Sunday, January 11, 2015

Why people vote the way they do (3)

So we've had an on-going vigorous discussion here on why the less privileged white voters are such vehement supporters of the Republican Party, the current iteration of which is actively hostile to their economic interests, at least those interests perceived by those of us in the chattering classes.  The Democratic party is popular with minorities and those with higher education, but dismally poor at attracting poor whites and the blue collar middle class.

The active hostility to President  Obama by these voters seems to many of us like barely hidden racism. 

The Republican blogger GOPlifer offers a really fascinating discussion on these issues that places the blame, if you will, on lingering white supremacy.  Our institutionalized racism is the only thing, he argues, protecting poor whites from the degree of misery that poor minorities suffer.
Lower income whites have consistently enjoyed better access to economic, social and political opportunities by virtue of their race than they would have had by virtue of their income or education. Race matters less than it used to, but it remains a vital shield, a hidden yet powerful social safety net.
... and this extra advantage increasingly matters, so of course people will struggle to maintain it.
What remains of that shadow safety net matters enormously because life at lower income levels in this country is becoming increasingly precarious. The Middle Class is largely a dead concept. Access to good paying work is highly dependent on education. Getting an education is more expensive than ever while free public schools are increasingly sorted by household income.

... For lower and middle income white households that did not make the transition from the old economy to the new over the past generation, the picture is stark and legitimately frightening. For large swaths of rural and suburban America, the decline of white supremacy has meant the arrival of competition they were unprepared for.
He offers a number of descriptions. Indeed, he offers the most compelling explanation of the visceral hatred of Obamacare that I've seen yet (my emphasis)
Most middle and low income whites have some access to health insurance through their employers. The ACA extended Medicaid coverage to the very poor while middle earners who are disproportionately white were excluded from subsidies. The structure of the Affordable Care Act placed a new mandate on struggling middle-earning households while excluding them from most of the benefits of the Act. No one should be surprised at the political result.

The characterization of the Democratic Party as a force for “dependence” makes perfect sense through this lens. White families struggling to hang on to their economic status correctly understand that Democratic policies will do little for them until they’re destitute. Lower income whites are not voting against their interests. With no political options on the table that could reasonably be expected to level the economic playing field, low income whites are making a rational choice to remain tied in racial solidarity to wealthier white households for as long as possible.
He concludes,
If either party is going to lead us beyond the politics of racial polarization, they will have to find a way to build a replacement for the white shadow safety net that eases conditions for all. If we could deliver credible access to justice, opportunity, and advancement for everyone with the talent and determination to compete, white fears about the decline of their privileges might ease.

... Genuine pluralism requires more than eliminating bigotry. Pluralism depends on delivering a fundamentally just economic and political system in which those bigotries lose their practical relevance.
Thought-provoking reading from a sensible Republican. On top of our previous conversations, this makes me really reflect. Policies that help the destitute are not a bad thing--as long as they are not perceived as policies that hurt others (and we aren't talking hurting the very rich).  As we discussed last time, fairness has a proportionality component.  Most of us are happy to help others as long as that does not materially hurt us.  If it's a zero-sum game, then logically I'm not going to vote to hurt myself.  And mixed with the toxic brew of racial identity, and current corporatist oligarchy, it is very much a zero-sum game for most people.

Go read his whole essay, and  see what you think.

Our previous discussions here.


JCF said...

Off-topic: Yet Another Firing of a gay RC school teacher...

JCF said...

TBH, I didn't understand his essay: I couldn't understand where he was coming, and who he was trying to move.

"The ACA extended Medicaid coverage to the very poor while middle earners who are disproportionately white were excluded from subsidies."

You mean excluded from expanded Medicaid by Republican Governors??? Those exclusions?

IT said...

No, JCF. If someone is just above the limits for subsidies, they have to have a minimal level of insurance and are not eligible for help. nd that may mean they are paying more. There's a window of folks who have to pay more/don't save from the exchanges. Even more well off folks are starting to notice--for example, a recent report about the Harvard faculty who are outraged they hae to pay co-pays now .

JCF said...

"Harvard faculty who are outraged they hae to pay co-pays now"

::roll eyes::

Hey, Harvard faculty: I'll gladly accept your job AND your co-pays!


Yes, yes, yes: eat the SUPER rich. It's all the Kochs' fault. Single-payer now. But COME on...