Democrats Becoming “Party of the Rich”

When following the trackback from Michael van der Galiën’s link to my earlier post today on socially liberal, fiscally conservative voters backing the Democrats I found what amounts to a related story at his site. Michael is surprised by a story in the Financial Times which shows that the Democrats are becoming the “party of the rich.”

For the demographic reality is that, in America, the Democratic party is the new “party of the rich”. More and more Democrats represent areas with a high concentration of wealthy households. Using Internal Revenue Service data, the Heritage Foundation identified two categories of taxpayers – single filers with incomes of more than $100,000 and married filers with incomes of more than $200,000 – and combined them to discern where the wealthiest Americans live and who represents them.

Democrats now control the majority of the nation’s wealthiest congressional jurisdictions. More than half of the wealthiest households are concentrated in the 18 states where Democrats control both Senate seats.

This new political demography holds true in the House of Representatives, where the leadership of each party hails from different worlds. Nancy Pelosi, Democratic leader of the House of Representatives, represents one of America’s wealthiest regions. Her San Francisco district has more than 43,700 high-end households. Fewer than 7,000 households in the western Ohio district of House Republican leader John Boehner enjoy this level of affluence.

The story, coming from a vice president of the Heritage Foundation, only tells part of the story, but there is considerable truth to this–and it comes as no surprise. I’ve previously noted how businessmen and affluent suburbanites are increasingly voting Democratic. An increasing number of people have rejected the Republicans as they identified them with the Iraq war, the policies of the religious right, and incompetent government.

There’s also the realization that Republican economic policies don’t work, except perhaps from those receiving Republican corporate welfare. Even some of the Republican business owners I know who are not yet willing to vote Democratic admit that their businesses do better under Democrats. The stock market also does better under Democrats on the average. While none of us like higher taxes, it is preferable to pay higher taxes on a higher income if it means that in the end we do better than under the Republicans. There’s also a certain degree of infrastructure necessary for a successful business climate, and the slash and burn tactics of the Republicans create the fear that they will destroy the necessary infrastructure while enforcing their no-tax increase pledges.

Whether this trend continues depends largely upon which the direction the Democrats go. If the Democrats adopt populist style economic policies as advocated by John Edwards they will lose the new voters who helped them achieve victory in 2006, while a candidate such as Obama is far more likely to appeal to affluent and independent voters. Some on the left see the 2006 victory as a mandate for their views, but we saw what happened when the Republicans earlier misinterpreted an election as a mandate in 2004.

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5 Comments

  1. 1
    FreedomDemocrat says:

    Ron, are you sure this isn’t a bit of a fallacy? Wealthier states are more likely to be Democratic, but wealthier voters are still more likely to be Republican. The Heritage is looking at wealthy areas that generate a lot of economic growth and assuming that all voters in the area must be just as wealthy.

  2. 2
    Ron Chusid says:

    As I noted in the post, this comes from the Heritage Foundation and it only tells part of the story. While their conclusions cannot be taken as being an exact description, there is still truth to the idea that the old divisions between Democrats and Republicans based upon income are breaking down. Many affluent voters are voting Democratic (and many are still voting Republican.)

    Also note they are looking at Congressional districts, not entire states. There is still variation within a district, but far less than in an entire state. An affluent district will include many Republican voters, but there must also be a fair number of affluent Democratic voters for many of these district to go Democratic.

  3. 3
    Joel S. Hirschhorn says:

    Voting As Political Narcotic

    Joel S. Hirschhorn

    Fast forward to Election Day 2008: Network anchors, cable pundits, and state and local election officials are going nuts as evening hours pass and voter turnout is hardly approaching 20 percent nearly everywhere. “What’s going on?” everyone is asking incredulously. TV and computer screens all over the planet show Americans in streets celebrating and shouting things like “We’ve had enough political corruption. We’re not going to take anymore!”

    In contrast, news anchors are grim and aghast with little help from spin-fatigued and stammering Democratic and Republican spokespeople. At 2 A.M. on NBC Brian Williams sits with Tim Russett and Keith Olbermann, and sums up: “Americans have spoken and American politics have changed forever.” “It’s like the nightmare of entertainers: nobody shows up for their event,” says bemused Olbermann. Russett grimly observes, “We should have seen this coming; people have been fed up with both parties for a long time.” Meanwhile, the Internet is buzzing with talk of voiding the presidential and congressional election results, that President Bush may declare a national state of emergency, and that the Supreme Court might step in again. Did anyone think that the Constitution required a minimum voter turnout to make elections legit?

    ***

    America’s political system is a large and complex criminal conspiracy. Most voters enable it without benefiting from it. Voting is a ploy of the two-party power elites to keep the population docile, delusional and duped. Our government has been hijacked in plain sight, despite elections. We cannot get it back by voting. All the main candidates are part of the conspiracy. Voting only encourages them. In our fake democracy corrupt politicians use doses of voting as a political narcotic. We must free more Americans of the addiction. Otherwise they will keep hallucinating that some Democratic or Republican President or controlled Congress will actually give us the changes we crave for.

    Attempts to hold the government accountable have failed and will continue to fail. The system is rotten to the core. It sustains itself both by preventing major political reforms and undermining those that get passed to temporarily placate the public. Arrogant power elites feel no obligation to be accountable to the public. Elections are not a threat to the status quo. Elections are distractive entertainment, a political narcotic.

    Voting became a political narcotic when it stopped working to improve government and became used to legitimize a corrupt, two-party failed government.

    Voting – especially lesser-evil voting – sustains our fake democracy more than any other citizen action. It lets politicians claim that they represent the sovereign people. It tells the world that our elected government has public support. Voting sends the wrong message to everyone. No matter who you vote for, voting says the political system is fair. It is not.

    Power elites own the government and use it to serve their interests and protect a corporate plutocracy. Though a numerical minority – probably about 20 million Americans – an Upper Class easily manipulates the remaining 280 million by controlling the consumer economy, the distractive culture, and government policies and spending.

    This is what America’s political freedom has morphed into: Dissidents free to protest (to make us feel good). Elites free to control (to maintain corruption). Conned citizens free to vote (to keep the system looking democratic). And most Americans free to borrow, spend and consume (to stay hooked on work, antidepressants, sleeping pills, alcohol, sports, computers, religion, gambling and illegal drugs). Where do you fit in?

    In our drugged fake democracy, Americans replace objective reality with illusions. The US does not excel in nearly any statistical measure of democracies. Our voter turnout is a disgrace. We imprison more people than all other nations combined. We do not provide universal health care or affordable prescription drugs. Our primary education system is mostly awful. Economic inequality is incredible – with the top one percent owning 21 percent of the nation’s wealth – and getting worse. People are made addicted to consumption and borrowing, then left to suffer from crippling debt. Painful economic insecurity blinds the submissive middle class whose belief in the American dream is akin to expecting to win a lottery.

    In a nation that supposedly prizes competitiveness there is no real political competition. The two major parties maintain a collusive stranglehold on our government. Third party candidates are purposefully disadvantaged. Incumbents can thwart opponents. Worse, though the two major parties shout their differences, they are merely two sides of the same coin, two heads of the same beast, two servants of the Upper Class, and two protectors of the corporate plutocracy. They are criminal co-conspirators. Superficial differences between candidates keep voters entertained, manipulated and rooting for “their” team in the political game that the mainstream corporate media (more co-conspirators) make tons of money from.

    In this charade minor, maverick primary season presidential candidates contribute to the illusion of a competitive system. Their loyalty to party trumps their commitment to major political reforms. They do not tell their supporters that if they do not receive the nomination “stay home” rather than vote for one of their opponents. No, those they opposed in the primary season are seen as lesser evils than anyone from the other party. This protects the two-party system.

    In America’s fake democracy citizens are fooled by personal freedoms. It is a fake democracy because the will of the people is not respected by those elected to run the government, the rule of law is routinely violated by those in power, the Constitution is regularly dishonored and disobeyed by elected officials and judges, and all but the wealthy are sold out through government-assisted corporate globalization.

    No wonder that America is a joke to much of the world’s population. Foreigners envy our materialism, not our government. With horrendous hypocrisy we use military power to impose democracy abroad despite having a flawed democracy at home. Foreigners’ disgust with our government is one thing, but they like Americans. Yet Americans enable and sustain the detested government by voting, then blame those elected rather than fix the broken system. A few crooked politicians and corporate bosses go to jail. But the criminal system remains. Nothing but token reforms are made. Corruption continues.

    Few Americans are dissidents. Many more block the painful truth that their cherished democracy is a fraud. The land of the free is no longer the home of the brave. Foreign enemies are used to keep people from bravely fighting domestic tyrants.

    Like magicians using slight of words and misdirection through lies, politicians (and those that own them) have trivialized the fact that about half of the electorate does not vote. Nonvoters have been blamed when the corrupt system is at fault. Rather than see nonvoters as apathetic we should see them acting rationally because voting is unproductive. Nonvoters should never feel guilty, only proud to have sent a none-of-the-above rejection message.

    But voter turnout has not been sufficiently low to forcefully discredit, dishonor and de-legitimize American democracy. Though low, it has become an accepted norm, allowing the manufactured myth to continue – that we live in the world’s greatest democracy, though nothing could be farther from the truth.

    With false hope, voters believe that the right Democrat or Republican will do what none of their predecessors has done, and that campaign rhetoric and promises will actually translate to post-election action and policy. Voters fail to understand the depth of our culture of dishonesty that has also invaded the voting process.

    Held secretly in private hands is proprietary source code that instructs the voting machines on to how to count the vote. More than 1/3 of all votes cast in our nation are made on touch screen machines driven by proprietary source code and 90 percent of all votes cast are counted by software that’s unverifiable.

    No sane American should trust the political system, the politicians, and the voting process. And when you cannot trust all three, you have a fake democracy. Many of us thirst for major change, but mainstream politicians simply exploit this and lie. By voting for any of them we ensure no serious change. The way to shake up the system is to boycott voting.

    In sum, despite personal freedoms we also have political tyranny as oppressive in its own way as any authoritarian, dictatorial government. Americans have lost the revolutionary spirit of their ancestors. Americans are unable to revolt, despite revolting conditions. They have accepted the tyranny of taxation with MISrepresentation. The political criminal conspiracy has successfully used cultural genetic manipulation to replace the DNA of revolutionary courage with the DNA of distractive, self-indulgent consumerism. Our primary freedom is to borrow and spend. Our currency should read “In Greed We Trust.” We have populist consumerism, not populist politics. Divisive politics keeps people fighting each other rather than uniting against the rotten system.

    Delusional prosperity is what our delusional democracy creates for the majority. Many millions of Americans are hurting from loss of good jobs, crippling health care costs, staggering debt, unaffordable college education, imminent foreclosure or bankruptcy, rising economic insecurity, working two lousy jobs, time poverty, dependence on food stamps and charity. Millions more are angry about endless political corruption and bipartisan incompetence, the inability to get a new 9/11 investigation, uncontrolled illegal immigration, and our national debt. The rebellion needs all of them. And they need the rebellion.

    True, we have plenty of passive nonvoters, a good head start. Now we need active, vociferous nonvoters – proud protestors and dissidents urging others to join the civil disobedience to reach the tipping point for revolutionary change. After we achieve major political reforms we should pursue mandatory voting – when voting once again has civic meaning.

    Massive, unprecedented nonvoting has the power to produce systemic political reform by defiantly discrediting, dishonoring and de-legitimizing America’s fake democracy. When I choose not to vote I do not make the votes of others more important. Their votes already serve an evil system. The critical choice is to vote or not vote, not picking a particular Democrat or Republican. When I choose not to vote I embrace an honorable, patriotic rebellious act of civil disobedience. I no longer buy the BIG LIE that there still is an American democracy worth participating in. As James Madison said, “Conscience is the most sacred of all property.”

    Mass nonvoting sends the message of rejection – as powerful as using guns. The Second American Revolution begins with this recognition: We must work together to drive voter turnout down to abysmal levels – so low that everyone gets the rejection message. We must let the world know – and America’s power elites fear – that we sovereign Americans intend to take back our government. But how?

    It begins with a boycott of voting. See it as a populist recall of the federal government that makes our Founders proud. It is followed by demanding what the Founders gave us in our Constitution for exactly the conditions we now have: an Article V convention of state delegates that can propose constitutional amendments, especially ones to reform our political system to make it honest and trustworthy. Learn more at http://www.foavc.org.

    Why have we not had one in over 200 years? Why has Congress been allowed to disobey – actually veto a part of the Constitution and violate their oath of office? There is only one logical explanation: An intensely watched convention could wreck the political status quo and take away the power of those running and ruining our nation. That so many Americans fear a convention just shows the success of the social conditioning and political narcotics the elitist plutocracy has imposed for decades. Imagine an amendment that required at least 90 percent voter turnout for federal elections to produce a winner.

    When it comes to our nation our choice is not to love it or leave it, but to accept the painful truth and take responsibility for restoring American democracy – because we love it. Let’s move forward with this slogan: “Don’t vote–it only encourages them.”

    [Joel S. Hirschhorn was a senior official at the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment and the National Governors Association, and is the author of Delusional Democracy – Fixing the Republic Without Overthrowing the Government. Reach him through http://www.delusionaldemocracy.com.]

  4. 4
    fourmorewars says:

    The whole meme is based on a fallacy, as is being pointed out in many places. Greg Sargent has pointed out the absurdity of saying the Dems hold slightly more than 50% of ‘the 167 wealthiest districts’…when their OVERALL % of seats held is HIGHER.

    But this should drive the point home even more:

    Link
    Average out the districts (the mhi figure is for 2000, but the list of congresspeople is the current one).

    Dem districts: on average, $2700 POORER than Republican ones.

  5. 5
    Ron Chusid says:

    Fourmorewars,

    The argument as the Heritage Foundation spins it and distorts the data is a fallacy and when the story first came out I had no doubt that many Democrats would debunk it.

    Instead I preferred to look at the small grain of truth in their story–not all affluent people vote Republican and the Republicans are losing portions of this aspect of their base due to their turn to the policies of the neoconservatives and the religious right. This aspect of the story does not serve the interests of the Heritage Foundation in the manner in which they prefer to spin the story.

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