October 22, 2004

VALUE SHOPPERS (via Michael Herdegen):

An election all about values (Mortimer B. Zuckerman, 10/25/04, US News)

[T]he Democratic Party saw its leadership shifting away from its working-class and middle-class roots, away from moral traditionalists, especially families that go to church, away from those who live in unfashionable tract suburbs and even in working-class neighborhoods. The Democratic Party was increasingly identifying more with the rising elites of the information and entertainment age--what commentator Joel Kotkin calls the "hip-ocracy" of well-educated people, high-tech tycoons, Hollywood moguls and celebrities, Wall Street financiers, and an academic world of people with graduate degrees--a new social elite, much more liberal than the country at large. Bill Clinton's "I feel your pain" and "It's the economy, stupid!" reflected the need to reconnect with the traditional Democratic middle-class constituencies, but then he exacerbated the concern over moral values and family issues with his personal behavior.

This new elite is voting Democratic too. The Democratic vote has risen in the 261 wealthiest townships in America, in every election over the past two decades, to the point where it has gone from 25 percent in 1980 to a majority in the year 2000. This is no small number, for we now have a mass upper class of some 9 million households, or 15 percent of American families, with incomes over $100,000, roughly half of whom have a net worth in excess of $1 million, many of them big Democratic givers. For example, lawyers gave about $80 million to Democratic candidates by July 2004, dwarfing the $15 million given by the entire oil and gas industry. So much for the image that the rich support only the Republicans.

Rich and liberal. In this, John Kerry was a godsend for the Republicans. His image and persona were such that he lacked the common touch and had difficulty connecting to the experiences or values of middle- and working-class people. As with George W. Bush's father, also accused of lacking the common touch, Kerry sees the need to assume a middle-class awareness but can't do it convincingly. The photos of Kerry windsurfing or playing other elite sports have played into all these stereotypes of someone out of touch with the average man. Ironically, it was Bush who rejected many of his family's patrician ways, who seems comfortable in casual clothes and with chopping wood rather than yachting.

Middle America saw these educated liberals as a ruling elite, a collection of snobs who looked down upon ordinary people from the heights of their multiple academic degrees--an upper class that believed it knew better and was more sophisticated than the average folks who live in the heartland. The Republicans, with populist support, tagged the liberals as "latte-drinking, Volvo-driving, school-busing, fetus-killing, tree-hugging, gun-fearing, morally relativist and secular humanist," as Jason Epstein summarized it in the New York Review of Books , and portrayed their elders as soft on communism, soft now on the new war on terrorism, and opposed to capital punishment.

The poor Democrats still think they're the populist party even though they're on the 30-40% side of every issue.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 22, 2004 7:53 AM

Based on Zuckerman's article, it's possible that three of the four New York City area newspapers will endorse George W. Bush for president (the odds are against Long Island Newsday doing it, since they're generally as liberal as the New York Times. But their parent company, the Chicago Tribune endorsed Bush last week. In the old days, when the Trib owned the Daily News, whatever Joseph Patterson decided in the Windy City was what the News' editorial policy would be. If that was the case today, odds are we would have already heard some whingning by folks like Les Payne about loss of editorial control).

As for the Democrats' situation, considering all the talk about how the polls show a neck-and-neck race, there seem to be more and more John Kerry post-mortems being published, and not just by conservative columnists (MoDo's rant on Imus being one example). It's almost as if there's two sets of polls for many of the big media organizations -- one to give to the public and another more-detailed one for in-house consumption, so folks on the inside will have an idea of the actual situation minus the campaign spin.

Posted by: John at October 22, 2004 9:10 AM

"It's almost as if there's two sets of polls for many of the big media organizations "

Like two sets of books that certain businesses have to fool the IRS - or so I've been told.

Posted by: Oswald Booth Czolgosz at October 22, 2004 11:08 AM