We Democrats keep asking ourselves why in the world poor people vote Republican when it’s the Democrats who build and defend programs that will help them. Like most Democrats who don’t have poor Republican friends, I’ve always thought it was about abortion, prayer in the schools and stuff like that.
When campaigning a few years ago for a Democratic candidate, I was given a lesson in the extremism of the the “theo-pubs.” A man told me that if his 14-year old daughter became pregnant by a rapist, she would want to carry the baby to term because it’s god’s will. So, naturally, I’ve assumed low-income people who vote Republican were probably thinking the same as that guy.
Yesterday I had a chance to learn what’s in the heart and mind of at least two low-income Republicans, and it ain’t pretty. Turns out it has nothing to do with abortion or “god’s will.” They are just basically selfish. The conversation happened because my husband and I wanted to put one of my larger campaign signs at a strategic rural intersection. I have seen signs for Dem candidates at that corner before and was hoping it would be okay.
Turns out the woman living there is renting and NOT a Democrat. So picture this. We’re standing in a farm yard avoiding horse manure piles with two dogs barking and running around. Her male friend from Illinois started the conversation after noticing on my campaign card that I support local control of farms, ranches and natural resources. He repeated the whole litany of anti-EPA talking points about the update of the Clean Water Act now being considered in D.C. He said farmers are going to have to stop planting crops right up to the edge of streams and creeks. That would mean taking acres and acres of land out of production. I told him about Ameren’s plan to build a coal ash dump in the floodplain of the Missouri River. He didn’t like that idea, but he didn’t see that farmers who pollute creeks and streams are basically doing the same thing. It’s all about maximizing profit for them.
The woman said she can’t get health insurance. She drives school buses and makes $19 an hour. She said she talked to someone about “Obamacare” and they wanted $300 a month for insurance. I asked her what she’ll do if she gets sick. She said she’d just “lay down and die.” But she went to the ER with back pain and didn’t like the fact that it cost her $600. I didn’t think quickly enough to tell her how much that visit really cost the rest of us.
She then told us that she figured out how much she has paid in taxes on her income this year, and it was six weeks worth of pay. Her view of this is that she worked six weeks for “the government” and got nothing in return.
Her friend who is in his 50’s and not educated enough to get a better job drives some kind of public transportation vehicle and complained that he is expected to work mornings, “sit around and twiddle my thumbs” for a few hours and then work again late afternoon. I told him there are probably a lot of people who would take that job in a minute and asked why he didn’t quit. He said he had to work because “welfare won’t support ME.” Emphasis on “me.” What I heard was the right wing mantra about welfare supporting all those lazy people who don’t want to work for a living.
As we were heading to my Prius that gets 47 miles a gallon, the man walked with us wishing me luck on my campaign. I pointed to the large diesel-powered truck that had been sitting with the engine running the whole time we were talking. He kind of agreed with me that the woman was wasting gas leaving that truck running. Then I saw her get in the truck and light a cigarette. I told him if she can afford to let a large truck sit running for 20 minutes and she can afford to smoke, she can afford health insurance. AND if she’s a smoker she had better get health insurance.
That whole experience put me on edge, but I’m glad I had the chance to hear what goes on the minds of people who are just basically selfish and don’t give a damn about the common good. She’s thinking about getting a gun because she lives alone. And I have no doubt she’d shoot first and ask questions later.
The good news is she hasn’t changed her voter registration to her current address so she can’t vote for my opponent.