Friday, November 16, 2012

Hypocrisy or a Desperate Stand Against Chaos?

The latest Congressional scandal:
Things just got a whole lot worse for Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-Tenn.).

According to a new report from the Chattanooga Times Free Press the congressman, who is also a doctor, admitted to sexual relationships with multiple patients and co-workers during sworn testimony at his divorce trial and urged his now-ex-wife to get two abortions, despite campaigning for Congress as an antiabortion rights, family values candidate.

The paper obtained a transcript of his 2001 trial, in which DesJarlais cops to having “had sexual relationships with at least two patients, three coworkers and a drug representative while he was chief of staff at Grandview Medical Center in Jasper, Tenn.,” in the paper’s words. The relationships with patients both occurred in 2000, when DesJarlais was married. . . .

During the trial, DesJarlais said the first time he urged his ex-wife to get an abortion, it was because she was on medication on which she wasn’t supposed to get pregnant. The second time, he said it was because “things were not going well between us and it was a mutual decision.” Both abortions occurred before the couple was married in 1995.
The hypocrisy of this does not particularly interest me -- hypocrisy is always with us, and there isn't much more to be said.

What I wonder is whether people turn to conservative politics through fear of just sort of thing, and especially if they have actually been involved in this sort of thing themselves. Tennessee has both  deep red politics and one of the nation's highest divorce rates. Generally speaking, most of the indices of social turmoil -- divorce, teen pregnancy, spousal abuse, etc.  -- are worse in conservative southern states, and this is even more true if you only consider white people. White people in Connecticut, Minnesota, and Vermont are much less likely to have personally experienced family breakdown than those in Alabama, Louisiana, or Kentucky. Is there a relationship between this social fact and our politics? Is "social conservatism" a response to a society in crisis, therefore stronger where the crisis is worse? Or is it something about the style of southern culture that lends itself both to misbehavior and extreme stands against it?

3 comments:

leif said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
leif said...

i deleted my previous attempt at this post because i had my < and > signs reversed.

here's the post, corrected.

i maintain a large spreadsheet of state-by-state data, to which i just added the %obama and %romney results by state, and then re-calculated the correlation scores. the notable scores ( > 0.35 or < -0.35) follow.

red states negatively correlate:

state debt per capita (-0.49)
illicit drug use (-0.46)
population density (-0.52)
average income per capita (-0.51)
median age (-0.50)
gallons of wine per capita (-0.69)
nest egg index (-0.53)
life expectancy (-0.51)
state tax per capita (-0.50)
median, avg AGI (-0.38, -0.41)
%25-34 year olds w degree (-0.48)
healthiness (-0.35)


red states positively correlate:
% in poverty (0.39)
rate of forcible rape (0.36)
% pop under 18 (0.55)
economic freedom index (0.55)
% importance of religion (0.59)
% obese (0.48)
% overweight + obese (0.48)
% gun ownership (0.76)
% firearm deaths per 100k (0.59)
% seniors w/o teeth (0.56)

please pardon the shortened summaries. if you're interested in more complete info, many of which are from statemaster.com, and some come from the census. the 'nest egg index' and 'healthiness' scores are composite scores for which one can readily search. most data is from within the past five years.

it's not especially meaningful to post the blue state correlation scores, since in this case they are the inverse of the red state data.

David said...

Interesting compilation of statistics--nice to see it all in one place. There's also the old truism, which is possibly also the truth, that red states are net recipients of federal revenue, while blue states are net contributors.

I definitely think these traits derive from the style of southern culture, as John puts it, rather than a crisis. They've been chronic aspects of the southern condition for as long as I can remember, and for something to be a crisis in any meaningful sense, I think it has be acute (using these medical terms advisedly, since the term "crisis" itself is, as I understand, a borrowing from medicine).

For decades, on the highway from the main airport in Houston to the city, the first billboard you saw announced "The Oasis of Love," which was Lakewood Church, still the largest congregation in the US. The second billboard was for a place with a name like "Encounters"--a lap dance establishment.