Sunday, November 04, 2012

Millennium-- Why Do Some Normal People Vote For Republicans?


Last year the easternmost hill in Los Feliz that borders Griffith Park was like a flowerbed of Obama signs. Almost every house was festooned with one. The creator of the iconic Obama "Hope" image, Shepard Fairey, is one of the residents. Less so this year, however. Again, there's just one lonely Republican on the high end hill overlooking the biggest metropolitan park in the country-- or at least only one that displays. It's an old bungalow from the 20's and the people living in it aren't actors or directors or screen writers, lawyers or professionals. They're old and ratty and pissed off... like their house, their house with the ratty old Romney sign awkwardly stapled to the door. Many of the mansions all around it have Obama signs, not as many as 2008, but plenty. Why are so many elderly poor white working class people backing Romney? It doesn't make any sense. Is it just the racism? Or the homophobia or the xenophobia? This is a bad neighborhood for anyone tied to any of that stuff.

I've been thinking about it a lot in the run-up to the election and I think I stumbled upon the answer today... in an odd place: a book by an English historian I discovered on Twitter. It's Tom Holland's Millenium: The End of the World and The Forging of Christendom and the picture he paints of life in the 900s is brutish and unsavory. The poor, particularly, "knew the darkness which might lurk within the human soul. Better order, then, most appear to have reckoned, any order, even the harshest, than the lack of it. And so it was, in counties ruled by iron-willed princes, where the new laws, though brutal, could nevertheless be regarded as legitimate, and despite all the suffering and the misery and the restlessness which accompanied their introduction, that the poor did not revolt." Nope they went along with the Mitt Romneys, Paul Ryans, Sheldon Adelsons and Koch brothers of the day. And those laws of which Tom Holland is speaking-- laws that turned free men into serfs in France-- reshaped the country. He explains the word "pauperes."
This word, which in ancient times had been used to describe the poor, had gradually, by the tenth century, come to possess a somewhat different meaning: "the powerless." ...They were "lazy, misshapen and ugly" in every way... men who were presumed to eat, and sweat, and rut like beasts... The peasantry toiled in the fields; their betters skimmed off the surplus. It was a simple enough formula, and yet upon it depended the dominance of even the greatest lord.

...Inexorably, the easier it became for a lord to enforce restrictions, and to privatize what had once been common land, the faster it occurred. The poor man out with his bow and arrow in the woods, tracking some game for his cooking pot, just as his forefathers had always done, suddenly found himself branded a poacher, a criminal. Those who wanted food would now have to work for it in the fields the whole year round.

...No less than princes, peasants lived in dread of anarchy. They might find the iron demands of an unjust law fearsome, yet there was one thing that they tended to fear even more: a world in which no laws existed. For then the weak would find themselves the prey of the strong indeed... [T]orture... robberies too and rapes and kidnappings: all were deployed with brutal gusto by the squads determined to trample underfoot every last vestige of independence in the countryside, and to reduce even the most prosperous of peasants to servitude.
The 900s were brutal. And it wasn't until July 14, 1789 that the French finally stormed the Bastille and not until January 21, 1793 that Louis XVI had his head separated from his body. I guess the Koch brothers figure the odds are in their favor. Jump ahead a few years and we found in 2008 President Obama beat McCain in Pennsylvania 3,276,363 (55%) to 2,655,855 (44%). That's big. But of the 11 southwest, traditionally Democratic working class white counties, Obama won one-- Allegheny... and that one has Pittsburgh and sizable African-American and progressive constituencies. He lost Somerset (37%), Fayette (49%), Greene (49%), Washington (47%), Westmoreland (41%), Beaver (48%), Butler (36%), Armstrong (37%), Lawrence (47%), and Indiana (46%). Four years earlier Kerry had won not just Allegheny County but also Fayette, Washington, and Beaver counties. White, working class voters were doing the exact wrong thing for themselves and their families.

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At 12:34 PM, Anonymous Jan Rogozinski said...

When was Holland's book published? It's totally wrong. It's wrong about the half of France I know best, the region between the Loire and the Pyrennes, the Atlantic and the Rhone. In that region, serfdom never existed. In Aquitaine, the Roman Empire never "fell,"so they still used Roman law and had slavery. But slavery gradually disappeared and was all gone by 1050. The same is true of Italy.
In Northern France, the period after 1000 witnessed the growth not the weakening of freedom, with rulers granting independence to cities (the "communes"), towns, and burgs (English borough).

Either Holland wrote before 1850 or he isn't an historian. It would be impossible to find a serious social historian who does not agre that slavery and serfdom disappeared rather than increased.

See my website:
It's always a mistake to rely on one book for info on a subject one does not know about. I would never, for example, think of saying anything to criticize the Princeton Electoral Site after reading one book on statisics..

At 1:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not if it's the Bible Jan. It's all many need to know. I do not consider this comforting. I hope it's a tiny few.


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