If the Democratic Party is the party of the common man, the Republicans are the party of the wealthy upper class. That, of course, is the stereotype that has prevailed in American political discussion for well over a century, and with no small reason. Now, as a new century gapes before us, it may be a stereotype fated to vanish.
Last week in The Washington Post, reporter Thomas Edsall surveyed recent developments among white voters that suggest that income is no longer determining which party they support. What seems to determine voter support is something called "values." To put it bluntly, culture trumps economics as the determinant of mass political behavior.
"The transformation of voting patterns over the past three decades," writes Mr. Edsall, "has weakened the long-standing link between income and voting among whites. Racial issues such as busing and affirmative action have pushed blue-collar voters into the GOP, at the same time that cultural issues, especially abortion rights, have built Democratic allegiance among white professionals."
The result is that neither
party today reflects the bloc of economic interests
once associated with it.
The Republicans now enjoy the support of what
the story describes as "some of the nation`s
poorest white counties—especially in southern
border states," while the Democrats control
"some of the nation`s best educated and highest
Polls by the Institute for America`s Future
show that "whites without college degrees had
significantly more positive feelings toward the
Republican Party than toward the Democratic
The findings carry some major
political implications, if those who run at least
the Republican Party have the brains to see them.
For one thing, they imply that the conventional
political ideologies of the two parties are no
longer congruent with the composition of their
The whites who vote Republican
in "some of the nation`s poorest white
counties" aren`t likely to care very much about
tax cuts and abolishing the estate tax.
They`re more likely to care about busing,
affirmative action and crime, and a party that
carries those voters will be more likely to win
elections than one that carries the well-heeled
crowd, for the simple reason that there are more
poor folks than rich ones.
Nevertheless, the Republican
leadership persists in acting as though the only
voters who mattered are either high-rolling
country-clubbers or the non-whites to whom the GOP
leadership so assiduously panders.
Last week President Bush had a more or less
happy conclave with right-of-center black leaders. This week he had a not-so happy visit with left-of-center
He has yet to meet with any white Republicans
from "some of the nation`s poorest white
Mr. Edsall cites exit polls
from the last election that show that 52 percent of
whites with high-school diplomas think abortion
should be illegal and that they split evenly on gun
control. But whites with college and post-graduate degrees support
abortion by 63 percent and gun control by 66
percent. The latter category is starting to vote for the Democrats,
who tend to reflect their values but who also
continue to enjoy a lock on non-white voters and
white union members.
The results ought to be
welcomed by most conservatives, who have long
resisted the Marxist notion that class economic
interests determine human behavior and thinking, but
today`s Beltway Right are Economic Men who have
bought into the Marxist myth.
As a result, they`re going to find it hard to
swallow the truth that tax cuts and lower budgets
matter less as vote-getters than abortion,
control and racial
It`s by no means clear that Beltway
conservatives, much less the brainiacs who run the
Stupid Party, will be able to stand the truth when
it smacks them in the face.
But if Mr. Edsall`s data are
anywhere close to being reliable, the smacking will
come sooner or later. Conservative and Republican strategy right now is based on
the assumption that the low income white cultural
conservatives who form their party`s base have
nowhere else to go and will never leave.
Hence, the party can keep playing with
non-whites, catering to the well-heeled and Big
Business, and ignoring the interests and values of
the voters who really put Republicans in office.
But that may not always be the case. Economic Men should know that where there`s a demand, there`s likely to be a supply, and where there`s a constituency whose values are being ignored by the party it votes for, sooner or later someone else will start supplying a new party, new candidates and new leaders. If the Stupid Party thinks that day will never come, it may be even stupider than it looks.
COPYRIGHT 2001 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.
April 05, 2001