ELDER MUSIC: Nudie Suits
Dear Diary: 13 January 2015

People Who Vote Against Their Own Interests

Last week, in the comments following my story about anticipated Congressional attempts to limit Social Security, many readers wrote, some in anger, about elders who vote against their own best interests.

I know exactly how they feel. Actually, I am equally enraged and puzzled by these people. It is one thing to harm yourself. It is quite another to pass on that harm to others, loved ones included.

When a person votes for a politician who has promised to cut, eliminate or privatize Social Security, Medicare, SNAP, etc., he or she is voting to impoverish their children's and grandchildren's old age (and/or disability) in addition to their own.

And yet, I've never met a grandparent who wouldn't give their life, if necessary, for their progeny.

Rather than just stew about this perplexity, I took a tour of the web to see what reasons I could find. In no way is what follows meant to be real research or anything definitive - it is just some explanations I found to be worth thinking about.

The answers (if that's what they are) are many and in every place I looked, the serious ones are complicated. The quotations below are lengthy but please be patient enough to read them. There are clues in them.

Many people who wonder about this paradox believe racism plays a role. Gary Younge, writing in The Guardian in 2012, takes on that reasoning:

”...most of these explanations regarding deeply held religious beliefs, class aspiration and political philosophy are no less of non whites than whites. Blacks and Latinos are both poorer and more religious than the nation at large and vote overwhelmingly Democrat.

“While racism may not be the primary motivating force behind poorer whites tendency to vote Republican it is certainly a factor.

"'I voted for McCain,' says Price in Kentucky's Floyd county as he snatched a cigarette outside the food bank. 'Because, well I voted for the old white guy. At least he's American.'

“A few days earlier, the chairman of the Republican party in Jackson County, Arkansas, insisted electing Obama is destroying America in the same way electing Nelson Mandela destroyed South Africa. 'Handing it over to the wrong people.'"

There is much more of interest in Gary Younge's essay including some easy-to-understand numbers and statistics that clear up some misunderstands. One of the most fascinating is that most poor people do NOT vote Republican”:

In 2008 73% of those who earned less than $15,000, 60% of those who earned between $15,000 and $30,000, and 55% of those who earned between $30,000 and $50,000 voted for Obama.

“This year [2012], 57% of those earning less than $36,000 plan to vote Democrat as do 50% of those with a high school diploma or less. Even in deeply conservative Mississippi the overwhelming majority of the poor voted for Obama.”

Another explanation involves evangelical preachers and right wing radio and TV pundits who bamboozle their followers into voting Republican. This is Robert Sobel writing at examiner.com in 2012:

“Even when conservatives leave the comfort of their conservative church, they quickly turn the TV to the right wing news station, Fox News, or set the radio dial to conservative mouth pieces like Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck or Michael Savage.

“The Republican party and the pundits who support them, use an agenda of fear...using what conservatives hold close to them against them, their religion. Republicans push the fear of gays, Muslims, atheists and others who aren't evangelical Christians onto conservatives voters, using those fears to bypass many economic issues that could normally work against them.”

As you might expect given his career specialty, economist and former Secretary of Labor, Robert Reich, at his personal blog last January, explains how economic desperation drives people to vote against their interests.

”The wages of production workers have been dropping for thirty years, adjusted for inflation, and their economic security has disappeared. Companies can and do shut down, sometimes literally overnight. A smaller share of working-age Americans hold jobs today than at any time in more than three decades.

“People are so desperate for jobs they don’t want to rock the boat. They don’t want rules and regulations enforced that might cost them their livelihoods. For them, a job is precious — sometimes even more precious than a safe workplace or safe drinking water.

“This is especially true in poorer regions of the country like West Virginia and through much of the South and rural America — so-called 'red' states where the old working class has been voting Republican.

“Guns, abortion, and race are part of the explanation. But don’t overlook economic anxieties that translate into a willingness to vote for whatever it is that industry wants.”

Last July, Edwin Lyngar wrote a stunning essay in Salon about his conversion, at age 40, from the Republican Party to the Democrats. First, he recounts his many years of poverty, public assistance and inability to gain ground in any manner while he continued to vote Republican and Tea Party:

”To make up for my own failures, I voted to give rich people tax cuts, because somewhere deep inside, I knew they were better than me. They earned it. My support for conservative politics was atonement for the original sin of being white trash.”

It was the financial crisis of 2008 that propelled him to spend some time re-evaluating his political views.

”I finally 'got it.' In 2012, I shunned my self-destructive voting habits and supported Obama. I only wished there were a major party more liberal than the Democrats for whom I could vote.”

Lyngar finishes up his personal saga by recounting the life of an unregenerate conservative friend. This, I believe, comes closest of everything I read to answering our question:

”I have a close friend on permanent disability. He votes reliably for the most extreme conservative in every election. Although he’s a Nevadan, he lives just across the border in California, because that progressive state provides better social safety nets for its disabled.

“He always votes for the person most likely to slash the program he depends on daily for his own survival. It’s like clinging to the end of a thin rope and voting for the rope-cutting razor party.

“The people who most support the Republicans and the Tea Party carry a secret burden. Many know that they are one medical emergency or broken down car away from ruin, and they blame the government.

“They vote against their own interests, often hurting themselves in concrete ways, in a vain attempt to deal with their own, misguided shame about being poor. They believe 'freedom' is the answer, even though they live a form of wage indenture in a rigged system.”

If you don't read any other link in today's post, please read Edwin Lyngar. All the pundits, academics, reporters and experts, as earnest as they are, haven't come close to this man's honest examination of working class Republican voters.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Nancy Leitz: Things the Kids Have Said to Me


QUITE an eye-opener!

Unfortunately, the "R" (racism) word rears its ugly head. Why younger seniors feel this way, I don't know. After all, you would think that they have been exposed to people of all races and creeds most of their lives. Enough, at least, to get past the prejudice and look at what really matters. We are all minorities. After all, how many of us are rich and white.

I have relatives and friends who always vote against their own best interest. I do think there is some racism and class-ism involved in their choices as well as them believing that one day they will get rich and be in that "other" class that gets all the breaks. On person in particular before Obamacare had an insurance with a $5,000 deductible and now, thanks to Obamacare, he has an insurance with a $400 deductible and he is catching up on all the medical stuff he's neglected over the years. When I asked him if he feels guilty taking the new insurance when he keeps voting for people who want to take it all away from him, he says "No, they will leave it for me. They just want to take it away from the free-loaders." Read that as blacks because that's what he means. He's the most racist person I know and is a devoted Fox News pundits fan.

I blame Reagen for it all because he's the one who spearheaded the push that enabled broadcasters to no longer had to offer equal time for different political views...I can't remember what that FCC ruling was called. If not for that, we wouldn't have the Becks, Limbaughs and Savages that we have today who brainwash masses of people.

You have hit all of the central points that feed this dilemma where people vote against their own self-interests. There is also the factor, as was noticed in this last election, that the powerless are too often the least likely to take the time and vote.

Zealots on the right always seem to get out the vote but the other side is often disenchanted and like my sister who relies on SS and food stamps, doesn't think their votes matter.

When it comes to issues like Social Security and Medicare I think we also have to understand that even those politicians who intend to cut benefits NEVER say that to voters. The GOP has become masterfully Orwellian in it's use of "save" meaning slash and "protect" meaning privatize. Just this week GOP Senate Leader Mitch McConnell said, "The truth is we could work for bigger things too...we could work together to save and strengthen Medicare, to protect Social Security for future generations"

What's not to like about that? The problem is what HE means is cutting benefits.

Voters who do care about SS & Medicare simply can't take a candidate on his word because chances are he's using the GOP poll-tested language of subterfuge. This isn't just paranoia but a well-documented strategy that has worked.


I have always thought that California's turn toward tax limitation in 1978 (and hence an impotent state government that could not deal with many of the state's needs) correlated with the moment when children of color exceeded the number of white kids in the schools. Correlation is not causation, but if those who are coming along after you don't look like you, why preserve the structures (like the university system) that you built for your own kind? Not saying this was fully conscious, but it was there.

And yes -- the shame of the poor! And also, after 35 years of Reaganism infiltrating both parties, so many have a complete lack of trust that it matters who holds public office. None of them deliver security and prosperity, so we're ripe for charlatans.

It seems to me that in this discussion "voting against one's own interests" means with regard to Medicare and Social Security. That's just one issue. There are many issues at stake in any election, and personal priorities vary. Some voters may think religion, race, business, or party loyalty are more important. Personally, at my age, I do put my health and financial security at the top of the priority list, but that's just me. I understand other people may have other priorities, and I respect that as long as it's an informed decision. What I can't respect is when those priorities are set out of ignorance, habit, or blind faith in pundits and commentators.

Lack of education, cultural environment, fundamentalist religion, bigotry and brainwashing by Fox news, Rush Limbaugh and Glen Beck, etc. all contribute in one way or another to the way people vote against their best interests.

How can the Liberals overcome that brew of lies, poor cognitive skills, and a racist environment? One start would be to concentrate on the challenging fight to get money and religion out of politics.

The Republican party are very skillful at exploiting the gullible and the Democrats are equally poor at confronting it.

With the MSM (media) on the side of the wealthy I am not sure we have a chance. We need a Nelson Mandela.

Robert Reich, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders need their own news outlet, but that will never happen.

I try to be hopeful, but the closer the Corporates get to a full takeover the harder it will be to achieve good government.

And, yes, it did start with the Republican god, Ronald Reagan. The wealthy are winning. Sigh!

Ronni, nice follow up on a unfathomable social phenomena. As a past election official (Georgia and Florida) I have had many first hand experiences that often go with no explanation! I have noticed in the more 'influential' polling districts the greater the margin between R vs: the other them.

As Larry commented above, "There is also the factor... that the powerless are too often the least likely to take the time and vote."

It's true that if a person doesn't vote, she forgoes any say in the outcome. However, the bogus concern about nearly non-existent voter fraud, led to people's identification being rejected, voting hours being drastically reduced, and the epitome of wickedness--closing access to public bathrooms at the polling places.

The shapeshifters have taken over the government. I follow the words of my steelworker grandfather: "Never trust a man who parts his hair in the middle." (Herbert Hoover)

Americans, as a whole, are very uneducated and that equals what we have today.

Case in point, Lyngar changed his pov ~after~ (maybe during) getting a college education. Not everyone benefits from this-- but, he certainly did. Hence, accessible education is also hindered by the ugly people we have running our country today. Nice.

Excellent Salon article. You know, it saddens me to say this, but I have a niece/her family who are completely brainwashed by religion and Fox News. I am a lifelong Democrat, but living in the South these days, it's just nearly impossible to explain why (unless you want to get into shouting match). Yet this same niece just came to me for a significant loan, and I gave it to her. Otherwise they would have lost their home. In a few weeks, I find a Facebook post by her which she simply reposted by a "so-called" christian preacher declaring Obamacare evil, with death panels, which I'm lucky to have due to pre-existing conditions. I could have wept, but that is how it is living in the South these days.

Darlene, I could not say it better.

We need a hero.

Good Luck!

Let's all get behind Obama's call for free community colleges. Education seems to improve the chance that voters will make more sensible decisions these days. Why education must be a Democratic plot!!

If only Obama and the Democrats WERE as liberal as the right-wing Republicans THINK and SAY they are!

Unfortunately too many of the Democrats in the House and Senate have taken money from corporations and then vote against the better interests of their constituents.

We need a revolution....

All good points, as usual. But the "free education" thing sticks in my craw......

I can only wish, barely hope, that the 2 yr. community college proposal would be the education solution. However, I smell a rat.

I suspect community colleges (under the thumb of the many states with republican majorities) will
NOT be the place for a liberal arts education, but a place for corporations (read Republicans) to steer the youngest of college students away from the fine liberal arts educations we all had opportunity to avail.

Tennessee republican governor, Haslam, has been proposing this very idea and the republican legislature has been balking at the possible cost.

We will see how quickly they take it up now with professor placement within the schools--these positions, unlike the 4-yr. colleges have many slots for undergrad degreed
with some on-the-job experience to fill.

Twill be a field-day for corporates to enter the field of education with funding from the government—who will be getting the "hand-out"?

Very interesting article. I've always been perplexed as to why people would do this, but this article sheds some thought-provoking light on the subject.


Why do turkeys vote for Thanksgiving?

Liberalism truly is a mental disorder. They continue to vote against their own interests and politicians like Obama are glad to pretend to be anything you need them to be to get your vote. No wonder this country is in the position it is in now.

this country was founded by religious extremists who were virtually booted out of europe, and we continue to live with their descendants today, many of whom hold elective office and positions of power. close minded, bigoted, misogynistic, intolerant authoritarians who know better than anyone else.

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