Wed, Apr

Why DO the Poor Keep Voting for the Rich?


WHAT THEY’RE SAYING--While scratching around for some Christmas cheer through the oft disgraced but equally celebrated ‘Poet Laureate of LA Low Life’, Charles Bukowksi, I wandered upon an old favourite.

Paraphrased, it, goes:

“The problem was you had to keep choosing between one evil or another, and no matter what you chose, they sliced a little bit more off youuntil there was nothing left. At the age of 25 most people were finished. A whole god-damned nation of assholes driving automobiles, eating, having babies, doing everything in the worst way possible, like voting for the presidential candidates who reminded them most of themselves… I had no idea how I was going to escape... They seemed to understand something that I didn’t understand.

— Charles Bukowski, Ham on Rye (1982)

I’ve been thinking about this, a lot — with some specific focus on:

  • Why do the poor keep voting for political parties and corporate bodies that can only exist by exploiting their vulnerabilities and their trust? What are the social and psychological stressors that cause this?
  • Although we’ve seen brutal authoritarian nationalism rise and fall within the lifetimes of our own living relatives, why have Western democracies now made such a synchronised lurch to the right (with particular focus on the Trump and Johnson administrations)?
  • There’s always been lies in politics — but why, has Western political campaigning now entirely abandoned the truth as a necessary component of the election cycle?
  • Within public conversation, why are we reduced to two equally ridiculous, warring possibilities: corporate-powered, free-market capitalism or Soviet-bloc communism?

How do we reconcile capitalism’s enormous success in raising standards of living (with particular focus on absolute poverty) across the world, with what is now massive, disproportionate wealth consolidation at the top of the economic food chain? Is ‘less poverty’ a good enough result for people …living in slightly less poverty? (Read the rest.)