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Democrats Vote Against Economic Interests Too

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I didn’t want to rehash the Barack Obama “bitter” comments again, but Dan Schnur makes such a dead-on point in a New York Times editorial that I can’t resist discussing it. Schnur comments on Obama in relation to the Thomas Frank book What’s the Matter with Kansas which seeks to explain why a large percentage of blue collar and rural voters don’t vote for the economic policies of Democrats.

The mistake that Senator Obama and Mr. Frank both make is that they assume that only the values of culturally conservative voters require justification. An environmentally conscious, pro-stem cell bond trader who votes Democratic is lauded for selflessness and open-mindedness. A gun-owning, church-going factory worker who supports Republican candidates, on the other hand, must be the victim of partisan deception. This double standard is at the heart of the Democratic challenge in national elections: rather than diminish these cultural beliefs as a byproduct of economic discomfort, a more experienced and open-minded candidate would recognize and respect the foundations on which these values are based.

Yes. He’s right. When Frank’s book came out, I was living in Washington, DC just a few blocks from an extremely wealthy area with an extremely large number of liberal bumper stickers and house signs. I remember commenting at the time that those people surely weren’t voting their economic interests either but no one was saying they were being duped by Democratic social issues.

A willingness for the well-off to pay higher taxes is seen as a sign of sophistication. A willingness of the less-fortunate to forgo a few government handouts in favor of gun rights and abortion controls is seen as ridiculous. This is a view that permeates the left. In the past, Obama has made a good effort in combating such elitist notions and his recent comments may have been little more than an off-the-cuff aberration, but it’s still a point-of-view embraced by many in his party. And I personally think it’s one he shares at least in part.

The problem is, what do Democrats do about it? The party is very pro-choice. The party is quite negative towards guns. The party is very in favor of strong church/state separations. It can’t change its principles. And, in fact, those principles win them a great number of votes from wealthy people who might otherwise opt to vote their economic interests (i.e. Republican).

I think all Democrats can do is try their hardest not to condescend towards those with whom they disagree. Democrats don’t like it when Republicans insinuate that liberals’ foreign policy views make them traitors. Well, Republicans don’t like it when Democrats insinuate that conservatives’ social views make them idiots. They don’t want to be told they are clinging to their values because they are bitter about their economic status. They want to be told they can have prosperity AND their guns, economic success WITHOUT abortion clinics, stability WITH public prayer.

The Democrats can’t exactly deliver that, but they can sure work harder at not making such dreams sound foolish.