Political genetics? Zell has the final word
On June 21, the NY Times published this article headlined, "Some politics may be etched in the genes."
Wow, I thought. What are neocons, genetic mosaics?
However, it turns out the research was more about concepts that influence politics than about political affiliation itself. Here's an excerpt:
...on the basis of a new study, a team of political scientists is arguing that people's gut-level reaction to issues like the death penalty, taxes and abortion is strongly influenced by genetic inheritance...
From an extensive battery of surveys on personality traits, religious beliefs and other psychological factors, the researchers selected 28 questions most relevant to political behavior. The questions asked people "to please indicate whether or not you agree with each topic," or are uncertain on issues like property taxes, capitalism, unions and X-rated movies...
The researchers then compared dizygotic or fraternal twins, who, like any biological siblings, share 50 percent of their genes, with monozygotic, or identical, twins, who share 100 percent of their genes.
Calculating how often identical twins agree on an issue and subtracting the rate at which fraternal twins agree on the same item provides a rough measure of genes' influence on that attitude. A shared family environment for twins reared together is assumed...
On school prayer, for example, the identical twins' opinions correlated at a rate of 0.66, a measure of how often they agreed. The correlation rate for fraternal twins was 0.46. This translated into a 41 percent contribution from inheritance...
But after correcting for the tendency of politically like-minded men and women to marry each other, the researchers also found that the twins' self-identification as Republican or Democrat was far more dependent on environmental factors like upbringing and life experience than was their social orientation, which the researchers call ideology. Inheritance accounted for 14 percent of the difference in party, the researchers found.
Here's the part that starts being relevant to what's going on with neocons (perhaps):
A mismatch between an inherited social orientation and a given party may also explain why some people defect from a party. Many people who are genetically conservative may be brought up as Democrats, and some who are genetically more progressive may be raised as Republicans, the researchers say.
In tracking attitudes over the years, geneticists have found that social attitudes tend to stabilize in the late teens and early 20's, when young people begin to fend for themselves.
Some "mismatched" people remain loyal to their family's political party. But circumstances can override inherited bent. The draft may look like a good idea until your number is up. The death penalty may seem barbaric until a loved one is murdered.
That's quite simplistic, but it's a version of the old "mugged by reality" line about neocons (one I've been guilty of using, although in retrospect I think it's glibly misleading, as further segments of my "change" series should wind up demonstrating. The true situation is far more complex.)
But here's my very favorite part. I'm with Zell Miller on this one, although I wish I could say it as well as he does:
Other people whose social orientations are out of line with their given parties may feel a discomfort that can turn them into opponents of their former party, Dr. Alford said.
"Zell Miller would be a good example of this," Dr. Alford said, referring to the former Democratic governor and senator from Georgia who gave an impassioned speech at the Republican National Convention last year against the Democrats' nominee, John Kerry.
Support for Democrats among white men has been eroding for years in the South, Dr. Alford said, and Mr. Miller is remarkable for remaining nominally a Democrat despite his divergence from the party line on many issues.
Reached by telephone, Mr. Miller said he did not see it quite that way. He said that his views had not changed much since his days as a marine, but that the Democratic Party had moved.
"And I'm not talking about inch by inch, like a glacier," said Mr. Miller, who makes the case in a new book, "A Deficit of Decency." "I'm saying the thing got up and flew away."
My sentiments exactly. The blasted thing just got up and flew away.