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    March 31, 2008

    Those people in Kansas and me

    Posted by: Andoni

    Dorothy I went to my accountant today to discuss my taxes and while driving home I couldn’t stop thinking about people in Kansas. You know, those people in the book, "What's the Matter with Kansas" by Thomas Frank. This is the book that asks the question why the majority of people in Kansas continue to vote Republican when it is not in their economic interest to do so.

    Republicans do not have a track record of protecting jobs for the middle class, expanding health care, or benefiting the typical worker economically. Yet middle class and working class Kansans don’t seem to care and keep voting GOP. Kansans seem moved more by Republican positions on social issues like gay marriage and abortion than their own economic interests. Why can’t these people see the light?

    Then, while driving home I realized that I’m a Kansan, too. No, I don’t vote Republican for their social values, I vote Democratic for theirs. But voting Democratic for me also puts me in the same category of those Kansans we love to criticize. It goes against my economic self interest.

    Let me explain. I’m retired and my entire income comes solely from capital gains. Thanks to George W. Bush’s tax cuts a few years ago, for the third year in a row, my final total federal tax rate is 15% -- lower than Warren Buffet’s. The Democrats want to end this tax give away for the wealthy. McCain and the Republicans want to renew it. My economic interest would be to vote Republican to continue saving all this money in capital gains taxes -- a very, very sweet deal.

    However, social issues like gay rights are what more important to me than my own economic interests. As a result, I’ll be just like those Kansans I used to like to criticize so much. I'll vote my “values” instead of my economic interest. Count me as irrational as those Kansans. This demonstrates to me that as much as I would like to think otherwise, values can trump economics and make people act "irrationally."

    The question for this November is, will a severe recession cause enough Republican "values voters" to switch into economic voters; that is, to suddenly become rational?



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    1. Double T on Apr 1, 2008 2:23:43 PM:

      I confess, I have not read "What's the Matter with Kansas" by Thomas Frank.

      For me, how people vote is based on the same principles of why people buy. If you’ve ever taken a marketing class, a lot of time and money has been spent arguing over what causes people to spend their money. Most studies have concluded it’s based on how it makes you “FEEL”.

      When Bill Clinton said, “I feel your pain” or “I feel…”. Many Republicans rolled their collective eyes and then screamed “He’s lying”. Wrong. Bill did understand the voters, he understood what made them tick.

      And now some will argue that he then took that knowledge and abused it. Perhaps.

      To me this is a no-brainer. We Americans are not starving. We are not living in a war zone. If you look at Maslow’s Hierarchy our physiological needs are taken care of, for the most part. And for those whose physiological needs are not met, are these people marching to the polling place?

      So why wouldn’t voters lift the eyes to pursue these “lofty” goal.

    1. Tim on Apr 1, 2008 3:56:30 PM:

      You should vote your wallet, in the end personal security trumps group identity.

    1. Strict Scrutiny on Apr 2, 2008 1:17:33 AM:


      I don't know that I'd lump you with the Kansans; there is a difference between you and them. You, Andoni, receive a tangible benefit from voting either Republican (substantial economic benefit) or Democrat (civil rights benefit). You have considered the benefits offered by both parties and have made a deliberate decision to vote Democratic because gay rights/civil rights are more important to you than economics. Fair enough.

      The Kansans are voting Republican, but are not receiving any economic benefit or other trade-off benefit the way you are. Kansas is a largely rural state whose economy is based primarily on agriculture. There is not a lot of wealth in that state. So, the Kansans are not reaping the benefits of the Bush tax cuts the way you are. Also, Republicans are the ones who have traditionally been more hostile to farm subsidies and workers/unions than Democrats.

      So what cool benefit do the Kansans gain by voting Republican? None that I can see. To the extent Kansans vote overwhelmingly for social conservatives because of some anti-gay religious sentiment, that is lamentable because the advancement of GLBT civil rights does not harm or even affect anyone... except possibly the Kansans who are not voting their economic interests.

    1. Theropod on Apr 2, 2008 11:50:13 AM:

      Ultimately, we ALL "vote by our values". All we have to decide is what we value most.

    1. Brian Miller on Apr 3, 2008 10:49:01 AM:

      The problem endemic in both Frank's book, and the left-wing thinking behind it, is that voters are all too stupid to know their "real" priorities -- and liberals in California and New York understand the issues in Kansas better than the people in Kansas.

      While those liberals may indeed have a unique outlook, their impulse towards centralized management and government control of people's economic lives is ultimately more repugnant to the average Kansan than the GOP's push for government control of people's personal lives.

      Why not try an approach where our lives are our own to live, without the tug of war between Republicans and Democrats as to whether government runs our personal or economic lives?

    1. Double T on Apr 3, 2008 12:46:47 PM:

      Gee, B.Miller its a two party system. Of course it's a tug of war. But voters always have option #3 None of the Above.

      Which given voter turn out in most election, #3 is alive and well.

    1. Amicus on Apr 6, 2008 6:16:26 PM:

      It's all part of a broader inquiry as to why "the poor" simply do not expropriate "the rich".

      Still, one could look at it as a matter of balance.

      The dizzy embrace of low taxes has not been as beneficial to the wealthy and the super-wealthy as were such things as the long-term nature of Rubinomics, for instance.

      What's more, that 15% rate is an illusion. It's a quick-bang that Bush gave, that will have to be repaid, with interest (and perhaps with penalty), sometime down the road, most likely.

    1. Angus on Apr 9, 2008 10:56:03 AM:

      As a gay Democrat living in Kansas (and also benefiting from the 15% capital gains tax rate) I strongly object to Strict Scruntiny's comment. He obviously does not live in Kansas and has no idea of the political environment here.

    1. Andoni on Apr 9, 2008 12:01:49 PM:

      On "Hardball" last night, the experts said that voters seldom vote their economic interest, but rather their "social issues." They said that 1932 was a big "vote your economic interest" and 1992, sort of was, but that it doesn't happen too often.

      So how bad does the economy have to be for those Republicans to start voting Democrat based on their economic interests. I think we are going to find out.

    1. Strict Scrutiny on Apr 9, 2008 1:22:12 PM:


      As a gay Democrat living in Kansas (and also benefiting from the 15% capital gains tax rate) I strongly object to Strict Scruntiny's comment.

      That's cool. What's your objection?

      He obviously does not live in Kansas and has no idea of the political environment here.

      You are correct...I do not live in Kansas. However, my father is from Kansas and I have family in Riley, Leonardville, Manhattan, Topeka, Clay Center, and Junction City. I talk with these people quite a bit, so, I am not as uninformed as you might think.

      I was just commenting Andoni's post. He makes the point that Republicans do not have a history of protecting middle class jobs, being pro-labor, expanding health care etc. I agree with him. So what's the draw? Why do people in Kansas vote Republican? Whatever the reason, I don't think it has to do with economics.

    1. Angus on Apr 9, 2008 5:49:16 PM:


      Yes, it does have to do with economics. The history of moderate Kansas republicans - as described in "What's the Matter With Kansas?" has deep economic roots (low taxes, minimal government involvement, except in education), stretches back to the founding of the state. The conservative wing of the party was not that powerful (politically) until 1994. Luckily, the moderate and conservative wings of the republican party is pulling the party apart, something that Democrats really love.

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