Joe the Plumber is a joke on the left. For those that don’t remember, he had a conversation with Barack Obama during the 2008 campaign. He claimed that he was thinking of starting a plumbing business. As a result, he was very concerned about Obama’s plan to raise taxes on incomes over a quarter-million dollars. (Obviously, this shows the usual ignorance of how marginal taxes work.)
It was preposterous. For one thing, he wasn’t a plumber. For another thing, I don’t think he ever made anything close to that amount of money. So his entire argument was that he had a dream that someday he would make so much money that he would be affected by this tax.
In this way, he is the ultimate example of the Republican voter. He wasn’t thinking about what his actual interests were. He was thinking about what his interests were in his fantasy.
Voting Your Interests
I’ve been a strong critic of the notion the people should vote their own interests. I don’t vote my own interest. I vote the way that I consider to be morally right. But Joe the Plumber shows that this is not generally true of Republicans.
They generally do not vote their interests. But this is not because they are wedded to some higher calling. It is because they don’t even know what their interests are. They are, in a word, marks.
This is discussed in the movie 1776 where John Dickinson says, “Don’t forget that most men with nothing would rather protect the possibility of becoming rich than face the reality of being poor. And that is why they will follow us to the right!”
Small Business Delusions
You see this most distinctly with small business people. This is something I know a lot about because my parents were small business people and I have generally been one too. Most of them are extremely conservative. And they vote reliably Republican.
But why? The Republican Party is not good for small businesses. Sure, they talk about small businesses all the time. But their policies benefit multinational corporations. If you’re a small-business person, you’re screwed by the Republicans. And it is amazing that small business people so rarely see this reality.
They are all Joe the Plumber. The Republican Party may not help him today but just you wait! In a couple of years they will have a huge business too! And they will have an army of lobbyists and then all their support of the Republican party will pay off!
Small Business Flattery
But there is something that the Republicans give small business owners: all that smoke that gets blown up their asses.
Sure, the Republican Party may make it harder for them to run their businesses. But what is that compared to being told that you are a Little John Galt?! And that, I suppose, is worth something. We all have our delusions.
Of course, this is all on the margins. The elephant in the Elephant’s Room is racism. But that certainly isn’t the story The Republican voters tell themselves. They don’t see themselves as racist even if they are extremely so.
But it hardly matters. They vote Republican because they think the party supports people like them. The difference is that when it comes to racism that’s true. When it comes to small business policy it isn’t. And that makes the small business owner a bigger mark than the unrepentant bigot.