E.J. Dionne Is Only Half-Right

Finally, someone in the MSM noticed the very perceptive analysis “What’s the Matter with Connecticut?” that details how the Democrats do well in certain wealthy areas (e.g. Montgomery County, MD., suburban Los Angeles, suburban Los Angeles, Seattle etc.) while Republicans are still the party of the rich. But E.J. Dionne’s analysis of why Kerry could not tap into this is just wrong.

For those who might still harbor the notion that Democrats are now the party of elites while Republicans represent the middle-class “heartland” it should be noted that Bush beat Kerry 56%-43% among voters making $50,000 or more annually. At the same time “Bush won 63 percent of the votes cast by Americans in households earning over $200,000 a year, and 57 percent from those in the $100,000 to $200,000 range. All things being equal, wealthier people vote Republican.”

Dionne correctly notes that “Bush carried a lot of poor states — but with heavy support from the rich people who lived in them. The class war is being waged more fiercely in the Republican states than in the Democratic states. The income divide is especially sharp in the South, where it is reinforced by a strong racial divide.” Dionne also rightly quotes the “Connecticut”‘s analysis that “reporters tend to overemphasize the role of rich Democrats in elections. Why? Journalists, they write, “noticed a pattern (richer counties supporting the Democrats) that is concentrated in the states where the journalists live,” notably the environs of Washington and New York. The class polarization in such deep red states as Oklahoma, Texas and Mississippi goes largely unreported.”

OK, so what do we do with this information? While I normally have the highest praise for Dionne and his iconoclastic analyses, this time Dionne (a native of Massachusetts) inexplicably throws in his lot with the “Democrats need to nominate a southerner in order to win” crowd. He writes that papers like “the Matter with Connecticut help us understand why southern Democrats such as Bill Clinton and John Edwards may be more attuned to the power of populism than Northern Democrats such as John Kerry — and, perhaps, Hillary Rodham Clinton. Their paper also helps explain why Southern Republicans such as President Bush pursue policies that are hugely beneficial to their wealthy base even as they try to diminish the political impact of class warfare by shifting the argument to other subjects: religion, values or national security.”

For economic conservatives (both north and south) to not want to discuss the details of their plans and shift the subject to divisive “social” issues is nothing new. The notion that Southern Democrats are more attuned to populism is strange to say the least.

First, let’s not forget that for all of Clinton’s alleged understanding of populism, it was under Clinton that Democrats lost their congressional and legislature majorities. Meantime John Kerry won a greater percent of the under $50,000 vote than either Clinton or Gore did. Second, Kerry managed to win (albeit by small margins in some states) the under $50,000 vote in 34 states, including 8 of 12 southern states. Only in Alabama, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Arkansas did Kerry not win the under $50,000 vote in the South. Given the economic progressivism (or populism) of many of Kerry’s economic proposals, and the strength of labor unions and other progressive organizations in the blue states, its hard to argue that Democrats (particularly in the north) shirked appeals based on class.

Finally, the notion that blue states have less “class warfare” going on that red ones is not totally correct. Even in the 14 states (including Washington DC) where Kerry won the over $50,000 vote he still did better among voters making less than $50,000 in those states. Had only voters from over $50,000 households voted, the blue states of Maine, New Hampshire, Delaware, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota would’ve been red states. Furthermore, if one wants to go to a red state with class war going on, I suggest the Midwest, not the South. Except for West Va., Kerry won at least 53% of the downscale vote in all the Midwest blue and battleground states, while Bush won at least 57% of the upscale vote in all the red and battleground states out there. Indeed, in Ohio Kerry won 58% of the under $50,000 vote, Bush won 58% of the over $50,000 vote. Too bad the downscale folks only made up 48% of Ohio’s voting electorate in 2004.

It’s great the MSM is finally reporting on phenomena that many folks already know. Now if only they could put the information to greater use rather than regurgitating “conventional wisdom.”

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About Nick

Teacher of Social Studies. Born in the 1970s. History major, music minor. Big Baseball fan. Economic progressive.
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2 Responses to E.J. Dionne Is Only Half-Right

  1. Ginny in CO says:


    More great stuff. The reality of a lot of intelligence work is taking the “data dump” and analyzing it with more logic and reason. The usual result, as you so often show, is a counter intuitive (or conventional wisdom) conclusion.

    We are definitely going to need this stuff to fight the Kerry can’t win and Kerry is irrelevant stuff. Have you given a thought to going over all the posts and doing a distillation that we could print out to spread around? Even if we don’t get it published, if some news editors get their hands on it, they might start looking a little harder at the kind of coverage he gets. That could have some downsides, but for the most part, more coverage can only help get his qualifications in the minds of more voters.

    What O’Reilly and others might do with it is not likely to be good. My guess is they already know it and that’s why they’re doing all the red herring stuff with Hil and not giving Kerry any more coverage than necessary. The more time we have to figure the strategies out, the sooner we can counter them.

    I’m not sure if you can do bargraphs here but a downloadable PDF might work.

  2. Nick says:

    I’ll see what I can do.