WHEREIN I GIVE FUEL TO TOM SCHALLER'S FIRE. I like Sasha Abramsky's review of Joe Bageant's new book, Deer Hunting With Jesus, except for one off-handed comment in the last paragraph. While praising Bageant's work, Abramsky writes, "No single book will ever be able to fully explain why so much of impoverished America so consistently votes against its own economic self-interest." This assumption is a powerful one in liberal circles. Call it the Thomas Frank Theory of Why People Don't Vote For Us.
Why would any working-class Southern white guy ever vote Republican? Well, maybe he really thinks an aggressive military is necessary. Perhaps "freedom isn't free" is more than an ironic statement for him. He might really believe criminals deserve punishments that only a Republican could dish out. Ditto on guns, abortion, affirmative action, etc. The point is, this has to be understood as being about more than the economic part of social class. Class is also cultural.
And different cultural values exist depending on one's privilege and cultural location. My old peers from east Tennessee are way more conservative on social and foreign policy questions than I am. They also still live there. While they may be distinctly working-class, many of them would laugh if you told them the Democratic party represents their self-interest. Class in economic terms alone doesn't determine voting. To a large degree, culture does. And when you consider the array of issues cultural preferences affect, this isn't as superficial as it sounds.