Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Pulling the curtain away….

It is a persistent mystery and a matter of despair to me that poor and minority voters in red states seem to support conservative Republican congresspersons who publicly and consistently vote against the personal economic interests of their poor and minority constituents.

Alec MacGillis on ProPublica.com has drawn the curtain back, a bit.

The explanation—at least, part of it—is simple: many of the folks who receive government “safety net” support are indifferent to the whole politics caboodle, and they don’t vote. In many Republican strongholds, their neighbors who are higher on the socio-economic scale do vote, and they elect the fire-breathing Republicans who badmouth welfare “dependency” and want to cut social benefits.

MacGillis makes a point of mentioning that in eastern Kentucky and parts of West Virginia and in other states where there are long-standing pockets of depressed communities and “people on welfare,” some of the folks who are recently poor or just one step up—some kind of job, maybe still getting some benefits—are disdainful of the people who are still living on welfare.

“The people in these communities who are voting Republican in larger proportions are those who are a notch or two up the economic ladder — the sheriff’s deputy, the teacher, the highway worker, the motel clerk, the gas station owner and the coal miner. And their growing allegiance to the Republicans is, in part, a reaction against what they perceive, among those below them on the economic ladder, as a growing dependency on the safety net, the most visible manifestation of downward mobility in their declining towns.”

MacGillis clarifies the disconnect between “politics” and Americans who are poor, jobless, and disadvantaged in many ways:

“In eastern Kentucky and other former Democratic bastions that have swung Republican in the past several decades, the people who most rely on the safety-net programs secured by Democrats are, by and large, not voting against their own interests by electing Republicans. Rather, they are not voting, period. They have, as voting data, surveys and my own reporting suggest, become profoundly disconnected from the political process.”

So, the obvious question is not “Why are these folks voting for Republicans who will make their lives worse?”

The question is “Why aren’t these folks voting?”

For that matter, let’s just broaden the scope of our discussion here:

A central problem of our democracy is that it isn’t working, because too many people aren’t voting.

Why isn’t that issue a prime topic of discussion in the debates and the talk shows and in the public arena?

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015 All rights reserved.

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