Against Their Own Interest – and Syria Stupidity

Reading time – 3:47  .  .  .

A lot of barrels of ink have been emptied in an effort to explain why some American voters – largely rural people – consistently vote against their own interests. This predates Donald Trump, although he has been a beneficiary of it and has exploited it masterfully. My understanding of what appears to be a key driver of self-destructive behavior has largely been focused on the betrayal so many Americans feel. It’s borne of the obvious abandoning of promises made to them by various levels of government officials, especially those in our federal government.

Do you remember all those years of John Boehner, then Speaker of the House, declaring that the number one priority was, “Jobs, jobs, jobs”? The only bill passed to create more jobs while he was speaker was specifically for military veterans, and Boehner had to be shamed into passing that. Where did that leave the rest of our forgotten Americans?

They feel used for their tax money and abused by the system, so they’re angry. They’re naturally attracted to the angriest voice with the simplest solutions. They fear “others” who may be as far away as another country or as near as the closest big city.

And they don’t like immigrants, fearing they’re here to freeload off our public assistance programs. There are yet other ways Trump voters feel ripped off, because they don’t get a benefit from government programs – or at least they don’t believe that they do. Turns out, not surprisingly, that their disaffection is more elaborate than that.

Monica Potts wrote a stunning piece in the New York Times entitled “In the Land of Self-Defeat“. If you’ve ever puzzled over why people do what looks to you to be self-destructive, you’ll want to read this piece.  Potts quotes Katherine J. Cramer, a political scientist at the University of Wisconsin – Madison:

“The way these folks described the world to me, their basic concern was that people like them, in places like theirs, were overlooked and disrespected,” she wrote in Vox, explaining that her subjects considered ‘racial minorities on welfare’ as well as ‘lazy urban professionals’ working desk jobs to be undeserving of state and federal dollars. People like my neighbors hate that the government is spending money on those who don’t look like them and don’t live like them — but what I’ve learned since I came home is that they remain opposed even when they themselves stand to benefit.”

These folks have a “prevailing sense of scarcity,” so spending tax dollars on what to them are non-essentials is craziness. Indeed, Potts’ article was triggered by a hotly contested county issue about a proposed pay increase for a new librarian to $25 per hour. It was defeated. These folks contract their view to a very individual focus – you might call it extreme libertarian – which leaves them wondering why they should pay for that librarian if they and their family aren’t going to use the library.

The comments about immigrants particularly caught my attention and left me with a stark clarity that I’ve had for a long time: Too many of us have forgotten where we came from. By that I mean our immigrant forebears – our grandparents or great-grandparents who came here penniless and unable to understand English. We’ve forgotten their struggles and don’t seem able to glue our ignored past onto the plight of today’s refugees.

And another thing  .  .  .

Many thanks to S.S. for pointing to the tweet. Click the pic

Eliminating ISIS (or ISIL) has largely been accomplished except for a couple of strongholds in northern Syria. It has been done with American money and technology and Kurdish blood and lives.

As of this writing, President Trump has pulled all of our troops out of Syria. The decision was made following only a single phone call with President Erdoğan of Turkey. He didn’t consult with anyone who actually knows something about the situation in Syria. And he made the decision with no consideration of the likely outcomes of U.S. withdrawal.

The Turks hate our allies, the Kurds, and see them as their blood enemy. The U.S. pulling out of Syria will leave the Kurds without protection against the modern army and air power of the Turks, who will almost certainly swoop in and slaughter the Kurds – it’s already begun. And it will leave Syria firmly in the hands of our adversaries, Russia and Iran, and ISIS will be free to rebuild.

Have you noticed how many things Trump does that help Putin and Russia and simultaneously hurt our friends and allies?

This is so bad that even Republicans in Congress are pushing back. It’s a shame that they’re so late in finding their backbones.


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One Response to Against Their Own Interest – and Syria Stupidity
  1. John Calia Reply

    I’m having trouble with cause and effect here, Jack. What is it that Boehner or more generally the federal government should do that’s in the interests of these rural communities? The prime mover of job losses in the US in the last 20 years has been the offshoring of American manufacturing. What legislation should we pass to help those who have lost their livelihoods as a result? Further, I am puzzled at how you have drawn the conclusion that people with Libertarian views are voting against their own interests when they decry government programs that funnel tax money through a bureaucracy into certain constituencies. It may be that they are not expecting anything and wonder why anyone else is. Finally, I got something entirely different from the NYT article. When it comes to local decisions, communities deal with complex issues with greater understanding of the effects. When they send their tax dollars to the feds, no such understanding results.