It’s Never The Economy, Stupid

That’s the title of a fine column from John Agresto that appeared in the Washington Examiner on Wednesday, making a more succinct case for the same point I’ve tried to make in my two previous posts on why Republicans are losing the tax debate, here and here.  While I focused on the lack of an argument about justice for fairness, Agresto takes dead aim at the view that might be called the Fallacy of Economic Man, that is, that economic interest drives voting choice above all other factors:

If people vote their economic interests, why did so many of the most well-off spend large parts of their fortunes to elect a person so contrary to their interests? For that matter, how did FDR get re-elected in 1936 after presiding over the deepening of the Great Depression? And why did Bill Clinton, for whose campaign James Carville coined the “economy stupid” phrase in 1992, garner only 43 percent of the vote that year?

Could it be that Americans have higher aims when they vote than simply worries about their own personal financial condition?

Other than a Republican Party that seems to live by slogans (in this case, a Democratic slogan), few people still give credence to the centrality of economics in politics. There are old-fashioned Marxists, who have always preached that material interests rule history, and then hard-core free marketers, who still believe that rational economic self-interest shapes human motivation. But most Americans have deeper passions, greater desires and higher goals.

You ought, as the saying goes, read the whole thing.  But if you’re pressed for time, just take in Agresto’s fine closer:

Election 2012 was a grand opportunity. Instead, with a borrowed Democratic slogan, Republicans simply gave the last laugh to the ever-wily James Carville.