Why do ordinary working people vote for parties of the right, against their economic interests?

by Elias Blum

  1. Part of the explanation is ‘just world assumption’. People like to assume they live in a just world. So bankers ‘deserve’ their bonuses and the poor ‘deserve’ their poverty. People who try to challenge that go against this grain and are seen as trying to reward the undeserving.
  2. The rich and powerful control the media and the narratives, so they can reinforce those assumptions.
  3. People live in small, immediate worlds. They compare themselves with the unemployed family down the street and ask ‘why should they get hundreds of pounds of my tax money’ but never compare themselves to the directors of a privatised service (who live a different life that they never see) and ask ‘why should they get millions of pounds of tax money?’
  4. It reinforces their own sense of superiority. This works two ways. Firstly, ‘I make a few grand a year more than that bloke – I’m doing ok, and so the system must be basically ok, because I’m better than that bloke.’ Secondly, siding with the rich and powerful makes one feel a little bit richer and more powerful by association.
  5. People like to think of themselves as future winners. Why bother with a humane welfare system for those who fall on hard times? I’m smart. I’ll be ok.
  6. People don’t want to think of themselves as beneficiaries of public spending. A lot of public spending goes on health, education, roads etc, but these are received in kind and therefore less visible than cash payments. People see cash spending as going on someone else (the poor), not them or people like them (ordinary working people).
  7. British nationalism is traditional, monarchical, hierarchical and backward looking. There’s really no popluar, democratic, republican nationalism that can mobilize people to pursue progressive policies on the basis of identity (compare with Scottish nationalism or French nationalism, which are both tied to radical traditions).
  8. The left is demonised and portrayed in ‘straw man’ terms. Want a bit of European twentieth-century style social democracy like 1970s Sweden? Or a new New Deal like FDR? Then you are practically Lenin! Want to raise the minimum wage, publicly fund university tuition and not invade Syria? You are basically a Maoist. Jeremy Corbyn, who is a most a social democrat, has been openly accused of Stalinism.
  9. It’s easier to kick downwards than kick upwards.Kicking down makes people, who are secretly conscious of how small they are, feel big. It’s easier to hate a refugee or a homeless person, than to take a stand against the fact that you work to enrich a tax-evading corporation in the Cayman Islands that doesn’t give a damn about you.
  10. Lefties smell, have scraggly beards and no dress sense. They need a shave, a wash and a proper job.Or they have cloth caps and whippets. This is nonsense of course, but it is a powerful stereotype that makes people want to not be associated with lefties.
  11. The left gets tied up in gender identity issues, political correctness, and matters that seem very important to bourgeois liberals but not directly relevant to the bread and butter concerns of working people. The right, in contrast, is able to position itself as the bearer of ‘common sense’ and as being ‘in tune with ordinary people’.
  12. Our society assumes Hobbes is correct and cannot understand Aristotle. Hobbes’ ideas are at the core of the ideological system known as neo-liberalism. Attacking neo-liberalism seems to go against what we have for the last four hundred years (but not for two millennia before that) believed to be immutable human nature.
  13. Low-information, low-consideration voting, because ‘politics is boring’ when compared to, say, ‘Cash in the attic’ or ‘X-factor’.
  14. Inherited voting patterns, especially amongst older voters who grew up in the two-party system where one was, pretty-much, either a coal miner or a Conservative.
  15. Sectarianism and the ‘Orange vote’.
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