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One Possible answer to the question: Why Conservatives continue to vote against their own interests?

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Message Herbert Calhoun
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The author (Robert Weiner) is correct in identifying in his January 28, 2012 piece " inaccurately perceived self interest" as the reason conservatives consistently vote against their own interests. However, giving this as the sole answer, in my mind only deepens the mystery by begging an even larger question of: Why it is that (mostly working class white) conservatives "consistently," and "inaccurately," misperceive what is in their own self-interest? I believe the answer to the first question lies in answering this slightly larger and deeper one, one that lies firmly in the racial subtext of American politics and society.

The following bit of history may in part help get to the bottom of this issue:

Since the Civil War, there have been two predicates that define the kind of white tribalism that now best defines the conservative movement: the ability to objectively separate whiteness from other races by economics and social means; and the ability to continue maintaining in a "steady state," the distance that measures this racial separation.

Arguably, since slavery in general and the Bacon Rebellion in particular, one of the most successful economic "sleights of hand" and "political wedges" ever invented in the American political arena takes advantage of these two predicates. It has been to convince working class whites that their economic interests lie, not in solidarity with members of other (non-white) working class peoples, but with members of the producer (or ruling) classes. It is this two-century old race-based wedge, still mediating across classes, that is the proper answer to Mr. Weiner's question. In fact it is this anomaly of race that even befuddled Marx in his economic analysis of America's capitalist economy.


At least since Strom Thurmond and the Dixicrats took over the Republican Party in 1948, and their leadership was reaffirmed again in Nixon's 1968 Southern Strategy, this political wedge, this economic and tribal sleight of hand, has been codified as a central part of Republican and conservative ideological orthodoxy.

As a result of it, effectively there is no narrative for the working class in either conservative ideology or the Republican Party? To preserve their racial identity, working class conservatives, line up like ten soldiers behind the interests of those whose best interests are exactly the opposite of working class interests. They do so like lemmings because to even suggest that there might be mutual worker's interests (whether economic or social) that would straddle the racial divide, is to commit tribal heresy by fundamentally betraying and trampling upon the last vestige of sacred white tribal ground.


Put simply, it is the issue of race that is the primary underlying reason conservatives purposefully misperceive their own interests. It is because of race that Republicans have no platform to address working class economic issues. And it is because of race that "faux blue collar populists" like the "Tea Party," or Pat Buchanan and now Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich, are forced to dip into the racial undercurrents to mine old stale coded emotional issues of racial hatred, reframing them as "cultural" and "values" issues.

No one is fooled by their repeated "tribal winks" "coded language," and "dog whistle signals, because we know the source: deep structure, sublimated racism. Thus, in the end the conservative misperception is a strategic misperception, one that continues to preserve the integrity of what remains a dying form of white racial tribal solidarity.


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Herbert Calhoun Social Media Pages: Facebook page url on login Profile not filled in       Twitter page url on login Profile not filled in       Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

Retired Foreign Service Officer and past Manager of Political and Military Affairs at the US Department of State. For a brief time an Assistant Professor of International Relations at the University of Denver and the University of Washington at (more...)
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