Muddled voter motivations

Saturday August 11, 2012

Recent polls show that presumed Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney is maintaining his party's strong support among white working class voters -- defined as from households lacking college degrees and with combined incomes of $30,000 to $100,000.

This was the trend before Barack Obama, the first African American president, took office and it has intensified since. Some of that opposition to the president likely is racial, but we doubt that is a major factor: The Democrats have steadily lost white working class support since the late 1960s. This has been true over issues like opposition to wars and excessive defense spending, over social program spending and tax cuts, in addition to the party's support for expanded civil rights for blacks, women, Native Americans, Hispanics, Asians and other minorities, and most recently gays.

These are the issues that most divided working class Americans from other groups, especially moderate to liberal college-educated voters. But we would ask, in whose interest are working class voters "working" these days?

Consider that while being urged to focus on alleged "attacks" on the military, on marriage, on religion, on the right to own guns, working class whites largely ignore the economic realities of their situation. They aren't focusing on who is trying to level the playing field for them and who is thwarting them and loading the dice for someone else.

These voters this year -- as in most recent elections -- are supporting a candidate whose party has stubbornly opposed any attempt to tax the wealthy more and end unneeded tax breaks for big business -- to help better fund such programs as unemployment insurance, Social Security, Medicare and funding for public education, tuition aid, public works job-creation programs, and more.

You have to ask yourself at some point, who benefits from these programs -- often depends on these programs -- and who can take them or leave them? The answer is right out there.

Voters should ask themselves how often the fact that gays can marry in some states, like Vermont, has any bearing on their lives. They should ask whether the programs they are constantly told by conservatives we "can't afford" are in fact affordable if those at the top pay more and receive less in tax breaks or superfluous benefits they don't need -- such as full Social Security benefits for millionaires or billionaires.

They might also consider how much funding spent on social programs, health care and government-funded projects comes directly back to working class Americans, and how much the economic stimulus these create directly benefits them.

They might likewise take a closer look at what the Obama administration has actually proposed and supported -- not exactly the "socialist" agenda his opponents claim, in fact sometimes moderate to conservative. His health care plan, for instance, is modeled on plans conservative Republicans once said they favored, and which Mr. Romney implemented in Massachusetts.

There are many reasons voters take with them into the polling booth, but not all stand the test of logic. A hefty percentage of white working class voters should be thinking twice before casting ballots in November. Maybe three times.


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