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Steve Buscemi
October 20, 2013 8:53 PM   Subscribe

"so many working-class people across the country vote against their own interests. It all comes down to culture wars: the right has always been able to use abortion and gay marriage, and in the past women's rights, but all those things are starting to erode. There really isn't much they can throw up as a smokescreen any more." " interviews, he says in his quick, metallic, slightly strangulated way, "aren't my favourite thing to do". But, he does a pretty good job with this one...
posted by HuronBob (75 comments total) 36 users marked this as a favorite

 
"...vote against their own interests."

I'm really getting sick of that phrase. It never seems to occur to people who use it that those voters are voting for things they think are good for the nation, even if not so good for themselves. That idea seems quaint, I guess.

It also never seems to occur to them that those voters may have a different perception of their own interests than the commentator does.

What's the matter with Nebraska? There's nothing the matter with Nebraska. It just isn't Massachusetts. (Thank God.)
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 9:03 PM on October 20, 2013 [21 favorites]


"... they think..."

And, there you have it....
posted by HuronBob at 9:11 PM on October 20, 2013 [8 favorites]


What's the matter with Nebraska? There's nothing the matter with Nebraska.

Kansas on the other hand...
posted by the christopher hundreds at 9:14 PM on October 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


I'm from Nebraska. There is so much so incredibly wrong with Nebraska that one doesn't even really know where to start, though very often external commentators are not particularly equipped to understand the problems.

You're right, of course, that people aren't really voting against their interests so much as they are operating from a different understanding of those interests, and it can get a little tiresome to hear this phrase, but mostly what people mean by it is "they're hurting themselves", and, well, aren't they?

Anyhow, it's a decent little piece. Buscemi seems like somebody I'd enjoy talking to.
posted by brennen at 9:15 PM on October 20, 2013 [32 favorites]


It also never seems to occur to them that those voters may have a different perception of their own interests than the commentator does.

When someone is fooled, it isn't in their best interest, no matter how subjective we imagine their interests to be.
posted by Brian B. at 9:17 PM on October 20, 2013 [49 favorites]


Meaning there are people who don't agree with Steve Buscemi. I'll bet there are "working-class" IATSE members on his sets who don't agree with him. And they're not in Kansas or Nebraska. Maybe he needs to hang out at craft services a bit more.
posted by Ideefixe at 9:19 PM on October 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


If you want to vote against your own interests that's fine, I guess, because it means you didn't spend much time considering what those interests are and who best serves them. Just stop voting against other people's interests. This means preventing some other couple from getting married or a woman from making her own health care choices (whether you're a man or woman).
posted by axiom at 9:19 PM on October 20, 2013 [27 favorites]


I don't know how many stagehands you hang out with Ideefixe, but my brother is in the IATSE and I'm pretty sure he'd be nodding right along with pretty much everything Buscemi says about politics here.

The whole "what's the matter with Kansas" discussion is just a particularly American rehash of what Marxists call "false consciousness" and Antonio Gramsci described as "cultural hegemony." Only, because this is the US and we're obliged to continually dignify the quiet wisdom of an idealized blue collar worker whose actual job was shipped to Guangdong 20 years ago, it's out of line to suggest that our grizzled working class are anything other than the heart, soul and steely spine of this great nation. Point out that workers in the US have been duped and you're suddenly arrogant and out of touch, a judo-like maneuver that hamstrings any real discussion of structural inequality and the effects of pervasive right-wing misinformation on the electorate.

Which is, when you stop to think about it, a pretty neat trick.
posted by R. Schlock at 9:39 PM on October 20, 2013 [138 favorites]


As an ex-working class person... well, my [family member redacted] hates taxes. Hates taxes so much he wants to vote for the candidate who will slash taxes! The fact that that candidate wants to slash taxes for the rich and not for the middle class kind of escapes him, and that most of the matter is irrelevant to his personal finance does too. Not to mention the fact that he relies on many federal and state programs which are funded by taxes. &c., &c.

Working class people are my friends and family but that doesn't mean they're not woefully misinformed, sometimes selfish, and not always politically perspicacious. Just like anyone else.
posted by stoneandstar at 9:41 PM on October 20, 2013 [45 favorites]


It never seems to occur to people who use it that those voters are voting for things they think are good for the nation, even if not so good for themselves.

The problem I have with this line of reasoning, every time I see it, is that it supposes right-leaning voters are making some sort of conscious, rational personal sacrifice for the greater good of the collective. That is, they vote right-wing because they're socialists.

I don't think that adds up, and I don't think that's what most of those people are doing.
posted by Western Infidels at 9:44 PM on October 20, 2013 [45 favorites]


Chocolate Pickle: It never seems to occur to people who use it that those voters are voting for things they think are good for the nation, even if not so good for themselves. That idea seems quaint, I guess.

Utter nonsense. How many Republican voters do you think actually believe that Republican policies hurt them, but are good over all? Most Republicans, like most Democrats, believe the policies of their party help most people and themselves. One group happens to be mostly wrong.

The major difference is that for the last 30 years or so, Democrats have tended to define their interests in terms of economics and security, whereas conservative Republicans are increasingly defining their "interests" in non-rational terms like identity and hatred. Even liberal Democrats, who are pulled into cultural identity issues, have their ideology grounded in economic issues. The conservative ethos, on the other hand, is to label examination of inequality as un-American class warfare, except to the extent that we acknowledge everyone has what they deserve.

When someone says voting "against their best interests" this is what they mean; voting against a gay marriage supporter and his progressive tax structure because you want to stick it to those homo-loving abortionists.

The poor persons bravely voting away their economic clout and opportunity so the Galts of the world can create jet packs and moon colonies are largely a figment of your imagination.
posted by spaltavian at 9:46 PM on October 20, 2013 [53 favorites]


I have no problem with anybody voting "against their own best interests". My problem is with people voting for the interests of essentially evil people.
posted by oneswellfoop at 9:57 PM on October 20, 2013 [14 favorites]


There is some evidence that cultural issues are particularly salient to the well off, and that poorer voters in all states are more likely to just vote their pocketbook (see eg Red State Blue State by Gelman).

A lot of voters are misinformed but I think politics runs much deeper than data and facts. Political identities are based on world views, they are not particularly susceptible to education campaigns. The supposed "smoke screens" will never go away -- whether it's gay marriage or abortion or Communism or terrorism or civil rights or affirmative action or soft on crime or immigration or voter fraud or socialism or health care reform or taxes or whatever, a cursory look at American history shows that this stuff can go on forever. The really big issue for the Republicans in the long run is demographics.
posted by leopard at 10:01 PM on October 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


Thanks, that's a very readable piece on a very interesting man. I would watch that guy in anything.

I'd rather have listened to Buscemi speaking himself about the overt political points rather than having it condensed into tidbits though. Sure, "a little disappointed" when referring to Obama, might be his concrete summation, for example; but I'd rather hear how he gets to that conclusion and what he thinks BO could possibly have done differently given the rigid ideology and hate emanating from his opposition. It's the little token for/against list that undermines an otherwise nice read.
posted by peacay at 10:04 PM on October 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Fact: before making it as an actor, Steve Buscemi was a NYC firefighter. After the 9/11 attacks, he went back to his station house and volunteered to pitch in during the recovery/cleanup. And he did, allowing no media coverage of it, just quietly helping.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 10:30 PM on October 20, 2013 [17 favorites]


Fact: The above facts were actually covered in this interview!
posted by bahama mama at 11:26 PM on October 20, 2013 [11 favorites]


People don't know what their interests are and a disparate partisan media and a led-by-the-money system of electoral representation isn't helping them work it out.

Successive surveys in the US (and UK) show that people misjudge wealth distribution badly. If they don't realise how badly the system weighs against them or how much real wages have stagnated or regressed then they will vote in terms of the issues they can understand.

The trick is positioning social issues as economic ones: i.e. if you find yourself in a crappy position in life it's because of racial equality laws, gay marriage, the satanic influence of abortion, welfare queens etc.

It emphatically isn't because of wealth redistribution, low taxes and tax loopholes for the wealthy and large companies, several trillion dollar spend on wars, the cycle of poverty and poor educational outcomes or incarceration of the bottom 20%.

Where voters do want to talk about money, economics and data-led exercises the longtime playbook has been to disrupt those conversations with noise.

It's not just the "dumb" working class. The "educated" middle class is little better. The radical redistribution of wealth towards the wealthiest 1% if having a huge effect on the working class. But it is filleting middle America too, many of whom still believe they are middle class in the way their parents were.
posted by MuffinMan at 3:27 AM on October 21, 2013 [21 favorites]


"It also never seems to occur to them that those voters may have a different perception of their own interests than the commentator does."

Beside what's already been said by others, the problem with this is that it's the GOP, and particularly the libertarian-minded conservatives, who've made selfishness into a virtue and argue the exact opposite of what you're arguing — they are utterly baffled that anyone would support a policy that doesn't benefit them personally or, especially, if it works against their personal interests.

Many years ago, in a discussion about either gay rights or feminism with a conservative, the conservative asked me, with entirely sincere puzzlement, why I, a straight male, would advocate for rights that I personally could not exercise. I was dumbfounded by his puzzlement and question — it was like suddenly discovering that someone believes something that never once occurred to me that anyone would seriously believe while simultaneously making many things that I didn't understand about many other people (particularly conservatives) much more comprehensible.

And, yes, there are a lot of people on the left that think this way, too. I hope this is more true in the US than elsewhere, but there really seems to be a deeply ingrained ethos in our culture that is found across the political spectrum that takes it as a founding principle that acting primarily in one's personal interest, even at the expense of others, is the more rational behavior that will somehow through the magic of the market or somesuch will be generally good for everyone. Which really means, in practice, that advocating for a policy that specifically benefits oneself at the expense of others can be rationalized away as ultimately "being for their (others) own good" in some long-range, hand-waving and very convenient sense.

Seriously, it's not just conservatives who interrogate my motives and frequently accuse me of ulterior and somehow selfish motives when I publicly advocate for gay rights, women's rights, and anti-racism. Here, on MetaFilter, from people who are nominally progressive, I've been accused of holding these positions because of some personal ulterior motive. There are a lot of people who have been brainwashed into believing that collectivist altruism is not possible.

It's not just a conservative phenomenon.

Nevertheless, it is much more true for the American right than the American left.

And it wasn't always as bad as it is now. It's totally true that mid-twentieth century conservatives had a narrow, blinkered, and ultimately self-serving view of communitarianism and collective interest and the virtues of civil society. But they still believed in it; their rhetoric and their arguments were built around ideals of virtue and civic interest and not selfishness and the magic of markets.

The equivocation of civic virtue with libertarian selfishness is a modern American political transformation — Ayn Rand did a lot of the groundwork, of course, and it's absolutely relevant that she was an atheist and rabid anti-communist. Cultural conservatism has a lot of stuff built around religious ideas involving collective responsibility, a lot of traditionalist values are religiously-codified social norms that evolved as means of regulating behavior for the collective good. But this is anathema to Rand and modern libertarianism; they take it as axiomatic that what is best about human nature and human accomplishment and culture is based in the fullest expression of the individual self, beyond the shackles of collective norms.

So the particular irony about "what's the matter with Kansas" is how very specifically paradoxical it is in a way that's beyond the usual marxist notion of false consciousness that R. Schlock mentions above. Contemporary blue-collar American conservatives have embraced a very specific and explicit political and ethical philosophy of selfishness that paradoxically justifies a conservative political establishment that advocates policies that are contrary to their interests! That's really quite amazing.

So, yeah, they do have a different perception of their interests than the commentator does; but it's not that they think their interests lie in what's collectively good for Americans. It's that they've been somehow been convinced that policies that are very much not in their personal interests are specifically in their personal interests. They really and truly do believe that their taxes will be lowered and there will be more jobs for them.

In contrast, I find that among the American left there's a much greater diversity in how individuals perceive leftist/liberal/progressive policies will personally affect them. As I said, there are a lot of people on the left who, like the right, think primarily in terms of their own interests. But there are a lot of people who don't.

Finally, I wrote a much longer comment about this a couple of years ago (and I think it holds up quite well with what's happened these almost-two-years since I wrote it) that I don't need to repeat when I can just link to it — but it's very baffling to me how many people don't seem to understand that in the US, unlike Europe and most everywhere else, cultural issues frequently dominate the left/right political sorting and subordinates economic issues. You simply cannot make sense of American politics if you approach it exclusively from the traditional economic left/right analysis which dominates left/right ideological sorting most everywhere else. Marxist analysis has particular trouble with this. That's not to say that the opposite extreme is any better — a whole bunch of stuff is really economic at root and to think of the left/right division in the US in primarily cultural terms is just as much a mistake. You really need to accommodate both, and they really can't be integrated into some overarching analytical structure that monolithically explains everything.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 4:13 AM on October 21, 2013 [67 favorites]


I so love it when the wealthy famous types tell me that making money is not an honorable goal.
posted by Renoroc at 4:28 AM on October 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Well, the $40k or so that a famous actor makes every year may seem like a lot, but there are a lot of expenses, too.
posted by thelonius at 4:31 AM on October 21, 2013


Interesting article, thanks for posting. I love Buscemi. There's just something inherently likeable about him. Maybe because you don't get any sense of ego from him. It's a pity the politics angle has been the main focus (though I completely agree with him). What's interesting to me is how human he makes even dark characters. Possibly due to his unconventional looks. His eyes always look sad. Or maybe I'm projecting... Anyway, he's definitely one of my favourite examples of how talent trumps appearance for women.
posted by billiebee at 4:37 AM on October 21, 2013 [5 favorites]


I logged in just to favorite that Ivan Fyodorovich.

And Renoroc, I think you are somehow completely missing the point.
posted by sio42 at 4:37 AM on October 21, 2013 [5 favorites]


"I so love it when the wealthy famous types tell me that making money is not an honorable goal."

Well, I would argue that it is an understandable goal, but that its honorableness
would depend upon context. I mean, you could make money pulling gold teeth
from corpses or stealing their rings, right?

Also, yes, gospodin Ivan Fyodorovich, well said.
posted by Chitownfats at 4:43 AM on October 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


Ivan, I see that change in ethos too. I think it's a result of capitalism itself, and the interaction between economics and culture. Early writings on capitalism talk about self interest or selfishness as a negative personal quality, but argue that capitalism is good in part because it can redirect this negative quality toward socially productive results.

From what I read, Adam Smith and other early proponents of capitalism also went out of their way to try to separate economics as an idea from politics and from the nascent field of sociology, thus from investigations of culture. And were largely successful in changing the discourse from the idea of political economics to the idea of there being completely separate spheres, so that, eg. in the South African truth and reconciliation process, economic negotiations were separated out from political and culture-related negotiations, with ongoing disastrous and structurally racist consequences for many of the poorer black communities in that country, to give a non-US-centric example.

But what gets tangibly rewarded affects what people value, especially when those tangible rewards have become more and more significant or extreme, as they have in the US, over a long enough time that it's not a shock, but merely a creeping normalcy. The level of wealth inequality in the US today would, I think, not have been culturally acceptable in the post-Depression, post-war period.

In the pre-Depression Robber Baron era and Industrial Revolution era, there were other cultural factors at play allowing those with power to feel justified in similar levels of inequality of wealth and of political power, around racism, sexism, and classism (as a cultural phenomenon I mean, rather than structural economic phenomenon). Fortunately there has been some (though not enough) progress on understanding and condemning such cultural hierarchies that used to be used to justify wealth and power inequalities. A cultural redefinition of self interest or selfishness as a virtue serves a similar role nowadays, I think.
posted by eviemath at 4:44 AM on October 21, 2013 [5 favorites]


It never seems to occur to people who use it that those voters are voting for things they think are good for the nation, even if not so good for themselves. That idea seems quaint, I guess.

It also never seems to occur to them that those voters may have a different perception of their own interests than the commentator does.


What utter ridiculousness. Tell me what the cogent economic and secular arguments are against gay marriage or domestic abuse laws, for instance.

What's the matter with Nebraska? There's nothing the matter with Nebraska. It just isn't Massachusetts. (Thank God.)

Yes, thank god for higher infant mortality and obesity rates. Oh, and you may be employed, but here you are making 25%-30% less, have no rights as an employee, can be fired insanely easily and quickly, have poor health care options, and are more likely to die on the job. Yay!
posted by zombieflanders at 5:33 AM on October 21, 2013 [7 favorites]


Lesson of the day: Choose your pull quotes wisely . . .
posted by Think_Long at 5:41 AM on October 21, 2013 [7 favorites]


I so love it when the wealthy famous types tell me that making money is not an honorable goal.

Who has said this? Certainly not Buscemi.

I was an extra on Burt Wonderstone, by the way, and watched him work for a week. Olivia Wilde spent the entire week buddying up to him, chatting with him at every opportunity, and the two of them seemed to constantly be smiling and kidding around. Which shows, I think, her good taste. He was a very light, cheerful fellow on the set, which you don't see much.

In fact, the only time I ever saw him look upset was when he was walking through a group of extras to the bathrooms and one of them shouted "STEVE! STEVE!" and he whipped around with a "what the fuck?" look on his face. Suddenly he looked like Seymour from Ghost World, if Seymour ever looked like he was about the throw a punch. It was thrilling.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 5:50 AM on October 21, 2013 [8 favorites]


Some explanations of conservatism, by an ex-conservative:

1. People see taxes as a major expense but don't often see the benefits of tax-funded programs. It's hard to fault them for this, since many of the benefits are increasingly indirect and 'invisible'. They don't think they're getting their money's worth. They want to pay less and believe conservative poiticians when they promise to lower them.

2. People are living paycheck-to-paycheck, and fear losing their job. They think the best way to keep it is to support business-friendly policies.

3. Hard work and personal accountability are laudable qualities, and on a balanced playing field they are the primary forces determining success or failure. The fact that the playing field isn't even close to balanced or fair isn't always obvious unless your eyes have been opened to it. Accepting it requires some degree of letting go of the credit for your own successes, however small, which isn't easy.

4. Being forced to pay more than your share is unfair. Getting something for nothing is unfair. You should get to keep what you earn. These "common sense" facts have been ingrained in our psyches since childhood. The liberal mindset is counter-intuitive to them.

There are other reasons, of course, especially if you bring religious faith into the mix. But the point I'd like to make is that many conservative voters aren't evil, stupid, or broken*, and resent being told that they are. At most they're underinformed and see issues as the simple things they appear to be on the surface, rather than the extemely complex, multi-layered gordian knots they actually are.

* Some are evil, stupid and broken, but i'd like to think they aren't representative.
posted by rocket88 at 6:20 AM on October 21, 2013 [48 favorites]


I'll bet there are "working-class" IATSE members on his sets who don't agree with him. And they're not in Kansas or Nebraska. Maybe he needs to hang out at craft services a bit more.

....Speaking as a former techie, I think this theory may not necessarily hold as such. IATSE doesn't necessarily mean "Republican" or "conservative". Nor does "blue collar" - my father was arguably blue-collar working-class, and is very solidly Democrat.

But the point I'd like to make is that many conservative voters aren't evil, stupid, or broken, and resent being told that they are. At most they're underinformed and see issues as the simple things they appear to be on the surface, rather than the extemely complex, multi-layered gordian knots they actually are.

This. I have a couple aunts and an uncle who've gone increasingly more conservative over the years - one aunt has gone downright Tea Party - but in their case, I can definitely chalk a lot of it up to their life stories. The Tea Party aunt I can definitely see how the interfamily dynamic and history definitely lead to how she thinks. In turn - I chalk a lot of how my father's political thinking shook down to the fact that he was designing subs for the military during the late 60's, and he got to hear some of the info about "the impact of a nuclear war" that was still classified information at the time, and it scared the shit out of him and may have influenced his political leanings like whoa.

We are all the sum of our personal histories and experiences. We all look at the questions of the world, but we bring our own selves to them, and we decide things based on what makes the most sense to our own unique selves. The way to persuade someone to change their mind about something isn't to berate them - you persuade them to change their mind by delving a bit into how they made up their mind in the first place, what concerns they have which their mindset is addressing. Then you speak to that. (That's why Bono did so well persuading Jesse Helms to change his mind about supporting the war against AIDS - he knew Helms was a conservative Christian, and so he used Scripture to do it.)

Still, though, it's human to want to go off on a rant like Buscemi did now and then.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:35 AM on October 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


Some are evil, stupid and broken, but i'd like to think they aren't representative.

Well, they kind of are, in a literal sense. A lot of the evil, stupid, and broken ones seem to keep getting elected to Congress and saying evil and stupid things to the press.
posted by zombieflanders at 6:57 AM on October 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


But the point I'd like to make is that many conservative voters aren't evil, stupid, or broken*, and resent being told that they are. At most they're underinformed and see issues as the simple things they appear to be on the surface, rather than the extemely complex, multi-layered gordian knots they actually are.

A good example of this is the way conservative voters think about the national debt and potential default. This isn't a "fuck you got mine" really, because default would be bad for everyone, including the people who've got there's already. I think the reason there's an element that was cheering on the people making default a possibility is that they genuinely don't understand the problem. The popular analogy between the government's finances and a household's finances demonstrates this. They don't understand what the actual parameters of the problem is, so they use analogy they do understand, even though the analogy is terrible and doesn't work.

There's a similar problem with the whole way the right talks about government spending in that a huge part of their constituency doesn't really grasp the numbers involved. Older people, people from smaller communities where the cost of living is low, are used to working in much smaller numbers than the government does. They hear "X department spend 30 million dollars on Y" and think that's a huge problem because those numbers sound so large. My father, who is right of center but not dogmatically so, once told me could live for the rest of his life on a million dollars. Now, he's almost certainly wrong about that, but I know that beliefs like that inform his opinions about the federal budget. When he hears numbers in the hundreds of millions, they're beyond his mental threshold for "very large number" and he assumes they are per se unreasonable.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:11 AM on October 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


"I think if your goal is only to make money, that's not a worthy goal in and of itself."

I so love it when the wealthy famous types tell me that making money is not an honorable goal.


It's kind of like the difference between the widely-used misquote from 1 Timothy, "Money is the root of all evil," and the actual quote, "For the love of money is the root of all evil."
posted by The Underpants Monster at 7:15 AM on October 21, 2013 [10 favorites]


Interesting interview indeed.

Obligatory short clip featuring Buscemi all at sea on the Paris Metro (from Paris Je t'aime)
posted by rongorongo at 7:17 AM on October 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


But the point I'd like to make is that many conservative voters aren't evil, stupid, or broken*, and resent being told that they are. At most they're underinformed and see issues as the simple things they appear to be on the surface, rather than the extemely complex, multi-layered gordian knots they actually are.

They generally suffer from cognitive dissonance. Their dreams didn't come true, so they do what disappointment cults do in a similar situation; they band together as victims and proselyte their faith, demonizing the naysayers, to convince others in order to convince themselves. What is significant is that race plays major part in America. Poor conservatives don't want to imagine they are being treated as second class citizens, or worse, so they privately see the other side as a party of poverty, to racially identify with their goals of wealth, while those who have generations of mistreatment and bad experiences have no illusions and are willing to work together to improve the conditions for everyone. Denial is how a family can vote against a safety net like health insurance when they have none, because to vote for their interests would contradict their long held fantasy.
posted by Brian B. at 7:30 AM on October 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Adam Smith...try to separate economics as an idea from politics and from the nascent field of sociology, thus from investigations of culture

There may be pieces of history that could lead to this conclusion. However, the larger view of ASmith and the contemporary view of (political) economy is quite different. Remember, this is also the author of The Theory of Moral Sentiments. Not exactly a light weight.

However, you're right that others within the profession (and many others working from outside ) have been successful in neutering the moral compass of the study. This was a feature not a bug.

what gets tangibly rewarded affects what people value

This is so great. It adds to what's been said above about why people seemingly go against their interests. It ALSO holds up a long history of hollow liberal policies re: well being in the 'flyover' areas and how that's been interpreted by such folks.
posted by Reasonably Everything Happens at 7:34 AM on October 21, 2013


I'm really getting sick of that phrase. It never seems to occur to people who use it that those voters are voting for things they think are good for the nation, even if not so good for themselves. That idea seems quaint, I guess.

Yeah, they're all about self-sacrifice for the greater good. Practically saints, those Tea Party folks.
posted by Naberius at 7:45 AM on October 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


Twenty years ago, "what's the matter with Kansas" was a provocative and important respects helpful way to analyze political culture. Now, though, Democrats are at least as dependent on rich people who find conservatives uncool than Republicans are dependent upon poor people who find liberals unclean, but "what's the matter with Scarsdale" doesn't have quite the same ring to it.
posted by MattD at 7:49 AM on October 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


MattD: "Now, though, Democrats are at least as dependent on rich people who find conservatives uncool than Republicans are dependent upon poor people who find liberals unclean"

Right, because we all know the demographics Democrats are doing well in -- racial minorities and younger people -- have all of the moneys.

I guess your theory also explains why Obama collected so much more money from rich people than Romney did, and Romney collected more from small donors oh wait it's the other way around.
posted by tonycpsu at 8:04 AM on October 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


I'm so tired of politics as existential warfare. As a progressive, there are aspects of classical conservativism with which I identify deeply. I get angry at the lost opportunity for conservatives, instead of acting as a mere obstruction to government, to say We will offer tempered, prudent stewardship of cultural and economic change in this country. We will work to curb the worst excesses of both government and Wall Street. We will demand accountability, efficiency, and thrift in government programs instead of trying to wreck them out of ideological angst and cultural desperation. We will embrace social justice for all. We will be the adults in the fucking room, drawing on the virtue and wisdom of accumulated generations, while recognizing that not all traditions are virtuous or wise, and that progress and change are not the enemy of conservatism.

Perhaps then people wouldn't be so skeptical of and cynical about government. Perhaps they'd have more trust in their politicians and institutions. Perhaps conservatism's messages of self-reliance, hard work, individual virtue, etc. wouldn't ring so hollow, and conservativism would win the day in a manner that steps boldly forward instead of groping blindly backward.

I know. I might as well wish I could shoot lasers out of my fucking eyes.
posted by echocollate at 8:12 AM on October 21, 2013 [18 favorites]


At any other time except when "What's the matter with these fools, they're voting against their own self interest" comes up, this userbase is entirely down with the notion that that there not only are valid interests other than money and material gain but that we must in fact work to emphasize these other interests over money and material gain, for the sake of, y'know, the fate of the planet.

If somebody in flyover country thinks he wants to live in a world that's very different from the world you want to live in, there's an excellent chance he is right about that. If he chooses to sacrifice his financial and material interests in hopes of moving the world in his preferred direction, that's his decision to make. Any analyst who doesn't tumble to all this on his own is none too ight-bray.

But (I hear you cry to change the subject) he isn't going to get the world he wants, he's just being sucked in by false promises. I grant you it happens. I voted for our sitting President because I wanted a peace president, a civil liberties president, and a president who would run an open administration. For swallowing the hype, the more fool me.
posted by jfuller at 8:14 AM on October 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


echocollate: "We will work to curb the worst excesses of both government and Wall Street"

With regards to Wall Street, this Murdoch Post cover tells you all you need to know about where the two parties are on regulating the financial industry. The Obama administration finally gets somewhat tough on a Wall Street firm, and they're accused of robbing a bank. Imagine what kind of metaphors they'd be using if any of the higher-ups in these firms did any jail time!
posted by tonycpsu at 8:25 AM on October 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


Where are the all comments admiring the rationality of the middle-class white Christian Republicans who already have all the government programs they need, or decrying Warren Buffett for wanting higher taxes on the rich, or being puzzled about why an African-American who makes half a million dollars a year is probably still a Democrat?

Why do poor black people vote for Senators who work hard to make sure that hedge fund managers pay minimal taxes? What's the matter with New York?

Politics is politics. This sort of commentary isn't transcending "false" political divides, it just further plays into it.
posted by leopard at 8:29 AM on October 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


"A good example of this is the way conservative voters think about the national debt and potential default."

I agree with what you wrote, but those two examples are pretty much true about almost all Americans, right or left.

With regard to budget deficits and sovereign debt (which, right off the bat, it should be mentioned that probably a majority think are the same thing or otherwise confuse one for the other), as you wrote, people think about it like household finances and so they think that both are bad things inherently, in all circumstances. Which always seems weird to me because most everyone, and especially business people, have good understanding how borrowing can allow investments for future earnings that would otherwise be impossible, such as for education or starting a business or expanding a business. But nevermind that — the US should "live within its means" just like most households do, er, don't.

A number of things in macroeconomics are counterintuitive and so people wrongly believe what seems correct according to their intuition. Another example is currency exchange rates. That's partly a consequence of the language used — people naturally think that a "stronger" dollar is unambiguously a good thing and a "weaker" dollar a bad thing. But a strong dollar is good for importers (so foreign goods are cheaper) but bad for exporters (so goods we sell to foreigners are more expensive) and so in the short term, at least, in an economy that's below capacity, like ours is, with higher than normal unemployment, a strong dollar hurts rather than helps. A weak dollar means more exports, less imports and therefore more domestic production to meet the demand formerly met by imports, and so more economic activity and more jobs. But there are a whole bunch of congressfolk whose jobs it is to understand this stuff that argue that it's vitally important for the US to maintain a strong dollar. Either they don't understand this, or they have ulterior motives and are answering to folk who have an interest in a strong dollar.

Deficits and debt are interesting because people are confused about this on multiple levels at the same time. First of all, they don't understand that almost all of it is debt that Americans owe to themselves. When people think about sovereign debt as like household debt, implicit in this is an idea that the household in the analogy is the US government and therefore the people, and the holders of the debt, like a bank, are outside the "home", other people. And while part of the debt is owned by foreigners, the majority is domestic. In July, the total treasuries were about 12 trillion, about 5.5 trillion is foreign owned. China is the largest holder at 1.3 trillion, with Japan closely following at 1.1 trillion. No one else is remotely close to them. I'll get back to that in a moment.

So somewhat more than half of this debt is money we owe to ourselves (that link is to a SF Fed piece from 2005). You can't think about the economics of this like you think of household debt which is owed to outsiders. It doesn't work that way. And what's sort of funny about this is that the same sort of person (including economists who should know better) who (wrongly) argue that fiscal stimulus can't work because of the accounting identity (one person is a borrower, one person is a lender, it's just a redirection of funds at best), somehow don't apply this to the national debt as a whole when they issue dire warnings about how much "we" owe.

Okay, but a big chunk of that is owned by foreigners. Surely that's bad, right? Well, as a general rule, it certainly can be. But that depends upon how much actual economic influence they have. [deleted several paragraphs about devaluation and debt denominated in own currency and Greece and the euro]

The thing is, first of all, the US's debt is denominated in its own currency. And it's the world's reserve currency. Even with all this scare tactics about the US's debt and stimulus and qualitative easing by the Fed, money has flowed into US treasuries because everyone in the world believes that it's the safest place to keep their money. The bond market interest rates won't go up unless that's not true anymore. And there's not a credible hypothetical story where this would come to pass under current conditions. It's not going to suddenly become much more expensive for the US to borrow. It hasn't. And the usual suspects have been predicting that this was going to happen any day now for five years.

Second of all, people talk about China owning that big chunk but they don't understand that it's only about ten percent (see above link) and what they especially don't understand is that the whole reason China has that huge chunk is that doing so is a key part of their strategy of artificially keeping their currency weak relative to the dollar to support their huge export-driven growth. So, importantly, they're not going to do this. Also, if they did it would actually help us, not hurt us, in the current climate.

So at many levels at once, what most people think they know about this stuff is wrong, and in many respects wrong in exactly the opposite direction from what being right would mean.

Now, with "default", I don't even know if people understand what that means. So lets just focus on the debt ceiling thing. Despite having gone through this already and the media discussion about it, I think that most people think that the debt ceiling is something that comes before the appropriations and spending, not after. People compare it to credit card debt, so let's use that analogy. They think it's like calling the bank and asking to have the limit raised so that you can go out and spend money. But it's not like that. What it's like, is ordering a bunch of stuff, having it delivered, and being invoiced on it and needing to pay that invoice with a credit card that's already at its limit. Should you not have bought that stuff when you needed to borrow more money to pay for it? That's a valid argument, but that argument applies to ... Congress, which are the people who did this. At this point, it's about not paying a bill, which is bad. But I think that most people still think that not raising the debt ceiling means not spending that money. But it's already been spent, or has already been irreversibly committed to being spent (like, say, meeting a payroll).

The people who do understand this but still don't want to raise it, like a few of the congressfolk, believe that it's possible for the Treasury Dept. to divert all revenues to paying the interest on the debt, thus avoiding default and just not paying the other stuff. Which would be disastrous in its own right, but would avoid default. If that's possible to do, and almost no one thinks that it is — Treasury's system isn't set up to do anything like this.

That's all more information than is necessary, but the point is that a lot of the debate about these issues is within the context of fundamental misunderstandings that apply all across the political spectrum, not just among conservatives.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 8:47 AM on October 21, 2013 [25 favorites]


Voter suppression is one of the highest evils in democracy. It doesn't matter if it's because you think they're too fat, too black, too poor, or just don't have the bootstrappy gumption to walk 15 miles uphill backwards during a blizzard like a True American.
posted by zombieflanders at 9:05 AM on October 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


[A couple comments removed, let's not get into some weird modest-BMI-proposal territory here.]
posted by cortex at 9:17 AM on October 21, 2013


*Goes back to his lunch*
posted by R. Schlock at 9:18 AM on October 21, 2013


Late to the thread here, but as an IATSE (Local 479!) member reading this between setups, I'd happily stand at crafts service and bitch right along with him.

So there.
posted by rock swoon has no past at 9:23 AM on October 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


At any other time except when "What's the matter with these fools, they're voting against their own self interest" comes up, this userbase is entirely down with the notion that that there not only are valid interests other than money and material gain but that we must in fact work to emphasize these other interests over money and material gain, for the sake of, y'know, the fate of the planet.

While some of "conservatives vote Republican" is indeed motivated by interests other than money and material gain, those interests include but are not limited to interests that your average mefite would not agree are valid. Repression of women, for example. Or repression of blacks and latinos. Or repression of homosexuals. Or establishment of evangelical Christianity as a de-facto state religion.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:47 AM on October 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


How did gerrymandering and voter suppression become legitimate tactics in the Great Voting Game, to the point that those pushing those ideas can openly discuss them the way a football coach discusses tactics? Was it a side-effect of Reaganism and the everything's-a-market/everything-has-a-price mindset?
posted by acb at 10:01 AM on October 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


How did gerrymandering and voter suppression become legitimate tactics in the Great Voting Game

Gerrymandering and voter suppression are American traditions that go back centuries. See here and keep on scrolling down. This stuff is as American as apple pie.
posted by leopard at 10:05 AM on October 21, 2013


So, importantly, they're not going to do this. Also, if they did it would actually help us, not hurt us, in the current climate.

Wait, they're not gonna do what? Was this referenced in the deleted paragraphs?
posted by ogooglebar at 10:40 AM on October 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Chocolate Pickle: It never seems to occur to people who use it that those voters are voting for things they think are good for the nation, even if not so good for themselves. That idea seems quaint, I guess.


"What did you expect? "Welcome, sonny"? "Make yourself at home"? "Marry my daughter"? You've got to remember that these are just simple farmers. These are people of the land. The common clay of the new West. You know... morons."
posted by stenseng at 11:05 AM on October 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Chocolate Pickle: It never seems to occur to people who use it that those voters are voting for things they think are good for the nation, even if not so good for themselves. That idea seems quaint, I guess.

It doesn't seem quaint so much as wildly misguided, as it should be clear (after 30+ years of "values-based," "Moral Majority" electoral tactics) that none of the things these voters are hoping for will ever come to pass. Not in the sweeping, definitive, declaratory way they are voting for.

If, at this point, you actually think that voting Republican will result in full un-citizening of African and Latino Americans, will result in a full constitutional ban on abortion and contraception, will result in the wholesale eradication of gay people--you're a moron. These things are far too useful as carrots for Republicans ever to apply the actual stick.

Right wing voters are selling their economic futures en masse in exchange for tiny crumbs of racist, sexist, hateful satisfaction. I, personally, consider this evil. But even from an objective standpoint it is at the very least a pretty shitty deal.
posted by like_a_friend at 11:17 AM on October 21, 2013 [6 favorites]


"Wait, they're not gonna do what? Was this referenced in the deleted paragraphs?"

Yeah, sorry, I noticed that omission when I read this later after I'd posted it.

People argue that the Chinese have the US over a barrel because they hold all those treasuries and could decide to quit buying more, etc. It's one part of the "debt is evil" argument that comes up from time to time. But that's what the Chinese are not going to do.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 11:21 AM on October 21, 2013


Ah. That makes sense now.
posted by ogooglebar at 11:26 AM on October 21, 2013


I'm not sure why people seem to think that Republicans are basically just Democrats who hate gay people or Mexicans or whatever.

You know, these people who are terrified of gay marriage but are otherwise good liberal Democrats... they already tend to vote Democrat. This poll (pdf) has Democratic support for same-sex marriage at a bit under 60%, and support for "equal marriage rights" at a bit under 70%. The 30% or so remainder there presumably doesn't just become Republican, just as the 30%+ of Republicans who favor same-sex marriage don't magically become Democrats.
posted by leopard at 11:28 AM on October 21, 2013


I'm not sure why people seem to think that Republicans are basically just Democrats who hate gay people or Mexicans or whatever.

Because some of us personally know Republican voters who support health care, poverty programs, and all sorts of other nominally Democratic concepts in theory, but really fucking hate gay people and Mexicans and therefore will never, ever vote Democratic? (Am I the only one whose mom keeps dating these people? I can't be, right?)
posted by like_a_friend at 11:32 AM on October 21, 2013


The decision to prioritize a sexual/racial social hierarchy over the universal humanity shared by all people is a pretty basic political choice (and so is the opposite). It can't be simply attributed to false consciousness and political smokescreens.
posted by leopard at 11:41 AM on October 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


It can't be simply attributed to false consciousness and political smokescreens.

Really? Because "See that guy over there? He's not like us. We should kill/rob/disenfranchise/expel him. Oh, and pay no attention to my hand in your pocket." is pretty much the oldest ideological game there is. The idea of "universal humanity" is a recent arrival on the scene and is itself the product of some pretty historically specific philosophical commitments which are, even at this late date, not a consensus position. For much of human history, the default was the construction of political subjectivity within kinship groups or direct relationships of domination. The moment you move to groups that comprise more members than those you know by face, you're talking about systems of thought that have logical structures embedded in them, structures that shape and constrain the free choice you say we all share.

The point is, conservatives for the most part haven't had a moment where they woke up and said: "You know what? I choose being a dick. I could decide to be a nice person and care deeply about the brotherhood of man. But I'm going to choose dick instead." Like all of us, they were born and raised within regimes of thought that come with discriminatory categories embedded in them. And when confronted with evidence that challenges that worldview or situations that show its manifest injustice, they choose to double down on a bet that was made for them years before they were born. Probably because the cost of doing otherwise is too high. Or because it just feels right. Either way, their "decision" is not political in the sense that you're using the term. It's constrained.

And that, my friend leopard, is exactly what's the matter with Kansas.
posted by R. Schlock at 11:57 AM on October 21, 2013 [11 favorites]


Obama (a little disappointed)

Only a little?

The idea of "universal humanity" is a recent arrival on the scene and is itself the product of some pretty historically specific philosophical commitments which are, even at this late date, not a consensus position.


"Snakes. Very dangerous. You go first."
posted by IndigoJones at 12:02 PM on October 21, 2013


Either way, their "decision" is not political in the sense that you're using the term. It's constrained.

By this standard, liberals don't make political decisions either. But my point has less to do with free will and more to do with the fact that political ideologies are hard to change. The undercurrent of the Buscemi pull quote is that soon the Republicans will run out of "smoke screens" and then voters will suddenly wake up and be concerned with universal health care and the social safety net. And I guess this is compelling to liberals because they believe that they see the world as it really is while conservatives are trapped in some mental fog funded by the Koch brothers, but I just don't see it. Somebody who can be riled up about gay marriage and illegal immigrants can be riled up about an infinite number of issues, because (for most people) it's not the particular issue, it's the general worldview. There's really nothing special about gay marriage, as a national political issue it's barely a couple of decades old.
posted by leopard at 12:12 PM on October 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


The point is, conservatives for the most part haven't had a moment where they woke up and said: "You know what? I choose being a dick. I could decide to be a nice person and care deeply about the brotherhood of man. But I'm going to choose dick instead."

For the most part. I'm unlucky enough to know someone who completely believes in anthropogenic climate change and understands that it is an extremely dangerous thing, but believes even the minimal regulation the EPA imposes and any taxes that go to it is tyranny of a much higher order. In other words, he is fully supportive of letting the world burn and humanity die out merely because he thinks that profit is more important to humanity than continued survival, and disagrees with one of the most fundamental parts of the social and economic contracts inherent to civilization. I can only hope that he's trolling people, but other comments have led me to believe this is something he actually believes.
posted by zombieflanders at 12:15 PM on October 21, 2013


Yeah, I think the hope Buscemi is speaking to is the one that says: "That crazy Obamacare that my rep keeps describing as the pale horse of the apocalypse just got my wife treatment for the breast cancer that killed her mother. Maybe the republicans are wrong on this one? And if they're wrong there..." Direct, empirical evidence of the policy benefits to be had in transitioning to a more secure welfare-state system can have measurable effects on political affiliation. That's at least the fear of the dead enders who just shut our government down for 2 weeks, and I, for one, am inclined to agree with them on that point, at least.
posted by R. Schlock at 12:18 PM on October 21, 2013


I do believe that there will be some positive consequences for the Democrats as the results of the ACA and the weird Republican backlash. However, voters aged 65+ went 56-44 for Romney in 2012, so it's not like being a beneficiary of a government program is in itself predictive of political affiliation.
posted by leopard at 12:26 PM on October 21, 2013


It never seems to occur to people who use it that those voters are voting for things they think are good for the nation, even if not so good for themselves. That idea seems quaint, I guess.

I'm just curious about who exactly they think the nation is, if not themselves and their neighbors.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 12:49 PM on October 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


The undercurrent of the Buscemi pull quote is that soon the Republicans will run out of "smoke screens" and then voters will suddenly wake up and be concerned with universal health care and the social safety net. And I guess this is compelling to liberals because they believe that they see the world as it really is while conservatives are trapped in some mental fog funded by the Koch brothers, but I just don't see it.

The way I read it was that if you introduced the idea of social security to republicans today, they'd kill it with fire. But try taking away social security from these same people who hate that socialist bastard Obama and watch how fast they vote you out of office.

After 5-10 years of Obamacare, these same people who hate socialism will be damned if they ever let you take away their government-funded healthcare. So what'll be left for the Republicans to keep people from getting?
posted by nushustu at 2:50 PM on October 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


I would never have imagined it possible to do a Buscemi interview where Lebowski never came up.

Oh, I see this isn't a Buscemi thread. Sorry.
posted by Twang at 3:19 PM on October 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


After 5-10 years of Obamacare, these same people who hate socialism will be damned if they ever let you take away their government-funded healthcare.

Obamacare isn't government funded. It's taxpayer funded.
posted by IndigoJones at 5:13 PM on October 21, 2013


'I hope people remember the shutdown in the next elections'

Oh, they'll remember the shutdown. And Fox News has three years to make sure that "Obama's shutdown" is how they'll remember it.

The simple facts are that most people don't actually give a rat's arse about politics and don't pay any attention to what politicians actually do, and that there's a vast noise machine dedicated to keeping things that way. To the extent that most people do engage with politics at all, it's a straight-up tribal Us = Good, Them = Bad kind of deal.

I don't see that changing any time soon. Best that can possibly be achieved is to persuade as many of Them as possible that the third tribe (Those Pulling The Strings) is (a) actually a worse enemy than Us and (b) not inherently identical with Government.
posted by flabdablet at 10:49 PM on October 21, 2013


I would never have imagined it possible to do a Buscemi interview where Lebowski never came up.

What or who or where is this Lebowski?
posted by Mister Bijou at 11:34 PM on October 21, 2013


Obamacare isn't government funded. It's taxpayer funded.

I get what you're trying to say, but these are effectively the same thing. Single-payer is taxpayer-funded too, since the government employs tax revenues along with bond sales to fund its ventures.

The problem is that Obamacare isn't taxpayer-funded; it's consumer-funded just like any private health care. The main change is that the marketplace for health insurance has been made subject to heavier regulation to the point of compulsion for both consumers and providers.
posted by kewb at 3:38 AM on October 22, 2013


Well, Obamacare is many things, and some of them (particularly the expansion of Medicaid) are, in fact, taxpayer/publicly/government funded.
posted by tonycpsu at 8:57 AM on October 22, 2013


I get what you're trying to say, but these are effectively the same thing.

It's a question of focus that I think is important.
posted by IndigoJones at 9:28 AM on October 22, 2013


Chocolate Pickle: ""I'm really getting sick of that phrase. It never seems to occur to people who use it that those voters are voting for things they think are good for the nation, even if not so good for themselves. That idea seems quaint, I guess."

It's not really a useful metric. Many liberals who support things like gay marriage, reproductive rights, etc. are wealthy enough that they are effectively voting against their economic interests by voting for Democrats when Republicans *are* more likely to keep their taxes very low.

I think the important thing is to realize that this really is a debate about what are the largest problems facing this country. So for these voters who are less well-off but vote Republican, clearly they see the "decline in moral values" as a more serious threat to the country than things like economic inequality or a general lack of healthcare.
posted by Deathalicious at 2:17 PM on October 23, 2013


spaltavian: "Utter nonsense. How many Republican voters do you think actually believe that Republican policies hurt them, but are good over all? Most Republicans, like most Democrats, believe the policies of their party help most people and themselves. One group happens to be mostly wrong."

You're begging the question. You believe (and I do too!) that the policies of the Democratic party helps the most people. And I think this way because I don't necessarily see things like gay marriage, birth control, abortion, multiculturalism, and general social liberalism. I imagine for someone who believes these things actually matter, they are less swayed by the potential economic benefits they might reap.

Remember these are often the same people who, whether they walk the talk or not, very much believe in "lifting yourself up from your bootstraps" and in making do with what little you have. Because many of them are poor, they assume the resources just aren't there to provide for everyone, so believe it is up to them to provide for themselves.

And the truth is, I think one of the failings of our modern society is a notable failing of frugality. And of course, our economy is now based on consumerism, so we have a shoot-in-the-foot type situation where people need to be very frugal in order to accommodate their needs without going into serious debt, but if they are frugal to that extent the economy suffers.

It is this precarious state that makes it a lot easier to support the conservative position; you bemoan the poor people with their color teevees and smartphones while ignoring that this sort of spending is very much needed, because your ideology focuses almost exclusively on individual behaviors and ignores larger systems and structures.
posted by Deathalicious at 2:26 PM on October 23, 2013


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