A news junkie who follows the American political media could be forgiven for thinking that the American people are divided by race and gender, and perhaps religion, but not by regional culture. And yet the evidence says otherwise. Latinos in Texas vote differently than Latinos in California. Scholars have established that members of the same religions — Protestants, Catholics and Jews — tend to be more socially conservative in the South than in other parts of the country. Regional political culture is a powerful independent force, not a mere reflection of the numbers of particular demographic groups in particular territories.

As many scholars have observed, immigrant groups tend to assimilate, not to a generic American culture, but to particular regional cultures. Michael Dukakis and Ralph Nader are, respectively, cultural Yankees of Greek and Arab descent. Bobby Jindal is a Southerner of Indian ancestry. Where you grow up is often as important, if not more important, than where your family came from.

But cultural regions are absent from most media discussions of politics, other than the most cursory references to Southern conservatism and West Coast liberalism. At their worst, when they cannot ignore regional political culture, media pundits try to explain it in terms of the categories they prefer, like race and gender. For example, during the 2008 race, some commentators explained regional support for Hillary Clinton simply in terms of white racism. It was clear, however, that differences in regional culture had more explanatory power. Obama’s aloof and professorial manner fitted poorly with the populist political culture of Scots-Irish Appalachia, but resonated with, or at least did not repel, the low-key, introverted culture of the heavily Germanic-American northern Plains states.

Why not invite scholars like these who actually understand America’s regional cultures onto TV news studio sets? As part of election night coverage, wouldn’t it be useful for journalists to interview political historians and political scientists to put election returns into their historical regional contest? Wouldn’t that be an improvement over turning for commentary to partisan flacks sitting on stools in the studio and reciting pre-packaged talking points?

Liberals should learn from this display that there is no point in catering to today’s hard-line conservatives. The individual mandate was a conservative idea that President Obama adopted to preserve the private market in health insurance rather than move toward a government-financed, single-payer system. What he got back from conservatives was not gratitude but charges of socialism — for adopting their own proposal.

The irony is that if the court’s conservatives overthrow the mandate, they will hasten the arrival of a more government-heavy system. Justice Anthony Kennedy even hinted that it might be more “honest” if government simply used “the tax power to raise revenue and to just have a national health service, single-payer.” Remember those words.

Most of our competitors are interesting in doing something different, or want to appear new – I think those are completely the wrong goals. A product has to be genuinely better. This requires real discipline, and that’s what drives us – a sincere, genuine appetite to do something that is better. Committees just don’t work, and it’s not about price, schedule or a bizarre marketing goal to appear different – they are corporate goals with scant regard for people who use the product.

I used to be a conservative, and I watch these debates and I’m wondering, I don’t think I’ve changed, but it’s a little troubling sometimes when people are appealing to people’s fears and emotion rather than trying to get them to look over the horizon for a broader perspective, and that’s kind of where we are.

Defending Child Rape

The New York Times reports that the Catholic Church is harassing the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, an advocacy group that works to help victims of child raping priests:

Turning the tables on an advocacy group that has long supported victims of pedophile priests, lawyers for the Roman Catholic Church and priests accused of sexual abuse in two Missouri cases have gone to court to compel the group to disclose more than two decades of e-mails that could include correspondence with victims, lawyers, whistle-blowers, witnesses, the police, prosecutors and journalists.

And later:

William Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, a church advocacy group in New York, said targeting the network was justified because “SNAP is a menace to the Catholic Church.”

Mr. Donohue said leading bishops he knew had resolved to fight back more aggressively against the group: “The bishops have come together collectively. I can’t give you the names, but there’s a growing consensus on the part of the bishops that they had better toughen up and go out and buy some good lawyers to get tough. We don’t need altar boys.”

Forgiving that last unfortunate turn of phrase, one wonders how the Catholic Church still maintains any legitimacy at all. An organization responsible for an international conspiracy to not only turn a blind eye while children were being raped by their clergy, but, once those crimes were discovered by secular law enforcement, actively worked to help the guilty avoid prosecution.

Now they’re going after a tiny organization with a non-existent budget to coerce them into backing off of their defense of the victims of pedophiles.

And this is the fount from which the whole of humanity is to receive instruction on living a moral life? No thanks.