THEIR own self-interest? Or ours?

… their own self-interest …
This phrase has bugged me for a couple of years now – I often hear people (both pundits and activists, both those I agree with and those I disagree with) comment that “they” – usually a group of people that does not include the commenter – “they voted against their own self-interest.”
I think that’s always false.
I think people always operate in their own self-interest. Always.
And I think we rarely know what someone else sees as their own self-interest. Instead, we impose on them what we believe they should be interested
And we’re always wrong … because we aren’t them.
We assume that they should be trying to cut their taxes because we want to cut our taxes. But perhaps they don’t value tax savings as much as they value good roads, good schools, and lifting people out of poverty.
We assume that they should be protecting their markets. But perhaps they don’t value their markets as much as they value their white privilege, as much as they hate or fear people of color.
Their own self-interest” is something we impose on them, not in their self-interest but in our own.

Photo credit: The Independent [photo]