Does the Working-Class Vote Against Its Own Interests?
Part of the media campaign surrounding the mid-term election results in the US has been a revisiting of the theme of the supposed “conservatism” of the working class in the US. According to many bourgeois analysts of the left, the Republican victories in the Mid-Term elections were largely the result of white working class voters deserting the Democrats in droves and voting for Republicans and the Tea Party. According to this meme, the Democrats suffered their most devastating losses in the old industrial Rust Belt of the Upper Mid-West. These traditionally Democratic areas, where union density has traditionally been high, have been an increasingly difficult electoral constituency to predict. Republican George W. Bush’s two election victories were made possible in large part by his ability to win Ohio’s electoral votes; a state with a large concentration of industrial workers, many of whom are union members. According to the dominant narrative on the bourgeois left, the working class is suffering from a profound case of “false consciousness” in which it votes for politicians who act against its economic interests. The conclusion is that the industrial working class cannot be trusted to act in a socially responsible manner. It is open to manipulation by right-wing demagogues. For the bourgeois left, the working class is potentially very politically dangerous.
This argument is not particularly new and has its roots in the New Left of the 1960s and 70s, when many politically radicalized students grew frustrated with the working-class’ supposed quietism and decided to take matters into their own hand in a series of “exemplary actions.” Today, this theme has been expressed primarily by the left of the Democratic Party who have trouble accepting the purported reality that many working-class people vote Republican instead of Democratic, just as the Republican Party has turned hard to the right and advocates many openly anti-working-class policies, such as abolishing unemployment benefits, privatizing Social Security, busting the unions and redistributing income upwards through tax cuts to the rich.