Party Realignment Based Upon Education and Economic Class

I’ve often commented on the realignment between the parties, with the division now being more upon social issues and Iraq as opposed to economic issues. Republican attempts to scare people away from voting Democratic based upon claims that they would tax all their money have become less successful than claims in certain areas that Democrats would take away their guns and bibles. As a consequence, a growing number of more affluent and more educated voters are voting Democratic while Republicans seek the votes of more working class and socially conservative voters. In this respect the battle between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination was also a battle between the party’s future and the party’s past.

The Washington Post looks at the changes in the Virginias and finds similar trends. I would suggest reading the entire article for context, but I will pull out quotes which simply describe the changes in who is voting for each party:

As the gap grows between places that are prospering and those that are not, Democrats are strengthening their hold in major metropolitan areas, particularly in places faring well in the technology-driven economy.

In 1976, Republican Gerald R. Ford won 10 of the 12 states with the highest per-capita income but lost the election; in 2004, John F. Kerry did the same for the Democrats.

Republicans, meanwhile, are consolidating their hold in rural areas and small cities, while making inroads in struggling Appalachian and Rust Belt regions that were a core of the Democratic base.

The trend generally bodes well for Democrats. Major metro areas are growing faster than the country as a whole, the party’s strength with young voters promises a lasting edge, and well-off, highly educated urban voters are valuable campaign contributors in the Internet age.

The party that fought for the little guy against the party of the wealthy has, while still representing racial minorities, increasingly become defined by the metropolitan middle and upper-middle class.

By pressing issues such as gun rights and same-sex marriage, Republicans tightened their grip on the South and snared such states as West Virginia, but lost many business-minded voters and alienated areas such as Fairfax County, where one in seven Virginians live.

The Bush presidency has widened the gap, as many suburban voters deserted the Republican Party in the 2006 congressional elections.

But the biracial senator from Illinois epitomizes the new Democratic coalition, with his years living abroad and in big cities, his intellectualism and his urbane flair, and his campaign’s lofty rhetoric and Internet savvy.

McCain, 71, lacks Bush’s ties with evangelical Christians, yet the Republican from Arizona still embodies a more traditional America, with his wartime heroism, his mantra of service over individualism and his admittedly limited technological literacy.

“Democratic areas are sopping up people with BA degrees; Republican areas are sopping up white people without degrees. Church membership is declining in Democratic areas and increasing in red counties,” said Bill Bishop, author of “The Big Sort.”

Overall, the most wealthy are still more likely to vote for GOP candidates, particularly in red states, where it is the rich, not the working class, who are most reliably Republican. The split is more evident in education and vocation, with professionals and voters with post-graduate degrees trending Democratic.

Affluent suburbs that were once solidly Republican have edged toward a split or turned Democratic, threatening to put big states out of the GOP’s reach for good: Bergen County, N.J., and New York’s Long Island; the “collar” counties outside Chicago; Montgomery and Bucks counties outside Philadelphia.

Meanwhile, Republicans have made gains in the Democrats’ New Deal base — places such as West Virginia, western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio.

In West Virginia, Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, the only Republican in the state’s congressional delegation, said it was simple: As national Democrats focused on a cosmopolitan constituency, her party made clear that it understood West Virginia’s culture

Keith Thompson’s father was a cabbie at the station, and his father-in-law was a train inspector, but Thompson, 52, works in Morgantown, 25 miles away, delivering uniforms to coal miners and car mechanics. He has voted Republican for years, fed up with West Virginia Democrats who he thinks have crippled the state with taxes, regulation and welfare, and national Democrats who he thinks want to take away his semiautomatic rifles.

For Whitehair, the highway worker, the turning point in 2000 was the Democrats’ fight to save the northern spotted owl in the Pacific Northwest. He will vote Republican again because McCain was a Vietnam POW. Also, he “heard Obama was a Muslim” — a false rumor.

There are common threads throughout the various quotes I’ve taken from the article. The more educated and affluent voters are voting Democratic, with the exception of the most wealthy. This is hardly surprising considering how the tax policies of both Bush and McCain primarily benefit the upper one tenth of one percent. Both Kerry and Obama have made sure their tax policies do not adversely affect those making up to $250,000 per year, recognizing that this is a growing Democratic constituency.

The Republicans are left with a strange coalition, which explains why the party is rapidly losing power. As there are very few votes among the upper one tenth of one percent economically, they are forced to turn to others for actual votes. With their policies being those of past ages, they are primarily able to attract the votes of those who are not comfortable living in the twenty-first century. They receive the votes of the uneducated and those who, for various reasons, are susceptible to their false claims. These include the religious right and those who responded to the 9/11 terrorist attack based upon fear without rational thought.

It might make sense from an economic point of view for those in the top one tenth of one percent to vote Republican. Beyond that they receive votes from those who can be deceived or suffer from a number of delusions. People who vote Republican generally believe several of these claims commonly made by the right:

  • They believe Saddam had weapons of mass destruction which represented a threat to the United States and was working with al Qaeda.
  • They believe going to war in Iraq was beneficial to our national security when in reality the war has strengthened al Qaeda and Iran while weakening the United States.
  • They believe Democrats will take away everyone’s guns, and bibles.
  • They believe Obama is a Muslim.
  • They deny our heritage of separation of church and state and consider legislating their religious views to be a proper role of government.
  • They both believe in creationism as a valid alternative to evolution and believe it should be taught in science classes.
  • They believe abortion is “baby killing,” failing to either understand the distinction or consider the rights of an individual to control their own body.
  • They believe science can be ignored when it contradicts their personal beliefs or preferences, from believing in creationism to denying the scientific consensus on global warming.

Many of these beliefs simply stem from limited education, or require limited education to fall for, explaining the demographic changes. Others stem from philosophical views which make even some well educated individuals receptive to Republican rhetoric. Rather than representing a coherent philosophy, conservatism as practiced by the Republican Party has become primarily a reaction against the modern era and a reaction against reality. The more they rely on such beliefs, the more the Republican Party becomes an unacceptable choice among the educated, leading to the demographic changes described in this article.

Be Sociable, Share!

No Comments

1 Trackbacks

Leave a comment