The Greatest Threat

2007-06-14

Michael Barone points out (HT: Rich Karlgaard) that Americans who lean Republican tend to think that the great threat of our age is Islamic terrorism, whereas Americans who lean Democrat tend to think that the great threat of our age is global warming. (Independents seem to be a bit closer to Republicans than Democrats.)

Why? Here are some speculations:

  1. Republicans love God and hate science. Fighting global warming requires science. So it's easier to avoid the threat of global warming and hope it goes away.
  2. Democrats love peace and hate war. Fighting terrorism requires war. So it's easier to avoid the threat of Islamic terrorism and hope it goes away.

Maybe, maybe not.

  1. Republicans are America-loving patriots. Islamists threaten the American way of life and so do regulation-happy Democrats, who take any opportunity to bash American success.
  2. Republicans are knee-jerk patriots. Islamists pose a much less significant threat to the future of the world than do wasteful, war-mongering Republicans.

Well, those explanations are rather simplistic, no? There's always the Randian account:

  1. Republicans seek to control that which they care about (the spiritual realm) and grant freedom to that which they don't care about (the material realm). Who cares about something as insignificant as climate change, as long as we can defend Christian culture and fend off the Islamists?
  2. Democrats seek to control that which they care about (the material realm) and grant freedom to that which they don't care about (the spiritual realm). Who cares about something as insignificant as religion, as long as we can prevent runaway economic and technological growth?

I think we can do better. How's this?

  1. Republicans have a tragic appreciation for history and know that culture does not change quickly or easily. Islamic culture has been violent since the days of Mohammed and has not changed; Jihadists have the means and the motivation to inflict harm on America, and will take advantage of any opportunity to do so. By the same token, American culture is focused on free enterprise, personal opportunity, and technological innovation, even if that means using a significant amount of energy.
  2. Democrats are focused on the future and optimistically believe that people can overcome their culture through education and enlightenment (or, if necessary, government regulation). Americans can change their ways by wasting less energy. Islamists too can overcome their past by becoming more tolerant and less violent.

I'm not sure. I think I need to noodle on this some more.

Of course, there are those who say that focusing on Islamic terrorism and climate change simply diverts attention from the true threats to the American future, such as creeping authoritarianism (according to the libertarians) or runaway immigration (according to the populists).


Peter Saint-Andre > Journal