Fischer argues that these four groups formed the original cultural and political matrix into which later-arriving immigrant groups adapted themselves; and their ancient differences underlie many of the regional and philosophical differences Americans still grapple with today. The migration patterns of these four groups have largely determined the geography of civil and women's rights, economic justice movements, and many other social and political trends. And it seems possible to me that these conflicting value systems may also be at the cultural root of the strikingly ineffectual way that Democratic candidates have consistently responded to GOP attacks over the past 50 years.
Puritan and Quaker leaders demonstrate their moral superiority by doubling down on their self-control when under fire. Losing it brands you forever as a hothead who's a potential danger to self and others, and who should never again be trusted with any kind of serious responsibility.
For one example of this ethos at work, look no further than the last election. Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, in true Boston gentleman form, refused to dignify the Swiftboaters with any kind of response at all. He knew his record and his reputation were solid, and believed that any reasonable person would look at that, take his word over theirs, and shun the Swiftees as the shit-stirrers they so obviously were. That's the way it works in New England. But he didn't reckon with the fact that there are 44 states out there that aren't New England, and most of them were full of voters with a value set that interpreted his silence as a withering sign of weakness.
American subcultures and negative attacks
An interesting blog post takes David Fisher's thesis about four basic sub-cultures in the United States (Puritans, royalists, Quakers and Scots-Irish) and applies it to politics and negative attacks:
at Tuesday, August 12, 2008