Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Rational self-interest?

So, I've been reading "What's the Matter with Kansas" by Tom Frank. I should have read it 9 months ago, but I've been distracted. I'm not terribly far into the book, but the thesis is pretty easy to distill:

Kansas is the state which best represents the changing winds of American politics. In recent years, Kansas has become overwhelmingly Republican. This has occurred as overwhelmingly poor to middle-class white counties and towns switch their political allegience from the Democratic party. These voters make this switch despite the fact that the economic policies espoused by Republicans have decimated their local economies and deprived them of the various social protections (i.e. affordable healthcare) that they have had in previous years. This seems irrational only until you realize that they are motivated almost entirely by their social conservatism and hatred of all things gay, elitist, east-coast, snobby, ad infinitum.

So far, this seems about right to me, atleast at first glance. I rail regularly on this blog (or used to when I posted regularly) against Americans who buy gas-guzzling cars and then whimper like beaten dogs about the high price of gasoline. Any half-wit who reads the newspaper knows, of course, that gas supplies are going to be more scarce in the future and will drive prices up. The fact that this has occurred in recent weeks due to hurrican impacts merely represents an acceleratoing of that that schedule. Either way, some suburban fucktard driving a Hummer is going to get dinked (and I'm going to laugh at his fat, ignorant ass). And that, of course, is why Tom Frank's thesis initially makes sense. If you're too fucking stupid to recognize the long-term financial impacts of your driving choices, how the fuck are you going to look beyond inflammatory social and plumb the economic impacts of voting Republican?

As it turns out, though, that Tom Frank's analysis may not be sufficiently precise and my sweeping generalizations may actually reflect voting changes in Kansas better than one might think. What do I mean by that?

A professor from Princeton has recently released a paper titled, What's the Mater with What's the Matter with Kansas. In it, he takes 50 years of National Election Survey data and tries to tease out voting trends in Kansas. I haven't yet read the whole thing, but the executive summary pretty much lays it out. Lower-income whites are not voting Republican at any greater rate now than they have in the past in Kansas. The people in Kansas who are voting Republican are the middle- and upper-classes. Thus, Joe Six-pack is likely to vote much like he did in 1950. It's Johnny McMansion who is more likely to vote Republican. And who is Johnny McMansion? That same fucktard in the Hummer with the "I Support Pres. Bush and Our Troops" stickers on his car bitching about the price of gas.

Hah! Anyway, once I finish the paper and the book, I might have something more intelligent to say.