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Home Main Forums General Discussion Why Does the Right-wing Working Class Vote Against Its Own Self-Interest?

  • boxcar joe (42 posts)
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    Why Does the Right-wing Working Class Vote Against Its Own Self-Interest?

    This question started popping up a couple of months before the 2016 election in reference to Trump supporters.  A quick look on the internet will reveal a dozen articles written on this subject in the past two months (regardless of what month you are reading this).  Books have been published about it.  Written by a Berkeley sociologist, “Strangers in Their Own Land” is touted as one of “6 Books to Understand Trump’s Win” according to the New York Times.  The author determines that empathy is all that is needed to understand these lost souls as they are not voting so much against self-interest as for deeply held values and emotions.  The book presents the information necessary to correctly answer the question, but fails to realize it.  Many of the articles written about this subject refer to this book and most of those quote from it.  There are now articles appearing that build upon the theme of “Strangers” and extend it.

    The deeply held values and emotions ascribed to Trump supporters by the authors writing on this subject are those from America’s mythical frontier: hardworking, long-suffering, fiercely independent, and, most of all, self-reliant.  They reason that these values and emotions are the source of their vehement and often violently phrased diatribes against America’s white poor and all nonwhites.  They go that far and then stop.  They know the formula for getting their material published and that is what they want.  Some of them may know that we cannot handle the truth.

    It is all very simple.  When an operating system breaks down, the user reverts to what it knows.  When the tractor won’t start at feeding time, the self-reliant rancher hitches up the team.  When the power goes out right before dinner, the self-reliant rancher’s wife fires up the wood stove and gets the oil lamps down.  And when the federal government breaks down, they both vote for the system that it replaced.

    So, what did democracy replace?  What would replace it if it breaks down?  The vast majority of our popular “literature” (now known as “entertainment”) is in agreement.  This includes the novel the title of which is paraphrased into “Strangers in Their Own Land”.  In this genre, the one that treats with the future, feudalism supersedes democracy when it fails.  Oh, there may be a Council of this or a Federation of that, but the vast majority of it is presented within the framework of a feudal society and, usually, the fiefdoms are formed by fabulously wealthy individuals and/or their corporations.

    In the book “Strangers in Their Own Land”, the strangers are working class whites and the land is Louisiana.  “Their own land” is an interesting concept for people that have been there for less than five generations.  The book doesn’t tell us what the Chitimacha or the Caddo think of Trump, but it is about Tea Partiers who are, of course, all white.  To its credit, the book does speak of these “strangers” actively participating in the rape, plunder, besmirching, and befouling of the entire state of Louisiana (their own land, which they made strange) and doing it for money.  One of the opening scenes is of a meeting to discuss whether or not the bayous were really contaminated and how they got that way.  The big corp guys were there and denied everything so the entire coliseum cat-called the government regulators blaming them for the paltry shrimp harvest, the need to buy drinking water, and the belly-up fish.  Then an old guy got up with a card board sign that read:  “I’M THE ONE WHO DUMPED IT THE BAYOU”.  The place got real quiet.  They had him answering questions for over half an hour during which he said that his boss had him dump drums of waste into the bayous after dark that made him so sick he missed work so after a while they fired him for absenteeism.  They all knew where he used to work as he had worked there for twenty something years.  They all knew that his old boss—the guy that fired him– was sitting in the front row.  No one said anything to the boss or to the old man.  They just moved on.  And there—right there—is the answer to the question.

    The answer is that those who voted for Trump did not vote for a “President”, they voted for a “Boss”.  And not only for a Boss, but for the form of government that they prefer.  They do not live in a democracy and, possibly, never have.  The social compact no longer requires them to live on the same parcel of land swearing fealty to the same lord that their great-grandfathers did (although many still choose to do so), but they still work for them and fight their wars when called upon.  Especially, they voted against the barrel of snakes being offered to them by the Dimocrats: it was obvious that the Dims didn’t believe in a democracy anymore, so it was far better to go with what they know.  The tremendous release of energy around Trump’s election was the reassertion of traditional governance, the unpeeling and floating away of the last vestiges of the veneer of democracy, the exchange of a hundred possible futures for one predictable present.  The allegiance being shown is not to Trump, but to that choice.  Perhaps this is what the Europeans are so sad about.

    The very thing that the Founding Fathers saw as problem number one: the return of the nobility and a royal family has not come to pass—it never left.  It wasn’t the aristocracy that came here—they already had their manors and castles—it was the upwardly mobile merchants who couldn’t get one.  They bought 10,000 acre tracts of land from the king and came over here to build their manors.  They indentured their servants and brought them, too.  The American War of Independence wasn’t personal for them: it was business.  The rich merchants still measured their wealth in the old coin and dreamed of success in the old ways.  If democracy was an attempt to graft a new tree onto an old trunk, then for about one-third of the citizenry it never took.  The old tree lives on.  But don’t think that the other two thirds are bright-eyed enthusiasts for democracy.  Half of them don’t care, they just don’t see themselves as vassals (they are much too independent).  That leaves us. And that is about how the American “electorate” breaks down.

    Actually, when you adopt this point of view, even for a minute, a lot of things come into perspective.  It explains why polling places are no longer protected, why voters are treated like chattel, why Presidents use the word “democracy” to justify blowing the limbs off of little children (say the magic word and you can kill anybody any time), why national elections are so transparently rigged, and why the courts are not interested in any of it except, of course, when they are given the opportunity to appoint a President.  And who, really, needs more proof than that?  Certainly, the two national political parties no longer operate within the framework of democracy and haven’t since at least the 1980’s.  It explains why the members of the DNC look at us the same way that the members of the RNC do: naïve weaklings hoping for equality due no more respect than suckers who can’t take a joke.  Think of the look on Boxer’s face as she left the Nevada State Convention daring anyone to complain.  How could anyone who watched the Republican nomination process that ended up with Donald Trump see anything but a changing of the bosses?  The vassals let it be known that it was time to drop all this democracy crap and install a Boss.  Here come the new boss same as the old boss, but with democracy you never knew what you were really getting until too late.

    Democracy can be reassembled and re-energized, but it will be a long, hard slog to do it and there are too few with the heart and the guts to get it done within the party system.  We have all been discouraged and diminished by the duplicity and outright betrayal of the supposed champions of truth, justice, and the democratic way.  The Reeps saw that much, much more clearly than we did.  The high point of the Dimocratic (please pardon me for refusing to honor them with the correct spelling) Party was the entirely symbolic crowning of a woman as the Speaker of the House.  Symbolic because they then proceeded to do nothing at all.  That was it, end of message.  The last thing this country needs is another political party.  The two we have now have proven beyond any shadow of a doubt that political parties have outlived their usefulness as the catalysts for an American democracy.  Whatever vessel arrives to attempt the rescue of the shattered remnants of American democracy from the tides of feudalism must needs be much, much different from those.  I wonder what it might be.

    Enthusiast, caliny, shanti and 19 othersdlegendary1, Iwalani88, DoctorJ, Stockholmer, Xyzse, sgcase, relgire, ThomPaine, nevereVereven, WillyT, Eggar, jwirr, DesertRat2015, Ohio Barbarian, HeartoftheMidwest, Marym625, djean111, Land of Enchantment, Haikugal like this

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    • mmonk (2923 posts)
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      1. The same reason the left wing working class does.


    • N2Doc (6065 posts)
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      2. They aren't given a choice

      When they vote for the “D” they get lied to and screwed over. Then they listen to the “R”, and get lied to and screwed over. And then when they try to listen to the “G” or “L” choices, they either aren’t allowed to vote for them, or those parties run buffoons. who sabotage their own campaigns . That is if they are even allowed to vote at all, or vote on an unverifiable E-machine.

      "But nothing ever changes unless there's some pain" - Tears For Fears "Goodnight Song"
    • Land of Enchantment (9894 posts)
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      3. Moving this to General Discussion.

      Thanks for posting this.

           "Hope is the feathered thing that perches in your heart." ~ Emily Dickinson  
    • Marym625 (29647 posts)
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      4. Nice article!

      Thank you?

      Take Action #StopFCC https://www.battleforthenet.com/breaktheinternet/ "Once the decision was made to go into Iraq as an invader and occupier,  it’s like our nation lost its conscience. And it has not yet gotten that conscience back." Madfloridian  
    • djean111 (6518 posts)
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      5. Excellent! Thank you!

      Realistically, voting for either the “D” or the “R”, this time, actually was voting against one’s best interests.  Unless one was part of the .1%.

      • *Obligatory disclaimer - when I say "Democratic Party" I mean the DNC - the Clintons and the un-elected people and the consultants and the lobbyists and the corporations who actually run things.  The people who work and vote and are registered as "D" are no more the actual party than Trekkies are Star Trek.   Extra credit - the Democratic Party gets to actually fuck up your life. When you vote for it.
      You think the only reason that people won't vote for a warmongering Third Way fracking-enabling cluster bomb throwing H-1B increasing lying pandering corporate and Wall Street shill who says she has no problem putting abortion rights on the table is because we are mad about Bernie?  Um, nope.
    • Marym625 (29647 posts)
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      6. Nominated for and on The Daily Radical

      Thank you!

      Take Action #StopFCC https://www.battleforthenet.com/breaktheinternet/ "Once the decision was made to go into Iraq as an invader and occupier,  it’s like our nation lost its conscience. And it has not yet gotten that conscience back." Madfloridian  
    • Average Gazoo (1906 posts)
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      7. Really good analysis of phenomena that are usefull to understand

      if we want to back and build support for the most effective changes.

      I still refer back to this book review from time to time as it refreshes and codifies my understanding of many Trump voters and what drives their decisions:

      Why working class Americans voted with their middle finger


      • boxcar joe (42 posts)
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        12. Thank you for the link

        Good stuff.  Hadn’t seen it before.  I’m with the hubby: I sell toilets, too.

    • iggy (2480 posts)
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      8. For the same reason my parents left Canada and emmigrated to the US

      They were working class, yet they proudly claimed it was to escape Socialism. Go figure. The propaganda had addled their brains.

      Truth has no Expiration Date. Life without Dignity is Slavery.
    • DoctorJ (653 posts)
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      9. Hate radio and Fox news

      95% of the problem.  They are so ignorant and brainwashed that they would be lucky to score 20% on a civics or current events test.  If the Fairness Doctrine were revived, the country could recover in a few years.

      Conservatives are fond of telling us what a wonderful, happy, prosperous nation this is. The only thing that matches their love of country is the remarkable indifference they show toward the people who live in it. - Michael Parenti
      • ravensong (2213 posts)
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        33. Yes. I've lived in a rural environment all of my life. 30+ years ago and

        into the 2000’s, the only political opinion programs (I call them this, because they cannot reasonably be considered news programs) on AM radio west of the Rockies and east of the Cascades and Sierras were RW extremist programs.  Extreme RW opinions were the only media political opinion people were exposed to on AM radio. It was station 24/7 AM Hate Radio, all day every day. The only bright spots back then were NPR, and at night, sometimes, the powerful San Francisco station KGO had some night time liberal commentary, if you lived someplace where you could get them. But driving in your car, and listening to your radio, teh hate was almost always available for you to poison your and your children’s minds with.

        To anyone who was reasonably perceptive, it was an obvious attempt to brainwash large, relatively uneducated regional populations in order to indoctrinate them into RW extremism, and to regionally institutionalize RW extremism as “just how things are” in the rural western United States.

        The oligarchs who created the Reagan Administration successfully institutionalized political stupidity in America.

        I’m here to tell ya, it was fucking sustained terminal mind poison, and the poison gets passed down from generation to generation, creating a culture of widespread regional political ignorance.  Many reasonably intelligent kids perceptive to see through the institutionalized RW bullshit leave, temporarily or permanently, because they can’t handle the institutionalized political stupidity prevalent in the RW political culture they grew up in.


        Destabilize the 1%.  "Together, together, my friends, we have begun a political revolution to transform America, and that revolution, our revolution, continues"... ~ Bernie
    • WillyT (11483 posts)
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      • boxcar joe (42 posts)
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        13. Yayyy!

        A brio-con collage.

        • WillyT (11483 posts)
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          15. I Wish I Knew What That Meant…



    • jerry611 (421 posts)
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      11. Because they know the other side isn't in their interest either

      The Democrats talk a big game during the elections, then get into office and act in the interests of the corporate America, not the workers.

    • Tierra y Libertad (2267 posts)
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      14. “Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves

      “Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires.”

      ― Ronald Wright, A Short History of Progress

      Which is particularly true of uneducated right wingers.


      But such is the irresistible nature of truth, that all it asks, and all it wants is the liberty of appearing. Thomas Paine

      • RufusTFirefly (3329 posts)
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        20. Love the quote

        And I even own, “A Short History of Progress.” But it was John Steinbeck who should be credited with the quote, not Ronald Wright.

        Here’s what Steinbeck wrote originally (from America and Americans)

        “I guess the trouble was that we didn’t have any self-admitted proletarians. Everyone was a temporarily embarrassed capitalist. Maybe the Communists so closely questioned by the investigation committees were a danger to America, but the ones I knew—at least they claimed to be Communists—couldn’t have disrupted a Sunday-school picnic. Besides they were too busy fighting among themselves.”

    • bemildred (7322 posts)
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      16. They don't, the elections system is rigged.

      It ain't the things you don't know that hurts you, it's the things you know that ain't so.
      • Fasttense (1608 posts)
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        22. Yup, yup, yup

        Prove that your vote was counted. You can’t, because it wasn’t.

        Some states or districts have fair elections but very few. Look at how RepubliCONS have distorted the process.

        1. Is the district gerrymandered?  You are lucky if it’s not.  My district is a long snake along the border. I do not know if we were packed or sorted but the shape serves some politician and not the people.

        2. Are your ID voting laws hidden poll taxes? I used my retired military ID to vote last year. They gave me a hassle.  I was ready to fight. But the old lady…even older than me….she backed down. But there is worse than Not taking federal ID, there are some that require very elaborate procedures to obtain and money to buy them.

        3. Are you on a RepubliCON caging list? They use to be against the law but they are SOP today. If your name closely resembles a name on some list, they will purge you from the voting rolls, not tell you, and when you show up to vote, well they give you a placebo ballet and never count your vote…..ever. It doesn’t even matter if you vote RepubliCON in the last 3 elections.  Your vote is never, ever counted…ever.

        4. Is your state transmitting the consolidated vote count through the internet? If so, those numbers can be easily changed, hacked, rearranged, manipulated, faked, disrupted and rigged. There is no such thing as secure on the internet. Some counts have been disrupted merely by using the correct radio frequency.

        5. Then of course add to all that the minority of people who think they are so absolutely correct, so sure that God is talking to them, that they cheat, lie and rig elections because they are good little crazy RepubliCONS or Democrats.

        Now if your vote is able to survive all that, I would be amazed. Even if you vote by mail, your vote counts can be manipulated. So, no, Trump didn’t win the majority of votes, nor did he win the electoral college. He won the grand rigging of our elections. Hillary didn’t pay off enough criminals to win. No use analyzing the number and wondering why people vote against their  own best interest. They didn’t and they don’t.

        • bemildred (7322 posts)
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          23. Yeah, that's the point, you can't say they chose anything unless …

          you gave then an honest chance to choose something else, voted for anything unless you gave them an honest chance to vote against it, etc.

          And our political system moves heaven and earth to make sure we don’t get a chance to choose something else.

          It ain't the things you don't know that hurts you, it's the things you know that ain't so.
          • Fasttense (1608 posts)
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            24. Yeah, even if your vote counted

            What awful choices you have. So, no one is interested in fixing it because how can you get excited and go fight to get the chance to pick the lesser of 2 evils.

        • FugitiveBirdie (1919 posts)
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          38. Communication on the Internet can be totally secure.

          In fact the construction of an open source completely secure voting system with paper receipts and online checking is so trivially simple.

          Let’s not give them more excuses to use their proprietary systems.

    • area woman (5996 posts)
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      17. Because they have no choice, neither major party represents their interests.

      Edited to add, that’s why a lot of them don’t bother to vote.

      I'm so cute I shit kittens.
      • ThomPaine (5547 posts)
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        18. I agree with this. I think a large number of Americans feel disenfranchised.

      • Major Hogwash (3684 posts)
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        31. There is so much partianship, they can't even agree on a date to end the

        . . . debate over replacing ACA.

        It’s been a problem of “party over country” for a long time. About the time Dubya Bush got in to the WH, the 2 major parties started getting really entrenched in their positions. Trench warfare didn’t do much of anything to “win” the war in WWI. It only prevented the other side from advancing, but it didn’t bring an end to the carnage it caused.


        Trump moya marionetka ~ Putin  
    • vanflower (643 posts)
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      19. because the Ds are more interested in

      bathroom bills than addressing economic issues…so the only difference  they btw parties is one supports sexual deviants sharing bathrooms with their kids the other doesn’t.

    • peacecorps (4831 posts)
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      21. "When an operating system breaks down, the user reverts to what it knows."

      As the article states, the ‘operating system’ that has broken down is democracy.

      So, what did democracy replace? What would replace it if it breaks down?

      … when the federal government breaks down, they both vote for the system that it replaced.

      … feudalism supersedes democracy when it fails. Oh, there may be a Council of this or a Federation of that, but the vast majority of it is presented within the framework of a feudal society and, usually, the fiefdoms are formed by fabulously wealthy individuals and/or their corporations.

      And feudalism replacing democracy (which replaced it historically) will suit “fabulously wealthy individuals and/or their corporations”, right wing autocrats, etc. just fine.

      Bernie wants to fix democracy. Conservatives and autocrats want to replace it with what came before democracy.

    • TwilightSporkle (1795 posts)
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      25. The assumption that you know someone's interests better than they do…

      is pretty patronizing. Ought to be more honest, “why don’t they vote the way I want them to vote?”

      What if I want to tell you to leave me and my beloved ones in peace

      But you only understand the language of the sword

      I let the blade do the talking

      So my tongue shall become iron

      And my words the mighty roar of war

      • boxcar joe (42 posts)
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        26. Hidden deep within the patronizing assumption…

        is the realization that people do not vote against their own self interests and, in this case, the voters in question used the last election to restate their social compact.  Apparently, many readers assume that the title of an essay is a summary of its conclusion.

        • Major Hogwash (3684 posts)
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          30. Exactly! They don't view their vote as a vote against their own self interests!

          It’s we who assume that they would be better off if they only voted a different way.

          Stubborn, ignorant, or just out of spite, people are going to vote the way they want because deep down they own their vote. This has never been as apparent before as it is today. People on Facebook, peeps on Twitter, people who all want other people to know how they voted. They aren’t ashamed for voting the way they did. Hell no, instead they stand right up and proclaim who they voted for at the very mention of an election or even at the drop of a hat!

          Ever since November’s election, this has been true of many people I didn’t know very well last year. But, as soon as Trump won, they declared their ‘independence’ for voting for Trump. Hell or high water, they did what they damned well wanted to do!!! And there is no angel in hell that is going to change their minds now! They don’t have thoughts of buyer’s remorse. Instead, they want Trump to dismantle the federal government . . . one piece at a time more now than they did before!

          Trump moya marionetka ~ Putin  
    • MisterTwister (302 posts)
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      27. Considering how the left ridicules and demeans the working class,

      I’m surprised any of them vote Democratic.


    • dlegendary1 (1071 posts)
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      28. This fucking system is so rigged

      that it doesn’t matter how many people vote. If 1% of the electorate show up to vote the rich guys win. If people had the statistical data that show how fewer people go to the polls because there are only two choices, we’d do away with the two party system.

      These mofos at the DNC can lick mah balls! I'm not voting or supporting their 3rd way goons.
    • tripleQ (796 posts)
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      29. There is no one reason

      There are a thousand. Different reasons speak to different people.  Because (amazingly enough!) voters are individuals with different motivations and desires.

      I am annoyed by the accusation that some people “vote against their interests.”  It’s arrogant and condescending.  It’s always said by outsiders looking down their noses.  It’s  like how Columbus might have described the ways of the Savage Injuns.  “They wear loincloths and don’t know what’s best for them!”

      How about this?  This will blow your mind:

      If you (voter) see your interest as “doing God’s will with your vote, so you can sleep at night and go to Heaven someday” then voting against abortion rights and gay rights is VERY MUCH in your interest.  It makes you feel good about yourself.  It puts you in line with your pastor and all your church friends.

      If what matters to you is pride, and you keep your pride by despising “those whiners who want handouts”, then voting against the “whining class” is VERY MUCH in your interest.  It makes you feel superior to others… and chances are, you don’t have much else to feel superior about.

      If what matters to you is fitting in with your buddies, then it’s in VERY MUCH in your interest to not question the prevailing opinion.

      If what matters to you is clinging to a belief in “the good ole days,” and carrying on traditions, then it’s VERY MUCH in your interest to keep voting the way Grandpappy told you to vote, way back when you were a kid..

      And so on.

      Yes, those people ARE voting FOR their interests.  Outaiders just don’t recognize what their interests are.  That’s because outsiders are too busy lecturing voters about what their interests “should be”.

      Yeah, keep pontificating and delivering lectures.  I’m sure it will start to win friends and votes any day now!

      • boxcar joe (42 posts)
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        36. I certainly agree that…

        there is no one reason and that people are almost always voting FOR something rather than against something else even if it is “the lesser of two evils” (but, isn’t a lesser evil STILL evil in itself?).  And I sincerely hope that you do not include me with the lecturers and pontificators as I don’t like ’em, either.  I am not even claiming that voting for feudalism is not in the self interest of many of our fellow Americans.

        • tripleQ (796 posts)
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          37. No, it wasn't personal!

          Just general observations.

          I moved from the clever, snobby and self-referential Northeast to a region I was long taught to make fun of.  I like my neighbors although I don’t see eye to eye with them on all things.  I bristle at all the “dumb whites voting against their interest” stuff.  (I don’t see many liberals attacking the “Dumb blacks” or other nonwhite groups.  Interesting!)

          I think people are all pretty much the same.  You know:  human.  But we are influenced by our friends and families and environs.  So we adopt certain attitudes and fold to certain pressures.

          I suppose that on rightwing sites there are plenty of intellectual beard-strokers wondering why “the coastal American liberals” constantly vote against their interest!



    • Mosby (253 posts)
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      32. lots of good comments in this thread

      I would like to add one more reason, they hate liberals and progressive and that hate can often override everything else.

      Rw radio feeds and encourages this kind of thinking.

    • Robbins (503 posts)
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      34. i will flip question

      why do leftists,gays,minorities,and union members vote democrat.the Clinton party has contempt for all of them.

    • Enthusiast (12609 posts)
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      35. Recommended to the max!

      Sorry I didn’t get around to this earlier.

      "I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations which dare already to challenge our government to a trial by strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country." Thomas Jefferson