Sunday, September 09, 2012

With the presidential election almost upon us, I offer the following reflection.

Growing up in California in the 1940s I picked up my parents' fascination with politics.  Fortunately it did not last, or I would have become, horresco referens, a political junkie, obsessed with polls and numbers determining who gets in and who gets out in our dysfunctional Tweedledee-Tweedledum political system.  Back in those days, though, I accepted the truism that people voted according to their economic interest. Working people, especially those who belonged to unions, naturally voted Democrat. Those involved in business, at whatever level, would vote Republican.  We can call this the vulgar-Marxist notion of elections.

A little reflection should have taught me that this generalization was not universally true.  In those days, white people in the South overwhelmingly voted Democratic--even, especially, people of means.

After so many years have passed, though, many keep to the simplistic notion that economic interest is, or should be, the sole determinant of voting in our elections.  That this is not always so perplexed Thomas Frank, author of the widely read book What’s the Matter with Kansas.

In a number of contributions Jonathan Haidt has refuted this long-held assumption.  People vote for a number of reasons, many of them centering on values, which may be ethical, religious, or personal. Some people vote as they do because that is what their family has always done.



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