by Daniel Mendelsohn
The startling discovery that affiliation with the Republican party
genetically determined, announced by scientists in the current issue of
the journal Nurture, threatens to overshadow the announcement by
Government scientists that there might be a gene for homosexuality in
Reports of the gene that codes for political conservatism, discovered
after a long study of quintuplets in Orange County CA, has sent shock
waves through medical, political and golfing communities.
Psychologists and psychoanalysts have long believed that Republicans'
unnatural and frequently unconstitutional tendencies result from
unhealthy family life--a remarkably high percentage of Republicans had
authoritarian, domineering fathers and emotionally distant mothers who
didn't teach them how to be kind and gentle. But biologists have long
suspected that conservatism is inherited. "After all" said one author of
the Nurture article, "It's quite common for a Republican to have a
brother or sister who is a Republican."
The finding has been greeted with relief by parents and friends
Republicans, who have tended to blame themselves for the political views
of otherwise lovable people--their children, friends and unindicted
One mother, a longtime Democrat, clasped her hands in ecstasy
of the findings. "I just knew it was genetic," she said, seated beside
her two sons, both avowed Republicans. "I just knew nobody would
actually CHOOSE that lifestyle!" When asked what the Republicans'
lifestyle was, she said, "Well, you can just tell from watching TV, like
at the convention in Houston: the loud outfits, the flaming xenophobia,
the flamboyant demagogy--you know."
Both sons said they had suspected their Republicanism from an
but did not confirm it until in college, when they became convinced it
wasn't just a phase they were going through.
Despite the near certainty of the medical community about
Republicanism's genetic origins, troubling issues remain. The Nurture
article offered no response to the suggestion that the startlingly high
incidence of Republicanism among siblings could result from the fact
that they share not only genes but also psychological and emotional
attitudes, being the products of the same parents and family dynamics.
And it remains to be explained why so many avowed Democrats are
known to vote Republican occasionally--or at least known to fantasize
about doing so. Polls show that at three out of five Democrats admit
to having had a Republican experience. In well-adjusted people,
however, this experimentation rarely outlasts adolescence.
Surprisingly, some Republican activists hail the findings as a
forward rather than as an invitation to more conservophobia. They argue
that since Republicans didn't "choose" their unwholesome life style any
more than someone "chooses" to have a ski-jump nose, they shouldn't be
denied civil rights to which normal people are entitled.
Other Republicans, recalling 19th century scientific studies that
"proved" the mental inferiority of blacks, find the frenzied search for
the biological cause of Republicanism pointless if not downright
But for most real Americans, the discovery opens a window on a
tomorrow. In a few years, gene therapy could eradicate Republicanism
If conservatism is not the result of sheer orneriness (as many
but is something Republicans can't help and probably don't even like,
there's no reason why we shouldn't tolerate Republicans in the military
or even high elected office--provided they don't flaunt their political beliefs.