Saturday, April 25, 2015

Why Do Reasonable Middle-Class People Vote Republican?

Why would any middle or working class person vote Republican?  

I have friends and family members, people that I love and respect, people that I have worked with for years, people that I grew up with, who are solid Republican voters, even after the misery of the Crash of 2008 and after two unfunded, unending wars.  They aren't part of the upper 1% and most of them are not even part of the upper 10 or 20 or 30%, perhaps not even the upper 50%.  They are "solid, hard-working" middle class people.

I'm not talking about the evangelicals or the racists.

I'm not talking about obvious extreme evangelicals nor obvious racist right-wing crazies.  The people I'm talking about are "middle of the pack" people, almost all suburbanites and people who live in small towns and cities, but a few people who live in large cities as well.  Many of them are reasonably open socially; that is, they aren't necessarily social conservatives and they aren't all opposed to gay marriage or a woman's right to choose.  Some even have some positive feelings about the Affordable Care Act.  But they lean Republican nonetheless.

I think that, in order to beat the Republicans in the 
NEXT Presidential elections and in the NEXT midterms, we need to open the eyes of a few more percent of the people so that more states and districts can be turned purple or blue.  And to do this, we need to understand why these reasonable "good" middle class citizens are voting Republican.

are ultimately voting against their best interests, but they don't see it.  Why not?  Here's a clue: 

Originally published at the Akron Beacon Journal: What Republicans tell their voters. 

Democrats and independent liberals don't understand Republican thinkers:

From a recent comment by "AndyCA" at Politicususa:
I’d love to know the thought process of a woman voting republican…why?
I’d love to know the thought process of a LGBT person voting republican…why?
I’d love to know the thought process of a minority voting republican…why?
I’d love to know the thought process of a senior on SS voting republican…why?

So... what are the thought processes of middle class people, including women, seniors, some minorities, and even some LGBT people, that lead them to vote Republican?

Here are my gleanings to start, and I hope that others can help me out here.  As I said above, I'm avoiding racism, evangelism, and anti-choice motivations as reasons for people voting for Republicans, though we know those are biggies... Those people, the racists, the extreme evangelicals, the serious no-right-to-choose-ers really can't be reached.  But the others...

1.  They believe that the Democrats are "corrupt" and the Republicans are not as corrupt; they believe they see too much under-the-counter money being passed around, too much money to petty criminals, gangs, shady businessmen, too many people living fraudulently on "their" dime.  They believe this happens much more among Democrats and they feel it is caused by Democratic policies.

They also feel this is much more true in urban areas.  They point to "Detroit" or "Newark" or "Chicago" as examples of Democratic-controlled cities that have been "ruined".  (Obviously most of those people have not actually been to Chicago.)

They point to the government funding of the solar energy company that went belly-up, Solyandra:  A "corrupt waste" of the taxpayers' money.  They tend to ignore Republican corruption, which abounds, but somehow (in my opinion) doesn't get as much press.

The concern with "corruption" goes hand in hand with:

2.  Too much government!  They feel that government does too much,  government has "stupid" rules and regulations.  When government doesn't do as much as it does now, they believe there is less of a chance of "corruption", less of a chance of "laziness on the government dime".

And, as mentioned above,  "WASTE!"  All Republican supporters have dozens of stories about government "waste", at the federal, state, and local levels.  They get excited at the prospect of a Republican President or governor coming in and cutting all of those "wasteful" programs.  (Of course, they are convinced that the waste is on the Democratic side and that a Republican government would never be wasteful.  They absolutely believe that it is the DEMOCRATS that "tax and spend".  As an example, see the discussion about the new Republican governor in Illinois HERE.)

They believe that the "free market" of the private sector will more effectively and cheaply provide some of the functions and services now provided by government.

They believe that most or all of "regulations" are unnecessary and they also believe that someone is often making money by providing services or products that tie into these onerous regulations.  They want
"liberty" and that means fewer regulations, even if those regulations keep products and roads safer and the air and water cleaner.  (Not my definition of "liberty" as I discuss HERE.)   

This ties in to:

3.  The government does too much for people, and it is too easy for people to get away with not working while lazing on the couch on the government dime; big government encourages "idleness".  They complain about the "entitled" population.  They resent that they are working (or did work), and all of these slackers (of any race, creed, or ethnic group) are lying around living the life of Riley on "their" dime.

They are convinced that "welfare queens" abound, that most people on disability really could work, that most people on unemployment could find a job if they were forced to take any job; some feel that there should not be a minimum wage (People should work their way "up the ladder").  Remember, I'm not talking about hateful racists here, but good, reasonable middle class people.. People that I know and like.

And then they are really riled by:

4.  Immigration.  Of course there is more than an element of prejudice here; but there is legitimate concern about jobs.

Not only jobs going to immigrants (particularly illegal immigrants), but also jobs going to the legions on various visas.  They are convinced that more Mexicans and more Indian H1B workers are taking jobs from American workers, despite the fact that these two immigrant groups either don't do work that Americans do or employers can't find enough Americans who have certain skills.  They actually believe that "illegals" can easily get government services such as food stamps, housing vouchers, "welfare".

Anyway, the nativists truly believe that Democrats are the party of immigrants, particularly illegal immigrants, and they want to bring in all of these immigrants so that they will eventually vote Democratic.  (I'm not going to debunk any of those thoughts here, but I will say that immigrants DO tend to vote for the more populist party when they attain citizenship, and that party has, in recent history, been the Democratic party.)   

Then we turn the focus to who is supporting all of these so-called wastrals and hangers-on, and the "good" middle class people believe it is their:

5.  Taxes.  The original meaning of the TEA party was "Taxed Enough Already".. and many middle class people do feel that taxes take too much of their money.  They are working harder and harder for less... while the government (under the Democrats) "takes" their money and gives it to losers, lazies, and corrupt politicians.  They actually support and identify with the rich guys when a tax cut proposal overwhelmingly benefits the rich guys or when a tax increase hits the rich guys more than the middle class people. 

I just came across this interesting summary of why people in the bottom of the top of the tax continuum (people who come from households at about 45% up to 90% or the median income)  may vote Republican.  I want to make it clear that I don't accept or believe all of this; it can and should be debunked and rebutted.  However, I do think it provides a clear window into the thinking of the middle class person who votes Republican:
I have said that the bottom half and upper 10% of all taxpayers have no aversion to high taxes, or even raising taxes.  It often translates into political support for higher taxes, in fact.  The reasons, if I'm right, are simple.  45% of all taxpayers in America pay virtually no taxes at all.  A higher tax rate has no effect on them.  Secondly, the highest earners usually feel quite fortunate, and higher taxes will in any case have fairly little impact on their daily lives.  If you make $250,000 a year, and you are forced to pay an additional $5000 a year in taxes, you might object on philosophical or economic grounds, but you clearly are not going to be forced to change your diet or move to a cheaper house.
Getting back to the middle class, I picture tens of millions of families at their kitchen table, looking at a paycheck that isn't big enough to do the things they want to do.  Sometimes that means they can't go to a restaurant even for their anniversary, and sometimes (for the more fortunate) it means they have to go camping for their vacation instead of Disneyworld.  Or it means they have to let their gifted kid know that they can go to the local state college but not to a private university.  At tax time, they may find themselves paying a bigger bill than any other bill they get throughout the entire year.  These people care about higher taxes.  
Further, while the other groups know that leaving their children with a national debt obligation will have little effect on their lives, this middle class group reads that their grandchildren will be born with a debt of tens of thousands of dollars to pay.  That upsets them, and they vote Republican.

I've also read a boatload of misinformation about taxes: People think federal taxes have gone up recently and/or people think that their particular state taxes are "the highest in the country" when they are actually living in a state with relatively low state taxes.

And some working and middle class people, as in this story about a "GOP die-hard who finally left the politics of shame", actually identify with the upper class people who benefit from most tax cuts:  

To make up for my own failures, I voted to give rich people tax cuts, because somewhere deep inside, I knew they were better than me.  They earned it.  My support for conservative politics was atonement for the original sin of being white trash.

But this article about former Maryland Governor O'Malley found at the conservative outlet Investor's Business Daily should be required reading for anyone who is trying to understand what is going on with middle class people voting for Republicans.  I'm not alluding to this article because I believe it; I have no idea what is true or not true.  But it is really a good example of how middle-class people might be "encouraged" to vote Republican.

(Former Maryland Gov. Martin) O'Malley, if he were to run for president, would steer to the left of Hillary. In Iowa last week..., he spoke of infrastructure and education spending, more taxes on the rich, raising the minimum wage, hiking Social Security benefits and giving more power to unions to help raise middle-class paychecks.... 

He was an unapologetic liberal governor of Maryland for two terms who supported every liberal cause from gay marriage to gun control to ending the death penalty. He's glib and likable. He is a man of the working class, or so the story goes. 

Except that this conveniently leaves out his unhappy ending last November in Maryland, where the working class threw overboard his brand of governance. 

O'Malley raised taxes and fees 40 times in the Free State — and those taxes didn't just hit the rich, but nearly everyone. The Washington Post dubbed him "the tax man" for raising taxes on everything from wages and salaries to gasoline to smoking and drinking.... 

Republican gubernatorial nominee Larry Hogan had a simple message to voters: I will rescind all of the O'Malley tax hikes.  ...  Hogan's campaign slogan was "Martin O'Malley never saw a tax he didn't like and couldn't hike." 

Even in this bluest of blue states, with a 2-to-1 Democratic registration advantage, Hogan's anti-tax message carried the day in what may have been the political upset of the year. 

It turns out working-class Americans wanted to keep more of their own money and agreed with Hogan that reversing O'Malley-nomics would be good for jobs and living standards. The vote in Maryland was a stunning repudiation of O'Malley's tax-and-spend populism. 

Are Democrats really so desperate for a new face that they would turn to a politician whose policies were so disastrous for his state and the middle class?

Actually, his much bigger problem is that Maryland became an economic basket case while he was governor. With his litany of tax hikes, he left the state with a $750 million budget deficit. 

The more people get to know the truth of Maryland's tax man, the less they'll like him.

Remember, I copied and posted so much of that particular column because it does show us how middle-class Republican voters think.

And though Republican middle-class voters complain about poor people "taking" their tax money, they also peg the Democrats as the party of:

6.  The Elite.  Many rich actors, music, sports figures, and even business people are Democrats.  While the Democrats "pretend" that they represent ordinary people, money for the Democrats is often raised by these "elites"; these rich actors and musicians.  And Republican "leaders" ask they flock:  How can middle class people support the same party that Warren Buffet and Bill Gates support?


7.  It can't happen here.. not to me, not to our family:  "I "work hard", "plan ahead", "make good choices".  None of these bad things can happen to me because I'm BETTER. Therefore, I will never need all of these social programs that just result in me giving my hard-earned money to the lazies and the slackers."

Now deep in their heart-of-hearts they may well fear poverty, fear the misery of trying to pay bills on $2000 a month.. but they convince themselves that they are exempt from the wolf at the door because they have "worked harder", "planned ahead", "made better choices".

If you turn a struggling person into the "other", it is easy to mistreat them; easy to discredit their situation; easy to support cutting programs that help them.    

OK... So now we are 18 months away from a Presidential election:

Can you change people's minds?  No.. I just read something about that again just a day or two ago...  AS A WHOLE you can't.  But there are plenty of people out there, fence-sitters, who are basically misinformed.  Who CAN be reached.  Not everyone I know who now leans Democratic has been a Democrat forever.  And plenty of the Baby Boomers who were Progressive or liberal in the 60's or 70's have moved the other way as they earned more and wound up paying more in taxes.

So...  Think carefully about your conservative brother-in-law, neighbor, classmate.  Think about how you can respond to their fears and misconceptions about Democrats.  Think about how you can respond to their support and misconceptions about Republicans.  It won't be easy.  

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...