air conditioning. Seven in 10 have a microwave oven and 97 percent own a color TV. Six in 10 have cable or satellite TV. The average "poor" family has an automobile.

We have, as the Democrats are always telling us, a nation of fat, poor people.

The two economists cite taxes as the primary reason. We complain about high taxes here, and we should, but the tax burden in the U.S. rose just 1.5 percent from 1970 to 1999, while most of the European countries saw double-digit percentage increases. More im-portant, the tax bite on the last dollar earned (the marginal tax rate) in European countries ranges from 60 to 90 percent. Bergstrom and Gidehag refer to this as the "tax wedge." Six of the European countries have tax wedges of 80 percent or more.

Bergstrom and Gidehag report the high tax wedges result from Europe's "extensive welfare system" that provides universal healthcare and free college education to all (just like John Kerry has said he would like to do here in America).

Democrats were not always "redistributionists" to the extent they are today. JKF (the president, not the senator) cut taxes to stimulate the economy. And the other JFK, at one time, very much wanted to reduce taxes "on the rich." When Kerry was running for the Senate in 1984 he strongly supported a plan that would have reduced taxes on the wealthy.

Presidents and political parties come and go but tax laws are forever.

Of course there are other issues such as the funding for national defense and what to do about terrorists attacks against America. Other issues such as the dismal state of education in America today and abortion is important but for me the three more important reasons are economic policy regarding taxes, national defense and education, education, education.

I have the privilege of dealing with the end results of social promotion, outcome based education and math without memorization (of math facts like multiplication tables). I deal with the end results of children who were given all A's and B's in high school - lest we diminish their self-esteem - but who have never read an entire chapter in a textbook, written more that a (I am not making this up) nine-paragraph term paper downloaded off the Internet. Children who are given "review sheets" to study for tests - always fill in the blanks instead of having to read the textbook.

Many Republicans are against the concept of "federalizing" education but education was federalized when the Department of Education was formed under Carter in 1979 and enacted under Reagan in 1980. Less than six months later the first Secretary of Education, Lamar Alexander, told President Reagan the if he did not do something about the Department of Education they were going to dismantle the public school system in America with unproven theories like social promotion and outcome based education. And so it was.

(0) comments

Tim Horner, Blue Stater 

Blue Stater response to answers of Question Number 5: What makes you a conservative? What are the values that underlie your allegiance to your chosen form of political belief?

This is how it should have come down:

The question is not whether the free market creates wealth, the question is what kind of wealth and at what cost. Is everyone getting wealthy? Does the system give everyone a fair chance, or is it structured to maintain those who have resources. One of the problems I have with this kind of thinking is that it assumes that the market is fair and that it does not discriminate between those with resources and those without.

The market is ruthless and driven by nothing but greed and consumption. You have to have money to make money. When our quality of life is measured in square footage and the number of appliances we own, then I am suspicious. Having lived in England for seven years, I can tell you that living space is not connected to happiness or wealth.

In some ways, the Europeans have an edge on us Americans because they are not plagued by the size of things. Bigger is not always better. So what if you have a larger apartment to be poor in? Is having a mortgage that you cant pay an advantage? Does paying 19 percent on your credit card make you happy? After all, you have that great TV and all those channels of interesting programming! It might make the economy happy, but does it make you happy?

If there is one thing that I am trying to instill in my children it is the realization that quality should always win out over quantity. And that quality is not found at the mall or on TV or even in the GNP. Quality is not the size of your house or your SUV or your erogenous zones.

I also think that comparing ourselves to other countries is a cop-out. As Americans we should compare ourselves to our own ideals. What happens when we compare is that the poor become the "poor." Maybe knowing that they have more things to plug in will stop them complaining. It comes masked as a kind of count-your-blessings thing, but really it is an appeal to maintaining the status quo and not changing a thing.

Conservatives tend to look back and long for the day when life was simple and good and wholesome. Surprise, that time never existed. Besides, America should always strive to progress. Who cares if we have bigger houses, more shopping networks, and an economy that dwarfs the rest of the world. We are Americans and that means that we have a responsibility to EVERY American.

An unbridled free market does not help every American. It is built on the backs of those that have less and cannot compete because of discrimination, education, or money. I guess it shouldn't surprise me that those who benefit from the system are more likely to want to keep it, but when the cost of that system overrides the American ideals of equality and fairness, then there is a problem. I don't want to be a part of that mentality even though I benefit from it.

What is comes down to is a flawed assumption: The market is good and government is bad. Both have their good side and their bad side. They both need to be present to help keep the other in check. Capitalism keeps us from sliding into socialism, which has not proved itself to be successful for all sorts of reasons. But government, when it is done well and with a social conscience, keeps us from becoming completely absorbed in our own pursuits and living as ruthless consumers. Without a balance of both we will not progress. That is one reason why I like to be a called a progressive. What is wrong with progress?

As for education, I am stunned that Cindy thinks that conservatives have done more for education.

As a teacher I could not disagree more. How can pulling the floor out from under education be a good thing? The idea that we need to go back to the one-room schoolhouse and the three Rs is ludicrous. I teach in the humanities where thinking and writing are extremely important. But year after year I see very privileged students come to college with little or no ability to write or think critically. They have been taught to do well on their tests so that their schools get all the funding they can.

My 13-year-old daughter caught this right away. "Daddy, why do they give more money to the schools that have high test scores? Wouldn't it make sense to spend more time on the schools that don't do as well?" Yes, but not with a conservative ideology that is built on the premise that you exalt the talented and leave the rest behind. No Child Left Behind is a wonderful idea, but that is all it is under this administration.

I share Cindy's concern with education but I do not see how this kind of fiscal austerity will result in the kind of students who can move America forward. We need educated Americans as much as we need trained Americans. Let's spend money on our kids, not military misadventures.

I have a tougher time with Joe's comments. I too grew up with the same set of maxims as him. My grandfather was a farmer and I grew up in a small Iowa town. I learned to fix my own cars because I could not see paying mechanics when I could do the work; same for painting my house, building my own deck, and renovating the attic this summer for the boys.

As I get older, I have to watch that I don't balloon out of control because I can't let anyone throw food away in our house. But I ride my bike to work every day because I don't like dragging around a huge chunk of metal. My kids are the same way; frugal, resourceful, and careful about consuming things. For me, all of my small town values have pushed me to be MORE liberal.

Look at the atrocious spending habits of our current president. Look at the waste and corruption and near total neglect of our natural resources. Talk about throwing food away! I simply do not buy the myth that this set of values (which I wholeheartedly agree with) leads to conservative politics.

But Joe's comments are more revealing than that. It's not that he is wholeheartedly supportive of the president - his previous comments are not blind party line politics - but he is adamant about one thing: He's no liberal! This, I believe, is what many conservatives think. It's not that Bush is so great, but the if the choice is between liberal and conservative, they will go with conservative even if it means voting for Bush to vote against Kerry.

There is a little of that thinking in me as well, mutatis mutandis. This aversion to liberals is partly the fault of the liberals who have done a less than satisfactory job of defining themselves in the marketplace of ideas. The last few months, however, have been exciting because for the first time in a long time, Democrats are united. But the word "liberal" as a smear is also a product of a relentless and mostly successful media campaign by conservatives to paint liberals as urban, latte drinking, Birkenstock wearing, idealistic, ex-hippie types, who are as brainless as the Republican rube stereotype. Both are equally false.

Liberals, or progressives as we like to be called now, need to do a better job defining ourselves. Many of us hold the same "family values" but we do not feel the urge to pound it over peoples' heads. I am not speaking about Joe here, because I get the feeling that he is not that type either. But for me, heartland values can just as easily lead to liberalism. Look at Iowa, Minnesota, and Alabama.

For me a crucial difference is whether we focus our energy on ourselves or whether these values are translated into the larger world beyond nationalism (called patriotism by many conservatives), the free market, and cultural practices. In both of the Red State descriptions, there is a concern for personal wealth and well being. In my opinion, this is provincial and limited. We can do better. Isn't the well-being of others equally important to our personal well-being? I am speaking in general here and am not trying to personalize this idea, but Cindy and Joe do represent this kind of emphasis. It is not something I share even if the values are the same.

(0) comments

Terri Falbo, Blue Stater 

Blue Stater response to answers of Question Number 5: What makes you a conservative? What are the values that underlie your allegiance to your chosen form of political belief?

To me, the essay by Joe Franklin underscores the inadequacy of using conservative versus liberal or Republican versus Democrat to talk about the main divisions in U.S. political policies and thinking today. I totally support the values he outlines as "an honest day's pay for an honest day's work," "waste not, want not," "if it's broken, fix it, don't throw it away" and "pay as you go."

It is the domination of our economy, politics and culture by giant wealthy corporations that subverts these values. Some people are born with so much wealth that they never have to do a single "honest day's work." Others work more than an honest day's work every single day of their life and still cannot make ends meet. Corporate policies denigrate the environment and encourage wastefulness and a throw-away society. Corporate advertisements are designed to make us feel totally insecure and unworthy if we don't have the newest, latest whatever - even if it means having to borrow.

The essay by Cynthia Sneed addresses the "free-market" ideology rather than values. As long as we continue to allow some people to have hundreds of thousands of times more wealth than others, then letting markets determine everything will create major problems. In the marketplace, one dollar equals one vote, so one individual can have hundreds of thousands of times more "votes" than another. At least, with government, we theoretically have one person, one vote!

The main problem I see with our government is that we have allowed corporations and "the market" to dominate it also – "the best government money can buy," as they say!

We need to have a culture of citizenship and a true government of the people, by the people, and for the people. Then we wouldn't even think in terms of government "owing" or "not owing." Instead it would be "we the people" coming together to decide what type of society we want and how we can best obtain it.

Many times it is more efficient and cheaper to produce or buy things in quantity (economies of scale). We can come together as a people to do this. We can "cut out the middleman," i.e.: those not directly involved in producing the service or good, but only there to make a profit.

As far as Bergstrom and Gidehag saying that the U.S. poor have a high standard of living - I would like to see them try to live on a total annual household income of under $18,000 per year as 20 percent of U.S. households do! (Or even the $34,000 annually, under which 40 percent of U.S. households fall.) The fact remains that most surveys show the U.S. with a lower standard of living than many European countries, and the buying power of the U.S. worker has been slipping since 1973.

As for morality, I feel treating others the way you would like to be treated is of utmost importance. Someone who is being honest in a personal relationship and treating the other person with respect and love is being moral, while someone being dishonest, disrespectful, or unloving is immoral - regardless of sexual orientation.

(0) comments


   •  08/01/2004 - 08/08/2004
   •  08/08/2004 - 08/15/2004
   •  08/15/2004 - 08/22/2004
   •  08/22/2004 - 08/29/2004
   •  08/29/2004 - 09/05/2004
   •  09/05/2004 - 09/12/2004
   •  09/12/2004 - 09/19/2004
   •  09/19/2004 - 09/26/2004
   •  09/26/2004 - 10/03/2004
   •  10/03/2004 - 10/10/2004
   •  10/10/2004 - 10/17/2004
   •  10/24/2004 - 10/31/2004
   •  10/31/2004 - 11/07/2004
   •  11/07/2004 - 11/14/2004

Bloggers from
Blue State (Pa.)

Terri Falbo

Born and raised in Southwestern Pennsylvania, Terri Falbo is a union organizer who has lived in Philadelphia for almost 30 years. She graduated from Temple University and previously worked as a construction worker for 17 years.

Tim Horner

Tim Horner grew up in Iowa, but has lived out significant chunks of his adult life in Chicago, IL and Oxford, England. He is married and has four children (14, 12, 10 and 7). Having grown up as an Evangelical in the Midwest and still a practicing Christian, he is concerned with how religion and politics mix. Because of a combination of circumstance and apathy, he has never voted in a presidential election. He currently teaches Humanities at Villanova University.
Bloggers from
Red State (Ala.)

Joe Franklin

Alabama native Joe Franklin, 58, was born in Pike County and grew up on a farm in Crenshaw County. He graduated from Troy State University in 1967. After working for 28 years with the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles as a parole and probation officer, retired to Crenshaw County, which is just south of Montgomery, where he spends his days working on the farm.

Cynthia Sneed

Gadsden resident and local college professor Cynthia Smith Sneed has a doctorate in Accounting from the University of Alabama. Her fields of academic research are in state pension and employee benefit issues. She has been published in numerous academic accounting journals and has done research for the Alabama Policy Institute. She is a member of the American Accounting Association, Governmental Finance Officers Association as well as being active in the Republican Party.

About Realcities Network | About Knight Ridder | Terms of Use & Privacy Statement

Copyright 2004 Knight Ridder. All rights reserved. Any copying, redistribution or retransmission of any
of the contents of this service without the express written consent of Knight Ridder is expressly prohibited.