Friday, November 7, 2008

Statistics on the Election

Kevin Drum posts some interesting statistics of which groups came out for Obama relative to the national average and which did not. Unsurprisingly, Obama did well among the young, but surprisingly only tied Kerry amongst gays and lesbians, and did especially well amongst high earners (the primary victims of his tax plan).

Democrats have been wondering "whats the matter with Kansas?" Now Republicans will have to wonder "whats the matter with Connecticut?" Why is it that so many rich people come out for Obama despite their narrow short-term economic self interest?

I think my Dad fits the bill of one of those high-earners who were converted to Obama. He was turned off by the social conservatism represented by Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachman. But also saw the value of his retirement savings wither away by inflation and the low dollar caused (he says) by Bush's budget deficits. Meanwhile, Bush did not so much cut taxes on high earners as on the wealthy through his massive cuts of inheritance and capital gains taxes. Bush showed his natural affinity for the ne'er-do-well sons of wealthy fathers like himself. Meanwhile, many people with high incomes who live in the coasts don't actually have much wealth: they spend their money on inflated real estate and watched the value of their expensive houses plummet under Bush.

But over on the Corner, there is a worriesome critique of Obama's constituency. Despite all his emphasis on the middle class, it is not totally unfair to characterize much of his support and his supporters as coming from a mix of poor blacks and rich whites. He himself may not fit into either category, but plenty of my fellow Obama volunteers did. My previous sentiments of unity with my black and hispanic co-volunteers should be colored with the yawning gaps in our education levels and prospects.

The response is to note that my current home town, solidly and genuinely middle class West Reading, came out overwhelmingly for Obama (pdf) while the more rural precincts of Berks county, with comperable income and education levels went for McCain. Values, represented in part by our choice to live in our cohesive and walkable town, seemed to trump income.


Jim said...

FWIW, I think the attitude displayed in this post is outstanding.

If you haven't already, you should check out Andrew Gelman's book Red State, Blue State for a very sophisticated take about why thes dynamics play out different across income groups in different states.

Jim Manzi

glgraff said...

Since I was mentioned in the post as a convert to Obama despite relatively high income, let me give my own, admittedly non-scientific take on it.

Although most people I know in my economic category voted for Obama, we are not particularly happy with the "soak the rich" aspects of his rhetoric and purported tax policy. We are also concerned about his views on free trade (against) and farm subsidies (for).

On the other hand, we recognize that the policies of the Bush administration (increase spending while cutting taxes) were fiscally imprudent, if not just plain stupid, and that the administration's subsidies to oil companies, defense contractors, health insurance providers and drug companies smelled more like corruption and socialism for the rich than promoting an economy that is truly based on transparent markets that allocate resources in an economically efficient manner. This was coupled with appeals to what people call "social conservatism" but which, in my view, more closely resembles fascism, in its demonizing of people who are educated, think for themselves or are otherwise different from themselves, and a fundamental disregard for civil rights and the observance of the rule of law by governmental agencies that is directly antithetical to the ideals of the libertarian ideals of the Republican party to which I belonged.

McCain, at one point, represented the only hope among the
Republican candidates for retaining the support of people like me, and he occasionally manifested the type of political courage to stand up the worst elements of new right. But, things like his toleration of Sarah Palin's efforts to make a virtue of stupidity, his proposal to cut taxes on gasoline and "drill baby drill" in response to oil price increases, his deafening silence on immigration reform (once a major cause) and his own willingness to indulge in the nasty "Ayers" and "socialist" accusations promulgated by his campaign staff proved that he no longer had the courage to do the right thing that formed the principal basis for his initial political appeal.

In short, people like me, who believe in a competent government that maximizes personal liberty, toleration and individual rights, a free and open economic policy that encourages innovation, rather than subsidizing entrenched interests, and an intelligent foreign policy that represents true American values, had nowhere else to go. But we still hope that Obama will show himself to be a pragmatic leader who will adopt an intelligent economic policy and resist the populist notion that they can help improve the prospects of working people by adopting policies that will deprive them of the fruits of their endeavors if they succeed, or by building walls to shield us from global competition, rather than promoting the educational and economic policies that will enable our country to prosper in that environment.