Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Who Elected Obama?

Who Elected Obama?

I pointed out repeatedly during the campaign that Obama, like most Democrats, was highly dependent on the rich for his campaign contributions--and for many of the votes. Here's an article from the September 30, 2009 Wall Street Journal pointing this out:

Thomas Edsall, a correspondent for the New Republic, has written a provocative piece on just how different Mr. Obama's majority was last year when compared with previous Democratic victories. In 1976, Jimmy Carter won the White House while carrying voters making less than $30,000 (in today's dollars) by 18 points. Fueled by support from young and minority voters, Mr. Obama carried that demographic by a whopping 31 points. But he also carried voters earning over $200,000 by six points, a first for a Democrat. Where Mr. Obama failed to gain much traction was with middle-income voters, which he split with John McCain. In previous elections, Democrats had won by carrying a majority of moderate-income voters.

Mr. Edsall calls the Obama coalition "a successful alliance of the upscale and the downscale -- wealthy and needy marching hand in hand, sharing animosity to George W. Bush and the war in Iraq" But he also calls the Obama coalition a fragile one when it comes to economic issues. The Gallup Poll reports that voters earning under $30,000 a year wanted health care reform by a 13-point margin. But those earning over $75,000 a year opposed reform by 16 points.

The splits in the Democratic majorities in Congress reflect this tension. Health-care reform often pits members whose districts and states contain many uninsured people against fellow Democrats from wealthy districts who fear reform will squeeze research hospitals and generous health insurance plans.

No surprise on this. People above $200,000 a year are guilt-ridden about their comfort, and are anxious to do something about the poor (as long as it doesn't require them to reach too deeply into their own pockets). Voting for a progressive candidate lets them feel warm and cozy, without having to suffer too much. (And yes, even in California, $200,000 a year is well beyond middle class.) When we get past the symbolism--and start worrying about actual policies--it's amazing how fast that coalition of the desperately poor (some of whom are there through no fault of their own) and the coalition of the desperately guilt-ridden falls apart.

Now, if only there were a functioning Republican Party....

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