Charlie Bertsch (cbertsch) wrote,
Charlie Bertsch
cbertsch

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"Montesquieu, Where Are You?"

Like most progressives, I despair at working-class Americans' willingness to vote against their own best interests. My term of the month for this behavior is "dumb," not dumb by nature but dumb by conditioning. When I read stories like this one, however, I wonder whether even that adjective is insufficient. It's one thing to vote against your own best interest because you do not realize that you are doing so. But when you vote that way despite openly acknowledging that you are doing so, what does that make you?:
Since Kevin Patesel lost his job in June, he and his wife, Lisa, a waitress, have been struggling to raise three kids on her salary of less than $400 a week, joining thousands of other families barely able to make ends meet in this crumbling city.

More than 3,700 people have found themselves out of work in the city of 89,000 since 2001 as the town's major factories have shut down, sent jobs abroad or trimmed their staff, according to city employment records. And available jobs continue to dwindle. The unemployment rate grew from 9.3 percent in July to 10.1 percent in August. The median family income is $28,000. One in five residents lives below the poverty line.

All of this suggests better chances for victory in this battleground region for Sen. John Kerry, the Democratic presidential candidate who says President Bush's economic policies have cost the country 1 million jobs.

But come Nov. 2, the Patesels, like many Canton residents, say they will vote their values, not their wallet. Here that often means conservative family values, such as religion and conventional marriage.

"What (Kerry) is trying to do for the United States is correct. He is concerned about people, about their well-being," said Patesel, 46, who lost his supervisory job at a company that constructs upscale homes after the region's economic decline all but obliterated demand for expensive housing.

"I know Bush has done things that aren't perfect," Patesel said. "But Bush said that he's accepted Jesus Christ as his savior. I believe that the way he tries to take the United States is more toward God."
Maybe we need to reconceive the role of agency in ideological conditioning. Kevin Patesel is no passive bystander to the process of being dumbed down. He's in training. And every time he heads to the ideology gym, he participates actively in the deferral of his dreams to the afterlife. The frightening part is that it all seems perfectly fine to him.
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