Should the kumbaya efforts of many liberals toward people who constantly vote against their own self-interest die a rapid death?
A piece I recently discovered from The Runaway Lawyers blog by Mark Ames called We, The Spiteful, got my juices flowing. It addressed the question I have commented on more than once in my articles that asked the question – why do many Americans, especially white males, vote against their best interests? Mr. Ames hits on something that Liberals like myself tend to be unwilling to concede - how assholes like Bush, Boehner and the extremist just installed as Wisconsin’s governor, Scott Walker, get elected by seemingly smart but spiteful people; people who appear to be well-adjusted but may for the most part be discontented with themselves and their lives.
What Ames is suggesting is that people who perceive themselves subconsciously, maybe even consciously, as losers, vote against their own self-interests because they are “a bunch of mean, miserable hicks … hostile to enlightened thinking”. You might want to write off Ames too quickly as cynical with comments like “malice and spite are as American as baseball and apple pie”. But he makes a good defense for himself.
The point can definitely be made that anti-intellectual comments are common amongst many on the right like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck, two of the biggest losers in terms of moral turpitude and callousness. And the Tea Party demonstrators at town hall meetings were definitely exemplary of spiteful people who wanted nothing to do with government “socialist” programs but wanted you to leave their Medicare and Social Security alone.
To further illustrate this class of people we need to focus our attention on the patriarch in white families. Many white males envision themselves as dapper Don Draper on “Mad Men”. Not the fearful weakling that has hidden his identity for years but the image he struts in front of the public that makes him envious of other men. Sarah Palin’s popularity was elevated by white males who were attracted to her good looks and even conceived that her winks to the crowds were little cupid arrows shot straight at them, or so thought the National Review’s Rich Lowry who commented on Palin’s performance during the 2008 Vice-Presidential debates.
Palin “projects through the screen like crazy,” Lowry cooed. “I’m sure I’m not the only male in America who, when Palin dropped her first wink, sat up a little straighter on the couch and said, “Hey, I think she just winked at me.” And her smile. By the end, when she clearly knew she was doing well, it was so sparkling it was almost mesmerizing. It sent little starbursts through the screen and ricocheting around the living rooms of America.” Perhaps for many white males it was more like a pulsating sensation around their frontal area below the waist line.
Is there anything more pathetic than some pot-bellied, middle-aged man whose thinning hair is combed in a way to give the illusion that there’s more there than there is so he can impress some attractive woman who wouldn’t normally give him the time of day? The movie success of stars like Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Vin Diesel hinges on male audiences who watch their movies and live vicariously through the persona they portray because they are pretty much the total opposite.
I think Ames may be more right than not when he asserts that too many Liberals have been naive in their views about the people who keep putting the men and women in office that rob them of their dignity when they’re referred to as hobos and slackers for taking unemployment benefits during this recession or convincing them that health care reform is a tool of the devil. Just take a look at the “death panel” clause in the bill that Democrats want to force on old people, many on the right are heard to exclaim.
What is there not to understand about people who attack health care reform that reduces premiums and prevents insurance companies from refusing coverage for pre-existing conditions or canceling what coverage they have when their hospital bills get too high for the insurer’s tastes? Nobody is that stupid. They have to be spiteful to want to vote for someone who laughs all the way to the bank because they got enough people with low self-esteem to vote against their self-interest by suggesting a political opponent was a “socialist”, gay, a Muslim or an abortion rights advocate; those emotional wedge issues that conservatives always fall back on to push their candidates across the line in a tough races that are too close to call.
For those who doubt that smart people would cut their nose off to spite themselves let me share some information about voters here in my neck of the woods, North Texas (I know, that seems like a no brainer to the rest of the country). While working for the Democratic candidate running against 5-term incumbent Michael Burgess I walked the streets a couple of days to get signatures so we could put my candidate on the ballot. As I knocked on doors and talked to people I ran across several who were more interested in my candidate’s views on abortion than they were about job creation or controlling health care costs.
They all pretty much conveyed to me in some form what one lady flat-out told me. “I won’t vote for anyone who is for abortions.” I told her I wasn’t sure where my candidate stood on the issue (I truly had not discussed this with him) but asked if that single item would lose her vote even if he represented every other value that she believed in. She assured me it would.
Now whether this lady and the others were oblivious that there was no bill pending on abortion floating around in the U.S. Congress wasn’t clear to me, but whether they knew or not didn’t matter. Being pro-choice was worse than being pro-life, even if you supported real life sustaining measures like cheaper, more available health care coverage or tougher regulations to insure clean air and clean water or prevented contaminated food from reaching store shelves. Babies may die from these circumstances after they’re born but these people were not going to vote for someone they thought might support the right for some naive teen to terminate an unwanted pregnancy. If that isn’t spiteful then Sammy Davis Jr. wasn’t black.
Now I am not of the mind that all conservatives, even all white male conservatives are spiteful. Many of them do vote along lines with Liberals for issues that serve their best interest. The right-wing fringe might call them RINO’s (republican in name only) but they are the traditional conservatives that still linger in the GOP despite their shrinking numbers. It is highly conceivable however that Ames’ perception of the rest of the crowd is the only plausible reason that makes sense, as off-the-wall as it seems.
The bottom line though is that Liberals need to get over their kumbaya notion about educating “misinformed” people who vote Republican when common sense dictates the opposite. It’s a waste of time that takes away from the necessary efforts to win elections for candidates and issues that will benefit even the most egregious white male, despite the fact that they routinely attempt to prevent this from happening. The fact that a “huge bloc of American voters are worse than merely ‘irrational’ ” is something that Liberals need to take to heart and ask themselves as Ames does, “why the hell do we need to like them; why is ‘likable’ even a factor?”