Monday, November 23, 2015

Why Working Class Whites Vote GOP

The New York Times has finally committed journalism on the topic of What's the Matter With Kansas, the fact that the white working class is not voting for its economic interest as it should, but is voting instead for racist, sexist, homophobe Republicans that don't give a good goddam about them and their real interests, as properly understood by elite liberals. Alex MacGillis writes,
The temptation for coastal liberals is to shake their heads over those godforsaken white-working-class provincials who are voting against their own interests.
Why do they do it, those "godforsaken white-working-class provincials"?

It's because they want to draw a line between themselves and the folks on welfare. First, of all, the folks on welfare and Medicaid don't really vote at all, so there's that.
The people in these communities who are voting Republican in larger proportions are those who are a notch or two up the economic ladder — the sheriff’s deputy, the teacher, the highway worker, the motel clerk, the gas station owner and the coal miner. And their growing allegiance to the Republicans is, in part, a reaction against what they perceive, among those below them on the economic ladder, as a growing dependency on the safety net, the most visible manifestation of downward mobility in their declining towns.
This confirms with what I was reading and writing about years ago in The Road to the Middle Class. I focused on a woman that feminist liberal Hanna Rosin condescendingly interviewed in a 2000 article about the Christian Right. Mary Johnston, a resident of the striver suburbs around Charlotte, NC., was ashamed of her cracker origins in the red-neck town of Chester.

It's not just snobbery in the Mary Johnstons. It's the fear, the nagging fear that they could one day slip back into the helplessness and squalor of the underclass life.

MacGillis writes about a nurse, Pamela Dougherty, who had married as a teenager, had a child, divorced, went on welfare, and then trained as a nurse -- with the help of government benefits. Now she's remarried and has a steady job at a kidney dialysis center. But is she a supporter of the programs that had helped her? Not a bit of it.
She was reacting, she said, against the sense of entitlement she saw on display at the dialysis center. The federal government has for years covered kidney dialysis treatment in outpatient centers through Medicare, regardless of patients’ age, partly on the logic that treatment allows people with kidney disease to remain productive. But, Ms. Dougherty said, only a small fraction of the 54 people getting dialysis at her center had regular jobs.
This is something that liberals have a problem understanding: the fear of slipping back into dependency. That's why the responsible lower middle class is so anti-welfare. It's not so much that they want to pull up that ladder to stop other people benefiting from the programs they used. It's to cut off the option of retreat back into dependency for themselves. 

OK, so what are Democrats to do about this? Here is MacGillis' peroration.
The best way to reduce resentment, though, would be to bring about true economic growth in the areas where the use of government benefits is on the rise, the sort of improvement that is now belatedly being discussed for coal country, including on the presidential campaign trail. If fewer people need the safety net to get by, the stigma will fade, and low-income citizens will be more likely to re-engage in their communities — not least by turning out to vote.
Oh yeah. That should do it: big government at its best. But here is what I think. I think that with President Obama off the ballot we are going to see a big falloff in black voting in November 2016. It's just going to be very hard to get low-income blacks all riled up to vote, especially after the collapse of the millennial hopes of 2008. I just don't think that Black Lives Matter is going to get the job done.

And I wonder when the working blacks of America will follow the Mary Johnstons and the Pamela Doughertys into the GOP. Every now and again you read a piece that indicates that the black church ladies are not that different in outlook and philosophy from the white working class ladies. Come on in ladies, the water's fine.

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