10 December 2012

What makes working-class Republicans?

As a Republican, Rob Long is surprised to find Democrats in his Southern California stomping grounds offering sympathy rather than gloating over what Long himself calls "the Great Republican Collapse of 2012." Long's another of the hysterics who see signs of doom in the GOP's failure to topple Obama, despite retaining a strong hold on the House of Representatives. Writing in Time, Long admits that SoCal is "a pretty accepting place," yet wonders: "Why is Hollywood so resolutely left wing?" That question inspires further speculation on an unlikely political divide in Movieland, where "the grips, dolly pushers, camera operators, set builders, film loaders and electricians on any movie set tend to be on the rightward side of the political discussion," while "the other folks, who tend to sit in their trailers drinking bottles of French water and eating raw food, are usually on the left." Notice that Long was careful to write "rightward" rather than "right," though one may still wonder why all those union workers lean rightward at all. Long offers two interpretations. First:

[M]ost Hollywood types never see their paycheck, which has the most effective piece of Republican direct mail ever invented, the pay stub, attached to it. The pay stub enumerates all the little ways the government squeezes you dry, and the initial shock of seeing it laid out like that is the first step a lot of people take on the way to joining the GOP. But if you're used to having your paycheck sliced and hollowed out anyway by greedy managers and grasping agents, what's another vig to pay?

This one isn't too convincing, unless Long also acknowledges that "a lot of people" doesn't really amount to much of the working class. If working people's minds worked the way Long describes when contemplating their pay stubs, Democrats would never win elections. Working in the entertainment industry himself, Long may have less empathy with the pay-stub readers than the rich lefties are presumed to. He seems to think that a disgruntled worker would only blame government if he gets a smaller net than he thinks he deserves. He seems to have forgotten that workers have traditionally blamed employers for paying out less in the gross than workers believe themselves to deserve. They may resent government taking out too great a cut, or any cut, but I still suspect that if they feel they're not taking home as much as they deserve, or need, they'll blame their bosses first. Long wouldn't even need to acknowledge that workers are right to feel that way, but he ought to acknowledge that almost universal tendency of people to feel that they're not getting their due.

Long's second point implies a correlation between types of labor and political beliefs. If all those film-set workers listed above lean rightward, while actors (the people in the trailers) don't, that "may have something to do with the archaic concept of hard work, which normally involves lifting or moving or welding heavy objects, or toiling in some airless cubicle in desperate need of money." Again, the implication is that the less financially secure you are, the more you have to work hard to stay afloat, the more you should resent government taking any of your money in taxes. But again also, while acknowledging the likelihood that the set workers lean "rightward" compared to the actors or their bosses, at least on some issues -- Long didn't say what the "political discussion" was about -- they, as workers, are most likely to blame any time they don't have enough money on a boss not paying them enough. Long may expect them to blame the government for that as well, but workers may not see how that follows, especially if they assume that bosses have sufficient motivation to deny workers their full due without the government and taxation coming into the discussion. In any event, does your mental image of the typical Republican involve someone "moving or welding heavy objects?" I suspect not, unless you remember the stereotype of the "hard hat" Archie Bunker type who rallied to Nixon back in the day. But was that about taxes? Not on the surface, from what I remember. As for 2012, my point isn't that Long is wrong when he claims that certain skilled workers in Hollywood lean rightward, but that his explanation of that phenomenon is unconvincing. Republicans like Long have been thinking hard and anxiously for the past month about why certain large blocs of Americans don't vote for them. It might help them answer that question if they could think more clearly about why other Americans do vote for them.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"Why is Hollywood so resolutely left wing?"

The stupidity of the right never ceases to amaze me. I don't suppose he remembers McCarthey and the witch hunts he and his cronies conducted? The way so many people were blacklisted from work because of their political views?

They'll ask the same question of hispanics. They claim hispanics tend to be conservative, but vote for the left. I don't suppose it has anything to do with all the anti-Latino rhetoric that flies around any right-wing discussion group?

My question is, considering the right's continual actions to undermine the working class' attempts at making a comfortable life for themselves and their families, why would anyone who works for a living vote repugnican? The only commonality I see is their general hatred for everyone who refuses to conform to their standard world view.