“They Vote Against Their Own Self-Interest”

There’s a common refrain among both parties of the American political system. Members of Group X always vote for the opposing party. But it doesn’t make sense for Group X to be so antagonistic against us. Our party’s policies are actually much more in line with what members of Group X believe. They’re voting against their own self-interest. If only members of Group X woke up and saw the light, they’d be voting for our party all the time.

For Democrats, Group X is generally the working class white southern vote. Poor white southerners, the line goes, benefit much more from Democratic economic policies than from Republican economic policies. Yet they vote strongly Republican. Why, Democrats lament, do poor white southerners continually vote against their own self-interest? If only they realized this, they would start voting Democratic.

For Republicans, Group X is the black (and, to a lesser extent, Latino) vote. I recently listened to a conservative radio host talk extensively about how it just didn’t make sense for the African-American community to be so Democratic. Black churches, for instance, are bastions of Democratic strength, yet their social policies are much more in line with Republican social policies than Democratic ones. African-Americans and Hispanics in general hold very socially conservative views on things such as religion and gay marriage; it doesn’t make sense for them to be voting Democratic when those beliefs are so opposed to Democratic ones. I’m not asking for much, the radio host said, just 30% of the black vote. It’s ridiculous to be losing African-Americans 10-to-90.

In my opinion, these arguments are less valid than they seem. Both poor white southerners and African-Americans have very good reasons to vote for the parties that they do. In both the Democratic and Republican Party there are a subtle (and sometimes not very subtle) currents of hostility towards white southerners and African-Americans, respectively. You don’t have to be in politics very long to be aware of this. White southerners and African-Americans will naturally be reluctant to vote for a party whose fundamental narrative, in many ways, paints themselves as antagonists. Voters aren’t stupid, unlike what many people say.

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9 Responses to “They Vote Against Their Own Self-Interest”

  1. Cash money says:

    In response to your beef with american economy policy, i agree wit chu dat wages are stagnant. I think its mostly due to a few factors. 1) da emergence of da global market 4 manufacturing with respects the ease of travel and da internets 2) da corporations be trying to find countries wit lower wages and lax labor laws, its a race to the bottom in wages for the workers of da world, but hey its just business 3) i think in the decades ahead we gon be staring down the barrel at a
    worst crisis 4) capitalism and globalizarltion has worked really for the most part to this point, i
    mean like standard of living is pretty high in da usa although cost of living has just about caught up to us and purchasing power has dropped too, but it has given emerging countries like india, where poverty is madd rampant the foreign investment, stability, and backing it needs to provide for their large population and bring up their standard of living. But sheitt idk doggie. Your thoughts? You asian so i trust you is smart

  2. neoLocke says:

    What he is saying is that, although blacks social beliefs fall in line with the Republican parties “stated” social beliefs, this is not the issue for blacks. For blacks “its the economy stupid”. Black unemployement is double that of whites – ALL THE TIME. This means during economic booms and busts their are more blacks unemployed than whites. In the case of white southerners, the issue is that the economic policies of the Democrats would go farther in helping their economic status, but it is the social policies of the Republicans that continue to draw them. A very good look at their mentality is covered in a book called “Poor but Proud”. To further complicate this, shrewd business leaders and investors play of this sentiment. There used be be a saying in the South, “I may be poor, but at least I’m not black.” In others words they tap into the very human feeling that even if you are low on the totem pole, do all that you can to keep the next guy below you from moving up. This is why many Democratic policies are forced down in the South, because they would also help blacks.

    Coming from Hong Kong (I was born in the US), its pretty obvious that both sides are just being played for suckers.
    On the one had you have the Democratic Party, that caters to the idea that society must be molded to give everyone an equal shot. On the other hand the Republican party says the same thing. However their methods of accomplishing this are different. Democrats favor, labor laws, taxes, social welfare programs to help people back on their feet, etc. Republicans champion loose labor, tax and investment laws, and restricting government regulation. Furthermore, the “Issues” they constantly talk about have nothing to do with economics. How does gay marriage (FOR or AGAINST) get you a job? How does “not” going to college (becoming a snob), help your children. These things are obvious to someone looking from the outside in. The American people are being duped. For every politician that screams about a “social” issue or “culuture” war is just avoiding the real issue of wage stagnation and declining standard of living — DUE TO ECONOMIC POLICY — not social policy. Yes there are social components to all societies, but these are things that really need to be settled at home. These politicans are tapping into the emotional side of their voters brains, bypassing the rational side. The US is in for a rough ride in the next few decades. I say this because nearly every other avanced or developing country on the planet is pushing hard for the economic issues to be addressed and are basically ignoring the social stuff. With the notable exception of your “Isalmic” nations….

    • inoljt says:

      Interesting point.

      I tend to focus more on what you’d call the emotional side of things. And that is: subtly (and sometimes not so subtly) the Republican Party paints blacks as “the enemy.” And subtly (and sometimes not so subtly) the Democratic Party paints white Southerners as “the enemy.”

      And, what do you know, blacks don’t vote Republican. Nor do white Southerners don’t vote Democratic.

      • neoLocke says:

        Yes you are correct. There is that facet of the issue as well. Both sides are playing off the populace. The situation has to come to a head sometime. I was in the Navy, and we have a saying there, “Don’t give up the ship.” Every sailor learns it. From the bridge crew all the way to the engineers. This is because if the ship goes down — everyone dies.
        The disappointing thing is that there are no politicians that are speaking about being American – as opposed to being one facet of American. I can recall on of my history professors speaking about how the Roman Empire worked and the meaning of SPQR. They basically created a society that said we don’t care where you came from, “Are you a citizen?” If so we got your back. Later the fractures occurred along those fault lines, and we all know the rest of the story.

      • neoLocke says:

        “And, what do you know, blacks don’t vote Republican. Nor do white Southerners don’t vote Democratic.”

        As far as blacks not voting. I have to tell you, no one in the black community thinks the Republican party is out to help them. They have made this very clear from the Nixon years, and even before this. As many current Republicans love to point out, black people used to vote for Republicans, but stopped. I d not think this was because of characterizations, but in fact because of very real actions taken within black communities, to stifle growth and keep people poor. When examined closer it was pretty easy to figure out who was trying to help you and who was trying to hinder you. Thats one of the major reasons blacks will not vote Republican in large numbers.

        It’s also key to note that there is a very strong strain, of don’t tell me what to do, in American culture. Such that policies that are framed to help “ALL”, are framed as “Government knowing whats best for you.” This is utterly not, true, but is often the case. Take flood plains for example. The government paid for flood plain mapping. Now when they require homeowners to purchase additional insurance against flood damage; some citizens balk. Of course when the flood comes, everyone wants help. I generally chalk this up to the immaturity of the American culture as a whole. There is not the same level of cultural wisdom that you get from many centuries living in a place. Add to this the fact that the country is constantly growing via immigration and its difficult to get people to see this. There is a such thing as good advice, and when some people in your culture or nation don’t take it we all suffer.

    • Cash money says:

      My comment was to you doggie. Sowwiee 😦 im just learning how dis works, and i read wrong i thought you were chinese ^_^

  3. Branden says:

    Argument of “self-fulfilling prophecy” in 3 paragraphs doesn’t refute the notion of “They Vote Against Their Own Self-Interest.”
    Note that your basic diatribe shows that the economic incentive and social imperative are the Y to your X. However, economics and social concerns are two completely different means of measuring where people stand on policy.
    If I read an intention into your article that was not intended, or you feel my comment to be as baseless as I find your analysis to be; by all means, elaborate.

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