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Rustbelt Rural White Fundamentalists

November 30, 2016

Why do they do it??? Why do they vote against their own best interests? The answer: (they do, but) they don’t.

It is the stupid economy, stupid—certainly in the Rustbelt, where T swung the electoral college.  It’s about class consciousness (not in those words).  Somebody in the Dem Party forgot that.

But it’s also about God. 1 of every 4 voters was an evangelical (i.e. fundamentalist) Christian. They went 81 – 16: Trump. For 20% of the total electorate (I think that would be), God trumps (or rather, God Pences) economy.

Listen/watch again to this brilliant (truly) exchange between Kaine and Pence on the religious life, and the role of government, especially regarding abortion (which Pence introduces as the prime example). I’ll discuss it again, below, but just for starters: What RWF would vote for a Jesuit against a man who has gotten down on his knees and made his personal decision for Christ?

If, like the Puritans of MA Bay Colony (who also required a personal conversion experience), you believe that you are God’s chosen people, and that the purpose of all of life is to serve Him, to His greater glory, you vote His best interests, as He has revealed them to you, as you have been taught them by the authorities among you, following His Word: your preachers, your husbands and fathers, and your down-on-their-knees politicians. (And maybe you buy another gun, to protect yourself against the heathen and the ungodly government.)

So that’s the story. But I want to share some thoughts about why they persist in their self-delusion. I think it’s deeply relevant to the subject of the novel (psychopathologies, as you remember).

Take this terrific paragraph by Paul Waldman:

Had Hillary Clinton won the election, the white working class might have gotten some tangible benefits — a higher minimum wage, overtime pay, paid family and medical leave, more secure health insurance, and so on. Trump and the Republicans oppose all that. So what did the white working class actually get? They got the election itself. They got to give a big middle finger to the establishment, to the coastal elites, to immigrants, to feminists, to college students, to popular culture, to political correctness, to every person and impersonal force they see arrayed against them. And that was it.

But that’s not all they got. They got to be true to their god. They got to vote their faith and their belief system: One God, One Word, One Faith, One People.

Rural White (Christian) Fundamentalists are prime examples among Waldman’s WWC voters, as are RWFs who are middle class, like Mike Pence.

Mike Pence solemnly declared that he could not countenance abortion. That’s a deal breaker for him. And he knew full well that the question was a shibboleth for his tribe: either he states honestly that he leaves the lives of both the fetus and the mother where they always are, anyway—in the hands of Almighty God (who knew me before I was in the womb!)—or he’s out. It’s about keeping his political power, given him by his core constituents (Hoosier white fundamentalists). In that moment he kept the RWF vote for Trump, which was what he was put on the ticket to do.

It’s frustrating, because the point of politics is the exercise of power, and the point of democracy is to empower ordinary people to exercise political power, in accord with their own best interests, as they see them.

“As they see them” (with mostly unconscious sight) is what the neuro-scientist, George Lakoff, calls a “worldview,” and it determines how we vote. It’s a heavily reinforced, neural “mindset” that is hard to shake off—even if one wanted to, and one doesn’t.

Fundamentalism is a mindset, a worldview, and I consider it to be one of the psychopathologies of our democracy.

In this episode, about the RWF vote, I want to summarize Lakoff’s argument, summarize the understanding of the worldview of RWF voters by a person from that community (and myself), and tie those together.

On page (2) I’ll move inside the RWF community, with some first-hand observations from an essay in Raw Story, originally pub in Forsetti’s Justice.

[12-4:  Projecting this episode to include an inside view of white fundamentalism, Lakoff on thought patterns, JD Vance on hillbilly experience and culture, a similar but different experience, and reflections.]

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  1. RWF (2): Evangelicals | tomkoontz

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