augusta free press news

Chris Graham: Voting against whose interests?

Democrats are fond of saying that working-class Southern white voters who vote Republican “vote against their interests” in so doing, before scratching their heads and grumbling about how good things could be if only.

The disconnect to reality is obvious – unless you’re a Democrat.

News flash: Those voters voting against their interests aren’t voting on economics. They’re voting the way they do because they don’t like us.

At least that’s what they’re being told by the GOP War Machine – Fox News and talk radio. We think we’re better than them, we know what’s best for them.

Not that the average country-club Republican suit doesn’t think himself better than the average working-class Southern white voter who keeps him in power. It’s hard for me to watch the parades of clowns who patronize the base with appearances at NASCAR events and country-music concerts without feeling somehow dirty in the process.

But, hey, at least they’re trying. (If you can call Mitt Romney toiling to break y’all into the beginning of a campaign speech trying. Yeah, and pass the grits, big guy.)

Working-class Southern white voters aren’t represented well by either party, but Republicans who pretend to like Hank Williams Jr. and whose eyes don’t roll into the back of their heads when a race-car driver talks about his car being too tight and then later in the race too loose are about as close as you can get.

Which is to say, Democrats have an opportunity, but they’re going to have to work at it. Because the average working-class Southern white voter is motivated by the same thing that the average voter in the New Deal coalition was motivated by.

To wit … they want some sense of job security, which is of course not something that most can count on, but you can still dream, can’t you? They want to think that their kids will have it better than they do, and they’re not sure that they will, to be honest. They’re worried about how Mom and Dad are going to do when they retire, and they don’t assume that everything is going to go well there.

These folks have fears that manifest themselves in ways that tend to disturb the average liberal. Immigration is an issue to them because to these folks immigrants are taking jobs that would otherwise go to them or their friends or neighbors. Talk of tax increases will get their attention because for many of them an extra $10 or $15 out of their paycheck might be all it takes to send them to the cash-advance place out in the strip mall on the edge of town to make it to the next payday.

I’m the rare one from my background and circumstances to come out liberal Democrat. I was raised by a single mom in a trailer park, and by the grace of God and a guidance counselor who found me multiple scholarships, I was able to claw my way out into a different world.

A lot of my friends growing up, all of them good people, still live in the trailer park, and work jobs that pay them well enough to take care of themselves and their families, but are only a missed paycheck away from having something bad happen that could take years to recover from.

When we talk about trends that have teen pregnancy on the rise, life expectancy on the decline, more and more working moms and dads taking in their senior parents because they can’t afford to do anything else with them and getting squeezed in the process, these aren’t trends that they have to read about and have panel discussions to delve into. They live this stuff each and every single day.

And yeah, sure, the country-club Republicans who want to slash spending on education and social services and economic development aren’t acting at all in their best interests. But neither are we Democrats who either ignore working-class Southern whites or turn our noses up to them while advising them to get with the program.

More at