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Goodbye "Regular Joe" Democrat
The American Enterprise ^ | October-November 2004 | Karl Zinsmeister

Posted on 09/21/2004 7:58:15 AM PDT by Valin

Democrats: the party of the little guy. Republicans: the party of the wealthy. Those images of America's two major political wings have been frozen for generations. The stereotypes were always a little off, incomplete, exaggerated. (Can you say Adlai Stevenson?) But like most stereotypes, they reflected rough truths.

No more. Starting in the 1960s and '70s, whole blocs of "little guys"--ethnics, rural residents, evangelicals, cops, construction workers, homemakers, military veterans--began moving into the Republican column. And big chunks of America's rich elite--financiers, academics, heiresses, media barons, software millionaires, entertainers--drifted into the Democratic Party.

The extent to which the parties have flipped positions on the little-guy/rich-guy divide is illustrated by research from the Ipsos-Reid polling firm. Comparing counties that voted strongly for Bush to those that voted strongly for Gore in the 2000 election, the study shows that in pro-Bush counties only 7 percent of voters earned at least $100,000, while 38 percent had household incomes below $30,000. In the pro-Gore counties, fully 14 percent pulled in $100,000 or more, while 29 percent earned less than $30,000.

It is "becoming harder by the day to take the Democrats seriously as the party of the common man," writes columnist Daniel Henninger. "The party's primary sources of support have become trial lawyers and Wall Street financiers. It is becoming a party run by a new class of elites who make fast money--$25 million for 30 days work on a movie, millions (even billions) winning lawsuits against doctors...millions to do arithmetic for a business merger."

Obviously both parties have their fat cats, but Federal Election Commission data show that many of the very wealthiest political players are now in the Democratic column. Today's most aggressive political donors by far are lawyers--who donated $98 million dollars to 2004 political candidates as of June. (By comparison, the entire oil and gas industry donated $13 million.) And rich lawyers do indeed tilt strongly Democratic: 71 percent of their contributions went to Democrats, 29 percent to Republicans.

Migration of the rich and powerful to the Democrats has been so pronounced that Democratic nominee John Kerry has actually pulled in much more money than sitting President George Bush this spring and summer. Kerry's monthly fundraising totals have routinely doubled or even tripled Bush's totals. And the money on the Kerry side has come much more from rich individuals, while Bush has relied on flocks of small donors. So which is the party of the people now?

John Kerry is in many ways a perfect embodiment of the Democratic Party's takeover by wealthy elites. Experts describe his genealogy as "more royal than any previous American President." There is a long line of blue blood and inherited funds in his family, and his life has been anything but typically American: Mom was an heiress summering at her family's resort estate in France when she met dad, a Phillips Andover/Yale/Harvard Law School alum who was passing his own summer of 1937 in France "as an apprentice in a sculptor's studio." John's early boyhood was spent in a grand house outside Boston bought with inherited money. At age ten he was packed off to a fancy boarding school in Switzerland, and "for the next seven years of his life, this would become routine: His parents would send him off to boarding school and he would adapt anew to a world of competitive boys from wealthy, privileged families," as Kerry's Boston Globe biographers summarize.

Kerry spent his high school years at St. Paul's prep school, with a rich aunt paying the bills. He described himself at that point as being "from Oslo, Norway" (where his father was then posted as a diplomat). At St. Paul's and then Yale, Kerry whirled through hoity-toity circles with Auchinclosses and Bundys and trust-funders of all sorts, and when it came time for marrying, he showed the darnedest luck at finding true loves with true money. His first wife was worth $300 million; his second is a billionaire.

Between heiresses, Kerry had to live on his own earnings, and the results were not pretty. His spending on high life exceeded his income to the point of functional bankruptcy. But most of his life has been grand: hundred-dollar haircuts by Christophe, Old Master paintings, and expensive toys of all sorts. His five current houses, one more achingly exclusive than the next--Beacon Hill, Georgetown, Nantucket, Fox Chapel, Sun Valley--could keep a producer for "MTV Cribs" filming and looking up synonyms for "fabulous" for most of a year. Yet of course politically, Kerry is a man of the left. National Journal rates his record the most liberal in the U.S. Senate (John Edwards is tied for second).

The term "limousine liberal" doesn't adequately capture how disconnected Democrats like John Kerry (and Jay Rockefeller, and Barbara Streisand, and Jon Corzine--there are now many such) are from everyday American life. They are more like "Learjet liberals," who literally pronounce their poxes on oil executives and cattlemen from leather sofas floating at 15,000 feet inside their personal jets (which consume 1,200 gallons of fuel every time they streak their enlightened owner to an Idaho skiing weekend or Cape sailing jaunt).

John Kerry is a man who will ignore his own car registration fees and parking tickets and dinner tabs, while cavalierly calling pharmaceutical scientists "selfish" and "irresponsible." He is a fellow who made no charitable donations for years on end, while excoriating other Americans for being "hard-hearted" and "greedy." Some tribune of the ordinary guy.

In this issue of The American Enterprise, Chris Weinkopf, Joel Kotkin, and other contributors limn John Kerry's separation from middle-class America. They connect Kerry's rarefied politics back to New England, the region that produced him, as well as the other Democratic favorite this year, Howard Dean. New England is an area well out of the American mainstream in many ways. Politically, it is more liberal than the rest of America. Economically it often resembles Europe more than the rest of the country. And culturally, New England is far more prone to elitism than any other part of the U.S.

New England's elitism--and the resulting tendency of its politicians to assign decision making to a managerial class at the top of society--is the quality that propels it most emphatically out of mainstream American practice. Being ruled by the Harvard faculty might appeal to the electors who sent John Kerry and Ted Kennedy to the Senate, but it sounds like a nightmare to most of the rest of America.

Americans grow up imbued with a deep sense that, while we each have our special talents, every man is fundamentally as worthy as another. This springs from both our religious traditions and the egalitarian principles on which our government was founded. And historically it has been everyday yeomen, not lords, who did most of the building and defending of America.

Most every rifleman who fought in our Revolution could read and write, had a good understanding of the issues for which he was fighting, and had firm opinions on the principles at stake in the war. In Europe at that same time, the officers were generally the only ones who were literate. As he shaped these proud, obstreperous, self-governing men into an army, George Washington found he had to adapt to the "levelling spirit," where "the principles of democracy so universally prevail."

Reinforcing our philosophical egalitarianism is the fact that America (as Daniel Boorstin pointed out) has traditionally been a culture without a capital. At the time of our founding, more than 95 percent of the population lived outside the major cities, and we continue to be a highly dispersed, localized, and independent-minded people, quite resistant to bossing from the center.

Average Americans believe elitism is not only wrong in principle, but also ineffective. And they are correct. In his new book The Wisdom of Crowds, James Surowiecki of The New Yorker demonstrates that a cross-section of everyday people will generally prove better at solving knotty societal problems than any fraternity of experts. He presents many proofs for the conclusion--long promoted in these pages--that ordinary citizens possess forms of knowledge, intuition, and moral sense that make them better arbiters of critical national debates than any educated elite. This is not just rabblerousing, but a time-tested reality that explains much of the brilliant success of America and the common people who have come to her shores.

America's distaste for elitism might once have trans-lated into a distrust for conservatism. But today, with country-club Republicans having been swept aside by NASCAR Republicans, there is nothing undemocratic about American conservatism. It is now liberalism that is the dominant creed among elites.

Over the last generation, Harvard political scientist Samuel Huntington reports, professional elites have become both "less nationalistic" and "more liberal than the American public. This is revealed by 20 public opinion surveys from 1974 to 2000." One authoritative study of a dozen different elites, including top civil servants, lawyers, religious authorities, military officers, entertainment moguls, union leaders, non-profit managers, business executives, and media elites, found that every one of these groups but two (businesspeople and the military) was twice to three times as liberal as the public at large.

It's not as if the Democrats have taken over the top of the socio-economic ladder and the Republicans the bottom. Rather, the Democrats dominate at the very upper and lowest rungs, while Republicans find their following in the middle. When you slice by education rather than income, for example, you find that both high school dropouts and graduate students are heavily Democratic, while high school grads and those with bachelor's degrees (the educational middle) are predominantly Republican.

I was speaking not long ago with someone in the publishing industry about the new book imprints and clubs that have recently been founded by several major publishers to cater specifically to politically conservative readers (who have previously been neglected by booksellers). He told me that the New York publishers had been pleasantly surprised by the spending, loyalty, and depth of the conservative reading public. We at TAE could have told them that a long time ago, but they only became interested when the conservative middle proved to be too large and lucrative a mass market to ignore.

So we're in an interesting new era. The Right has become a thinking party, with rich intellectual resources, that is simultaneously dead-set against political elitism and cultural snobbery. In many past issues of The American Enterprise we've described how conservatism has laid claim to America's quiet but multitudinous middle class. Now in this issue we look at the other side of the political spectrum: at how the Left has come to dominate among the overclass and underclass that bracket the conservative middle.

The old way of thinking about U.S. politics--little-guy Democrats vs. wealthy Republicans--is about as accurate and relevant today as a 1930 weather forecast. New fronts have moved in. Expect some exciting squalls ahead.


TOPICS: Editorial; Politics/Elections
KEYWORDS: bluecollarvote; dems; limousineliberal

1 posted on 09/21/2004 7:58:16 AM PDT by Valin
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To: Valin

"9/11 Democrats"


2 posted on 09/21/2004 7:59:02 AM PDT by The G Man (I'm mad as ZELL and I'm not gonna take it anymore!)
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To: Valin

Good post and useful info - I printed it for a few friends living in divided households (hand-wringing lefty wives).


3 posted on 09/21/2004 8:01:07 AM PDT by WorkingClassFilth (Savor the present as the days of Kerry's whine and poses. It'll be a nice memory when you are old.)
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Comment #4 Removed by Moderator

To: Valin
The times, they are a-changin'.

Good article. Have it bookmarked for reference.

5 posted on 09/21/2004 8:13:16 AM PDT by randog (What the....?!)
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To: Valin

Great article, thanks :-)

I'll be forwarding this one...


6 posted on 09/21/2004 8:23:53 AM PDT by Tamzee (Ted Koppel --- "....the media will need a stepstool to rise to the level of used car salesmen.")
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To: Valin
Kerry spent his high school years at St. Paul's prep school, with a rich aunt paying the bills.

Sounds like Dad didn't handle money very well.

Between heiresses, Kerry had to live on his own earnings, and the results were not pretty.

....and passed this propensity on to his son.

7 posted on 09/21/2004 8:24:27 AM PDT by wayoverontheright
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To: Valin

It has been a bad week for the Dems and it keeps getting worse. The author effectively skewers Kerry and the Democratic party like a shishkabob (minus the meat and potatoes).

Man oh man... Watching this campaign is like watching Mike Tyson punch a bobblehead doll.

APf


8 posted on 09/21/2004 8:25:29 AM PDT by APFel
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To: Valin
BINGO - Democrats are the party of the poor who feed off the state, and the super rich who benefit from keeping them dependent. It's a typical South American banana republic set up. Sick, but very beneficial to the elite's.

It is "becoming harder by the day to take the Democrats seriously as the party of the common man," writes columnist Daniel Henninger. "The party's primary sources of support have become trial lawyers and Wall Street financiers. It is becoming a party run by a new class of elites who make fast money--$25 million for 30 days work on a movie, millions (even billions) winning lawsuits against doctors...millions to do arithmetic for a business merger."

9 posted on 09/21/2004 8:25:42 AM PDT by GOPJ
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To: GOPJ
BINGO - Democrats are the party of the poor who feed off the state, and the super rich who benefit from keeping them dependent.

I once heard it put "The lib's manipulate the poor and their vote like a cat tending a nest of mice."

10 posted on 09/21/2004 8:37:11 AM PDT by ConservativeWarrior
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To: Valin

This is a duplicate. Search is our friend.


11 posted on 09/21/2004 8:43:06 AM PDT by newgeezer (Just my opinion, of course. Your mileage may vary. You have the right to be wrong.)
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To: The G Man
Well said there are a lot of 9/11 Democrats who will vote Republican.

However, I think that the change is even more basic. If I were to generalize, I see a huge philosophical devide. I see Republicans as having a faith that they can make a better life for themselves, if Government does not get in the way and yet they want Government to provide for certain basic securities like protection from foreign terrorism, keeping career criminals locked up, and some infrastructure things.

I see Democrats having a believe that the vast majority of Americans live life on the edge of disaster (job loss, illness, violent crime, big corporations that will outsource jobs-cheat people out of retirement-sell defective goods that kill or maim-steal folks money & run-overcharge for basic necessities-gouge people when they are down, being discriminated against by society.) This group looks to an all powerfull government to protect them and to "punish the other guy." This is why class warefare, minority, sexual orientation & ethnic rights, along with the trial lawyers lobby are so much a part of the Democratic party.

I see the 9/11 Democrats as being smart enough to realize that protecting against corporations is far less important that protecting against terrorists. They have seen the death and destruction that terrorists can do both in terms of people killed and injured and in terms of economic crisis. The 9/11 terrorists destroyed more travel industry jobs than any corporate outsourcing. The 9/11 terrorists killed more people than any "gun control" bill would have off set. The 9/11 terrorists created more air pollution than any environmental law that could have passed and not killed jobs.

12 posted on 09/21/2004 8:46:14 AM PDT by Robert357 (Dan Rather's evening newscast finished dead last Tuesday night, finished behind a Simpson's rerun!)
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To: newgeezer
It's a duplicate, but this time it's full text. I'm glad of that, because now I can bookmark it without fear of the link going stale. It's a powerful essay that bears rereading.
13 posted on 09/21/2004 8:54:21 AM PDT by Physicist
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To: Valin

The "party of the little guy" versus the "party of the fat cat" was always a false caricature.

Part of the confusion has always been built into the distortion in the word "liberal"; as almost everyone here understands modern "liberals" are not liberal. They are statists. As a party they are divided between people who expect government to manage their lives and people who expect to be the managers. The writer is surprised to find elitists drifting to the elitist party, but he shouldn't be, there couldn't be anything more natural.

American "conservatism" is another amalgam, but the heart of it is driven by the founding principles which were classicly liberal. Even Edmund Burke, the father of conservatism, was in the end a Whig, or classic liberal. The party of limited government and individual liberty is going to attract "yeomen", people who expect to do for themselves and expect from government only to be safe in their homes.

If you believe most people can't make it on their own, you will gravitate toward the Democratic Party. You will be at home there whether you see yourself as one of the elite who must care for the others, or one of the masses who demands to be cared for by his masters. If you are a doer and you respect the doers of this world, whether you are wealthy or haven't a dollar in your pocket, you will gravitate to the other party.


14 posted on 09/21/2004 9:03:08 AM PDT by marron
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To: Valin

"He presents many proofs for the conclusion--long promoted in these pages--that ordinary citizens possess forms of knowledge, intuition, and moral sense that make them better arbiters of critical national debates than any educated elite"

Yes, like FReepers working from home who combined their vast resources to out the deceptive elitists at CBS.


15 posted on 09/21/2004 9:10:52 AM PDT by brothers4thID (I have knocked on door of this man's soul- and found someone home.)
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To: Valin
James Surowiecki of The New Yorker demonstrates that a cross-section of everyday people will generally prove better at solving knotty societal problems than any fraternity of experts... ordinary citizens possess forms of knowledge, intuition, and moral sense that make them better arbiters of critical national debates than any educated elite.

Buckhead and the Bloggers vs the MSM... guess who won that one.

16 posted on 09/21/2004 9:34:41 AM PDT by Teacher317
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To: newgeezer
I too get more than a little tired of seeing so many duplicates but since I missed this one the first time around I'll give it a pass.

It's a great article and expresses what I have long believed but can not begin to articulate as well.

17 posted on 09/21/2004 9:54:49 AM PDT by Graybeard58
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To: Valin

BTTT


18 posted on 09/21/2004 10:00:47 AM PDT by Fiddlstix (This Tagline for sale. (Presented by TagLines R US))
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To: Valin

BTTT


19 posted on 09/21/2004 10:08:40 AM PDT by Cold Heart
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Comment #20 Removed by Moderator

To: ConservativeWarrior
Good one:

"The lib's manipulate the poor and their vote like a cat tending a nest of mice."


21 posted on 09/21/2004 11:27:59 AM PDT by GOPJ
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To: Valin

The epitome of the elites is the activist judiciary.


22 posted on 09/21/2004 1:27:15 PM PDT by happygrl
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To: Valin

pubbie bump


23 posted on 09/21/2004 1:28:16 PM PDT by foreverfree
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To: Javelina
"Great info for anyone interested in class warfare..."

I call it "Classism."

24 posted on 09/21/2004 2:24:44 PM PDT by oprahstheantichrist (Life is short. Pray hard.)
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Comment #25 Removed by Moderator

To: Robert357
However, I think that the change is even more basic. If I were to generalize, I see a huge philosophical devide. I see Republicans as having a faith that they can make a better life for themselves, if Government does not get in the way and yet they want Government to provide for certain basic securities like protection from foreign terrorism, keeping career criminals locked up, and some infrastructure things.

There are three groups in America:

  1. Those who want somebody to take care of them.
  2. Those who simply want to take care of themselves.
  3. Those who want to "take care of" (i.e. control) everyone else.
Conservatives are group #2. Groups #1 and #3 are liberals, for opposite but mutually-reinforcing reasons.
26 posted on 09/21/2004 11:05:16 PM PDT by supercat (If Kerry becomes President, nothing bad will happen for which he won't have an excuse.)
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