Sure 57% of American households make less than $50,000. Yes Kerry won a greater percent of the voters from households making under $50,000 vote than Clinton or Gore, and adjusted for inflation did better among voters from the bottom three income quintiles than any Democrat since 1964 (except maybe 1976 Carter). Kerry not only won the under $50,000 vote nationally, he also won them in 31 states including all the blue states and all the battleground states (except Colorado (50%-49%) and West. Va. (55%-45%)), and even some solid red states like North Carolina and Georgia.
Still, there are two fundamental problems for the modern day Democrat: First, only 45% of voters in 2004 were from $50,000 households. Second, too many folks (particularly whites) in that income strata vote their more conservative cultural views over their more liberal economic views. Why is this? According to Robyn Blumer the answer is simple: Lack of union households. In her article “Democrats Should Look for the Union Label” Blumner makes several notes from the Peter Hart Research Associates survey.
First, voters from union households voted for Kerry over Bush by a margin of 65%-33%. This is the best percent the Democrats have achieved among voters from union households since the 1960s.
More importantly for Dems:
“…the analysis gets more intriguing as it is broken down. For example, gun owners nationally voted for Bush over Kerry by 20 percentage points. But if those gun owners were also union members, they voted for Kerry by a 12-point margin. White men were for Bush over Kerry by 18 percentage points, but white, male union members preferred Kerry by 21 points. And Americans who go to church weekly voted for Bush over Kerry by 21 percentage points. Add in the union factor and they were for Kerry by 12 points.”
So there it is. Create a union member, and there’s a good chance you’ve grown a Democrat as well.” Kerry also carried union white women by 35 percent, but lost white women overall by 4 percent.
In fact, give one guy or gal a union card and you’ve probably created a Democratic voter of everyone in the household. And union voters are as sure to vote almost as much as wealthy Republican voters. Although only 12.5% of the labor force belong to labor unions, voters from union households made up 24% of the voting electorate.
Ever wonder why Bush wants to strip federal employees- including FEMA workers and workers in general-of workplace and organizing rights? I think we just found the answer. The GOP knows that abortion or no abortion, upper-class voters (including upper-class white women) will usually vote their economic interests over their cultural ones. For the middle and working class voter that’s usually only the case if the unions are there to educate them on the real economic views of the candidates. “Good god” yell the Republicans, “we can’t have non-wealthy voters being educated, they might vote. Worse, they might vote their pocketbooks and then we might have to do things we don’t like- like paying taxes to fund FEMA and public schools.”
Of course unions are not the only part of the Democratic Coalition, but they are an essential part of it. What’s more, a more powerful union movement (with more union voters) give tangible benefits even to those who are not in unions. Unions lobbied hard for passage of many of the social welfare and civil rights legislation of the 1950s, 60s, and 70s-even though much of that legislation only impacted unions indirectly at best (e.g. unions lobbied hard for the Civil Rights Acts even though their membership at the time was overwhelmingly white).
On a more recent note, even though the average union member makes considerably more than the minimum wage that hasn’t stopped unions for fighting hard for a minimum wage increase. On foreign policy, unions played an integreal part in the fight against communism- but opposed Bush’ unilateral war.
Finally, an increased union movement can bring tangible benefits to places where unions have traditionally been weak. Look at the two states of Ohio and Louisiana. Unions have traditionally been strong in Ohio (though the numbers have been declining there), but small in number in right-to-work Louisiana. Still, had there been more union voters in Ohio Kerry would’ve likely won the state. Ergo, more union households in Ohio=Kerry presidency=efficiently run and well funded FEMA=less suffering and misery in Lousiana come Hurricane Katrina. Most of the victims of Katrina may not have union cards, but they sure would’ve benefited from others having union cards.