Voting against your self-interest?

It is always funny listening to self-described progressives try to rationally comprehend how anyone could possibly not agree with them politically.

They are truly flabbergasted at the prospect that their worldview is not shared. Indeed, I’ve always believed that to be liberal is to believe that after long, thoughtful deliberation, you have arrived at some kind of graduated, advanced state of mindfulness, and that the unwashed masses who do not agree with you are simply unenlightened, ignorant rubes who have not yet reached your higher level of being.

Never was this level of self-delusion on fuller display than in a recent New York Times opinion piece by Alec MacGillis, titled “Who Turned my Blue State Red?

Bangor residents vote on Nov. 3. Ashley L. Conti | BDN

Bangor residents vote on Nov. 3. Ashley L. Conti | BDN

In the column, MacGillis expresses his dumbfounded amazement that poor people do not vote for liberal politicians out of their own self interest.

The very first line he writes encapsulates his bewilderment: “It is one of the central political puzzles of our time: Parts of the country that depend on the safety-net programs supported by Democrats are increasingly voting for Republicans who favor shredding that net.”

MacGillis’ thesis was essentially that poor people aren’t voting, and those one step above them economically are increasingly voting Republican because they don’t like poor people.

Interestingly, to illustrate his point, MacGillis singled out the re-election of Gov. Paul LePage. This, to him, was a maddeningly confusing example of people “voting against their self-interest,” because LePage is a radical welfare reform advocate.

What MacGillis doesn’t seem to understand, though, is that highlighting LePage directly refutes his premise that low voter turnout (driven by poor people not voting) is the driver of victory for anti-social welfare politicians.

Why? Maine had the highest voter turnout in the entire country in 2014. It rivaled presidential turnout.

Confused logic aside, this piece was picked up almost immediately by every liberal in America, affording them the opportunity to wax poetically about those silly poor people who just don’t see the importance of voting for their self-interest by getting off the sidelines and voting for liberal politicians.

For a few days, the liberal wing of the internet was an overflowing avalanche of leftists’ obsession with this article, allowing them to vent their ironically disdainful frustrations with the underclass of America for not supporting liberalism enough. Its for their own good! Don’t they realize this?

One article posted online at the Bangor Daily News highlighted this colored view of reality rather well, saying, “…the people at the very bottom of the ladder — who benefit from Democratic policies — just aren’t voting.”

Benefit? They do?

In his 1964 State of the Union address, President Lyndon Johnson told us, “This administration today, here and now, declares unconditional war on poverty in America.”

We are now 50 years into that war on poverty with U.S. taxpayers spending more than $22 trillion on government programs for the poor in that time period. The result? Fifty years of relatively static, unchanging levels of poverty.

But the self-congratulatory left believes that those at the very bottom of the ladder benefit from Democratic policies.

To the leftist intelligentsia, the way you help the poor is to create a government program, and if you disagree then your policies clearly don’t help the poor.

Strange, because I happen to believe that the current design of government programs incentivizes the perpetual use of those programs and harm the poor by trapping them in poverty.

I happen to believe that our focus as a society should be on fixing our tragically broken education system, as well as private-sector economic development to provide the poor with real opportunities to allow them to escape poverty and aspire to move up in their lives.

But, according to the logic contained in that one sentence, I must hate the poor, and nothing I advocate for will help them in any way. If only I had arrived at that more advanced state of being, I would understand, I guess.

Back to MacGillis’ point, though, it is important to understand that lower income brackets have always been the group that turns out to vote less frequently. That has not changed much in the last century.

What has changed is that the teachers, firefighters, and working-class, blue-collar people who do vote, have been trending increasingly conservative at the same time.

It isn’t because those trending more conservative hate the poor, as MacGillis and all of liberal America seems to believe. It is because they are sick and tired of being used and abused by their government while their hard-earned dollars are wasted turning their less fortunate neighbors into perpetually poor wards of the state.

No one is better off in that system. No one.

Matthew Gagnon

About Matthew Gagnon

Matthew Gagnon, of Yarmouth, is the Chief Executive Officer of the Maine Heritage Policy Center, a free market policy think tank based in Portland. Prior to Maine Heritage, he served as a senior strategist for the Republican Governors Association in Washington, D.C. Originally from Hampden, he has been involved with Maine politics for more than a decade.