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My dad grew up on a farm and my mom grew up in what many of us today would call a shack—her family was dirt poor. Both lived through the Great Depression. Both were liberal Democrats. My dad's family always voted Democratic, both of my parents' first presidential votes were for FDR. I was raised on those strong liberal values that came from the Depression. Hard work would be rewarded and if you were in need the government would be there with a safety net to help you get back on your feet.

Dad often said that he never understood why farmers voted Republican because they were voting against their best interests. In my case I will expand upon what my dad said and say that I do not understand why half the population of this country votes against their best interests; however, while I may never fully grasp why people vote against their own best interests I have some notions as to why they do and what we can do to counter those views.

  1. Slickly produced television and radio ads. Thirty seconds on TV can make even the worst candidate sound great or an awesome candidate sound horrible. In Wisconsin we saw this in 2010 from Ron Johnson. He made Russ Feingold look like he was a horrible out of touch senator when in reality Senator Feingold and his staff were very plugged into the needs of the constituency. The same ads made Ron Johnson look like an outsider who would, "clean up Washington and be an independent voice." Instead of electing someone to represent us we are being asked to purchase a commodity. Politicians are not commodities, yet that is the way they are sold to us.
  2. Money has corrupted our political system; it has become a cancer that needs to be removed. Corporations and PACs are not people. Citizens United has opened a floodgate of money that would otherwise not be a part of our electoral process. We cannot even be sure where the money is coming from. The way the system stands today a foreign country could influence our local, state and national elections for their own gain.
  3. Family history: I am sure many of you know people who vote Republican because that is the way dad or mom voted. I know people who if you were to give them a political spectrum test that they would be a flaming liberal. They do not believe in any conservative ideology, yet they vote Republican year after year because that is the way mom and dad voted. I know this to be true even in my own family my grandfather on my mother’s side would only vote Republican, the reason, his father, my great-grandfather served in the Union Army during the Civil War, my great grand-father always voted Republican because of that, and my grandfather followed suit, luckily that tradition, for the most part, ended with my mom.  I vote Democratic not because of my parents; at one time I considered myself an independent; however, my parents gave me a great gift, the ability to make up my own mind. They allowed me to explore and even make some mistakes, like voting Republican, once (Damn you Scott Klug!).
  4. The word Liberal has been made into some kind of word that means wild-eyed dirty hippies who only want government handouts. Last time I checked, I have a flattop, I shower every day, I hold a job down and I am a pretty liberal guy, almost a Socialist. Yet this myth that we are somehow unworthy to govern because we actually have ideas to make life a little bit better is somehow a horrible thing in the eyes of the right.
  5. Tax myths: We all know these—tax and spend Democrats, tax cuts on the rich create jobs and so on. The fact is that the Republican messaging machine is very good at perpetuating these myths. Even though taxes under a democratic president are the lowest they have been in almost 30 years.  
  6. Union bashing: Over the last six months in Wisconsin I have heard from the right that the out of state union bosses were running the show, that they were in charge of the democratic party the protests the whole nine yards. I am not sure how that is possible when union membership across the country is at an all time low.
  7. Social issues: When times are tough and we are faced with complex issues it is very easy to turn back to something that while complex can be framed in a simple way. Take abortion and birth control, for example, both extremely complex issues that deal with so many unique situations that it is impossible to understand the right-wing mindset of banning both outright. Yet, because of simple framing—it is a life, it causes promiscuity in young people—people buy into those simple messages without thinking them through. If the Republicans do manage to ban either of these I have to wonder what they will use as a wedge issue in the future.
  8. To quote Han Solo, "I’m out of it for a little while and everybody gets delusions of grandeur." How many times have you heard from a friend who votes Republican, "I am going to rich someday." Very few people in this country get wealthy. Yet we are bombarded with images of wealth every day. This quest for wealth is even sanctioned by the state in many cases, "Play the lottery, become a millionaire." I am willing to bet that we will never see a reality show where the contestants have to live on food stamps and unemployment for a few months, but rest assured, you will see one about the lifestyles of the rich and famous for being famous.
  9. Right-wing talk radio, nothing like getting free advertising 24/7. I am convinced that conservative talk radio is nothing more than the propaganda wing of the Republican Party. It adds nothing to the public discourse and does nothing more than spread lies, hatred and bigotry.

What can we do about it?

The first lesson to be taken from Wisconsin is that if Democrats do not turn out because they are unhappy or disenchanted with whoever is in office or who is running for office, extremists will get elected. I know this because it happened in Wisconsin. The Democrats had a deeply unpopular governor; the Democratic candidate was not someone who could light a fire under the electorate; the Democrats stayed home and look what we ended up with, Scott Walker and the Fitzgerald brothers.

I abhor using the term enemy when referring to the Republicans; after all they are American citizens just like you and I and are allowed to have an opinion on how our country should be run. At this point, however, the Republican Party of today has proven it is unable to govern; therefore, they are our common enemy as no other term really fits. We need to focus on defeating them and not on our individual differences. If we want better government we have to fight for it, but let's not fight each other.

Second, Citizens United must be overturned someway, somehow and then real campaign reform must be put in its place. Today the only way you can run for national office, especially the Senate, is to have millions of your own money. Someone who would make a great senator or representative but does not have a fund-raising machine or trust fund cannot run for office. Who out there can quit their job, run for office and still make house payments? Money has polluted our political system for too long: We need real campaign reform and fully funded elections from president, all the way down to alderman. How can our elected officials represent us if they have to spend half of their time raising money to run for office and then having to pay back those donations with legislation? I honestly believe that we would have won Wisconsin State Senate District Eight if it had not been for all of the outside corporate money dumped into the state. Money in our elections is the biggest threat that our Republic has ever faced and it could very well be our downfall.

Third, the fairness doctrine needs to be reimplemented. The airwaves belong to the people; the federal government owns them and we need to demand that the airwaves not be used to push the agenda of one group at the expense of another. We should also demand that certain aspects of the telecommunications act of 1996 be repealed. Allowing one company to own almost all of the media in one market has had disastrous effects on this country. If all of your news comes from one source how can you possibly be informed about a secondary viewpoint?

Fourth, Labor—Democrats need to be far more ardent supporters of labor, not just the unions, all labor. We saw what the labor movement could do here in Wisconsin when their backs were against the wall that energy needs to be tapped across the nation. I want the Democratic Party to be known as the party for labor. Corporations/Employers should not have more rights than the people who work for them do—"right to work" should be abolished. If it cannot be done at the federal level then we need to ensure that the Democratic Party takes over statehouses and abolish right to work at the state level. We need to educate the masses that a vote for a Democrat is a vote for labor, for the common man/woman. The rich and powerful cannot make money without labor, and that needs to be made abundantly clear to everyone in this country.

Fifth, taxes. I do not understand the disconnect here. Taxes pay for roads, sewer systems, police and fire protection as well as countless other things that a modern society needs to survive. As our population expands our government needs to expand to provide services to that ever-growing populace. This idea that you can make government so small you could drown it in a bathtub is absurd. The right likes to claim that it wants government run like a business, but if you had a thousand unique customers would you cut the size of your office staff to where it was when you only had five customers?

One thing the Republican Party does very well is to play on fear and ignorance; it is difficult at best to counter and change the mind of someone who fears change or worse yet is oblivious to facts that are presented to them. Fear and ignorance will not allow us to face the challenges of the twenty-first century. As a Liberal I want my country to move forward, I want us to be at the forefront of discovery, not because of the myth of American exceptionalism, but because we as a nation are investing in the future of humanity.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Sun Aug 14, 2011 at 06:59 PM PDT.

Also republished by Badger State Progressive.

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Comment Preferences

  •  The white working class has gone over to the dark (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Deejay Lyn

    side for many of your reasons cited, and they just may have to be screwed royally in the ass for another decade or two before they've had it. Only crises seem to move this electorate, not reason. It might take total collapse before they
    come over to the left and stay there for any amount of time.

    The gulf between rich and poor and the disappearance of the middle class will soon stare even the most hypnotized right in the kisser. That's when the shit will really hit the fan. No more subdued, brainwashed, demoralized electorate.

    O, it is excellent to have a giant's strength; but it is tyrannous to use it like a giant." --Shakespeare, Measure for Measure

    by Wildthumb on Sun Aug 14, 2011 at 07:07:36 PM PDT

  •  The third point (7+ / 0-)

    is the key one, even though I agree with all your points. I really think the media seems to have sold out to the corporate side, almost to the point of being ridiculous. I truly hope the Democrats will consider themselves the labor party as well.

  •  People define their "best interest" differently (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Bill in MD, JeffW

    First, not everyone defines their best interest in economic terms. There are millions of single issue voters. To social conservatives the most important political issue for them are items like abortion or gay marriage. Those overwhelm economic concerns. There are voters who feel the Second Amendment right to keep guns is more important than anything else.

    Most importantly there are tens of millions low and middle income voters in the US who feel that using the power of government to redistribute income and wealth is wrong, even though they would be the beneficiaries. My parents (now deceased), lower middle income, life long Dems felt that way with a passion. They were JFK Dems, "Ask not what your country can do for you" rather than Ted Kennedy Dems.

    "let's talk about that"

    by VClib on Sun Aug 14, 2011 at 07:15:40 PM PDT

    •  I believe you are confusing... (6+ / 0-)

      ...best interests with beliefs.

      One may believe that voting for the pro-life candidate is in their best interests; however, if that candidate once elected takes away the social safety net they have voted against their best interests.

      I am also speaking across a broader spectrum than one person...more like a large group of people or community. Many union members voted for Scott Walker...that was certainly not in their best interests as a group.

      "Republicans only care about the rich" - My late Father (-8.25, -7.85)

      by Mark E Andersen on Sun Aug 14, 2011 at 07:35:43 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  The unholy "abortion" deal (0+ / 0-)

        Using abortion as the only litmus test for voting is a tool that both Catholic and some fundamentalist elders have held for decades. In return, they've gotten some percs from the Republican congresses and some protection.

        It's changing, though. This week the Catholic hierarchy came out four-square against the six states that enacted unjust immigration laws. They know that their membership will no longer tolerate the Republicans, and they must re-consider "what would Jesus do?"

        Quidquid latine dictum sit, altum viditur.

        by MrMichaelMT on Mon Aug 15, 2011 at 03:13:00 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •   "redistribute income and wealth" Yes when the.. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      buckybadger1988

      ..MSM largely in service to corp. interests uses this false phrase ad nauseum, people who spend all of there time working to survive having very little time and/or energy to commit to political concerns, will be swayed.

      In actuality the redistribution  of wealth is controlled by those who have accrued through (cost of business) legislation the financial means to redirect the results of real labor and this country's wealth and resouces to themselves with that ever existing advantage.

      As for anti-gay, gun, and other social issues being more important to these who "view their interests differently". Politics are as deep as am rightwing radio. Ignorance is not making a choice. It's being manipulated.

      Agreed there is a small minoriyy who indeed are controlled by bigotry and racism. Not enough to warrant a seat in govt. without a much larger organization marketing these hateful beliefs.

  •  I think the elimination of the Fairness Doctrine (7+ / 0-)

    is a big reason. I live in a state that voted for Pres. Obama, a so-called "blue state" but to hear a Democratic talk show on the radio like Thom Hartmann, I have to subscribe to satellite radio. Obviously that radio market does not serve everyone's interest like the free marketeers would have us believe.

    Where are all the jobs, Boehner?

    by Dirtandiron on Sun Aug 14, 2011 at 07:17:18 PM PDT

  •  Because they're not. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Dirtandiron, CoyoteMarti

    They vote for people who represent their interests as they truly are in the pre-intellectual, primal state they inhabit the majority of their hours on Earth. And their interests are that "the other" must be wiped from history, period. Whether it's the Black "other," the gay "other," the Muslim "other," the Feminist "other," the "Other" other... it doesn't matter. This primal, atavistic, unconscious and genocidal urge within the population and particularly the white, older Tea Party contingent trumps any and all desire for a better and less degraded future for millions and millions of people.

    Basically, the issue is this: there's a pair of invisible buttons in front of these voters and the elites have manufactured a divide-and-conquer narrative strategy (really since the '60s and the Voting Rights Act that dared to make minorities actual enfranchised people) by naming the buttons "Prosperity for all" and "Free glass of water for n*ggers". You've seen which button they wanna push, you've watched these very same voters push that button for decades now since the talking pig Reagan -- who invented this utterly racist meme, today taken as gospel by a vast swath of voters on the right, that "taxes" translates directly to "free $ for those people" -- and now you know why.  

    Really, it's because they've seen the diverse, unclassifiable, multiethnic, multicultural, multi-gendered future that's coming (it's here already in large part) and they've decided that they'd rather die than live there. And they are working on making sure there's nothing left, that we all die with them... and they'll keep on until they either die off or they provoke a new Civil War between the have-everythings and the nothing-left-to-loses that will make the French Revolution look like a trip to the barber for a shave and a haircut.

    "Some of you are going to die... martyrs, of course, to the Freedom that I will provide!"

    by emperor nobody on Sun Aug 14, 2011 at 07:23:54 PM PDT

  •  Fear—The Overriding Republican Message (8+ / 0-)

    And they use it with a vengeance. Fear of government bogey men; fear of strangers (e.g., a black Kenyan socialist); fear of socialism, even if they can't define it; fear of the unknown; fear that government will tax them to death; fear that government will put them out of work; fear of foreigners (Al Queda); etc. It's the same schtick used in evangelical religion, only then it's fear of the devil and being denied the kingdom of heaven upon dying.

    Fear is a powerful motivating force and manipulators know it. It's a psychological narcotic if dispensed with skill, and it works especially well with crowds.  

  •  Because they can just blame the black guy. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    amk for obama

    And white folks from all side of the political spectrum and all walks of life are guaranteed to enthusiastically support this.

    Until people stop covering for the electorate's irresponsibility by making excuses, said irresponsibility will continue.


    Kevin dropped his ice cream and blames Obama? He's gone hamsher!

    by punditician on Sun Aug 14, 2011 at 07:54:53 PM PDT

  •  Media and the left's poor management of it. (3+ / 0-)

    It's a worldwide phenomenon.

    One bitter fact is two bit hacks populate the third rate fourth estate who are truly the fifth columnists. So, how did Obama piss you off today ?
    Call the media when they Lie

    by amk for obama on Sun Aug 14, 2011 at 08:19:21 PM PDT

  •  "I Am A Republican" (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    buckybadger1988

    Had a friend a few years ago who said he always voted Republican.  I suggested that he look at the candidate.  He replied that he was a Repub and that's how he always voted.  I asked what he would do if the only Republican candidate was Adolph Hitler.  He replied that, if he was the only Republican, that was who he would vote for.  The candidate has nothing to do with it.  Some people vote for a party because then they don't have to think.  They don't have to listen and they don't have to learn anything.  Some people don't want anything to get in the way of watching American Idol.

    To be or not to be.  What was the question?

  •  Agree with everything you said, but (3+ / 0-)

    how do we get our messaging out? We are all over the place and usually wind up just talking to our base.

  •  well thought out (3+ / 0-)

    I agree with all of your points.  The Ron Johnson ads were quite effective, for exactly the reasons you state.  We had no clue that he would attempt to block votes on the debt once he was in office.  
    Money is a huge factor, and being bombarded with negative ads every 10 minutes tends to create doubt in the most devout Democrat...the "maybe this guy isn't so bad, he makes sense" effect.
    Citizens United is the decision that most drastically affects fair elections;  corporations are NOT PEOPLE and the law MUST be overturned.
    We all need to work together to make the necessary changes that level the electoral playing field.  This should be our highest priority and non-negotiable.  Organization and cohesiveness are essential.

  •  Tipped, recced and republished to (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    buckybadger1988, Eric Nelson

    If you can play the cowbell, thank a sheet metal worker.

    by ruleoflaw on Sun Aug 14, 2011 at 09:05:35 PM PDT

  •  They believe their best interest (0+ / 0-)

    is in clearing the dead weight-- the poor and shiftless, usually minorities, along with various others who don't adhere to their religious or cultural leanings-- from the system and allowing right-thinking, moral, culturally dominant persons like themselves to flourish.  They've all got stories IME, whether it's the insistence that black teens choose to have multiple children specifically for the minimal benefits attached, the affirmative-action policies that robbed (!) them of good jobs, the environmental regulations that killed the polluting jobs that were the best ones available in their perpetually-depressed communities, etc.  But the one constant is that they think their worldview, instead of being challenged, should be allowed to dominate and those who don't accept it should suffer until they see the error of their ways.  The right provides a whole lot of validation for this type of moral vanity, and perpetually self-criticizing liberalism never will.

    "Conservative principles" are marketing props used by the Conservative Movement to achieve political power, not actual beliefs. -Glenn Greenwald

    by latts on Sun Aug 14, 2011 at 10:29:14 PM PDT

  •  WR (0+ / 0-)

    Let me encourage everyone here to read
    Reich's
    The Mass Psychology of Fascism

    I think it explains best why people fight against their own interest.

  •  This could have been our diary (0+ / 0-)

    Spouse and I had exactly the same discussion yesterday. Father grew up depression-hungry. He now gets just over 20,000 a year from auto company retirement and social security. His pills and co-pays suck up everything he has. He's doing OK, but votes Republican by knee-jerk instinct.

    Why? Well, the constant inundation of Faux information is part of the reason. There's a deeply hidden thread of racism there somewhere, too.

    But neither of these things explain his resistance to reason. He's very intelligent. Our only answer was that the oligarchs are very intelligent in their psych ops.

    Quidquid latine dictum sit, altum viditur.

    by MrMichaelMT on Mon Aug 15, 2011 at 03:07:00 AM PDT

  •  Two completely different issues (0+ / 0-)
    Third, the fairness doctrine needs to be reimplemented... telecommunications act of 1996 be repealed. Allowing one company to own almost all of the media in one market has had disastrous effects on this country.

    The Fairness Doctrine won't come back because the industry has changed. There are no longer separate divisions for entertainment and news, and that (not equal time) formed the crux of the law.

    The second point is extremely important, however. It goes further. If a station is purchased by a conglomerate and run (say, as a sports station) at a loss, it should be classified as a political contribution and identified as such. (And we should get another SCOTUS judge so we can eliminate the pitfall of "Citizens United" corruption here.)

    Quidquid latine dictum sit, altum viditur.

    by MrMichaelMT on Mon Aug 15, 2011 at 03:10:53 AM PDT

  •  The Media is responsible for (0+ / 0-)

    a lot of mis-information.  Take the recent CNN poll:

    Which of these statements comes closest to your view:
    • Taxes on wealthy people should be kept low because they invest their money in the private sector and that helps the economy and creates jobs
    • Taxes on wealthy people should be kept high so the government can use their money for programs to help lower-income people

    Note that BOTH choices are basically republican talking points.  The 2nd choice - the only reason liberals want to raise taxes is to funnel money to poor people could be taken right from a Rick Perry speech.  A more accurate  way that 2nd question could have been phrased could be:

    • Taxes on wealthy people should be kept high so the government can fund infrastructure repair, continue to fund social security and other programs  to help lower and middle -income people, and help pay down the debt.

    We just had a national crisis over debt reduction - and CNN doesn't point out that one of the benefits of higher taxes on the wealthy is to substantially reduce our debt?  This can't be accidental.  It's basically push-polling.

    explain how letting gays marry will directly affect your own heterosexual relationship?

    by bluestatesam on Mon Aug 15, 2011 at 03:34:58 AM PDT

  •  There are many reasons - one is because (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    non acquiescer

    Have you ever seen this:

    "But XXXXXX sucks less than rick perry/bachmann/romney)" does not actually encourage anyone to vote their best interest.  (XXXXXX = name of your choice)

    Voting for the "lesser of evils", which is remarkably common.  Perhaps in some cases it is best strategy, but choices between bad and worse do not lead to rational politics and disenfranchise voters.

    Also, people are angry and bombarded with propaganda; anger is misdirected.  

    When you find yourself surrounded by alligators, it is time to realize your job is to drain the swamps!

    by badgerbadger on Mon Aug 15, 2011 at 05:03:40 AM PDT

  •  Why people vote the way they do. (0+ / 0-)

    I would guess the vast majority of people, regardless of ideology, once in the voting booth, vote with their pocket book in mind.

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