American Backlash: The Untold Story of Social Change in the United States
Contains Illustrations, Bibliography, Index
Graeme S. Mount is a professor of history at Laurentian University. He
is the author of Canada’s Enemies: Spies and Spying in the Peaceable
Kingdom, Chile and the Nazis, and The Diplomacy of War: The Case of
Michael Adams certainly knows how to communicate. A professional
pollster and co-founder of the market research company Environics, he
definitely can attract attention. Each chapter of American Backlash
begins with highly memorable quotations, and there are several really
humorous cartoons. One-liners are ubiquitous.
Adams’s thesis is that while there really are significant differences
between Republicans and Democrats, there are even greater differences
between those Americans who vote and those who do not. He notes that in
2004, the number who did not vote exceeded those who voted for either
George W. Bush or John Kerry. Among Adams’s discoveries was that in
2004, 71 percent of the electorate in Churchill County, Nevada, voted
for Bush, “a teetotalling, born-again president.” At the same time
in the same county, 63 percent voted to maintain legalized brothels.
While Republicans profess family values, morality, and religiosity more
strongly than do Democrats, rates of divorce, crime, and illegitimate
births are higher in states that tend to vote Republican than in those
that favour Democrats. In 2004, voters in Montana supported both Bush
and the legalization of marijuana for medical purposes. Adams explains,
“Montanans liked Republican freedom rhetoric, but they liked it so
much they declared themselves free to deviate from the party line.”
Adams finds that there is growing tolerance of violence in support of
good causes, even personal ones.
Despite Bush’s questionable victory in 2000 and his “re-election”
in 2004, Adams finds Bush’s values in decline. He attained office not
so much because of his attitudes toward sex, alcohol, and religion, but
because he conveyed the impression of “security” and had the better
organization. After 9/11, Bill Clinton said, “[w]hen people feel
uncertain, they would rather have somebody who is wrong and strong than
somebody who is right and weak.”
Adams surveyed Americans according to gender, ethnicity (Hispanic,
African-American, white), religious convictions, and regionalism. All
these factors mattered.
This book is interesting and provocative. Time will tell whether its
assessments are accurate.