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Blue Collar Republicans by Grace McCaffrey

by devnym

There’s a ballot in front of you. On it, there are several names, with neat little boxes next to each. Your duty as an active member of American society is to proudly check the box next to the name that you think is the right choice for yourself and for the future of this country, the choice that will ensure liberty and justice for all while simultaneously solidifying your own values and allowing you to make an imprint upon society. The only trouble is, you have no idea what the fuck you’re voting for.

Ideally, you want to vote for the party that supports the issues you feel the most strongly about. You want to vote for the candidate that will do good things, things that will benefit you, your family, your community. Don’t you? So, of course, being logical and levelheaded, you understand that one person alone isn’t going to make all your wildest dreams of American fortitude come true. You decide to vote for the party that is the lesser of two evils.  You weigh the pro’s and con’s based on how a new politician or an entire political party will hopefully affect your life in the future.

But what about the people who aren’t quite as grounded in logic as this profile description? What about the people who surrender their beliefs to institutions of policy and politics merely because it is ingrained in their psyche that it’s what they are supposed to do? More specifically, what about the guy with blue collar circumstances, but a white collar political mindset? Blue Collar Republicans are an elusive and mysterious group of people indeed. The term itself is somewhat of an oxymoron. It’s tough to decipher exactly what motivates a decision making process that is not backed wholly by logic, but from what I see, it is a unique combination of nationalism, false superiority, tradition, and fear. And possibly, as author George Lakoff suggests in The Political Mind, genetics, my friends.

Nationalism is an interesting thing in this day and age. It might not sound so bad; after all, it is essentially a good thing to carry loyalty for one’s country. But what happens when patriotism is taken to a level above and beyond what is good or healthy or even makes sense anymore? The freedom and loyalty that Blue Collar Republicans often think they possess looks to me like a gross reflection of their ironic binds to society – not freedom at all. So afraid of socialism infringing upon American society, they give up their own right to choose what’s best for them in order to remain “devoted” to their nation. Seems far from democratic to me.

I grew up surrounded by men in my family who clung to a severe case of patriotism. But why would people who grew up with next to nothing, who continue to suffer for the benefit of the wealthy people in this country, remain so shackled to national pride? Because it’s macho. It’s a tall man with good posture and a brief case. It’s a clean-shaven face. It’s white, it’s Christian, it’s strong, unshakable, superior. That’s what the image so often is. Not a scruffy-faced, loose-moral-ed, wavering hippie. Dear God, anything but that. Ah, such is the stereotypical and radically incorrect image of a left-minded person to the fearful, paranoid, Blue Collar Republican.

The way somebody decides what to believe in, whether it is politics, religion, or a favorite baseball team, should reflect comprehensive knowledge on the subject, as well as personal convictions. Unfortunately, this is not how beliefs are instituted. At all. Instead, if your parents are Christian, Republican, Yankee fans, you typically carry those beliefs forward for no particular reason at all, aside from tradition, bias, and probably nostalgia. This is relatively harmless when we’re talking about Major League Baseball. But significantly more harmful when we’re talking about politics. Blindly running with a set of beliefs that influence your life and the lives of others is not necessarily a safe run to take. Something tells me that people should be given all the facts before they attach themselves to any combination of political values. And the issue here is, Republican values are just so overwhelming. As someone who was raised by Republicans, I can tell you firsthand that there are no choices or opinions offered in the political upbringing process. There is no chance to make up your own mind, until of course you are much, much older. And from what I’ve seen of those raised in a conversely liberal environment, in terms of relaying politics on youth, instead, facts are laid on the table, opinions are tossed around, people talk, listen, participate, and are in turn able to make up their own minds. So very different in an ultra conservative household. Why? Because this method of instituting a no-choice, fear-fueled, my-way-or-the-highway attitude about politics is how the Republican Party stakes it’s claims. And it works.  In a family, and in a voting booth.

The fearful Blue Collar Republican wants to make sure his family is “safe” at all times, so he supports the overall wealth of the nation, which is so emphasized in the Republican Party. He also wants to protect himself and his loved ones from any and all impending threats to American freedom, thus supporting the rapid build up of U.S. military and other safety measures concerning foreign affairs. Bearing arms seems like one of these safety measures. Protecting the “sanctity” of marriage and maintaining restrictions on who can and can not have children seems like another. He also wants to stand for the pro-life statute and protect his morals. In this list of ideals, it could be construed that his thoughts are stemming from a place of self-interest. But this is not the case. They stem from a place of fear, mistrust, panic, and overall insecurity. Why else would the Blue Collar Republican want to vote so overtly against his personal well-being? Because he is more concerned with what he considers the well-being of the country? Sorry, I don’t buy it. The Republican Party feeds on the fears of society rather than demonstrating truths. Manipulation is at the podium, and conceit is the speaker. Knowing how to use people’s uncertainties as ammunition is a skill both incredible and frightening.  And paradoxically, this manipulation only fuels the arrogance and superiority of the conservative population. This is not to say that democrats don’t vote based on emotion as well. That would be a ridiculous and misleading assumption. As human beings, we are all heavily influenced by our emotions first and foremost, and our logic second. But it is important not to skip that second step.

What does this blue collar republican guy have going for him? What’s in his favor? Sure, the Republican Party historically aims for lower taxes. This doesn’t exactly happen. Is healthcare a Republican concern? Definitely not. Support of small businesses? Job security? Social security? Not quite. Meanwhile, these are the very topics that actually do affect blue collar life. Maybe, gasp, even more than gay marriage and the second amendment! Just maybe.

Why does a working class man want to back a political party that has put several of his peers out of work, has him graying at the temples over job security, and continues support of a war that has billions of American taxpayer dollars spilling rapidly out of sight? The answer is quite readily available in John McCain’s campaign slogan from 2008, “Country First.” Instead of a few words of encouragement or strength, this phrase reinforces ambiguity and paints a vague but decidedly patriotic haze of anxiety over the Party message. It is underhanded and sly and easy to cover or justify, or even glamorize. But not without a hidden agenda. Or maybe not so hidden, considering that putting your country first doesn’t seem like something that goes hand in hand with planning to appoint a first year governor whom you don’t even know as the Vice President of the nation. Where does the country fit into that equation? Sure as hell not “first.” Supplying America with this token level of patronization fueled by insecurity and mixed signals is clearly the pinnacle of Republican principles. And the blue collar conservative public laps it up for the sake of a group of reasons that are intangible and dreamy. Or wait, I guess some of the reasons are tangible. Like that entirely legal loaded pistol on the top shelf.  Now that’s concrete.

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