July 28, 2007
Occasionally, a friend who is fond of me, will send me columns by Maureen Dowd, hoping to expand my somewhat limited political sensibilities. There was one recently, "Brothers and Sisters, July 25, 2007, NY Times" (Free Democracy link), that addressed the effect Bush is having in turning previously staunch Republicans into Democrats. Well, that is pretty straightforward now; the Republican Party is rather onerous to be associated with at the present time. Which gives rise I suspect to a host of "closet" Republicans, but that is another matter.
In any event, the article prompted me to ponder why it is that people voted Republican in the first place. In so far that is that one votes for a party rather then a person, because clearly if one were voting for a person, Bush would have been far less likely to be elected. Then given that one is voting for a party, which particular myth, as there are many, of a party are you voting for. What would prompt any right-thinking person, or fantasy-enveloped person as may be more accurate to vote Republican as clearly about half the country did, approximately, more or less, depending on the day, the state, the person counting and the hang of the chad.
It sprang to mind, and I rather like these thoughts that spring to mind. I tend to think that they are inspired while others of my acquaintance see them as misbegotten and ill considered, but there you have it. It sprang to mind that the reason people who vote Republican do so is because they are dreamers. Democrats are pragmatists, but Republicans are dreamers, they believe. Republicans believe in the American Dream, or perhaps the American Myth. They believe that with a little skill, luck and possibly some hard work, they to can be the next Bill Gates, Larry Ellison, Steve Jobs,. They believe in the stories promulgated by Horatio Alger, who, as it turns out, according to Wikipedia, was most likely a pedophile, but maybe that is an interesting parallel in its own right with the Republican Party of today, although slightly off topic. However, the Horatio Alger stories, commonly held to be the genesis of the rags to riches notion of the American Dream are, in fact, usually misrepresented. In his stores, or so Wikipedia indicates, the best most characters attain is not great wealth, but rather through courage, character and the assistance of a wealthy elder gentleman, they are rewarded with a stable middle class existence. Interestingly, they do represent the factual reality of most people's interaction with American society, the evolution of a middle class. Well, and the odd pedophilia thing. How does that fit in?
People who vote Republican believe that they to can become a success here in the USA and that further, if by some wild, weird twist of fate they are successful, then that success will be theirs. No one, governmental or private, will have the right to take their money or their ideas, or tell them what to do, or how to live. It is one of the purest motivations for immigrating here. I can go to the US. I can become a success and no one can take it away from me. It isn't entirely true. It is, in large part a fantasy, a myth, but nonetheless it is what Republicans are voting for.
Does it sound like there is a quasi religious element to this? Yes, I think that there is, however, it isn't organized religion in the sense that we typically perceive it when we think of conservation Republican politics. It is the politics of belief, the power of fantasy.
Democrats, on the other hand, are pragmatists. It is a necessary point of view, but a lot less colorful and thus much harder to seduce people into voting with you. Democrats recognize that most of us, maybe 99.9% of us are not going to be the next Bill Gates. The true percentage is probably even worse, but I am only guessing. Given that nearly all of us are going to spend our lives barely getting by, the Democrats figure it would be a good thing to have small things to assist in basic survival. Things like universal health care and enough money to nominally retire. Democrats care about the necessities of life although they are far less glamorous. People vote Democratic when they have given up, when they are worn down and frightened, but people who vote Republican, when they have nothing and have little prospect of ever having anything. These are the people voting on faith, voting for a possibility, for a fantasy.
I admit it, what some of you have always suspected and derided. From time to time I have voted Republican, to the consternation, dismay and contempt of those who think I should know better.