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Dr Alistair Brown | Associate lecturer in English Literature; researching video games and literature

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Through exploring the psychopathology of Capgras syndrome, in which a patient mistakes a loved one for an imposter, The Echo Maker offers a sustained meditation on the ways in which we project our own problems onto other people. As a reflection on the mysteries of consciousness, the novel offers some interesting if not especially new insights into the fuzzy boundaries between scientific and literary interpretations of the mind. Read more

Why Do People Vote Against Their Own Self-Interests?

Monday, February 01, 2010

No serious reading today. No time today. Only I do spot one article on the BBC that is of interest: David Runciman explaining why people vote against their own self-interests. As I have noted before on this blog, at least British politics make some degree of sense. The working class, mainly concentrated in the formerly industrialised northern regions of England, tend to vote Labour, for the party that stands (or used to) for the redistribution of wealth. The rich south, especially in the financial districts of London, votes for the free-market Conservatives. When this pattern is not followed, it is logically enough because the Conservatives have managed to appeal to other core issues that concern working class voters, such as immigration, or because Labour have moved to the centre to appease middle-class concerns, such as healthcare and education.

In the US, though, the whole scheme seems awry. It is almost as if the poorer you are, the more likely you are to vote Republican, against your own interests in receiving free healthcare, for example. In his article, Runciman does a good job of explaining this inconsistency. It is all to do with the patronising effect that comes about when liberals try to help the disenfranchised:
The Republicans have learnt how to stoke up resentment against the patronising liberal elite, all those do-gooders who assume they know what poor people ought to be thinking.

Right-wing politics has become a vehicle for channelling this popular anger against intellectual snobs. The result is that many of America's poorest citizens have a deep emotional attachment to a party that serves the interests of its richest.
This still does not seem to me to be quite enough to explain how deeply-rooted suspicion of Democratic government is in the US, such that even its positive actions - or what would appear to be so from a European vantage point - are seen as negative and oppressive by those they seek to help. But it's a good start.

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Posted by Alistair at 3:16 pm


Blogger Gina Hiatt, Ph.D. said...

I agree completely with your assessment. Also, the Republicans have been able to find certain highly emotional issues such as abortion, that make poor or middle class voters who are religious, who would have voted Democrat, instead vote for Republicans.

7:25 pm  

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