I saw an interview a while back in which the speaker said, “There’s not much difference between poor Blacks and poor whites. It’s just that poor whites have been convinced to vote against their own best interests.”
I don’t remember the speaker or where I saw it; I would give them credit if I could. But that quote encapsulates one of the great mysteries of American politics.
Namely, why do so many people vote against policies that would help them? Why do so many struggling people vote for the party that opposes a higher minimum wage and access to health care and increased education spending and investments in infrastructure and a robust social safety net?
Explaining why people vote how they do is a complex task with no simple answers. But the questions above are at the core of “The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone.”
The book, published this year, was written by Heather McGhee, and it provides a damning item-by-item inventory of how systemic racism has held back this nation over the past several decades. But there is more to it. The gist, if it is possible to summarize a 300-page book in one sentence, is that many white Americans vote against their own self-interest because policies that might help them would also help minorities.