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Meet the Poor Republicans
NY Times ^ | May 15, 2005 | DAVID BROOKS

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.


TOPICS: Business/Economy; Constitution/Conservatism; Culture/Society; Editorial; Foreign Affairs; Government; News/Current Events; Politics/Elections; US: District of Columbia; US: New York; War on Terror
KEYWORDS: alger; bush; bushvictory; davidbrooks; georgewbush; horatioalger; ownershipsociety; pew; pewresearchcenter; poor; poorvote; republicanparty
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To: A. Pole; cgbg; listenhillary; Nowhere Man; Melas

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.

101 posted on 05/15/2005 7:40:30 AM PDT by Sam the Sham
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To: Livfreeordi; A. Pole; Melas

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.

102 posted on 05/15/2005 7:49:53 AM PDT by Sam the Sham
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To: vbmoneyspender
Vb, In reply to your thoughtful post:

I am speaking to major corporations, multi nationals- not small business, sub S.

The majors are bi-political, and have no particular allegiance to the GOP or the American worker- By definition, their existence is framed by profit. To th extent they create jobs, it's not out of altruism- it's to enhance their profits; just as when they terminate those jobs, or farm them out to cheaper labor overseas, they do so to maximize profit.

If you work for one of these corporations, your taxes and FICO are automatically deducted from your paycheck. You pay. On the other hand, these multi nationals move operations and money overseas to avoid taxation.

It may be legal, but it's not right. As cited in my original post, Congress has just passed a law allowing drug companies "amnesty" to repatriate a net $81B from overseas holdings- a net 5% tax. The average American doesn't get "amnesty" from taxation, more likely, he'd find himself in Court. Nor does the average middle class American get a 5% tax rate.

GE, Walmart, Micrsoft, Wachovia, Bank of America, Merck ad infinitum, don't need tax breaks, subsidies or incentives to "create jobs". They do so by their very nature, to remain competitive and enhance profits.
To the extent they do not, they die a capitalistic death, and a more fit corporations will rise to take their place.
103 posted on 05/15/2005 9:50:00 AM PDT by sirthomasthemore (I go to my execution as the King's humble servant, but God's first!)
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To: A. Pole

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.

104 posted on 05/15/2005 10:04:05 AM PDT by Destro (Know your enemy! Help fight Islamic terrorism by visiting and
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To: neverdem
Pew's study is pretty condescending to poorer voters. You can see a parallel between what Brooks and Pew rather smugly label "low income" Republicans and Democrats. People followed FDR and his Democrats for largely economic reasons. When the Democrats adopted a radical cultural agenda plenty of old New Deal Democrats felt alienated and eventually left the party.

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.

105 posted on 05/15/2005 11:03:19 AM PDT by x
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To: Sam the Sham

"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.

106 posted on 05/15/2005 11:24:44 AM PDT by RepublicMan4U
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To: neverdem
David Brooks wrote, with his usual male feminist dishonesty:
"Remember, these Republicans are disproportionately young women with children."

But the Pew Report said:
"This relatively young, predominantly female group is under substantial financial pressure, but most feel it is within their power to get ahead. This group also is highly concentrated in the South, and, of the three core Republican groups, had the lowest turnout in the 2004 election."

Brooks is a closet Hillary Democrat if he's not "outed," yet.
107 posted on 05/15/2005 12:23:06 PM PDT by familyop ("Let us try" sounds better, don't you think? "Essayons" is so...Latin.)
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To: neverdem

Well, I'm poor. But my wealth and income have little effect on my principles and views.

108 posted on 05/15/2005 12:29:14 PM PDT by DameAutour
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To: neverdem

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.

109 posted on 05/15/2005 12:58:22 PM PDT by familyop ("Let us try" sounds better, don't you think? "Essayons" is so...Latin.)
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To: Sam the Sham

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.

110 posted on 05/15/2005 1:00:52 PM PDT by Melas
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To: listenhillary
So what is your solution? Use the power of the government to level the playing field?

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.

111 posted on 05/15/2005 1:03:33 PM PDT by Melas
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To: Nowhere Man
Tom Tancredo, I support him, he seems to be my personal favorite but the Republican Establishment would doom him.

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.

112 posted on 05/15/2005 1:12:51 PM PDT by Melas
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To: listenhillary
Definition of poverty in America? 2-3 TV's

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.

113 posted on 05/15/2005 1:18:07 PM PDT by Melas
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To: familyop

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.

114 posted on 05/15/2005 1:42:02 PM PDT by Sam the Sham
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To: x
Here is my Nolan Chart, I took the test a while back:

Image hosted by

I remember discussing this in high school (1985 - twenty years, has it been that long?) political science about how the left-right political spectrum doesn't explain everything so we came up with a similar chart like the Nolan one. I mean again, using me as an example, I'm very pro-NRA, pro-life, pro-Judeo-Christian, pro-military, support the war on terror, abd pro-family but I'm more economically moderate, I do support the idea of a welfare state as long as it is a hand up not a hand out and to provide a safety net while fine tuning it to make it run more efficient and to not encourage laziness instead to provide an avenue to learn a skill and responsibilty so they can be productive members of society. I think NASA should be expanded although I encourage private ventures too. Single payer healthcare I'm willing to give some thought as long as we have safeguards to where people are not "Schiavoed" or can get care when they need it, my jury is still out on that one but I lean in favor if those conditions are met. I do support President Bush on Social Security reform though. I'm opposed to the backruptcy reform and I think there should by no death-tax on estates.

I guess I'm a prime guinea pig for your case. B-D

I think where Pew got it wrong with me is I do follow current events and I do vote often.
115 posted on 05/15/2005 1:47:35 PM PDT by Nowhere Man (Lutheran, Conservative, Neo-Victorian/Edwardian, Michael Savage in '08! - DeCAFTA-nate CAFTA!)
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To: Melas


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.

116 posted on 05/15/2005 1:50:29 PM PDT by Sam the Sham
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To: Melas

Try being poor in Africa. See if you wouldn't prefer being poor in America.

117 posted on 05/15/2005 1:57:25 PM PDT by listenhillary (If it ain't broke, it will be after the government tries to fix it)
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To: Melas

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.

118 posted on 05/15/2005 2:00:58 PM PDT by listenhillary (If it ain't broke, it will be after the government tries to fix it)
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To: listenhillary
Try being poor in Africa. See if you wouldn't prefer being poor in America.

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.

119 posted on 05/15/2005 2:20:16 PM PDT by Melas
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To: listenhillary; Melas

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.

120 posted on 05/15/2005 2:25:06 PM PDT by Sam the Sham
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