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Goodbye "Regular Joe" Democrat

Karl Zinsmeister

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Democrats: the party of the little guy. Republicans: the party of the wealthy. Those images of America's two major political wings have been frozen for generations. The stereotypes were always a little off, incomplete, exaggerated. (Can you say Adlai Stevenson?) But like most stereotypes, they reflected rough truths.

No more. Starting in the 1960s and '70s, whole blocs of "little guys"--ethnics, rural residents, evangelicals, cops, construction workers, homemakers, military veterans--began moving into the Republican column. And big chunks of America's rich elite--financiers, academics, heiresses, media barons, software millionaires, entertainers--drifted into the Democratic Party.

The extent to which the parties have flipped positions on the little-guy/rich-guy divide is illustrated by research from the Ipsos-Reid polling firm. Comparing counties that voted strongly for Bush to those that voted strongly for Gore in the 2000 election, the study shows that in pro-Bush counties only 7 percent of voters earned at least $100,000, while 38 percent had household incomes below $30,000. In the pro-Gore counties, fully 14 percent pulled in $100,000 or more, while 29 percent earned less than $30,000.

It is "becoming harder by the day to take the Democrats seriously as the party of the common man," writes columnist Daniel Henninger. "The party's primary sources of support have become trial lawyers and Wall Street financiers. It is becoming a party run by a new class of elites who make fast money--$25 million for 30 days work on a movie, millions (even billions) winning lawsuits against doctors...millions to do arithmetic for a business merger."

Obviously both parties have their fat cats, but Federal Election Commission data show that many of the very wealthiest political players are now in the Democratic column. Today's most aggressive political donors by far are lawyers--who donated $98 million dollars to 2004 political candidates as of June. (By comparison, the entire oil and gas industry donated $13 million.) And rich lawyers do indeed tilt strongly Democratic: 71 percent of their contributions went to Democrats, 29 percent to Republicans.

Read the entire article on The American Enterprise Institute website.

Posted: 10/31/04



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