Poverty rots the soul. It is an extraordinarily tragic set of circumstances, and it barrels through you like a truck regardless of your socioeconomic status. Everything else, every single thing that has meaning in your life, can be rendered meaningless.
Just the other day, I caught Liam Neeson’s latest action-thriller, The Commuter, and while it is by no means the most thoughtful reflection on middle-class hardship and whirlwind destitution, there were kernels of truth that likely escaped more fortunate viewers. Indeed, while some might balk at Neeson’s decision to initially accept payment in exchange for what ultimately amounts to an assassination, those viewers straddling a very real and tragically omnipresent line between stability and poverty will recognize his decision for what it is: the only option available.
Difficult as that might be to believe, it dovetails enormously well into an oft-misunderstood portion of the electorate and their ostensibly misguided rejection of socialism and utopian ideals. How, their critics on the left argue, could those suffering so immensely in this economy not recognize progressive ideals for what they are, their only hope for escaping an unforgiving and inequitable set of economic circumstances in this county? The truth, though, is that while hordes of Democratic Socialists of America at elite private universities castigate those with legitimate economic anxieties for dismissing socialist ideals, that struggling portion of the electorate recognizes democratic socialism for what it truly is: a made-up term that will likely compound their misfortunes.
Economic anxiety that manifests itself in votes for the right are not irresponsible or misguided electoral priorities but, all things considered, the best way to collectively improve economic circumstances whereby the means to remove oneself from poverty are more readily available and accessible. To repeat, those straddling, below, or well-below the poverty line don’t support right-leaning economic measures for any reason other than they honestly believe them to be the most effective. Their rejection of a utopian agenda is not because they, as that Huffington Post story that went viral a while ago said, do not care about anyone other than themselves. It’s that they care enough to know that not every idealistic ticket from the left will work.
Sometimes (read: often) it can make the state of things worse. And that worse state, it would seem, is ever more popular than before. For instance, while The View is the television equivalent of lazy contrarians shouting nonsense back-and-forth in 280 characters, Meghan McCain is right to worry about the swelling popularity of quasi-socialist programs, and audience members at home are even more right to worry that the audience loudly applauded every egregiously incorrect statement that spilled out of Joy Behar’s mouth. Pushback is rooted in something the left unequivocally will not accept: genuine concern and regard for other people.
It is easier for them – it is easier for Joy Behar and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez – to believe that half of the electorate hates poor people than it is for them to believe that the patterns of history have driven those on the right to vote for what is conceivably the best option. History has shown repeatedly that socialism and its ilk does not work. It does not assuage inequality, produce jobs, or accelerate growth. Instead, socialism only seems good for earning yourself a stint on The Daily Show, being the subject of shallow op-eds on how you’re subverting American politics (though zeal for socialism is nothing new) and having millions of overzealous young adults looking to rock the vote in your favor come November (assuming they’re even registered).
I don’t know, then, how to make Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ben Jealous and candidates like them care. I don’t know, at this point, how to make them look beyond their own fragile egos and lust for the spotlight and really, truly and honestly, care. I don’t know how to make them shed their self-aggrandizing bologna and, perhaps for the first time, make them care about poor people.
* Chad Collins is a graduate teaching assistant at the University of Central Florida. He is in his second year studying communication.