Memo to David Brooks, whose sentimental, fact-free musings on working class Americans and how they rejected the Democrats graced the Opinion page of the New York Times today: Think that ordinary, hard-working folks have gone Republican? Think again.
The Wall Street Journal has posted some very illuminating charts on 2010 voter preferences that help us blow through the blather and by-pass the baloney.
Despite what you are hearing about Tea Party Populism and hopping mad Main Streeters, one thing is indisputable. The more money you make, the more likely you were to cast a ballot for Republicans in the 2010 elections. The GOP was swept into office by a green tide of affluence. The numbers do not lie, friends. And here they are.
Voters who said their income is...
Less than 30K per year voted 58% for Dems, 40% for Repubs
30K - 49,999: 52% for Dems, 45% for Repubs
50K-74,999: 46% for Dems, 52% for Repubs
75K - 99,999: 43% for Dems, 56% for Repubs
100K-199,999: 43% for Dems, 56 for Repubs
Over $200,000: 36% for Dems, 62% for Repubs
Notice that as soon as you past the average household income level in the United States, which is currently around 50K per year, you see voters trending Republican.
What to make of this? Well, poor and working class people are not stupid. They know darn well that Republicans are out to put the squeeze on them. Make no mistake: they're plenty mad at Democrats for all the bank-centric bullshit and backroom deals. They are outraged that the same crooks that got bailed out are now kicking them out of their houses. But they aren't fooled by the phony populism that the Right is spewing. They know that between the two parties, the Democrats at least have a vestigial memory of standing against the brutal income inequality, exploitation, wage depression and ripping of social safety nets that the Right has come to think of as the norm.
More affluent folks, on the other hand, are feeling greedier as their uncertainty about the future heightens. Apparently many of them aren't in the mood to share.
The Journal observes that the 2010 trend represents a distinct shift from 2006.
"Democrats saw support in their long-term stronghold of low earners, while Republicans - many of whom have espoused tax overhauls that would limit income taxes - saw more support at higher income levels. A two-point edge in 2006 among voters with income between $50,000 and $75,000 a year turned into a deficit for Democrats, the preliminary data showed. And a five-point advantage among those with income of $75,000 to $100,000 has turned into a more substantial deficit for Democrats. These income groups made up a third of the 2010 electorate, early data showed."
Somehow, we have got to convince more of the affluent voters that the ever-widening gap between the rich and poor is not in their interest, no matter how uncertain the future looks. It rips communities apart. It leads to every kind of social ill and unrest, from increased crime to depression to teen pregnancy. It's ruinous to democracy and it's even destructive to capitalism. Society will absorb only so much unfairness, only so much disparity between haves and have-nots.
Ideas like cutting Social Security, extending tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires, cutting unemployment benefits so that Americans will take any job they can get, no matter how shitty, are the kinds of things these Republicans who have just been elected are going to be talking about.
The trick is to get the Democrats to stop getting cowed and call them out. To get them to ask themselves tough questions about how they drifted from their roots, and how they can come back to being the party that they historically have been: the one that protects average, hard-working Joe and Jane.
Lynn Parramore is Editor of New Deal 2.0 and Media Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute.