Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Why Do Poor Whites Slavishly Vote Republican?

I wish I had a dollar for everytime I was either asked or even heard someone ask why black people have slavishly devoted themselves to the Democratic Party. Not even the most cogent argument reviewing the history of the GOP or its unwillingness to include blacks (and Hispanics, for that matter) in the formation of their party's agenda, helps critics see that it's not so much having given up on the party, as the party saying 'We only want you under certain guidelines.'

But here's another question: why do poor and lower class continue to vote overwhelmingly Republican? It's not like the trajectory of their lives has been significantly altered for the better by that party.

This column in The New Yorker, written by George Packer, "Poor, White and Republican", raises the corollary to the question asked by blacks in the Democratic Party. Maybe you can come up with a meaningful answer.

Here's an excerpt. You can read the full column here...
"F.D.R. called him “the forgotten man,” but that was long ago. By 1972, he was a member of the silent majority and had become a Democrat for Nixon (he wore a hard hat with an American-flag sticker). 1980 produced the Reagan Democrat (this time he came from Macomb County, Michigan, and was discovered by the pollster Stan Greenberg). By 1994 he had curdled into the Angry White Male (he elected the Gingrich Congress). In 2008, he was simply the working-class white—by then he was no longer forgotten, and no longer a Democrat of any kind; he was a member of the much-analyzed Republican base. The television godfather of the type, of course, is Archie Bunker, but you can also trace his lineage more darkly through the string of hard-bitten blue-collar movies that begins with “Joe” (Peter Boyle, 1970), goes on to “Falling Down” (Michael Douglas, 1993), “Gran Torino” (Clint Eastwood, 2008), and, in a rural context, “Winter’s Bone” (2010). He’s a descendant of the thirties Everyman played by Henry Fonda and Gary Cooper, except that in the intervening decades he lost his idealism and grew surly, if not violent, consumed with a hatred of hippies, immigrants, blacks, government, and, finally, himself."

"This election year, he’s back and getting a lot of attention from sociologists and pundits (Charles Murray’s new book “Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010” sparked the current flurry of commentary). But in 2012 he’s no longer even working class. He’s fallen through the last restraints of decency and industriousness, down into the demoralized and pathological underclass that, in the past, Americans associated with the black poor. There, he lives on disability, is no longer fit for employment nor has any impulse to get a job, is divorced, fathers illegitimate children who grow up to do the same, gets hooked on meth or prescription drugs, does time in prison now and then, and has bad teeth."

"Is it useful to make generalizations about whole classes of people? We all know the reasons why it’s not—they stoke prejudice, crush nuance, distort reality, are unkind and unfair. But just as it was wrong for a generation of liberals to reject Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s notorious 1965 report “The Negro Family: The Case for National Action,” it would be a mistake to dismiss the subject of Murray’s new book simply because it insults half of the Americans who weren’t already tarred by “The Bell Curve.”"

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