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Saturday, November 24, 2007

Brother, Can You Spare A Grand: Democrats Control Wealthiest House Districts

CINCINNATI (TDB) -- The conservative Heritage Foundation and the Washington Times are allied in again spreading the myth and stereotype that most Democrats are rich, and thus have totally lost touch with real America. Once again, the criticism seems to be that they read books, attend plays, and don't listen to James Dobson on the radio; they are too cosmopolitan and elitist for middle America. The Times is reporting that a Heritage Foundation study about national wealth concentrations based on IRS data shows Democrats represent the richest congressional districts. In other words, the expression country club Republican is an oxymoron.

The Washington Times quotes Michael Franc, vice president of government relations at the conservative think tank:

"If you take the wealthiest one-third of the 435 congressional districts, we found that the Democrats represent about 58 percent of those jurisdictions."

The study said more than half of the nation's wealthiest households were in 18 states where the Dems have both Senate seats. According to Franc, this means that the Republicans don't represent the rich side of America because "the vast majority of unabashed conservative House members hail from profoundly middle class districts. I just found the pattern across the board to be very interesting. That pattern shows the likelihood of electing a Democrat to the House is very closely correlated with how many wealthy households are in that district."

This is a theme that goes back to the 2004 campaign for the White House. Karl Rove's strategy was to depict the Dems as a collection of well-heeled snobs, professors, computer billionaires, Jews and Mercedes-driving cheese-eaters who mostly lived in coastal enclaves that were blue patches on the map. There was no room for farmers or hunters or anybody with a gun -- or anybody who went to church -- in that mix.

Thomas Frank, in his best seller What's The Matter With Kansas, ripped into the Dems represent the rich theme as a grand, and false, generalization. Their districts also cover farm country, military bases and NASCAR tracks.

. . .the top three soybean producers -- Illinois, Iowa, and Minnesota -- were in fact blue states; or by listing the many military bases located on the coasts; or by nothing that when it came time to build a NASCAR track in Kansas, the country that won the honor was one of only two in the state that went for Gore. Average per capita income in that same lonely blue county, I might as well add, is $16,000, which places it well below Kansas and national averages, and far below what would be required for the putting on of elitist or cosmopolitan airs or any kind."

MainStream Iowan also has a look at the latest revival of the argument that the Democrats are now the party of the rich.


  1. Well, here's the real rub. Republicans are often elected by those one would think would support Democrat Party policies. Yet, once elected, these same Republicans go about the business of dismantling the middle class and raising the incomes of the elite. This much CAN be supported by statistics.

    It's a complex cultural game and is well documented in both Frank's "What's The Matter With Kansas" and the newer book "Deer Hunting with Jesus" by Joe Bageant (recommended by fellow Plunderer Brian - and a concurrence from me).

    The real lie is when Republicans make themselves out to be for the little guy then treat him like a rookie shower-mate in the state pen. If you know what I mean...

  2. Hi Eric --

    There is a corporate element that affects policy in the Democratic Party. It is a point that Edwards has been making, a point that probably hits hardest on the Clinton campaign. But the Washington Times/Heritage contention that the D party is the party of the rich falls way short of reality in my view. Some of the poorest people in America are Democrats -- those who live in the inner urban cores. And Hispanics are overwhelmingly Dems -- with the exception of Florida's Cuban-American community. I think the rural South may have stepped out of the traditional Dem coalition because of Nixon's successful execution of a southern strategy that created the impression that the GOP was on their side when it came to the race issue.

  3. Nothing's ever perfectly 50-50, and someone's likely reading more meaning into useless statistics than is actually there.

    I've noticed a broad diversity. Lindners & Castellinis are R's, Peppers & Chesleys are D's. So much for the rich being one or the other. Poor city folks tend to be D's, poor country folks tend to be R's. I really don't see any correlation between party lines and wealth or status among voters.

    Where I do notice financial segregation is among politicians. Well established, many-term incumbents tend to circulate among the wealthy more, and be wealthier themselves. Upstarts, and those out-of-power, tend to be more grass-roots oriented, circulating among the masses to seek a large number of low-dollar contributions.

    Comfortable politicians are the ones that treat voters like prison bitches. The electorate realizes this, and gets “throw the bums out” fever whenever they feel particularly abused. Nothing else really explains the current mutiny of conservatives from the Republican Party, or the popularity of Obama. His support among Democrats strikes me as a vote against something, rather than passion for him. After all, his political resume is a little bit light for someone seeking the top job. But he’s the one least connected to wealth, and therefore the one who listens to the voters best. That makes him a formidable challenger.

    The Republican bench is littered with old-timers and no decent rookies. Voters perceive them all as part of the problem, not the solution. They haven’t yet come to grips with their own disfavor. That’s why they are wallowing in mediocrity.

    Everybody from both sides is aware a lot is at stake, and they’re looking for someone they can get excited about. But all they get is Rocky 4, Rocky 5, Rocky 6. It’s frustrating. Until something changes, I predict voters will just stay away in droves, wealthy, poor, and middle class alike.

  4. Hi Mark --

    I don't know if Obama's resume is so light. Good colleges, self-made politician, climb through the ranks. He did not marry or inherit his place. That is not meant as a slap at anybody. Perhaps our greatest president was a self made politician without the benefit of an Ivy League education. He was from Illinois.

    And in case anyone is thinking Reagan, well, it's not him. But he, too, was seen as having a light resume when he ran for president. Now, many consider him one of the best.

  5. His resume's certainly lighter than Hillary's or Edwards' on many objective measures like years in office, legislation authorship, and experience in presidential candidacy.

    I'm not picking on Obama; I think he's a breath of fresh air. My point is that what seems to be resonating with voters is NOT resume-style qualifications, but how in-touch or out-of-touch they are with non-government folks. You know, the kind of people who really don't like any politicians and wish they didn't control everything.

    For them, Obama seems genuine because he's clearly not a puppet of a wealthy elite, or a parrot of some committee platform. The puppet and parrot masters are all backing the other two.

    He listens to voters, and doesn't always agree with them, but rather challenges them to think. I believe they support him because they appreciate that.

  6. I don't know if Obama's resume is so light. Good colleges, self-made politician, climb through the ranks.

    I disagree. I don't think attending a good college is very meaningful in assessing an individual's qualifications to be President. As pointed out, Lincoln had hardly any formal education at any level. And I would further point out that GWBush attended Exeter, Yale, and Harvard. That's an argument against schooling if there ever was one.

    I also question whether Obama is a self-made politician. He has done nothing redoubtable in terms of policy or leadership*. Obama is famous because the media made him so. All Obama did was be black and accept the offer to speak at the convention. He's basically been continuing that speech for 3 years.

    I view Obama as more a self-made media darling than a self-made politician.

    (* All he has in this regard is opposing the war. And that's more indicative of the Party's weakness than his own courage).

    Climb through the ranks? His only previous experience was as a state legislator. He won his Senate seat in large part because his opponent got mired in a scandal. I think it's generous to describe that as climbing through the ranks.

    Voinovich and Richardson are good examples of people who climbed through the ranks, but not Obama.

    I'm not an anti-Obama dittohead so I'm not trying to slam him out of bias, but, when considered objectively, I do think his resume is very light on qualifications and experience.

    Pardon the length.

  7. Hi Westender --

    The length is certainly not a problem at all. I disagree a bit with your thesis that Obama is not self-made.

    I do see him, like you, as somewhat of a media darling. But I think that is because he is saying some things that resonate with people, that he has a certain timbre in his words.

    I don't know if Obama would be a good president or not -- I can't say if anyone who is running, Republican or Democrat, will be a good or successful president. Obama's life story appeals to me; John Edwards life story appeals to me. Hillary Clinton seems to be more of an opportunist who is trading off her husband's rise and fame to build her own political career. I am not saying she is wrong, or misguided, to make the run. I am saying she is ambitious, and for some a comfort factor is lacking.

  8. I am not sure that Minnesota is a blue state anymore than Ohio is red, both are purple. Illinois though is actually not a good example for your point because those areas that produce soybeans are also deeply Red. Chicago, etc. more than offsets those areas to make Illinois blue. The Congressional delegation from Illinois, for instance, is evenly split.

  9. It seems like the data does prove the point that the Democrats are the party of the rich.