Few have spent more time around conservative rich people than I have over the past fifteen years — so I speak from a level of experience that matches up well with almost anyone’s. A famous “quote-counterquote legend” comes to mind when I venture to tell a little of what I’ve learned.
“Quote investigator” Robert Deis has a post about the mythical exchange between American novelists F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway that went like this:
Usually, Fitzgerald is quoted as saying: “The rich are different from you and me.”
And, Hemingway is quoted as responding: “Yes, they have more money.”
So as to not get too far afield you can read the truth about what really happened at quote-counterquote.com.
Both in the myth version and the actual version F. Scott Fitzgerald had it right. Rich people are different from the un-rich. One case in point: many of the un-rich I know often think about what they would do with their money if they had a lot of it: who they would help, and what causes they would support.
Sure, rich people think those thoughts and then follow through on them. But they also think about donating large sums to bloated universities so their names can appear on a building. I’ve never met a poor or middle class conservative person dreaming of having a building on a liberal college campus named after them. And if they did, they wouldn’t admit it. Rich people I know are proud and actually brag about it. That’s one of the most dramatic illustrations of how the rich are different from me and you.
The reason this fits into this series about outreach to the uninformed is because I can easily cite examples of large dollar donations by conservatives to wasteful universities run by radical liberals. The money is given just for the goose bumps the donor gets seeing his name on a plaque. Yet sit for hours with that rich person and try to explain how for a fraction of that cost they could fund ventures that would save the state of Illinois, and you’ve got a big job on your hand.
Give me a room full of poor or middle class people anytime. Their minds are clearer. They’re not seeking to be made to feel better about themselves. They don’t seek the pleasure of positive endorphins that are experienced when someone comes to meet with them cap-in-hand to try and get money the good guys need to win the information war that is raging all around us.
The poor and middle class folks I know would be a lot more focused on the quality of the project being proposed. You see, the rich are doing just fine. Whether we win or lose on election day or whether we’ll ever see the kind of policy reform that’s necessary is of little matter to the rich.
Sure, many millionaires or billionaires won’t be able to add more millions or billions to their net worth during a down economy. But at the end of the day, unlike the poor and middle class, the lifestyle of the rich isn’t going to be altered much. They are insulated from the consequences of failure. That insulation very often clouds their judgment. Take my word for it. I’ve seen it in person countless times with many conservative or libertarian rich people, and if I named names you’d know them.
Do you think our side is losing the information war because we don’t have the resources necessary to turn the tide? Let me tell you, as much as I tout the untapped potential of our side when it comes to talent and creativity, there are also plenty of untapped funds on the political right. And much of the money that is being spent isn’t being spent effectively, and “our” rich guys haven’t figured that out yet.
Up next: The learning curve of the rich.
(First published October 2013)