Ah, yes! ‘Tis the season for Presidential Elections once again. Admittedly, this is one of my favorite times during the political season, the very idea that the next few months will determine who will be the next leader of this nation. The unpredictability of it all is killing me! But, in a good way.
Not so unpredictable, however, is the psychology of the voter. I can’t predict who the Presidential nominees will be on either side, as much as I can predict what kinds of people will support each candidate. Most notably, I already know well in advance that poor and rural folks will likely vote Republican. Politicos for years have been asking the burning question: how can poor people support a Republican party which typically goes against their interests? To me, the answer is quite obvious and can be summed up in a few points:
(1) Racial red herrings: In its simplest form, a red-herring is a distraction luring a person away from a more relevant issue, cause, or individual. In politics especially, what better way is there to distract a collective people from your foulness than by identifying racial groups you can vilify instead? If you build a platform on how “Mexicans” are here to take your jobs, how black welfare recipients are taking your hard-earned money, or how “A-rabs” are here to killer terrorists, it’s not hard to build a legion of followers. Simply put, Republicans are able to muster so much white, rural support because they paint Democrats as champions for these villainous racial groups hellbent on destroying America.
(2) Religion: As a Christian, this one hurts me. But it also makes me realize how deeply true it is. What’s of particular interest to me are the multiple ways in which religious beliefs tie into people’s political tendencies. On social issues for instance, Republicans generally ascribe to philosophies shaped by systematic and selective application of the Scripture. Gay marriage is trumped by Leviticus. Reproductive rights are trampled on by “Thou Shalt Not Kill”, and so on. Also, from economic perspective, people rely on religious beliefs to justify their financial standing in the world. If you’re poor, it’s part of “God’s Divine Will” and nothing but “God’s Grace” and a little bootstrap pulling will deliver from your circumstances. The government is not factored into the equation at all. Similarly, if you’re rich, it’s because God blessed you (not because of the tax code, hiring discrimination, unfair housing practices, etc.), and that it’s not up to government to punish them by expecting them to pay their fair share in taxes.
When you think about, it’s actually quite amazing to see how so many people think and operate in the name of religion.
(3) Fox News: Have frequented the south many times, I’m amazed (but not really) by how popular conservative news outlets are. Everything from Fox News to talk radio (Rush, Glen Beck, Hannity) can be found feeding the collective conscious of poor and rural folks in that part of the country. Conservative politics aren’t the sole province of the south, but that’s where the Republican vote is mostly won.
(4) Liberal Elitism: I’m sorry – especially as a left leaner myself, but liberals can be real dicks. They’re smug, arrogant, and condescending. If you’ve driven your bumper sticker-littered Prius to Starbucks so you can engage in “critically deconstructive conversations about social structuralism and hierarchical oppression”, wearing your crocheted beanie caps and thrift store clothes (because of how anti-consumerist you are) all the while preaching to people about why eating meat is bad, chances are pretty high that people will hate you. What’s worst is that you will never be able to get most people to see things your way, even if your interests are aligned. Nobody…and I repeat…nobody likes to hear pontification or be talked down to (I can hear some of you saying “He ended that sentence with a preposition.” If that’s you, you’re the person I’m talking about. Excuse me: “about whom I’m speaking). Admittedly, it can be pretty tempting at times to take our advanced degrees and look down at “rednecks” with a certain level disdain because of how uncultured and uneducated they appear. But the reality is: both sides – though different in many ways – are very alike in so many more instances. Obviously, these are all generalizations. But this phenomenon occurs often enough to establish patterns.
To a previous point about religion: liberals are often portrayed (falsely, I’ll believe) as being entirely intellectual and anti-religion, often even poking fun at religious people for following an “imaginary god.” Yeah. Good luck trying to get people to join your cause when you’ve essentially reduced the entity upon whom they’ve built their life’s worth of values to nothing more than a unicorn.
(5) Guns: This one is pretty simple. Poor people (usually fueled by the Fox News apparatus) think the bleeding hearts in government are coming for their guns. This, despite the fact that there is no evidence to support that claim and no legitimate way for the government to confiscate the over 350 million guns currently owned by American citizens. But with every mass shooting and every subsequent conversation about gun control, owners become more and more riled. You might say they start “clinging to their guns.”
There are probably more reasons why poor people go against their interests and vote Republican, but I think these are the main reasons. Any conservative playing to these points is sure to gain supporters even if they have no intention to govern according to those people’s expectations.
What say you?