Monday, November 12, 2012

the right viewpoint

Following the re-election of Barack Obama, Rubye Jack acknowledged that there are intelligent and caring people who voted for Mitt Romney, but was struggling to understand – amongst other things – why working or middle class people would support him.

TMD [too much detail] is my specialty, but it is not my mission in life to force it on people. Rather than hog the comments space under her post, I thought I might blurt on endlessly about the possibilities here.

 The following sweeping generalisations are not intended to denigrate any USian – as my thousands of readers will know, I am more disgusted with Aussie Politics than words can adequately express.

Because I’m talking about the US, in this post I use the word “liberal” to mean those whose politics are left of centre, or are more inclined to vote Democrat than Republican [the right of centre, conservative party].

One of the first comments under Rubye’s post points out, quite rightly, that many people simply vote as they have always done.
It’s only the small portion who change their vote or level of participation from one election to the next that ultimately decide the outcome of an election. [Don’t know about the States, but here we call them ‘swinging’ voters.]

Let's start with the people less likely to swing:

In previous posts I’ve blurted on about Joe Bageant’s explanation of why rednecks think and vote the way they do.
To oversimplify; in living memory a white class with small farms and Bibles but little education were once reasonably self-sufficient and content. Now they are unemployable and disenfranchised.
Farming technologies and cheap overseas labour have compounded their problems, but when looking for an explanation of what went wrong, the most conspicuous changes they can see/ understand are personal, emotional and smaller – growth of govt, less conservative lifestyles, and changes in the racial/ cultural composition of their communities. This poor white class is still largely uneducated.

Their way of life was destroyed by big [agri]business, and they were later exploited as cheap labour by other big businesses. Now that they are an unemployed underclass, they see this as a problem caused by governments that don’t want to encourage big business thereby creating jobs.
As the late and great Joan Robinson said

...the misery of being exploited by capitalists is nothing compared to the misery of not being exploited at all.

Of course, following the GFC, so-called rednecks and other undereducated people are not the only class who are unemployed. But if this predominantly god-fearing underclass was educated, would their attitudes change? That would depend on the type of education they had. In the US there are two diametrically opposed approaches to education:
Liberals believe education should be about exposure to new ideas and a willingness to question the status quo. Conservative education focuses more on religious or work oriented goals.

For the left, the Bible – especially the New Testament – can be seen as an exhortation to be kind or even altruistic. For those on the right the Bible – especially the Old Testament – might sometimes be simply be a tool for confirming warped views of the world.


Conservatism, by definition, is anti-change. Conservatives like to think about the good old days when divorce rates were low and life was a slice of apple pie.

People need certainty and therefore hesitate to embrace change. The past is not a foreign country, it is a place people understand and therefore a place that offers certainty.

Poorer people might seek a change in their personal circumstances but see the means of achieving this as a universal return to old values. They are more likely to do this if they believe their class has fallen in status and opportunity over time – if the position of their class has shifted from relative privilege to relative disadvantage. For them, the American Dream is being replaced by a nightmare. 

Humans might not miss what they have never had, but they sure as heck will miss something if it is taken away.

Liberals, by definition, seek change. Change can be scary – especially to those who have only experienced negative consequences from change.

Some poorer people might seek a change in their personal circumstances but see the means of achieving this as a universal shift to new values. Unlike classes whose status has fallen over the years, some of the never-have-hads cannot be threatened by change – the possibility of change is the only thing that offers them hope.

Q. When is a minority no longer a minority?
A. When the buggers start breeding and multiplying faster than the once-hads.

John Meynard Keynes observed that workers rarely gave a hoot about their absolute worth, it was their relative worth that drove them. No one wants to see themselves losing ground. We don’t have to win the race, but we don’t want to start off in fourth place and end up tenth.


I suspect many Americans still think of their country as a place of refuge from religious persecution, and various forms of totalitarian rule. It follows that for them religion and less government must be good.

[Christian] Fundamentalism isn’t just about the literal interpretation of scripture. It can’t be, given there are so many conflicting literal interpretations. What religious rigidity and stagnation do offer is another source of certainty which reinforces resistance to change.

While the rest of the west was experimenting with socialism, McCarthyism was exerting a very strong conservative influence on generations of Americans. This was the ‘duck and cover’ era when Communism and death became inextricably linked in a lot of impressionable young minds.

The obvious failure of the USSR has also reinforced the perception that socialism of any degree is evil. It’s irrelevant that the USSR was as socialist as my right boot, or that it was really a totalitarian state built on a transparent lie. The lie has become truth through repetition – there is no need to read Marx or question anything. [Best never forget, though, that Jews started all that and cannot be trusted.]

Nothing unites a community like a mutual threat. WWII, Vietnam, wars in [mainly oil-rich] states and then 911 were galvanising – people could be unemployed whites but still belong to something successful and strong that doesn’t let anyone push them around e.g. America. War, sadly enough, provides a feel good buzz.

The military is big business and big business means jobs. As it’s a big budget item, reduced military spending can shake the economy very badly.

American politics, as one chap whose name I forget put it, is all about the ‘3 Gs” – guns, god and gays. This sums up the right's way of thinking fairly well, I reckon.
It’s the foundation and source of a lot of Republican policies, the specifics of which are a whole ‘nother topic.


  1. This is an excellent and very astute analysis of our American thinking FC. imho

    Finally, we received a couple of poignant, intelligent, and well-reasoned comments from Republicans. Well, one was from an Australian, Chris, but she seemed to understand our system more than most of us. Anyway, if you haven't already, check out Robin's comments.

    1. Rubye, I am humbled by your humble opinion.

      I've been revisiting your post and the comments regularly. Chris and Robin both spoke at length which I think was necessary to get their points through, and the nice thing is they were honest without being personal or defensive.

      Am now on my way to see an endodontist about an abscess. If I'm apprehensive it's only because we don't have universal free dental care. What is it with American teeth [the Donny Osmond syndrome] compared to British or Australian teeth?
      Anyway, this is to say it might take a while but the challenge you have issued is interesting, and while I always have more to say on any subject, the best is yet to come on this one. Later.

  2. The three gees are a sad indictment and confirm that going for the lowest common denominator works.
    '...the misery of being exploited by capitalists is nothing compared to the misery of not being exploited at all.' Brilliant quote.

    1. Joan Robinson was a genius, and it's a quote that seems relevant so often I doubt I'll ever forget it.

      Unfortunately, the emotional appeal of the LCD is really, really effective, and too easy to master.

  3. Too Much Detail expressed as an ACRONYM?? Priceless!!! If I seem flippant it's because I'm once again overawed by your masterful coverage of all angles of a topic ... I too, struggle with brevity, but never to such great effect.

    LOVE that JR quote!

    1. Red, perhaps one day our own names will be acronymed by one of our legions of admirers.

      Yes. Our Joan knew what she were on abaht.

    2. HHHMMMmmm ... Andrew calls me 'Red' and you 'FC'. Don't tell me it's already started!!!

    3. Your mention of acronyms did make me stop and give thanks I had not chosen a handle like Fruit, Cake and Kaka.