Why the lower middle class hates the poor and votes against its own interests

Typical Shotgun House in South
Typical Shotgun House in South

Why the 1% demonizes the poor is no mystery. It’s not even that they hate them; they don’t care enough about them to hate them. They just use them to deflect attention away from their pocket-picking.

The real mystery is why do lower middle class folks, especially RedState folks, who skate on the ragged edge of poverty, hate the poor? Why would those in dire economic straits have no compassion on those who are even worse off? And keep voting in the pickpockets? There is no rational explanation, but there is a strong unconscious emotion fueling the hatred.

Now, hating weak people is immoral on the face of it and against everything Jesus ever said. They need a moral justification. No problem, the right-wing think tanks have thunk one up for them: Taxes are theft and the bad old gubmint steals from you to give to lazy moochers. You are being robbed! That’s immoral. The poor are lazy! That’s immoral. An immoral double-whammy.

O.K. (flawed) moral justification firmly in place, they now have permission to hate the weakest members of society. But what is the fuel for this fire? Fear. Terror. They are terrified of becoming those poor people, they hate the idea, naturally enough, and they project that hatred onto the poor themselves. A symbolic enemy. We are NOT them, we will never will be them, we hate them.

I noticed after the Crash in which I lost my job, which had been quite responsible and well-paid, that people avoided me as if I had jobless cooties. Former acquaintances were uncomfortable around me. They had this idea that God rewarded good people with prosperity and if I was poor, I must have sinned. If I was good and became poor anyway it upset everything that made them feel safe.

In Germany as the Nazis rose, economic times were very bad. In hard times, according to Wilhelm Reich, the lower middle classes always take a hard right turn. He wrote this in the 1930s; apparently this is a repeating pattern. They voted for Hitler.

Three things can combat this nasty situation.

  1. Fight fear; they know fear is a negative emotion and that the news pumps it out in a steady stream. They are very, very scared.
  2. Challenge the “moral” justification. It’s full of holes.
  3. Remind them what Jesus said. Most of them are at least nominal Christians. They already feel a tad uneasy about their hatred.

Do not attack them. Not only is it counter-productive, it just confirms them in their fear. They are people, too, terrified people.

“It is a principle of nature to hate those whom you have injured.”
― Tacitus

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