Saturday, September 29, 2012

Voting Against One's Own Interest

The post below appears in  the online version of the "Sunday Dialogue" in the Sunday Review section of the New York Times on September 30. It is in response to a letter to the editor published earlier in the week.

Mr. Furstenberg touches upon several of the reasons for the seemingly incongruous action of voting Republican apparently against one’s own self-interest. 

Low-information voters often cast their ballots predicated on little or no facts. They tend to be, I believe, disproportionately white, working class and less educated. In a 2011 article in Truthout, “Goodbye to All That: Reflections of a G.O.P. Operative Who Left the Cult,” Mike Lofgren characterized these voters as ones whose mistrust of government, based on confusion and ignorance, “has been stoked by Republican rhetoric at every turn.” 

Another article, “Why Working Americans Vote Against Their Own Interests” (The Pilot, June 24, 2012), includes a quote from John Steinbeck that “the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires.” 

Under this theory, disappointment at one’s status is not directed at those of wealth and power who might otherwise be seen as the enemy. Mitt Romney is your friend, waiting to greet you at the front door when you soon arrive to share in his wealth and power. 

In addition, the single-issue voter aligns himself or herself with a party that might not otherwise appear a logical bedfellow. For one who finds compelling the Republican Party’s platform on a matter like gun control or abortion, the party’s disregard for one’s plight has virtually no relevance. 

While Mr. Furstenberg might try to tie up all these disparate matters under the heading of hanging together rather than separately, I fear that it is a much more complex issue that defies easy explanation or resolution.

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