A Feature, Not A Bug


Steve King’s lately been telling the world what he really thinks (and though a different Steve — Scalise — hasn’t, his prior record was no impediment to being selected Majority Whip). I’ve wondered whether this could be a broader trend in right wing, um, for lack of a better term, thinking — a degree of economic stability allowed otherwise anxious wingers the luxury of letting their inner racist freak flag fly. Zack Beauchamp (via Paul Krugman) explains:

…a lot of data suggests that countries with more robust welfare states tend to have stronger far-right movements. Providing white voters with higher levels of economic security does not tamp down their anxieties about race and immigration — or, more precisely, it doesn’t do it powerfully enough. For some, it frees them to worry less about what it’s in their wallet and more about who may be moving into their neighborhoods or competing with them for jobs.

The United States is marked by far more racial division than its European peers. Poverty, in the minds of many white Americans, is associated with blackness. Redistribution is seen through a racial lens as a result. The debate over welfare and taxes isn’t just about money, for these voters, but rather whether white money should be spent on nonwhites. “Hostility between races limits support for welfare,” Alesina, Glaeser, and Sacerdote conclude flatly in the paper.

This isn’t to argue that progressive ideas should be abandoned. But it does suggest trying to appeal to certain blocs of voters might be less of an option than…getting our voters out. And let’s continue to remember we outvoted them. Which offers some hope.