April 12, 2024

Why we vote against self-interest

IMMEDIATE RELEASE 22 Jan. 2016                                                            10


Today’s Events in Historical Perspective

America’s Longest-Running Column, Founded 1932

Why we vote against self-interest

By Douglas Cohn and Eleanor Clift

WASHINGTON – What drives political affiliations? Philosophy? Pocketbooks? Danger? In fact, for the majority of Americans, it is none of these. The primary political driver is the same as the primary religious driver: family. The majority of people do not choose their religious affiliations; they are born into them, and the same applies to political affiliations.

This explains why so many people vote against their own interests.

True, there are converts and independent-minded voters, but they are the exceptions. Run your own survey. Begin by asking your friends if they are Republicans, Democrats, or Independents. Then ask where they stand on guns, national defense, military interventions, foreign alliances, abortion, welfare, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Obamacare, Civil Rights, affirmative action, taxes, tariffs, budget deficits, business regulations, too-big-to-fail banks, reintroduction of the Glass-Steagall Act to separate banking from brokerage activities, immigration, aid to education, the Core Curriculum, student debt, the Patriot Act, and so forth.

Finally, ask them to state where the Democratic and Republican Parties stand on these issues.

The results will surprise you.

This goes a long way toward explaining the apparent phenomena currently dominating the presidential nominating process. Donald Trump was raised a Republican, but was sufficiently pragmatic to embrace Democratic ideas until he decided to run for president. Hillary Clinton was raised a Republican, but eventually became a Democrat, though she not only maintained her ties to big business and Wall Street, she advanced them as fund raising became increasingly important for her career. For both of these candidates, the questions are: What do they actually believe? What are their core beliefs?

Is Trump a man who believes in Democratic principles, but runs as a Republican because he was raised a Republican? Does Clinton believe in a mix of Republican and Democratic principles because she is conflicted by her Republican upbringing and her Democratic registration?

For more than 100 years the Solid South remained a Democratic bastion because a Republican-controlled White House and Congress waged war against the Confederacy, this though many Southerners disagreed with Democratic tenets. Heritage and family mattered more.

The Vietnam era pitted Democrats demanding peace against Republicans demanding “peace with honor,” which was code for prolonging the war. As a result, to this day, the Republican Party has the edge among voters who favor a strong national defense establishment, even though Democrats more consistently vote for veterans’ benefits and increased military pay. Even so, most soldiers, sailors, and airmen tend to register as Republicans. Once again, history and family have proven to play a greater role in party affiliations than political self-interest.

Democrats are clearly the stronger advocates for teachers and education, yet ask a teacher who was raised in a Republican household how she or he votes, and as often as not, you will once again find people who are voting against self-interest.

The problem is that the subject of politics, like the subject of religion, is not always viewed as a polite subject of conversation, let alone education. Clearly, we do not want teachers indoctrinating students, but they should be required to present the issues of the day. Curriculums should include such issues to encourage students to objectively consider their own beliefs and positions, and, in so doing, replace traditional adherence to political parties with thoughtful adherence.

          Douglas Cohn’s new book, “The President’s First Year,” analyzing every president’s freshman year, is available at book stores everywhere.

          Twitter @WMerryGoRound

© 2015 U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.

Distributed by U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.



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