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Dear Mr. Robert Reich,

I have always respected your opinion, so when I read your recent blog post on Huffington Post entitled “Fear Is Why Workers in Red States Vote Against Their Economic Self-Interest”,  I had to address it.  Bear in mind, that what I am saying is based on statistics, not opinion.  The same statistics, sir, which Democrats have been ignoring for the past 20 years against their own best interests.

Let me start by redefining a “Red State”.  A red state is a state where the majority of people who choose to participate by voting, vote Republican.  It is NOT a state where the majority of people who live in that state are Republican.  

In red states, there is a much higher percentage of non-participation in voting than there is in BLUE states.  There are all kinds of theories why this is.  Some statistics link it to what people eat and drink.  Some statistics suggests that it is a less educated populace.   Those are all theories though.  

This is a fact.  Poor people don’t vote against their interests.  Poor people don’t vote.   When poor people do vote, they vote overwhelmingly Democratic, not Republican.  However, if you break down voting habits by income, you will find that 8 out of 10 upper income members vote while only 2 out of 10 lower income members vote.    Middle income goes about 5 out of 10 vote and again this follows income with those making more voting more than those making less.  

Now the Republicans understand this.  This is why they pander to the rich and assault the programs that help the poor.  Let’s be blunt.  Why the hell should the GOP help poor people?   Poor people don’t vote.  They don’t have money to donate.  Hell, according to the GOP they don’t pay taxes.   Why do anything for these people who overwhelmingly don’t care enough to participate?  

The pundits appear to ignore this fact.  I think it plays better for them to play it down because it makes better copy to have a divided America.  And Democrats just don’t seem to get it.  When it comes to this issue, they appear to have a blonde moment (I’m blonde so I can use this analogy).

Let’s use Texas as an example.  The 2012 election saw the lowest percentage of registered voters actually vote in a Presidential election since 1993 and only because that’s as far back as public records go.   In a state pushing 32 million people with at least 21 million potential voters, LESS THAN 8 MILLION PEOPLE ACTUALLY PARTICIPATED BY VOTING.   Ted Cruz  was elected by 4.4 million people in a state of over 30 million.  That’s 16% of the population.  

So if Dems want to win in Red States, they have to get these people to vote.  However, they can’t and won’t do it, running the same old traditional campaigns.   No amount of money spent will get these people to vote because they believe that there is no difference in the candidates and that their vote doesn’t matter.  

But their vote does matter.  They matter to their home state.  They matter to their country.  Their non-voting effects other people particularly when their non-participation results in electing Aholes like Ted Cruz.  More people voted against Cruz by non-participation but unfortunately that doesn’t matter.  Because if people don’t vote, they don’t matter.  That is reality.  

So please, Mr. Reich, stop wasting your time by writing stupid stuff about poor people.  If you want to do something to make a difference, help me convince the Democratic Party to invest in getting poor people to the polls.  If we can get these people participating in the process, if we can convince these voters that their vote does matter, if we can empower these voters and get them riled up, then there would be no such thing as a “Red State” and America would be able to start moving forward again.  

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Comment Preferences

  •  Low-income white Southerners (5+ / 0-)

    are voting their interests when they vote R.  They are voting for racism, misogyny, homophobia, and far right Christianity.  Improving their economic lot is far less of a concern than keeping the culture the "way it used to be".  The presence of a black man in the White House is a daily reminder that this ain't their America anymore.

    For many of the teabaggers, they would far rather keep the darkies in their place, women barefoot and pregnant, gays in the closet (or send them to the ovens) rather than reach a higher economic level.  Oprah is right, older white racists need to die to reach racial tolerance.

    Racism, misogyny, and homophobia should NOT be protected by the Constitution.

    by TeaBaggersAreRacists on Fri Jan 17, 2014 at 06:13:54 AM PST

    •  100% correct (3+ / 0-)

      You have precisely nailed what is going on in Red states.  Poor people MIGHT vote, but they won't if the Democrat running has progressive views on race, sexuality, or separation of church and state.  Thus, they don't vote, because they'd rather have a rapacious GOPer than see blacks, gays, and non-fundamentalists enjoy equal protection under the law.

      And don't think the younger generation is significantly different.  It's not.

      Also, don't underestimate the cultural power of religion built around the idea that only the "elect" are saved and everyone else is an agent of Satan and subhuman.  That divisive culture thrives in the churches in red states and leaks into the overall society.  

      Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. -- Arthur C. Clarke

      by mathGuyNTulsa on Fri Jan 17, 2014 at 07:45:23 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Outside the rural South and evangelicals (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        mathGuyNTulsa, wu ming

        the younger generation may be quite different.  I've seen many people who grew up in conservative, racist, and religious families who have shed those beliefs.  

        A guy at my residence I went to college with in the early 2000s was a hard core right-winger.  His father was a fundamentalist preacher, and he regularly made nasty comments toward people who weren't Christians.  He was a complete asshole, rah rah for Bush and war.  He was also a total hypocrite, with no shortage of folders full of stolen pornography on his computer.

        Well I found his personal blog many years later.  He ended up volunteering for Obama in 2008 (to the point that he went to other states to canvass), was involved in his local Occupy Wall Street, and was basically an agnostic.  I was tempted to send him a nasty snarky message asking what happened (this guy as I remembered him was a fucking asshole and I don't forget or forgive easily), but I decided against it.  

        Racism, misogyny, and homophobia should NOT be protected by the Constitution.

        by TeaBaggersAreRacists on Fri Jan 17, 2014 at 07:59:03 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  You're right (0+ / 0-)

          My comment was supposed to be about the rural South and evangelicals.  

          Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. -- Arthur C. Clarke

          by mathGuyNTulsa on Fri Jan 17, 2014 at 08:01:42 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  You were right to withhold the snarky message (0+ / 0-)

          People don't always grow up, but sometimes they do. Sounds like this jerk became more mature and less jerkish. No point pushing him back the way he was.

          Of course, he could still be a jerk, just one you agree with politically but would rather not be around.

        •  I'd have dropped him a friendly hello (0+ / 0-)

          Not to snark, but to just catch up, politely ask him what changed his views.

          British guy with a big interest in US politics; Economic Left/Right: -3.62, Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -5.13.

          by General Goose on Tue Jan 21, 2014 at 12:26:25 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  99% incorrect (0+ / 0-)

      They cling to social issues because they lack economic mobility (financial insecurity messes up all kinds of things).  And they believe economic mobility is unattainable because while Dems claim to be for economic justice, even the most disengaged can see Right Wing Dems are just as bad as Repubs.*  To the financially vulnerable, neither D's nor R's offer economic security, but at least the R's offer (false) dignity as they get pushed down the economic ladder.

      *Just one recurring example is required here: Obama/Holder repeatedly indemnify giant Wall Street Banks for a small percentage of the billions in looted booty, yet send a little guy to prison for check-kiting a few grand.  That's reality.

  •  Besides money low income people have no (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    free time. Chances are they are working longer paid hour just to survive compared to those with some disposable income and those who are wealthy. They go to work sick, they have no vacation and they are meeting parenting responsibilities and providing care for elderly parents and ill extended famly members. They don't have time to think, they aren't stupid, they have no mental space to reflect. If you can't reflect you aren't going to entertain any notions of what is in your best interest. So they chose easily identifiable things to represent what constitutes their "interests". In southern states Reps and Dems are barely distinguishable from one another.

    So not voting is a choice, they think the game is rigged so they think opting out is just as good as opting in by voting.

  •  Not low income whites in the South (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    In 2012, There is a nearly twenty point spread between Southern and non-Southern whites in the lowest income percentiles. And outside of the south, as soon as you hit the 20th percentile, white support for President Obama dropped below 50 percent and didn't rise above until you hit the 90th.

    Rather than asking why these voters vote against their "interests," which to me is vaguely paternalistic and a bitter denial of very real cultural differences between different identity groups, a better question is why these voters are so hostile to Democrats in general and President Obama in particular.  Racism probably explains part of it, but I doubt it explains all or even most of it.

    •  You've nailed it (3+ / 0-)

      It's a cultural and philosophical differentiator.

      If you believe that a modern, semi-capitalist affluent society is, in fact, anti-Christian (and most conservatives believe this, although they don't put it front and center) you're not going to vote your economic interests as defined by modern welfare state market economics.  Because, if you're poor, this is God's decision.

      If you accept feudal ideology it all makes perfect sense.

      •  That's one possible contribution (0+ / 0-)

        I'd suggest another, although it's immediately an impression formed from one man's experience overseas.  Different groups of people may adjust to life circumstances to such an extent that they personally do not considered themselves living in discomfort, let alone suffering.  If we were to take this "interests" argument to its logical conclusion, you could make the case that NGOs seeking to protect and preserve indigenous cultures--for example--are actually doing a great injustice.  You'd have to naively compare incomes and outcomes of undeveloped, indigenous societies to their neighbors, but you could make that case.

        Obviously in the US there's a far greater degree of social interconnectivity, but if you're making $25,000 and living on a ranch in Wyoming you might be quite satisfied with your lifestyle--even if you don't live as long or as healthy as a comparably fit urban dweller.  Or, in admittedly rarer cases, you might actually live a healthier lifestyle, but one that someone typical to the Upper West Side would find depriving.

        My point is that it's ridiculous to pin simple answers as to why lower income whites aren't as supportive of Democrats as we'd like, or to pretend certain aspects of our program aren't mortally threatening to interests as perceived by members of that identity group.

        •  The above comment is correct (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          The reality is that most southern whites that we would consider "poor", simply do not think of themselves as poor or deprived.  Ever watch "My Big Fat Redneck Wedding", or "Honey Boo Boo", or "Duck Dynasty"?  Well, I don't either, but I've seen them.

          These people LIKE being the way they are.  They revel in it.  They live for monster trucks, army boots, and Skoal hats at their wedding (and mud, for some inexplicable reason), and poor grammar, and having an ass-kicking attitude.  It's their basic identity, and they LOVE it.  They don't feel deprived at all, even the ones that collect road kill, and don't have two pennies to rub together.  After all, if your identity isn't defined by the desire to build a McMansion, buy a foreign car, wear $200 sneakers, and vacation at the beach, you wouldn't be inclined at all to start climbing up the income ladder, with all it's pitfalls.  The idea of taking a job where they might have to wear a tie (or even not wear a hat) everyday is anathema to them.  THEY DON'T WANT THAT JOB, no matter how much it pays.

           These people don't make any money.  They don't have any money.  But, they also don't spend any money.  Buy a used pick-up truck, rent a run-down trailer to live in, and save up enough cash to go fishing or drinking with your buddies on the weekend, and that is all you need. For a lot of them, they hardly notice a drop-off in income or standard of living when they go on Social Security and Medicare.  You might be surprised, but this could be a pretty low-stress life.

          These people see Democrats looking down their long noses at them, judging their lifestyles, and offering to "lift them up".  They don't want that, especially if it means they now have to rub elbows with, and show tolerance for, blacks, gays, war protesters, and bra-burners.  Yes, there is still an element of racism here, but it's more bigotry toward the "other" or "different" than it is just pure black-white racism.  

          This may sound condescending as hell, and it is.  But, the next time you're on your southern beach vacation, venture off the beaten path a little to rural South or North Carolina, or Texas, and see how "unhappy" those folks are.  It's like another planet, but it's their planet, and they like it just fine.

    •  It's race and religion (0+ / 0-)

      President Obama got half the whites who are not evangelical Christians in 2012.  Remove the practicing Catholics and Obama got nearly 60% among the remaining ones.  My guess is that among non-racist whites who aren't evangelicals or conservative Catholics, Obama did pretty damn well.  And those are the voters we should target, and tell the culturally conservative whites to go to hell (where they're headed anyway if it exists).

      White "Middle America" is losing its grip on this country.  The 2012 election basically suggested as much, as a liberal black President presiding over 8% unemployment defeated someone who would have been seen as a scion of white America.  Fifteen, even ten years ago, does anyone believe that a white corporate type Republican wouldn't have crushed a liberal black Democrat who had a Muslim name that rhymed with a terrorist?  

      Teabaggers would like to go back to "good ole days" (their imaginary version of 1950s) on both racial and cultural matters when the white blue-collar guy was "in control", and those darkies in their place, women fully subservient to men, gays/lesbians ostracized, and society and culture was behaving according "good Christian values".  The presence of Obama in the White House is a daily reminder that this is not their America anymore.

      Racism, misogyny, and homophobia should NOT be protected by the Constitution.

      by TeaBaggersAreRacists on Fri Jan 17, 2014 at 02:21:59 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  This is an important discussion. Recc'd for (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    starting it.  This gets to the heart of the mission of this website.  We must try to get in to the heads of the folks who are not RWNJs but who vote for RWNJs in order to speed the extinction of the RWNJs.
    My observation, I live in Michele Bachmann's district, is that perfectly sane people who do, in fact, have a heart and a brain, vote Republican for two reasons: They are low info voters but they grew up voting for Repubs (back when they weren't as awful as they have become) and so they just see an "R" next to the name on the ballot and fill in the oval next to it, or it is about the perception of control issues -- they feel like Dems are trying to assert control over their lives and they dig in their heels.  I think those two things are where Dems can focus efforts and resources to turn people.  If they are RWNJs it is hopeless until they have a visit from four spirits on Christmas Eve.

    Government works when you elect those who want it to. --askyron (2013)

    by Simul Iustus et Peccator on Fri Jan 17, 2014 at 09:13:51 AM PST

  •  Pollchecker, what you want is a pyramid scheme. (0+ / 0-)


    Same problem as selling Tupperware or cosmetics or whatever.

    Selling is good, but building the pyramid is what makes it last.

    Let's think about this. How to make it work....

    •  Pay people to vote (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Turn up to vote, you get $5. Like jury duty. To get 100 million votes to the polls would cost only $500 million, a pretty small price to pay. It's a bigger incentive the poorer you are.

      Voting is the means by which the public is distracted from the realities of power and its exercise.

      by Anne Elk on Fri Jan 17, 2014 at 10:30:16 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  How's about a tax credit ??? (0+ / 0-)

        Sure, $5. That's fair.

        •  Well to lower your taxes by $5, (0+ / 0-)

          it'd have to be more like $20. But I would just make it a voucher issued at the polling booth, one per voter. Remember that there are a lot of people who pay no income tax at all. You'd have to sign it at the voting booth. It would have the same number as you voting receipt and you could cash it in at any bank. Simple.

          Voting is the means by which the public is distracted from the realities of power and its exercise.

          by Anne Elk on Sat Jan 18, 2014 at 06:57:00 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  It's not either or (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I don't see a conflict between getting more people to vote and swaying those who do vote to vote for you. In general. I recognize that there comes a point in a campaign where resources are limited and you have to chose targets, but absent the circumstances of a specific campaign, go for both.

    I will say, in defense of Texas Democrats, that they seem aware of the turnout problem. Battleground Texas has been working the groundgame hard for something like a year already, and the state party hired away Rep. Keith Ellison's campaign manager, who ran a strong ground game in MN-05. That's my district and I helped, so when he was hired, that told me the Texas Democrats got the problem and were serious about addressing it.

  •  If I'm being picky (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Texas' population is 26 million as of 2012, not over 30 million.

    But I think the message is spot on. Poor voters are being played by a Catch-22 political system which relies too much on money: Candidates need money, so they focus policy on wealthy interests, which gives no reason for poor voters to vote, which in turn gives politicians even less incentive to care about the poor vote.

    Here's another interesting chart as well highlighting the difference in turnout between people of different income brackets:

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