Skip to comments.Meet the Poor Republicans
Posted on 05/14/2005 3:33:42 PM PDT by neverdem
Last week the Pew Research Center came out with a study of the American electorate that crystallized something I've been sensing for a long time: rich people are boring, but poor people are interesting.
The Pew data demonstrated that people at the top of the income scale are divided into stable, polar camps. There are the educated-class liberals - antiwar, pro-choice, anti-tax cuts - who make up about 19 percent of the electorate, according to Pew. And there are business-class conservatives - pro-war, pro-life, pro-tax cut - who make up 11 percent of voters.
These affluent people are pretty well represented by their parties, are not internally conflicted and are pretty much stuck in their ways.
But poorer voters are not like that. They're much more internally conflicted and not represented well by any party. You've got poor Republicans (over 10 percent of voters) who are hawkish on foreign policy and socially conservative, but like government programs and oppose tax cuts. You've got poor Democrats who oppose the war and tax cuts, but are socially conservative and hate immigration. These less-educated voters are more cross-pressured and more independent than educated voters. If you're looking for creative tension, for instability, for a new political movement, the lower middle class is probably where it's going to emerge.
Already, we've seen poorer folks move over in astonishing numbers to the G.O.P. George Bush won the white working class by 23 percentage points in this past election. Many people have wondered why so many lower-middle-class waitresses in Kansas and Hispanic warehouse workers in Texas now call themselves Republicans. The Pew data provide an answer: they agree with Horatio Alger.
These working-class folk like the G.O.P.'s social and foreign policies, but the big difference between poor Republicans and poor Democrats is that the former believe that individuals can make it on their own with hard work and good character.
According to the Pew study, 76 percent of poor Republicans believe most people can get ahead with hard work. Only 14 percent of poor Democrats believe that. Poor Republicans haven't made it yet, but they embrace what they take to be the Republican economic vision - that it is in their power to do so. Poor Democrats are more likely to believe they are in the grip of forces beyond their control.
The G.O.P. succeeds because it is seen as the party of optimistic individualism.
But when you look at how Republicans behave in office, you notice that they are often clueless when it comes to understanding the lower-class folks who put them there. They are good at responding to business-class types and social conservatives, but bad at responding to poor Republicans.
That's because on important issues, the poor Republicans differ from their richer brethren. Poor Republicans aspire to middle-class respectability, but they are suspicious of the rich and of big business. About 83 percent of poor Republicans say big business has too much power, according to Pew, compared with 26 percent of affluent Republicans. If the Ownership Society means owning a home, they're for it. If it means putting their retirement in the hands of Wall Street, they become queasy.
Remember, these Republicans are disproportionately young women with children. Nearly 70 percent have trouble paying their bills every month. They are optimistic about the future, but their fear of their lives falling apart stalks them at night.
Poorer Republicans support government programs that offer security, so long as they don't undermine the work ethic. Eighty percent believe government should do more to help the needy, even if it means going deeper into debt. Only 19 percent of affluent Republicans believe that.
President Bush has made a lot of traditional Republicans nervous with his big-government conservatism. He's increased the growth of nonsecurity domestic spending at a faster rate than Lyndon Johnson and twice as fast as Bill Clinton. But in so doing, he's probably laid down a welcome mat to precisely these poorer folks.
Even so, Republicans have barely thought about how to use government to offer practical encouragement to the would-be Horatio Alger heroes. They've barely explored their biggest growth market. If Republicans can't pass programs like KidSave, which would help poor families build assets for education or retirement, then Hillary Clinton, who is surprisingly popular with poor Republicans, will take their place.
Or you might say, between joining Latin America and joining Europe. Bush's trade and immigration policies want to make us part of Latin America with an isolated, oblivious elite living behind fortified walls, a thoroughly corrupt political establishment that serves them, and rootless peons on the margin of survival. Democratic cultural policies want to make us part of Europe, godless, degenerate, and not saying boo without the approval of the UN or the "international community".
There is such an openning for a party that wants America to be America.
You pulled yourself up by your bootstrap and did it all by yourself. Except, of course, for all those federal student loans.
I rate societies like I rate machinery and weapons. If an average 19 year old can't be trained to become proficient in a weapon in six months, it's a bad weapon. If a car designed by the kids who got straight a's in high school is too overengineered to be maintained by the kids who spent high school cutting class to smoke dope under the bleachers
then its a bad car. If you have to be a genius and a hero to have a stable life in a society then its a bad society. If Joe Sixpack cannot find regular work, if people who work with their hands are on the edge of poverty, if that half of the labor force that is not college educated is under continual downwards mobility pressure from third world competition then its a bad society.
Ditch the homosexual and abortion agendas and Democrats will win in landslides - especially after the Republicans in power under Bush have shown that their fiscal conservativisim was a lie. Both parties in power are for big govt so the issues fall under social lines for the voters.
Many Republicans signed on to fight liberal plans for changing the economy and the culture. When it comes to plans of their own party to change things, some aren't so enthusiastic about it. It's not the transformation of society according to a plan to maximize some value, but security, order and continuity that they value.
That doesn't mean that they don't care about freedom, just that freedom is defined in terms of what exists now, rather than in terms of what might be. People who have the same response to attempts of the left to change things don't necessarily agree with each other when it comes to planned changes from the right.
You may have seen the four quadrant analysis of ideologies, also called the Nolan chart:
American analysts don't know what to do with people in that lower quadrant, who don't passionately seek liberty or equality, but looks for security and stability first. So they get labeled "authoritarian" or "populist" or "lower income."
But it's a valid political position that shouldn't simply be put on the sidelines. It may include some nasty political tendencies. It isn't confined to them, though. "Traditionalist" or "communitarian" have been suggested as alternative labels.
I don't suggest that these voters are "authoritarian" or "communitarian," just that American analysts don't know what to do with voters who don't fit into a simple left-right analysis. Libertarians have been able to break out of that to some degree, but other groups haven't.
But it's not clear that "low-income Republicans" or "pro-government Republicans" are behind administration policies. It looks more like President Bush tried to win voters in the center and Pew has found a label to slap on some of the voters he got.
"There is such a cryin need for a party that is nationalist economically and conservative on cultural values."
I had kind of thought this is what the Constitution Party was, but in terms of a constituency, I've notice that half of FR spouts the RFLMAO chatroom cliche' everytime they are even mentioned. No, I think most of the working class are still drinking the Koolade of both major parties.
Well, I'm poor. But my wealth and income have little effect on my principles and views.
After having looked through the Pew poll, I see that almost all of the categories studied are people who lean to the left. And the methodology is hardly documented but obviously devised for a skew.
In other words, the Pew poll is subjective, pro-Democrat garbage.
Sam, that was so well said that I intend to paraphrase it, and use it over and over again in conversations and in writing. That's really the most eloquent and succinct statement on the subject I've read to date.
Sadly, I don't have all the solutions. However, I know the solution doesn't involve current corporate thinking where we have the CEO of HP saying that it's a global company and that Americans don't have a right to jobs. I can say with certainty that the solution isn't so-called American companies with no stake in America.
Your comments about the Minuteman movement being a bluecollar movement were dead on. However, Tancredo is really a one note wonder. Agree with him or not, everyone with a shred of intellectual honesty has to admit that immigration is pretty much his sole issue. That's not nearly enough to carry a presidential campaign.
Cable or satellite TV
Couple of cars that run
All the best junk food money can buy
The sad part is you really believe that. In stark contrast to you cheery little picture, I've actually loaned money to a neighbor so she could pay the co-pay when she took her kid to the doctor. That's the reality of many working class Americans.
What problem do you have with that ?
Single mothers are under intense economic and cultural pressure. They have marginal jobs that compete ferociously with outsourcing and illegal immigrant labor. And they need a culture which will not subvert their efforts to keep their children away from gangs and drugs and promiscuity. They are one or two paychecks away from being on the street and they can barely control their children.
You and I have both seen how hard it is for working people. How they are under incredibly intense economic and cultural pressure trying to keep their heads above water and trying to control their children in the midst of a culture that subverts the values they want to teach their children. The only values that will enable them to have a better life.
If you want your children to have a better future you have to teach them to ignore what their peers and the popular culture tell them. Children from upper and upper middle class families who insulated from the street and groomed for college from birth understand this. Children who grow up in a world of meth and gangs and hanging out don't.
Try being poor in Africa. See if you wouldn't prefer being poor in America.
I travel a bit in Missouri. I see people living in these trailers that look like crud, but every one of them has a satellite dish and some have $30,000 pickups in the dirt driveway.
I can't explain it.
While that may be true, you're essentially saying, "If you think being deaf is bad, try being blind." The mere fact that poverty in Africa is worse, doesn't diminish the struggles that working class Americans endure. Anyone who thinks things have been getting better for working class Americans is either blind or stupid. In my own lifetime, we've gone from a society where a single wage earner, in a menial position could support a family, to a society where a double income family isn't meeting that same mark.
You embody precisely the kind of smugness that poor Republicans have come to expect from pro-business rich Republicans. Like a guy who sees a panhandler and shrugs, "He probably makes more than I do."
It is the smugness of a party heading for a fall.
In a nutshell that is the difference between capitalism and communism.
A lot of poorer Republicans are ex New Deal Democrats and retain the distrust of "fat cats".
I believe the Pew people call that "consensus." I could tell stories.
In general, ideologies are by definition developed by people who value theory more than practical considerations. So the experts have a hard time figuring out the positions that people take in the real world. But any change has to overcome a lot of objections before it gets approved. It's part of the process and it prevents government from acting too rashly.
No condescension? The author sees two main groups:
There are the educated-class liberals And there are business-class conservatives
Smart people, the ones with an education, are Liberal. The rest of us (the uneducated) are conservative. At least, this dichotomy is true for the Rich, as far as the author can see. Its a little different for the poor:
These less-educated voters are more cross-pressured and more independent than educated voters. Already, we've seen poorer folks move over in astonishing numbers to the G.O.P.
The gains that the GOP has made in recent years is because uneducated poor people are suckered into voting Republicans. You wouldnt catch educated people doing that!! And how does the Republican party repay these voters?
But when you look at how Republicans behave in office, you notice that they are often clueless when it comes to understanding the lower-class folks who put them there.
Clueless Republicans. Uneducated and not-too-bright. Whether they are the ones running the party, or just the ones suckered into voting for the party, those Republicans are very different from the Educated Liberals!
And you see no arrogance in this?
America is really three groups in my opinion:
1. The elite moneyed class, mainly liberals, never earned a dime on hard work, they got theirs through privelege (a small numer of people). College professors who are spared the rigors of real accountable work also fall in this class.
2. The downtrodden "poor" who have given up- mostly Democrats. Includes criminals and minorities convinced of their oppressed state.
3. Then there is the rest of us, the people who work hard to get ahead. We actually like America and believe that it is the greatest place and time in the history of the world. We are mostly Republican, but there are some of us that are Democrat because they have been conditioned by the MSM and government skools that there are really different classes of people. If the MSM was even slightly fair, these people would all be pro tax-cut fiscal conservatives.
Your drawing conclusions from one example and saying that it applies to every working class American. That was a kind gesture of you to pay the co-pay for your neighbor. No one held a gun to your head to do it did they? That is what the government does when it takes money from you and redistributes that wealth. Don't believe me? Try not paying your taxes and real estate/property taxes.
My wife and I both worked for minimum wage when we started working @ $2.85 an hour. Had food, housing, a car, took vacations and put away money for a down payment on a house. It took 7 years to save enough money, but we did it.
Did we eat fillet mignon and stay at the Hilton? We sure didn't. Did we have cable TV and buy precooked meals? Nope.
How easy do we want to make life for the working poor? Don't we want them to become the working middle class?
I've always felt giving too much assistance is much like a mother refusing to let her baby learn how to walk. How compassionate is that?
You are on Free Republic, right?
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That sentence there exemplifies where we part company. I don't think anyone should be working poor, and I don't believe that one should have to move up to the middle class in order to provide adequately for themselves. My welfare gripes have always concerned the non-producers. I think it's a shame when the producers are going begging as well.
Sam isn't lacking in conservatism. Conservatism isn't now, nor has it every been marked by short-sightedness. Unfortunately, in this case, you seem to insist on a "see no evil" litmus test when it comes to this issue.
One of my favorite gleaming toys of psephology is that the county that voted with the highest percentage for Nixon in 1960 was also the poorest - Jackson County, Kentucky - 90.4% Nixon.
You have blundered.
He distinguishes two groups. Highly educated pro-business Republicans and blue collar social conservative Republicans. Basically, country club Republicans vs social conservative NASCAR Republicans.
That poverty is relative it does not change that it is real. Not being able to have a car in many countries does not mean poverty. In USA having a car can be a necessity. You can be fine and happy in some parts of the world without heating system - in Canada or Russia you will die without it.
You are poor if you cannot afford necessities and necessities depend on the country, climate, cultural norms etc ...
$100 goes much longer way in Central Africa, than in USA.
Can't they do it by themselves?
And pretty much what I get from this article is that how moral poor people who believe in hard work, investment and self betterment are attracted to a party that encourages the same. Notice how the people that want to blame somebody else for their troubles are Demon-rats.
Can't they do it by themselves?
Apparently not, as the last time I read it, we have all time high consumer and government debt. Do you need a link?
Your contributions on this thread are masterful and ought to be mandatory reading. My dad worked in a cardboard factory and my mother in a garment factory. My experience in their household tells me you are right on target on populism, Reagan Democrats and the working/lower middle class.
From a former critic, keep up the great work.
How far do you want to go to ease the life of the working poor? Guaranteed housing provided by the government? Oh wait, we already do that it's called section 8 housing. Same with health care, we already do that. I would say that giving too much assistance is like a child that refuses to let her child learn how to walk. It's not compassion, it's child abuse.
I hate corporate welfare as much as anyone, the way to get rid of is is to take the life or death decisions that politicians have over the wealthy and the business owners by returning to a government limited by the constitution. Regulating interstate commerce was not a blank check to punish and reward your friends and enemies with favorable or confiscatory tax laws and regulations.
FDR bought the votes of the farmers, bought the vote of the union members, bought the votes of the blacks by punishing the productive. His theft lead to the substitution of individualism for dependence on the government and specifically dependence on the Democrats for sustenance. Second term, his plans were well in place asking Republicans "Why are you for starving the farmer and the working man?" In 1942 FDR attempted to raise the income tax to 99.5% of all income over $25,000. It didn't pass, so he did an executive order setting the rate to 100% over $25,000. I can see that you would be jumping for joy at this populist executive order.
If you take away the incentive to produce, you will succeed more than likely. This is what you want, right?
FWIW, BE, Sam always posts well-thought out positions.
On the immigration question, Sam has identified (correctly, IMHO) part of the problem as wage-slavery (you recall Belloc's Servile State.)
IIRC, in essence, Sam's hypothesis is that by and large the Fortune 500 is decidedly neutral on the issue because they can easily substitute illegals at $6.25/hour for the native workers at $8.50.
Take a look at any meat-processor.
Further, I think the Pew analysis misses a very significant breakdown category--faith.
My suspicion is that we are looking at another way to phrase the "socially conservative/economically liberal" position of not only genuine Conservatism, but genuine Christianity.
Madison Avenue has long been a target of thinking Catholics, some at extremely high levels in the Church. Consumerism/materialism debilitates society.
A high-end men's clothing retailer in Milwaukee is now running radio ads which address the economic situation up here--it's mixed--by proposing the solution of BUY, BUY, BUY as "the American way" to fix the economy.
I can't decide if the commercials are tongue-in-cheek...
Consider the source.
NY Times ^ | May 15, 2005 | DAVID BROOKS
Lies, lies, half truths, opinions stated and facts and more lies. This is what you get in the old grey whore. Why anyone believe anything published in this pompous fishwrapper?
Freemarketeers have no answer for this argument.