I’ve long argued that conservative voters don’t actually think that differently from liberals. In my conversations with them, I find that we have an enormous amount of common ground. Where things get weird is that conservative voters have a strong tendency toward parochialism — or flat out racism. But in the context of their lives, they get what’s going on: the middle class is shrinking, wages are stagnant, and all of this is going on as the rich just get richer. The rich aren’t “job creators”; they are job destroyers, who take any extra economic efficiencies as profits for themselves. Conservative voters get that.
I want to be clear about this distinction, however: conservative voters, not conservative politicians and other elites. Ted Cruz may seem very authentic to the people who vote for him. But look at his tax plan. Is he looking out for the interests of middle class Americans? No. He talks the talk, but he walks the walk of the Republican establishment that is committed most of all to one thing: reducing taxes on the rich. The net effect of the entire Republican Party economic plan is to funnel money from the poor to the rich. This is not a plan that most conservative voters would be for if they knew.
We all know how it is that the Republican Party gets the base to vote for it. It’s the same way that Donald Trump is doing it. After all, Donald Trump’s tax plan is even worse (pdf) than Cruz’s plan. But conservative voters are very easily distracted with mythical fears about an ISIS invasion and the horror of keeping fetuses alive so we can “harvest its brain.” So don’t take anything I say as meaning that Trump is any different from the Republican establishment.
What is different is that Trump terrifies the Republican establishment. And this has led to the remarkably vile Kevin Williamson article, The Father-Führer in National Review. A Jonathan Chait summed up the article, Conservatives to White Working Class: Drop Dead. This is tearing the Republican Party apart.
What Conservative Voters Believe
Digby brought my attention to an article in Breitbart, A Rebuttal to National Review’s Claim that White Working Class Communities Deserve to Die. Tell me if the following quote couldn’t have been written by me:
Obviously, I would dive deeper and note that the issue isn’t so much the moving of plants but that government policy has allowed the rich to keep all the gains from these moves — and more. The Breitbart writer goes on to rant about environmental regulations, as though that’s what’s actually going on. It is, after all, the Breitbart party that has pushed for lower taxes on the wealthy and government benefit cuts on the poor and middle class. But clearly, Breitbart is closer to the conservative voters than National Review — or Ted Cruz.
Of course, it’s all very funny to watch. There are some Trump voters who have been screwed by the economy. But that isn’t what’s going on for the most part. As Jonathan Bernstein noted last week, Good Times, Not Anger, Led to Trump’s Rise. The truth is, things are good enough for angry conservative voters to say, “Screw it!” They’ve been told by the Republican establishment that Obama has done nothing but destroy the United States over the last eight years. Is it surprising that they would go with someone who seems like a radical? As Bernstein concluded:
But I actually do think that Trump voters see that the nation is out of balance. Of course, like conservative voters always seem to do, they vote for exactly what they claim to be against. I mean, really: they see the middle class being destroyed by sleazy billionaires so they want to elect the sleaziest billionaire? But that’s all part of the game. Trump tells them all the problems of the American worker is do to the Mexicans and the Chinese. But the fact remains: conservative voters aren’t that different from liberal voters in that they see what is happening to the American worker. They just can’t seem to engage with it on a rational level.