Define self-interest, please

By Odd Man Out

I remember reading Thomas Frank’s What’s the Matter With Kansas? a few years ago and feeling as perplexed as the author, whose book included a series of brave, convoluted attempts to explain why so many poor people vote for the politicians who are working to ensure they remain poor.

Yesterday, Digby helped shed light on the subject by linking to an interview of Corey Robin, author of The Reactionary Mind: Conservatism from Edmund Burke to Sarah Palin.

Her summary of Robin’s remarks:

They believe that giving up their private power would be far more destructive than giving up political power. Sure, right wing politicians are all liars and cheats and do anything they can to hold on to their public power. That’s the gig. But to the true believers their central concern is losing the privilege that defines them. And it isn’t really about money, although that’s tangentially part of it. It’s about hierarchy, status and dominion.

2 thoughts on “Define self-interest, please

  1. Maybe if voting for Democrats was actually in most people’s self-interest, this argument would make some kind of sense. But right now, voting for Democrats is in the best interest of bankers and insurance companies, and maybe a tiny sliver of the population here and there. It is not, however, in the interest of poor white Americans.

    The truth is, Democrats help minorities, and some of those minorities are poor. They do not, as a party, actually help poor people. They may be ‘less bad’, but that isn’t the same as actually helping anyone. At most, they’ll offer some petty BS program, but they’ll make the ‘poverty’ threshold so low only people living in dirt-floor huts actually count.

    And really, the blogosphere is the last place where this argument should be made. All across the liberal blogosphere, poor white people just don’t exist. ‘White’ is, more often than not, treated as a synonym for ‘rich’. So you get ‘rich white men’, and ‘white privilege’, and constant complaints about what (rich) white people do (but the word ‘rich’ is almost never used, just ‘white’). And the only time you get any discussion of poor white at all is when Democrats want to castigate poor white people (who generally do vote Democratic, when they vote at all) for not voting the way liberal bloggers want them to vote.

    So no, I’m not going to take these arguments seriously and neither should anyone else. They’re self-serving – designed to put the blame on everyone but Democratic politicians and their liberal supporters. They are not honest, or realistic, and in general, they don’t even actual reflect real voting patterns at all.

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