Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Republican Voter vs. Democratic Voter

The furor over President Obama's "You Didn't Build That" riff is that it exposes the fundamental divide between the average Republican voter and the average Democratic voter.  I am not talking about elite voters here.

The average Democratic voter is what I call a "monthly pay-ment" person.  Yes, she is the kind of person that pronounces "payment" as "pay-ment."  She wants to allocate all risk and uncertainty away from her and reduce her life to a monthy payment.  We also talk about her as "living from paycheck to paycheck."  For this person anything not included in the monthly check must come like manna from heaven, because she does not think about making an investment in her future to, e.g., get a better job.  She just thinks about getting to the next paycheck.  It is this kind of voter to whom community organizers speak.

The average Republican voter thinks more strategically.  He thinks about getting a good job, marrying a pretty wife and having a couple of kids.  He thinks about saving up for a home and the kids' college education.  He thinks about saving for retirement.  He sees that the future may have its ups and downs.  That's why he listens to Dave Ramsay on the radio and keeps an emergency reserve.

You can see where the president's "you didn't build that" speech comes in.  For the paycheck-to-paycheck person the speech tells truth, for the successful business person won the lottery. Life is something that just happens to you.  It is not something you try to bend and shape.

For the rugged individualist, the speech is an insult; it denies all those years of struggle.

Now, of course, in reality we are all nothing without society.  On the other hand we are nothing without the people that strive and succeed.  The question is: how do we relate to the fact of society and the fact that we can each of us make a difference?

The Progressive movement of a century ago was based on the idea that we needed more rationalization in society.  Society needed to be designed better and run better by educated experts rather than autodidact empiricists.  But Progressives and after them liberals always needed to get elected to perform their rational wonders.  And in practice that meant appealing to people who wanted stuff from government.  So the high-flown rationalism always found itself in coalition with hard-headed street populism.  However noble your intentions, you had to appeal to the working stiff or the minority.  Thus the progressives won the working class vote with a class-warfare politics, the black vote with a racist politics, and the feminist vote with a sexist politics.  And all the while they insisted that it was the other guys who were classist, racist, sexist!

President Obama, a leftist from his early youth, ran in 2008 in a way that elided the racism, sexism, and classism of his politics.  But as soon as he got elected he rang alarm bells in the average middle class person that wanted to build lives at a distance from government.  Hence the Tea Party.

The good thing is that Obama's frank leftist governance has set up a decisive battle for 2012.  If Mitt Romney wins, he will have a mandate to roll back the excesses of a century of progressive politics.  If he loses then we have to go over the waterfall before we can change the national direction.

It ain't pretty, but what did you expect?  That life could be reduced to a monthly payment?

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