I, and probably thousands of other liberals, have pointed out over the past several years that so many voters seem to ignore their own self-interest when voting Republican.

As I have argued frequently income equality adversely affects the vast majority of Americans, yet many of those among the 99% defend the 1% as if they were themselves members of that exclusive club.

Now I suppose many of those doing so have still extant aspirations of joining the 1% or nearly so (let’s say the upper 10% of the economic spectrum) when the odds lie overwhelmingly against their realistic ability to achieve that aspiration.

They express admiration for the 1% or any better off person who they claim has gained financial success, often with the chief obstacle being government regulation. But all of their idols have, of course, reached those heights on their own.

The truth lies elsewhere because most people of great accomplishments have many people to thank for their assistance along the way and that very often includes people in government, or at least government programs. They may not even be aware of how they benefited in that sense. Yet they persist in promulgating the myth of singular achievements as if they occurred in a vacuum absent of any outside influences or support.

A quick example using one of my favorite targets, Paul Ryan. The Congressman is a leading proponent of the theory that government is bad but his own education came about due to Social Security. When Ryan was a teenager his father died and he received SS survivor payments as a minor. He was able to parlay his savings built on this benefit to go to college at Miami University.

There is nothing wrong or evil about this. Indeed Ryan is to be congratulated for not squandering those benefits as other, more immature, young folks have done. However he persistently treats beneficiaries of government programs as second class citizens.

Ryan is also a known disciple of Ayn Rand though he has downplayed his admiration the past few years, seemingly to dispel the negative attention that fact had drawn from political opponents. And again that is a normal reaction by politicians near and far of quite disparate ideologies. It is more a human tendency than one confined to the political animals of dubious humanity.

The most disturbing aspect of Ryan’s Rand infatuation is that she is known for an extremely self-centered philosophy of economics that I’ll summarize as “I got mine, the hell with you”. (I realize that is a vast oversimplification But, having recently read her early novella Anthem, it is easy to see where her love of individuality above all was heading.

As a corollary to the pure economic consequences of this philosophy, the idealism expressed here is echoed in the opposition to the Affordable Care Act. It is easy to find examples of individuals…non-politicians… holding fast to this opposition.

This story by Molly Ball in The Atlantic is instructive. She reports from the Tuesday North Carolina primary in which mainstream Republican Thom Tillis defeated Tea Party favorite Greg Brannon. Ball attended a Brannon rally and met this woman.

I struck up a conversation with a woman with spangly gold fingernails named Sharon Doyle, who spends her free time holding “Impeach Obama” and “Remember Benghazi” signs on highway overpasses a couple of times a month. A caregiver for the elderly who’s had cancer and back surgery, she can’t afford health insurance through her employer, but she refuses to visit the federal health-insurance website for ideological reasons. Of the Republican frontrunner, state House Speaker Thom Tillis, she had only disdain—”He’s a RINO. I don’t trust him”—and said she wouldn’t vote in November if he became the nominee.

Sharon Doyle’s calling Thom Tillis a RINO (Republican In Name Only) is odd in that Tillis himself touted his opposition to the ACA as a reason to vote for him.

As speaker of the Republican-controlled North Carolina House of Representatives, Tillis led the opposition to expanding Medicaid in the state under the Affordable Care Act, effectively denying access to healthcare to as many as 500,000 North Carolina residents. He campaigned on that opposition to secure the Republican nomination: “Tillis stopped Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion cold. It’s not happening in North Carolina, and it’s because of Thom Tillis.” That message obviously resonates with deeply conservative voters who also put their ideological opposition to the health law ahead of its potential benefits.

As Simon Maloy emphasized in that Salon piece

Ideology trumps moral value when it comes to expanding access to healthcare

To me it boils down to this. The Republican party, and conservatives in general, advocate the power of the individual and disdain the power of the collective, and assert their right to become rich no matter who stands in their way. Likewise they attack the ACA as a government takeover of health care regardless of how many of its provisions demonstrate tangible advantages for people who are not independently wealthy or who, at least, have more than adequate health insurance coverage.

Too, even Republicans who are not well off themselves, which is most of them, like the rest of us, decry the so-called welfare state and refuse to acknowledge how adversely income inequality impacts them.

Since the Republican Party celebrates self-interest, the failure of these less financially fortunate Republicans to look out for themselves, no matter their ideals, is startlingly contradictory.

One can almost hear Alanis Morisette singing now.


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  • Wayne Muller  On May 9, 2014 at 3:19 PM

    David, traditionally conservatives did not celebrate self interest, they celebrated individual freedom. Voting for an idea larger than one’s immediate self interest is consistent with such a belief. However, in today’s us vs them framework, an idea, any idea, is considered good or bad entirely in accordance with whose idea it is, and not so much or not at all according to it’s own merits. That seems to be the case with today’s conservatives and liberals.

  • umoc193  On May 10, 2014 at 4:53 PM

    Wayne, I understand the basis of your argument. Even assuming that is entirely a correct representation of tradition, that is no longer true, at least for the targets of my affection.

    I, too, value individual freedom but unenlightened self-interest is now the hallmark that is prevalent on the most vocal on the right.

    You and I have traveled this path often where any stereotyped complaint about the nastiness of conservatives is unlikely to apply to you personally. And there are many more like you with whom I disagree with in political philosophy but who also use facts and logic in stating their cases.

    It’s too bad you are drowned out by the absurdists residing on your end of the spectrum.

    I can admit that not all of the known liberal voices speak for me but those more extreme and unreasonable liberals don’t gain nearly the attention or exercise nearly the influence of their right wing counterparts.

Please give me your thoughts.

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