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Why do Uneducated Middle Class White People Vote Against Their Interest?

Politically Speaking by Damon K. jones

White men without college degrees–like any ethnic group of adults without college degrees–tend toward the lower end of the income scale. And relative to the policies of Republican Party, Obama’s policies has been accused of offering more of a helping hand to lower-income people. So you might think that most people without a college degree might be more favorably disposed toward Obama. You would also think that lower-income whites would be in favor of programs that will assist them in climbing the economic ladder. In Reality, this is not the case.

Have uneducated white voters voted against their own interest by voting Republican?

In 2009, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services set the poverty level at $10,830 for one person, $14,570 for a family of two, $18,310 for a family of three, and $22,050 for a family of four. According to the National Center for Children in Poverty, a family is defined as “low-income” when it earns less than double these figures. Contrary to popular idealism, the center also reports that most of America’s low-income families are white American citizens.

According to a Washington Post Poll in the last Presidential election, voters were asked which candidate would do more to advance their families’ economic interests. Middle-class white voters who said they were struggling to maintain their financial positions chose Mitt Romney. In this category they chose Mitt Romney over Barack Obama by 58% to 32%.

We would think that the way out of poverty or being poor is a good education or a college degree. Education is also another1005016_10152159593517125_692888449_n way to insure the sustainability of America’s middle class. In the last Presidential election, Mr. Romney supported the Ryan budget that has proposed 115 billion in cuts to the Education Department over 10 years. On higher education, the Romney campaign has said it would reintroduce private lenders into the federal loan system, reversing a change enacted under President Obama. The Obama plan, which has the federal government making the loans directly to students, is projected to save the federal government up to $68 billion over 11 years. Instead the Romney option will cost taxpayers tens of billions of dollars over a decade without saving students money and put more burdens on families according to several higher education analysts.

Nationally, there are more white men in blue-collar and public safety unions than any other ethnic group. Many members have turned away from their support of President Obama. You would think that the many attacks that Republicans have taken at unionized labor, these same uneducated white men would think that their rights, safety and benefits would be in jeopardy. In the last Presidential election Mr. Romney and other current Republican elected officials have pledged to; end preference for unionized companies in government contracting, opposing collective bargaining, ending project labor agreements and preventing unions from being able to spend member dues on political activities.

In 2011, the Republican Party, including V P Candidate, Paul Ryan, voted against the American Jobs Act. This plan included stimulus spending in the form of immediate infrastructure investments, tax credits for working Americans and employers to encourage consumer spending and job growth, and efforts to shore up state and local budgets to prevent further layoffs of teachers, firefighters, police officers, and other public safety officials.

White males overwhelmingly make up close to 70 percent of all law enforcement nationally. Historically, the Republican Party has always supported law enforcement, but times have changed. Mr. Romney is also quoted in saying that there is a need for less Police and Firemen. The Republican policies nationally and locally have attack collective bargaining, rights and benefits of Police and Firemen. These jobs historically have been held by white middle class families. Police unions have been silent and confused because the party that always supported them has now betrayed them in support of big business and Corporate America. This will adversely affect the white middle class structure throughout the nation.

Closer to home, Astorino has come good on his promise to Corporate Westchester by lowering salaries and benefits of county workers. These same county workers whom many can’t even afforded to live in the county they work for. their salaries benefits lowered all for tax breaks to Corporate Westchester. Even after many union right and salaries have been lost under his administration. You will still find white county workers that are still faithful in supporting Astorino.

Another reason why uneducated white men have been more receptive (especially in the face of tough economic times) to the right’s rhetoric unrelenting efforts to create culturally based resentment of President Obama. Many have seen hints of racism in the rhetoric in the name calling of the President by the Republicans, which Romney, Ryan and others that have used theses code words dispute. But such tough talk has helped the Republican Party tap into the anti-government anger of conservative whites throughout the nation. Sadly to say, this anti-government, Obama anger will make uneducated whites vote against their own interest.

In the New York Gubernatorial race, we have seen the same rhetoric from Astorino. Astorino used the “ local zoning laws”, his “overreaching of government stance”, labeling opposing organizations “social justice” and Obama coded words like “cronies in D.C.” to scare a certain type of voter to the poles.

What the Astorino campaign is doing is using what Ian Haney López, author of Dog Whistle Politics calls “racial code words”  “This sort of coded speech operates on two levels,” he says. “It triggers racial anxiety and it allows plausible deniability by crafting language that lets the speaker deny that he’s even thinking about race.

The Republican welfare, food-stamp imagery has continued even though the facts say otherwise. They have even called President Obama the “Food Stamp” President. The truth of the matter is, in a nation where millions of families are struggling to get by, most people who depend on food stamps are white, according to government data and program administrators.

One in seven Americans now rely on food stamps, which give low-income people – a family of four with an annual gross income of less than $29,064, for example – help to buy groceries. Nationally, at least 36 percent of the 46 million people on food stamps are white, 22 percent are black, and 10 percent Hispanic, according to factcheck.org.

In the Presidential race, Mitt Romney has claimed that President Obama singlehandedly removed the welfare reform law’s requirement that ensure a certain percentage of welfare recipients engage in work or work-related activities. In fact, the Obama plan considered waivers of certain federal welfare rules for states interested in trying new projects to boost employment among welfare beneficiaries. This lie was use to infuriate the uneducated working middle class white base. Again, the reality is out of the 14 million welfare recipients in America about 39 percent of parents on welfare are White, 37 percent Black, 18 percent Hispanic and 6 percent Asian, Native American or another race.

On MSNBC, Morning Joe Show, James Hoffa, President of the Teamsters and Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO said that their organizations will be going door to door to speak to uneducated union and non-union white men on the real policies of the Republican Party against the White working middle class. In 1982, Republican operative Lee Atwater gave an interview to Alexander Lamis, a political scientist at Case Western Reserve University, in which he explained how the so-called “Southern Strategy” of focusing on race had become much more subtle by the 1980s. [youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X_8E3ENrKrQ?rel=0]

You start out in 1954 by saying, “Nigger, nigger, nigger.” By 1968 you can’t say “nigger”—that hurts you, backfires. So you say stuff like, uh, forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff, and you’re getting so abstract. Now, you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is, blacks get hurt worse than whites.… “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, uh, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “Nigger, nigger.”

Benjamin Franklin has said “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” The 2010 Romney ticket has represented policies that will adversely affect the uneducated white middle class and poor. Even knowing this, uneducated middle class white will still supported him as they still support Republican candidates who have stood firm on the same rhetoric and policies.

Atwater was in his own way echoing what President Lyndon B. Johnson once told his press secretary, Bill Moyers. ”I’ll tell you what’s at the bottom of it,” Johnson said. “If you can convince the lowest white man who he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll even empty his pockets for you.”

None of this means all the supporters are racist. But it does suggest they make their appeal on racial ground which will be a detriment to the white middle class and American middle class in general.

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About Damon K. Jones (212 Articles)
Damon K. Jones is an Activist, Author, and Publisher of Black Westchester Magazine, a Black-owned and operated newspaper based in Westchester County, New York. Mr. Jones is a Holistic Health Practitioner, First Aid in Mental Health Practioner, Diet, and Nutrition Advisor, and Vegan, Vegetarian Nutrition Life Coach. Mr. Jones is a 31 year Law Enforcement Practioner, New York Representative of Blacks in Law Enforcement of America. Mr. Jones has been a guest commentator on New York radio stations WBLS (107.5 FM), WLIB (1190 am), WRKS (98.7 FM), WBAI (99.5 FM), and Westchester's WVOX (1460 am). Mr. Jones has appeared on local television broadcasts, including Westchester News 12 “News Makers” and Public Television “Winbrook Pride. You can now hear Damon every Wednesday at 830 AM on WFAS 1230 AM, Morning with Bob Marone Show.

3 Comments on Why do Uneducated Middle Class White People Vote Against Their Interest?

  1. Who are you to say they are voting against their interest?? That says it all right there. Somehow blacks in this country think that any politician offering “free stuff” is the way to a better life. Free stuff is just that, free stuff. It not a better way forward in life and it keeps people from working hard as it is an excuse not to work hard and to simply have high expectations of other people’s tax money. As a business owner for the last 10 years in Westchester, most of my staff is black and latino. I know them quite well. They are great workers and great people when they show up for work, but a lot of times they leave to sit home and collect government checks. My biggest competitor here in Westchester is not other businesses trying to steal my employees away but the government offering competitive salaries to sit home! When democrats offer free stuff, they do so at the cost of someone else paying for it. Nothing is free. Anyone who thinks otherwise is mental. The people that pay for it eventually either get fed up and cut back on their workers, offer less in salaries or move out of the area entirely. Look, if president Obama’s policies were working, why are black people in the country collecting more food stamps and welfare than ever before in history? The other problem is no matter how much you pay minority employees they consistently look to receive government handouts anyways. A few of the girls in my office are making $60k+ a year as debt collectors and yet they apply for and falsify applications for section 8 housing and food stamps. And they get it! Truth is, welfare, food stamps and section 8 are “all or nothing” propositions. If you make too much they cut it off cold scaring these people back into the system and out of their jobs because they aren’t confident they can work their way up the ladder in the business world. I’ve seen with my own eyes the devastation of what government handouts can do to the soul of a person who simply wants to make their way in life. That is not to say that people may need help here and there, but lets face it government doesn’t make money. It produces nothing. How many products have you bought from any government lately? It spends other people’s money and it does so inefficiently and to keep poor people locked into a pathetic world of perpetual poverty so that the politicians can have a guaranteed voting block of people who are frightened to live without their table scrap offerings. By the way, governor Cuomo wants to raise the price of the Tappan Zee bridge toll from $5 to $15. Don’t black people cross that bridge too?

  2. James A. Jenkins Jr. Counselor Emeritus // November 11, 2014 at 12:56 AM //

    It was reported only one third of the people able to vote, voted. This is shameful.

  3. “Don’t understand neither, like voting for some1 just because of their color. Color does not make you a great president, your values and what you want the people to have in this country and make every1 safe and be on some sort of the same level, and so. “

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