Why do poor Americans seem to always vote for the GOP?
Why do working poor and rural Americans vote in opposition to the best interests of themselves and their own children? Why do they continue to vote republican when time and again the GOP has shown it works counter to the best interests of hardworking taxpayers? Why do those poor rural and Southern taxpayers vote for policies that are shrinking their own middle class and forcing 99% of all Americans into deeper and deeper personal debt, while enriching corporations and the wealth class? Why are these same voters casting their support as their patriotic duty as God-fearing, “natural born” Americans?
As with most questions that plague me, I turned to reading about it, to looking back into history, trying to see patterns and motivations. My laymen’s understanding is as follows: Around the 1950s, the Democrats began working to put that Civil War-era social ignorance behind them, pushing the party’s evolution toward more racial and social progressivism. I came to see that much of the voting attitudes of rural America’s working poor and Southern poor may be traced to the Civil Rights Movement and the GOP’s calculated stratagem to manipulate “Old South Democrats” whose bigotries the Democratic Party had coddled and stoked for their own interests since the Civil War. The stratagem imposed by the GOP was “Nixon’s Southern Strategy.” In broad terms, it targeted Southern Democrats who felt abandoned by the party of civil rights and of desegregation. It did this by manipulating conservative religious ideals and patriotism, commingled with a so-called social conservatism that, from its inception, was nothing less than bald institutionalized otherism — anti-feminist, homophobic, race-baiting, and anti-immigrant demagoguery. By wrapping these prejudices in religiosity, the GOP made it not just okay to believe in white Christian-ish destiny, but made it a mandated moral imperative.
The stratagem began by giving the ignorant and the bigots a veneer of moral conviction with an issue the church could be manipulated into adopting. That issue was abortion. It was actually a middle ground consensus when Roe v. Wade was passed. Even that bastion of evangelical conservatism, the Southern Baptist Convention, supported the law — right along with counter-culture hippies, minorities, Democrats, and the “liberal elites.” Nixon’s stratagem sought to cleave that conservative religious support for social progressivism not just from the left, but irrevocably from the middle ground where the majority in American voters had always held sway.
To achieve this, the stratagem propagandized a nationalist patriotic religiosity that pushed the churches, upon which rural and Southern communities relied, toward less and less Christ-centered doctrines as it became more and more politically entrenched, primarily — at least in the beginning — over the abortion issue. As in the South, churches feature prominently in rural communities. In those rural areas, Pentecostal Evangelical and conservative evangelical churches seem to dominate in number. Social conservatism, in fact, seems prevalent even in more liberal denominations’ rural representative churches. The national mobility of Americans also saw increasing numbers of Southerners migrating and resettling across rural America, carrying their “Old South Democrat” ideals with them.
Part of the stratagem began overt demonizing of educational importance. Higher education became increasingly suspect in conservative corners. Empirical science and scientists and astronomers must have an “elite agenda.” Learned and respected historians must be pushing a counter-culture “commie” perspective. Archeologists and anthropologists — except the ones trying to prove the Bible as fact — became godless atheists not to be trusted. The media and Hollywood became the “liberal elite” — therefore casting any and all facts they might disseminate as a not-to-be-trusted agenda.
Of course the rightwing demonizes “liberal education.” Education teaches substantive critical thinking which is the key to democracy and equitable social progressive policy and the enemy of propaganda machines.
That strategy has continued to be used by the GOP, even today, to manipulate “the base” and keep them regressively bigoted, to combine that bigotry with religion and patriotism, and to keep them ignorant by demonizing education beyond the bare minimum required to serve the corporate wealth engine. That’s why the poor rural voter continues to vote against their own best interests. The GOP conned them into believing the republican propaganda is the ONLY upright, moral and God-fearing patriotism. All else are communists, socialists, and evil liberals.
Conservative Believers who feel — at the barest human minimum — squeamish about the religio-patriotic spin on conservatism, will not speak out or stand in opposition because it has been ingrained in them that should hold the same political stances as their conservative evangelical leaders. This has left them with an ingrained religo-patriotic willingness to defer to conservative politicians and socially conservative policies supported by those evangelical leaders. In addition, part of the stratagem unfolded to include a kind of religio-patriotic support for policy benefitting corporations and the wealth class — Which is why they continue to accept the trickle down economic theory against all empirical evidence and against generations of personal and anecdotal evidence. It has become morally upright to work like a dog for little return to benefit the capitalism-gone-mad wealth class, creating a kind of theocratic corporate feudalism ensnaring us all.
This is the patriotic religiosity which, today, holds up a man like Trump, who is the antithesis of the morally rigid social conservatism for which the GOP and its base have always proclaimed to be the their core ideals; it’s why they support a man who for all his adult life has surrounded himself with a mob of proven liars, crooks, fraudsters, moral deviants, and traitors.
I’m an avid history hobbyist. What do I mean by that statement? I mean that I read history and archeology and anthropology books and articles for pleasure, as a leisure activity. I also read those things for research on topics and eras in which I write fiction, poetry, and commentary. The above essay is not the entirety of the critical factors; it is a commentary on a specific stratagem to leverage those factors broadly for the partisan benefit of the GOP. As I see it, ultimately, the current regime’s ascendancy stems from the impacts of this stratagem. If we don’t understand how we got here, how will we make sure we never find ourselves in a similar or worse predicament?