Progressives like to remind us there’s more to life than dollars and cents — that people do not simply crave ever more consumption but instead want lives filled with meaning, dignity, beauty and love. In this matter, progressives are right (though wrong to presume free-market advocates do not also understand this). But progressives’ tune changes when government doles out the dollars and cents. They seem genuinely unable to grasp why many poor and working-class people do not value government handouts above all else.
Coming from a working-class family that was never fond of big government, perhaps I can help my progressive friends to better understand such voters.
First, many understand that accepting government handouts conflicts with the pursuit of dignity in making one’s own way in life — in overcoming hardship, not being an object of charity. I proudly recall my parents refusing to apply for food stamps when my pipefitter father was laid off. Being on the dole would have drained them of their dignity. They overcame hardship without handouts.
Self-reliance was more important to them than profiting materially from government.
Second, many ideologically oppose certain government programs. You might disagree with some voters’ opposition to, say, programs to reduce domestic violence or retrain workers. But surely voters who stick to their principles are admirable even when — indeed, especially when — doing so runs counter to their narrow material interests.
There are plenty of good reasons to object to Trump’s policies, but the fact that some [of these policies] reduce government funding to Trump supporters is not among them.