What do these men have in common: Mitt Romney and a blue collar worker living in Toledo? For that matter, what does that worker have in common with Rush Limbaugh? Or any other talking head on right-wing radio?
My inquiry is based on this question: Why do so many of the white, working-class support the Republican Party? I often hear that question by new volunteers with whom I chat at the Obama office. The best-selling book, What’s the Matter with Kansas? addressed that question some years ago. In the book, author Thomas Frank describes the take-over of the Kansas legislature by conservative Christians who turned a fairly progressive state into a solid red one. The upshot of that is that white, working-class of that state continually vote against their own economic interests and vote for the GOP platform.
For the past several Saturdays, I have been canvassing door-to-door in middle-class neighborhoods, asking the homeowner who they would be supporting for President in the 2012 election. While my walk list is skewed to those who have shown some preference for the Democratic Party philosophy, not everyone who answers the door espouses the same. Especially the men. Often [and yesterday afternoon] I hear the voice of a male in the background if a woman opens the door to me. On this recent occasion, the woman [wife] was chatting with me about possible support of Obama when her husband in the adjoining room said to her, ‘We’re not interested!’ The woman looked perplexed and quickly grabbed the brochure and closed the door. This same scenario occurred last Saturday when the husband answered the door I was not ‘permitted’ to talk to his wife. Again yesterday, a few blocks away, I had the door slammed in my face by the husband when he saw my Obama button; I was asking to speak to his wife. “Not interested!” he said. “Slam!”
Actually, I am able to detect within a few seconds whether I will be welcomed or slammed by the person at the door. Maybe it is my intuitive nature, but I am often correct. There is something about the demeanor- the look of suspicion on the face- that lets me know whether this will be a conversational visit or antagonistic dismissal. A few weeks back an angry man told me, as I was asking to leave the Obama brochure for his wife, “I don’t want any of that junk in my house!” Why the anger? What are they afraid of?
They may be afraid of the truth: many have enveloped themselves in a bubble universe, configured to a place where they wish to exist. An artificial reality [oxymoronical!] that has been constructed for them by paid, professional propagandists. This leads me to repeat an earlier question: what does a working-class, blue collar worker have in common with Rush Limbaugh? While the people whose doorbell I ring may have a Chevy Malibu or a Dodge Nitro in their driveway, Limbaugh drives a Maybach 57S. Well, that’s one of his toys that he has in his 5-car garage. And then there is his Gulfstream G550 which he flies. Limbaugh is paid $38 million/year. How’s that for a comparable wage?
Do these workers believe that Rush is on their side? That Rush has their best interest in mind during his 3-hour daily babble? Seriously. Do they? Or that Mitt Romney’s economic agenda is tailored for the working stiff? And that Paul Ryan is going to look out for their best interest?
Apparently they do. After all, they support the GOP and disdain President Obama. Disdain is a kind word.
Why the anger? Why the fear? Or is it the fear itself. Is fear the message being delivered to these workers by right-wing media? Quite naturally, they have much to fear because most concluded their education at their high school graduation. Their skill set is no greater than any other coworker; their chance for advancement is equally unrealistic. Their value to the company/corporation is minuscule; there are thousands of others out there waiting for their job. Yet, they vote as if they are the president of the company or the CEO of the corporation. Go figure!
What’s up with that?
How about a daily dose of propaganda? What else can explain this contradiction? If one lends one’s head to a daily dose of propaganda, there has to be an outcome favorable to the propagandist. Fear is a powerful principle in the hands of the propagandist. After all, both mouthwash and deodorant are promoted by fear.
Fear of what?
You know, that ‘other’ person who is just as unqualified as you for the job you do.
…and it works.