Political assumptions about other people

About once every two weeks I find myself in a conversation where someone says to me, "I cannot see how anyone from 'group X' can vote for the Republicans." I know I find myself in these conversations because I am a visible registered republican in an area that is predominantly Democrats. I find these questions to be very disheartening. Without looking closely at how people live their lives, you cannot figure what makes people select a candidate. I find the people asking this question condescending. They are running into the classic democrat problem of knowing what is good for other groups of people.

I was interested when I saw and article in the New York Times, Meet the Poor Republicans (Requires registration). The article looks a new report from the Pew Research Center, Beyond Red vs. Blue
Republicans Divided About Role of Government - Democrats by Social and Personal Values
. Both the report and the article are interesting. I think these incites are valuable if you want to know why some people vote for the Republicans.

Here is something that caught my eye:

"Already, we've seen poorer folks move over in astonishing numbers to the G.O.P. George Bush won the white working class by 23 percentage points in this past election. Many people have wondered why so many lower-middle-class waitresses in Kansas and Hispanic warehouse workers in Texas now call themselves Republicans. The Pew data provide an answer: they agree with Horatio Alger.

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.

I know that some of my friends are going to say these poor Republicans are still getting screwed. They are going to say that these poor Republicans need to do a better job of looking after their own interest. I think there are other lessons for Democrat politicians to learn. In the end it shows just because a person is part of an economic group, it does not determine how they will vote in the end. There are still other factors that drive people. For good or bad the Republican party is doing a better job understanding some of these drives.


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