September 27, 2004
Why so many class traitors vote RepublicanBy Edward Bernard Glick
As the 2004 elections near, a question haunts the Democrats: why will so many lower—income voters 'betray' their brethren and vote for Republicans ? A deracinated descendant of Marxian "class interest" analysis still entices liberal thinkers with its siren song of economic determinism; but the "proletarian masses" are not listening. Where have the party theoreticians of the left gone wrong in their understanding of the "common people" —— as Teresa Heinz Kerry so bluntly calls them?
First of all, many of these "betrayers" are religious. They believe in God. Twenty percent of U.S. Christians say they talk to Jesus every day. And Orthodox Jews and observant Muslims also pray and talk to the Almighty daily. They all feel that the Democratic Establishment, long dominated by its secular left wing, disrespects the God—believing, the God—beseeching, and the God—fearing.
Second, less—advantaged Americans may not be coupon—clipping capitalists, but they do understand some basic economics. They may not know who the Nobel laureate Milton Friedman is, or have studied Economics 101 in school, but they have a gut feeling that they owe their jobs and living standards to profit—making businesses, Even public employees are aware that all government money comes from taxes, and that all taxes come from the wealth created by and in the private sector.
The environment is a third area in which the masses differ from the elites. The masses may not have read Charles Darwin's Origin of Species. But they instinctively accept his thesis that old species perish constantly and that new ones emerge to take their place. So why, they ask, are we spending millions of dollars to save the Northern spotted owl and the snail darter sucker fish?
The less—than—wealthy don't want to see America's old—growth trees cut down. But that doesn't mean that they support federal and state restrictions on logging other trees, which are a renewable commodity and a source of good—paying jobs.
Social attitudes, especially toward issues such as bilingual education, affirmative action, and patriotism, are a fourth factor that affects American voting behavior.
My late mother—in—law, whose English was so good that she did the New York Times crossword puzzle in pen, had this reaction to bilingual education: 'I came here as teenager with only Yiddish on my tongue. My teachers didn't care about my psyche. So they put me into classes with English—speaking kids much younger than me. I was unhappy, but I learned English quickly and well. If we had had bilingual education in the 1920s, I'd now be speaking English with a Yiddish accent and Yiddish with an American accent, and I'd be speaking neither language well.'
One is thus not a linguistic nationalist because one opposes bilingual education, which isn't working. And one isn't crazy for thinking that giving driving tests in languages other than English also is crazy. Nor is it un—American to be annoyed whenever a telephone prompter says: 'if you want to continue in English, press 1.'
The women's movement has also done its share. Each time it denigrates women who prefer and can afford to stay at home, calling them 'just housewives,' it helps produce more female Republicans.
Most Americans still cherish disagreement and dissent. But what they cannot abide are attacks on the symbols and traditions of the United States. To them, the Pledge of Allegiance is a patriotic affirmation of their faith in the American Dream, not a nativist recitation of American jingoism. To them, the American flag symbolizes 'the land of the free and the home of the brave,'not Michael Moore's 'crappy country.'
Moore's film Fahrenheit 9/11, and his appearance at the Democratic convention, may have thrilled and energized the party's left, especially the pro—UN, anti—U.S.—military, and anti—war wings. But the movie and its maker also convinced more Democrats and independents to vote for George W. Bush in November.
There is another reason why less wealthy, less educated, and less verbal Americans are gravitating toward the Republicans: They dislike the Democrats' addiction to euphemisms.
To them, unwed mothers are unwed mothers, not never—married single moms. Illegal aliens are illegal aliens, not undocumented immigrants. And the Islamic terrorists are terrorists, not — I am indebted to Daniel Pipes for this list: assailants, bombers, captors, commandos, criminals, extremists, fighters, guerrillas, gunmen, hostage—takers, insurgents, kidnappers, militants, perpetrators, radicals, rebels, or separatists.
Finally, like the President, most Americans think that people who blow up men and women and shoot fleeing schoolchildren in the back are indeed evil. And like Mr. Bush and most Republicans, they're not afraid to call them that.
But, even after September 11, the Democrats find it hard to let the word evil pass their politically—correct lips, because they view the events of that day through the twin prisms of moral relativism and situational ethics, two post—modernist concepts which America's "lesser classes" abhor and reject.
These are some of the reasons why millions of Americans have deserted their presumed socioeconomic class and voted Republican in election after election after election. Until the Democratic Party alters that reality, or adjusts to it, these Americans will continue to vote for Republicans in election after election after election.
Edward Bernard Glick is a professor emeritus of political science at Temple University in Philadelphia/center>