Sunday, May 15, 2005

Bobo Meets the Deluded Republicans

To be poor and Republican is an oxymoron on the level of being Jewish and a card-carrying member of the NSDAP. The tiresome David Brooks thinks it's because these poor people believe in self-reliance. In fact, it's because they're deluded:

These working-class folk like the G.O.P.'s social and foreign policies, but the big difference between poor Republicans and poor Democrats is that the former believe that individuals can make it on their own with hard work and good character.

According to the Pew study, 76 percent of poor Republicans believe most people can get ahead with hard work. Only 14 percent of poor Democrats believe that. Poor Republicans haven't made it yet, but they embrace what they take to be the Republican economic vision - that it is in their power to do so. Poor Democrats are more likely to believe they are in the grip of forces beyond their control.

The G.O.P. succeeds because it is seen as the party of optimistic individualism.

Heh. Sure. The fact is, the Democrats are living in the real world. The poor Repugs think lightning will strike and they'll wake up rich. But, strangely, the poor Republicans still have weird moments of clarity that suggest we can win them back to the real world where hard work needs to join with realism and the knowledge that not everyone wins, and winner-take-all is just wrong (and un-Christian):

...these Republicans are disproportionately young women with children. Nearly 70 percent have trouble paying their bills every month. They are optimistic about the future, but their fear of their lives falling apart stalks them at night.

Poorer Republicans support government programs that offer security, so long as they don't undermine the work ethic. Eighty percent believe government should do more to help the needy, even if it means going deeper into debt. Only 19 percent of affluent Republicans believe that.

These people are only nominal Republicans. If we can educate them, if we can drag them away from listening to Bush's lies and the lunacy spouted at their local Fundie church, if we can show them that their children come home in body bags because of the Repugs and their job was shipped overseas by the Repugs, they'll vote according to their needs, not according to the belief that they might suddenly wake up a lotto winner.

UPDATE: Kevin Drum's take:

...In the face of this, Brooksian paeans to the hardworking Republican poor are little less than appalling. Clap your hands and you can be rich!

What this faux optimism masks is the astonshing real-life pessimism of modern conservatism. Among advanced economies, the United States is by far the richest, youngest, and fastest growing country in the world. By far. And yet, we're supposed to believe that an increase in Social Security costs from 4% of GDP to 6% over the next 50 years is cause for panic. We're supposed to believe national healthcare would bankrupt us — never mind that our current dysfunctional system is the most expensive and most unfair on the planet. We're supposed to believe that broader unionization would ruin American industry, home of the highest profits and most highly paid executives in the world. We're supposed to believe that the nation's millionaires, having already had their tax rates slashed by a third over the past two decades, are still being bled to the bone by federal taxes.

It's a grim view. But then, modern conservatives are grim people, with little hope that things can ever be made better than they are today. I guess that's why I'm a liberal.

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