Today I hand the blog over to my brother Kent, as sage and sanguine a fellow you’ll ever meet. His psychological wanderlust has always inspired me to go a step further and resist the easy conclusion, and he also bought me Rubber Soul when I was 12. Here’s Kent:
The Republican Paradox
I have been trying to get out of my ideological comfort zone and talk to people who are voting for Romney. This has happened on Facebook almost exclusively, because I live in Iowa City, and open Republicans are about as welcome as an Austrian wearing Lederhosen driving a Mercedes is in Tel Aviv.
It’s a shame. The sort of insulting partisan rancor that seems to pass for political discourse these days is terrible. The only way we know what we believe is if we critique our own beliefs, and try and understand what people who disagree with us are saying.
But what I’m hearing from Romney voters strikes me as curious. I’m going to quote one person who responded to my challenge without identifying him; since he posted on Facebook I don’t think it’s an invasion of his privacy.
“Well Kent all I can say to you is that this election is about far more than this narrow view point that you support.
I couldn’t bring myself to vote for Obama even if I was paid a million dollars to do so; I care too much about this great country to take the money and run as many have. I can only vote my conscience (which I already have), yes I voted for Romney.
Do I think he’s perfect; absolutely not but he got to be better than what we have. Due to the contraction of the economy especially in the building sector in which I work, I have seen four years of uncertainty and fear. People that have money to invest simply will not gamble in this market. It is those people that drive our economy not the labor unions or government as the left will have you believe.
I have seem my compensation plummet in the last four years to a mere 35% of what it was. That hurts a lot. No I didn’t load up on the toys and over extend myself like others but a cut that severe even over time hurts. I voted for Romney and I’m proud of it. Here’s to the coming years of prosperity.”
This is verbatim, except for paragraph breaks. I could quibble about many things in this statement, but not with its manifest sincerity. It does, however, crystallize a couple of things that to me are paradoxical.
“People that have money to invest simply will not gamble in this market. It is those people that drive our economy not the labor unions or government as the left will have you believe…”
I don’t know how he knows what the ‘left’ believes but it isn’t what I believe. What strikes me is how ready he is to trust rich people to take care of the economy.
“I have seem my compensation plummet in the last four years to a mere 35% of what it was…”
This is what I’m really hearing a lot from people I know who are voting Republican. People have been hurt by the recession. I feel deep sympathy for their plight. This guy sounds as though he doesn’t have it as bad as many do, but I’ve lived through my income taking a plummet. It is no fun. I have yet to get back to the salary I had when I lost my job during the recession during the first term of George W. Bush.
The recession continues, though things are slowly getting better. They blame Obama and the government for not fixing it fast enough. Their pain is real, and they think changing the President will make things better. They blame him. They blame the Democrats. They blame Health Care Reform.
Who do they not blame? Republicans, George W. Bush, and wealthy people. Even though to me (and to anyone following the ins and outs of the financial crisis) they caused the recession. This isn’t a right/left Democrat/Republican thing — it’s just a fact. Lax regulation and the greed of the wealthy have put the entire world into an economic crisis. And the federal deficit is almost entirely the result of two GOP wars and the Bush tax cuts.
My anonymous friend thinks that unleashing the “people with money” — who have somehow been kept from working their capitalistic magic somehow by the current president — is going to fix things. This to me is crazy. This is Stockholm Syndrome, this is the abused returning time and again to the abuser. This person thinks his best hope for solving his own personal economic crisis are the very people who caused it. He thinks that if somehow we could just make rich people’s lives easier, ours will get better.
There’s something even more sinister within this faith. He believes that the ‘Left’ always thinks government can fix things. He describes a narrative where liberals view Government as our savior, and if we just make government big enough everything will be fine. That’s a bunch of what Joe Biden termed ‘malarkey,’ but let that be for now.
Kent about to join family debate, Hawaii, Feb. 2012
Here’s the fundamental weakness in this guy’s narrative: The wealthy get wealthy — through luck, hard work, or inheritance — and they stay wealthy by putting their own well-being first. They are not accountable, except to pay taxes and follow the laws of the land. Beyond that, they do what they will. Looking to wealthy people to fix your problems is every bit as ridiculous as expecting the government to solve your problems.
The difference between rich people and the government is that government is transparent and accountable, to the extent we’ve been able to make it so. Every election is about accountability. But time and again, many of the wealthy have demonstrated that they don’t care who gets hurt in the pursuit of their wealth.
Of course Government isn’t the solution to all our problems. The minute you realize that you’re on your own and that you need to take care of yourself is when you might begin to succeed in life. That’s true no matter who you vote for. But there are things Government can do that individuals cannot, and that the “job creators” will not. In a democracy, we should find a consensus on the things government should do, and make sure it does those things.
The essential paradox of the Republican position is this: This man is saying “Obama didn’t fix the economy and improve my economic position. So I’m going to put the Republicans in charge.” He is admitting that he expected the government to solve his problems for him. He wanted this Federal Government to do something for him that ideologically he doesn’t believe it is capable of doing. He also thinks that the Government can’t solve his problems, but that rich people will.
This boggles my mind.