Businessmen and Independents Increasingly Supporting Democrats Over Republicans

I’ve had several recent posts on the movement of new voters to the Democratic Party, often noting that social issues and one’s view on the war have replaced economics as the major points differentiating liberals from conservatives. As a consequence, Democrats are picking up support from new sources, such as from the affluent suburbs and groups such as the “Starbucks Republicans” and “South Park Republicans” which disagree with the Republicans on social issues and the war but are more economically moderate than traditional Democrats. The Wall Street Journal has an article today on another group which is increasingly supporting the Democrats and The New York Times has an article on New Hampshire independents.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the Republican Party is losing its traditional support from the business community. Factors cited include opposition to the war, liberal attitudes on social issues, and opposition to the fiscal responsibility of the Republican Party. Many also disagree with the Republican denial of global warming as “some business people want more government action on global warming, arguing that a bolder plan is not only inevitable, but could spur new industries.”

The Democrats have gained support from such businessmen as they have offered more liberal attitudes on social issues, have been more likely to oppose the war, and have become more centrist on economic issues:

In last fall’s midterm elections, rebellious Republicans and Republican-leaning independents contributed to the Democrats’ takeover of Congress and a raft of state and local offices. The Democratic Party had lured many newcomers through shifts of its own since the Reagan era. Particularly under President Clinton, the party became more centrist and fiscally conservative, espousing balanced budgets, targeted tax cuts and free trade. Party liberals and unionists never fully accepted those changes.

Yet the benefits to Democrats were evident in a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll last July. When Americans were asked which party could better deal with national problems, they gave Democrats an edge of 25 percentage points over Republicans on cutting deficits, 16 points on controlling federal spending, 15 points on dealing with the economy, 9 points on taxes and 3 points on trade. “We have lost our measurable advantage on fiscal conservatism, and we have quite some ways to go to get that back,” says Terry Nelson, Mr. Bush’s national political director in 2004.

Mr. Clinton said in an interview that he often meets disillusioned Republicans in his travels. “They say, ‘You know, I didn’t vote for you, and I didn’t like the fact that you raised taxes on upper-income people and corporations, but I did better when you were there. You produced a better economy. You guys knew what you were doing.'”

Such comments could be dismissed as self-serving, but Mr. Greenspan offers a similar view in his new autobiography, “The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World.” Mr. Greenspan, who was President Ford’s chief economic adviser and Mr. Reagan’s choice for the Fed, praises Mr. Clinton for fighting for deficit reduction and free trade, over the opposition of fellow Democrats and unions. “A consistent, disciplined focus on long-term economic growth became a hallmark of his presidency,” Mr. Greenspan writes. In recent years, his own party’s leaders, he writes, “seemed readily inclined to loosen the federal purse strings any time it might help add a few more seats to the Republican majority.”

This is not to say that the Democratic Party has become a clone of the Republicans on economic matters. There is a portion of the party represented by the Edwards supporters who are attempting to take the party back to the ideas of the past, and more importantly there is a growing segment which has combined pro-business beliefs with more traditional Democratic values:

…the number of Americans who share some classic Democratic concerns has risen. Three-quarters of the population is worried about growing income inequality, Pew found, while two-thirds favor government-funded health care for all. Support for a government safety net for the poor is at its highest level since 1987, Pew said.

If John Edwards best represents a vision of the Democratic Party’s unsuccessful recent past, Barack Obama may represent the party’s future. A trend has been continuing which I discussed two months ago in which independents who plan to vote Democratic in caucuses and primaries where this is allowed tend to support Obama and Richardson while being strongly opposed to John Edwards. The New York Times looked at the importance of independents in New Hampshire noting that Hillary Clinton has attempted to attract such voters but is having difficulty competing with Obama:

Yet even her advisers acknowledged that Mr. Obama’s profile, like that of Mr. McCain and former Senator Bill Bradley, the New Jersey Democrat, in 2000, seems well suited for the independent bloc.

As a rule, they are middle and upper income, college educated, socially moderate, fiscally conservative, anti-Washington and repulsed by what many people criticize as the overly partisan atmosphere there.

“I’m very concerned about polarization in this country,” said Sarah Kurzon, a publisher of puzzles who voted for Mr. McCain in 2000 and said she was likely to support Mr. Obama this time. “I find Obama very attractive. He’d be thrilled to have Republicans voting for him.”

Independent voters oppose the war more than the Republican electorate. A recent CNN/WMUR poll conducted by the University of New Hampshire found about half of the independents opposed the war, a sentiment repeated in interviews that is clearly hurting Mr. McCain.

The article cites South Carolina, Missouri, New Jersey, Minnesota and California as other states where independents may play a role, but these are not the only states where voter registration can be easily changed in time to vote. The Democrats are in an excellent position to win the White House in 2008 regardless of their candidate, however there are many voters whose long support is up for grabs. This will be determined by whether the Democratic Party continues to support policies which the new Democratic voters find attractive. If the Democrats should accept Edwards-style reactionary populism, back down on support for liberal values on social issues as many Democrats were tempted to do after the 2004 election, or fail to get us out of Iraq, they very well could become a minority party for another generation.

Obama Adopts Reaganesque Policy, Calling For Elmination of Nuclear Weapons

Once again it is easier to be a conservative blogger. They aren’t bothered by the need to consider complex problems on their merit as we are. It came as no surprise that many conservative bloggers were immediately on the attack after Barack Obama mentioned negotiating nuclear disarmament. Conservatives could quickly bypass issues such as nuclear proliferation and the risk of spread of nuclear weapons to terrorist groups. The reptilian Republican mind could only see this as unilaterally giving up our weapons and surrendering to Russia, Iran, or perhaps Grand Fenwick.They see Obama as being like the leaders of the Colonial government which negotiated while the Cylons wiped out most of humanity in the original Battlestar Galactica.

The name George McGovern is being mentioned in some conservative blogs commenting, but rather than seeing this as a policy of a leftist McGovern-like administration they should instead look at the Nixon and Reagan administrations for possible models. I’m sure the conservative bloggers made up their minds on Obama’s proposal well before they reached the final paragraph of the account in The New York Times which concludes:

In setting a goal of eliminating nuclear weapons in the world, Mr. Obama is endorsing a call for “urgent new actions” to prevent a new nuclear era that was laid out in January in a commentary in The Wall Street Journal written by several former government officials. The authors of the article were George P. Shultz, secretary of state in the Reagan administration; Henry Kissinger, secretary of state in the Nixon and Ford administrations; William J. Perry, secretary of defense in the Clinton administration; and Sam Nunn, a former chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

The commentary mentioned quotes not George McGovern but Ronald Reagan in noting, “Ronald Reagan called for the abolishment of ‘all nuclear weapons,’ which he considered to be ‘totally irrational, totally inhumane, good for nothing but killing, possibly destructive of life on earth and civilization.’

Not having things as easy as a conservative blogger, and feeling a need to actually consider complex issues as opposed to making a snap decision, I’m not yet certain if Obama’s policy is correct. Obama is definitely right in considering nuclear proliferation and terrorism as important issues and seeking solutions. These issues should transcend partisanship, but most likely the current Republicans are too extreme to consider this. Instead we are left to consider the bipartisan approach discussed in The Wall Street Journal. A copy of the article is reposted under the fold. (more…)

No Mystery About Edwards

This, I think, is a bit peculiar. By choosing to take public financing and go dark between sewing up the nomination, should Edwards win, and the Democratic convention, the Edwards campaign is threatening to take the Democratic Party back to the bad old days of financial inequality with Republicans. The Obama campaign, on the other hand, represents a real departure from that era, having raised more money from more people than any other campaign during the first two quarters. Further, there is no sign that the major 527 groups that tried to make up the fiscal difference between the parties in 2004 — America Coming Together, the Media Fund, and so on — are going to be around in 2008, meaning that there will be fewer, not more, outside groups able to defend the new Democratic contender from GOP attack during the months before the convention. And the Edwards campaign knows this.

“Were not aware of 527s that are doing anything now on anybody’s side in the primary,” said Trippi on the call. “And we are not going to encourage them.”

What, exactly, is the Edwards campaign trying to do then? The latest poll from Iowa, the one state that Edwards must win to gain enough momentum to launch a viable national campaign, showed Obama in the lead among likely caucus-goers — though with a 7 percent margin of error — and Edwards in third.

The John Edwards campaign just held a conference call announcing its respectable but not Clinton or Obama-level expected third quarter fundraising total of $7 million and further explaining its thinking on the question of taking public matching funds for the primary, which will bring in roughly $10 million more. From the sound of what senior adviser Joe Trippi and deputy campaign manager Jonathan Prince had to say, the campaign is moving in a direction of intensifying its anti-Washington argument as a way of trying to draw sharper distinctions between John Edwards and Hillary Clinton, taking advantage of the recent Norman Hsu fundraising scandal and Clinton’s defense of lobbyists to portray her as part of “the corroded busted rigged system of Washington,” as Trippi described it.

“We don’t believe the Clinton campaign has a deep and abiding interest in having this election framed around money,” he said.

In contrast they took a softer line towards Obama. In consideration of this, 

a) the Edwards campaign is irresponsibly punting on the question of being able to win a general election until it can get through the primary, despite stakes that couldn’t be higher for the nation, and has private data that shows Clinton to be its major competitor (call that one the Markos theory); b) the Edwards campaign is making a short-term tactical mistake by ignoring the impending Obama threat while taking on Clinton; or c) Edwards is a person of principle who sees in the Obama campaign more of what he would like in the White House, and is going to go down in such a way as to try to take Clinton with him.

I would like c to be the case, but I have little doubt that theory a comes closest if the campaign is viewed from Edwards’ perspective. As of September, Edwards’ campaign was collapsing and he appeared to have little chance to win the nomination. Edwards obviously realized that if he cannot win the nomination, his chances of being elected president fall to zero.  Like Kerry in 2003, he realized it was time for desperation measures to remain viable for the nomination. While Kerry was willing to put his own money on the line, Edwards saw public funds as his way to be more competitive in Iowa. This does place Edwards in a situation where if he wins the nomination he will probably lose the general election, but there is a chance at victory. Any chance of becoming president is better than the zero chance he would have if he lost the general election. Besides, even a losing campaign puts him in the history books with a chance of popularity at a later date as Al Gore has experienced. Unfortunately this calculation leaves the Democrats in the position of risking the nomination on someone with a poor shot at winning the general election.