07 Jun 2012

Why Working Class People Vote Conservative

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Jonathan Haidt, in the Guardian, addresses the question of why people less well off are commonly Republican and conservative.

Why on Earth would a working-class person ever vote for a conservative candidate? This question has obsessed the American left since Ronald Reagan first captured the votes of so many union members, farmers, urban Catholics and other relatively powerless people – the so-called “Reagan Democrats”. Isn’t the Republican party the party of big business? Don’t the Democrats stand up for the little guy, and try to redistribute the wealth downwards?

Many commentators on the left have embraced some version of the duping hypothesis: the Republican party dupes people into voting against their economic interests by triggering outrage on cultural issues. “Vote for us and we’ll protect the American flag!” say the Republicans. “We’ll make English the official language of the United States! And most importantly, we’ll prevent gay people from threatening your marriage when they … marry! Along the way we’ll cut taxes on the rich, cut benefits for the poor, and allow industries to dump their waste into your drinking water, but never mind that. Only we can protect you from gay, Spanish-speaking flag-burners!”

One of the most robust findings in social psychology is that people find ways to believe whatever they want to believe. And the left really want to believe the duping hypothesis. It absolves them from blame and protects them from the need to look in the mirror or figure out what they stand for in the 21st century.

Here’s a more painful but ultimately constructive diagnosis, from the point of view of moral psychology: politics at the national level is more like religion than it is like shopping. It’s more about a moral vision that unifies a nation and calls it to greatness than it is about self-interest or specific policies. In most countries, the right tends to see that more clearly than the left. In America the Republicans did the hard work of drafting their moral vision in the 1970s, and Ronald Reagan was their eloquent spokesman. Patriotism, social order, strong families, personal responsibility (not government safety nets) and free enterprise. Those are values, not government programmes.

The Democrats, in contrast, have tried to win voters’ hearts by promising to protect or expand programmes for elderly people, young people, students, poor people and the middle class. Vote for us and we’ll use government to take care of everyone! But most Americans don’t want to live in a nation based primarily on caring. That’s what families are for.

3 Feedbacks on "Why Working Class People Vote Conservative"


Democrats have discovered that government can serve as a convenient moral obfuscator. People who would never dare to ring doorbells asking fellow citizens to go into debt to pay for their living expenses and wish lists feel no compunction demanding that government do precisely that for them.

No Man

It’s not just working class people that vote conservative.

This (that means me, liberal dope) union VP/chapter treasurer votes for the common good even if it’s and not in my selfish interest.

My two reasons: The liberals are killing the economy: won’t be anything left. Two, I believe I wouldn’t get into Heaven if I voted democrat.

George DeMarse

I agree that the Republicans have a simpler message than the Democrats–the Democrats are forced to be more nuanced in their positions because they are not bumper sticker size and include necessary statements like “it depends,” rather than the Republicans “never” or “always.” That certainly makes it easy to understand. It does not, however, make it in one’s interest to swallow the simpler message.
The Republicans had it made until capitalism started failing the middle class. More and more people now realize “it’s capitalism, stupid,” not the government bailouts of capitalism that is leaving them behind.
The Democrats refuse to be a pure socialist party and “admit” capitalism is failing. That they must do in order to remain relevant or be overrun by a true socialist party.

The Sage of Wake Forest


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