In an interview with The Browser, political scientist Andrew Gelman discusses his five favorite books about American politics, and also shares some wisdom about the electorate, covering topics from how low-income Americans tend to vote:
How many of the poor did vote for the Democrats, say, in the last election?
Of the lowest third of the population about 60% voted for the Democrats.
What if you narrow it down to blue-collar workers though? Don’t the majority of them vote conservative?
Then you have to ask, what does that exactly mean? Someone could make $100,000 a year and be blue collar. Conversely, if you’re a woman cleaning bedpans and making very little money, you’re not blue collar. Cleaning bedpans is not considered blue-collar work. There is the way that, firstly, blue collar conveys some sort of moral superiority, and secondly that it just happens to exclude a lot of the female workforce, who are more likely to be Democrats. If you take only blue collar – which is mostly male – and don’t even restrict for income and then you go beyond that to only include whites, you’re chipping away at various groups that support the Democrats, without noticing what’s happening. It sounds very innocuous to talk about blue-collar whites, but you’re selecting a subgroup among this social class which is particularly conservative, and then making some claims about them.
As well as why America can't reform its healthcare system:
So here is one of the broader questions I wanted to put to you: Why is America so right wing? Take healthcare, which you just mentioned. Every other developed country in the world has universal healthcare. For wealthy countries, the idea that the government should either provide it or make sure it’s provided is completely uncontroversial. Why is the US different?
It’s hard to get from point A to point B. It would probably be hard to find many people who would argue that the American healthcare system is better than the French healthcare system, or even the Taiwanese healthcare system. What’s not obvious is how to get there. There are so many interests involved, so much money, so many companies. If they could somehow switch out the US system and switch in this other system – like they have in Taiwan or France – I think that would be wonderful. But it doesn’t seem that that’s considered an option. There are too many people who are doing fine from the current system. The argument made by the opponents of healthcare reform is that it would just be worse if you tried to get to that point from what we already have – we’d have the worst of both worlds. I don’t know if that’s true, but that’s my answer.