John Kerry may not be running in 2008 but his departure leaves a fundamental question that every Democrat needs to ask of the candidate they are supporting (or are considering supporting).
First some quick history, since the 1970s differences on presidential votes between the different income levels have grown dramatically. For example, the support of whites in the bottom third of the electorate (household income of under $35,000) for Republicans is now markedly lower than support for Republicans among whites in the top third of the electorate (about over $75,000). When racial minorities are added to the picture the pattern of greater partisanship across income lines grows even more. While that gap has been there since at least Franklin Roosevelt in some respects, the gap has grown dramatically nevertheless (see Jeffrey Stonecash’s books Split and Class and Party in American Politics for more.
In any event, accroding to the NYT exit polls and CNN exit polls, among voters from households making less than $50,000, John Kerry beat George Bush 55%-44%, while Bush beat Kerry 56%-43% (mostly the result of a surge of support for Bush among the 6-figure salary crowd). Among all three under 50K subgroups (0-15K, 15K-30K, and 30K to 50K) John Kerry won a greater percent of the vote than both Bill Clinton and Al Gore. But among voters making over 50K in 2004 Bush outdid both Bob Dole and himself in 2000, while Kerry got a smaller percent of the over 50K vote than both Clinton or Gore (although the differences in percent support were slight in some cases)
The questions all Democrats should be asking of whomever that want to support are this:
Am I confident that this candidate win as great a percent (or a greater percent) of the under 50K vote than John Kerry did in 2004? Am I confident that they can inspire the under 50K crowd to represent as great or greater than 45% of the vote? If the answer to either question is even a “I don’t know” then you should not support that candidate-because he or she won’t win.
Sure doing better among “upscale” voters is all fine and dandy, but if the candidate in question will compromise the principles that most Democrats, including Kerry, fought for in 2004-namely helping the middle and working class and the impoverished who are desperately trying to get into the middle class -then what is the point of a Democratic victory in 2008?
A final note about over 50K or six-figure voters and the war in Iraq. The evidence evidently is that Iraq played a crucial role in the movement of enough “upscale” voters towards the Democrats in 2006. Sure that’s very good (no, great) news. But is Iraq all we have folks? Someday, the Iraq war will end (I know it seems light years away, but it will happen). Will anti-war liberals still fight the good fight to give comfort to the afflicted? Or will upscale anti-war liberals simply say “mission accomplished” and retreat into their stock portfolios once the war is over (think the anti-war students of the 1960s who became the yuppies of the 1980s).
Yes, I voted for John Kerry because I thought he would end the war in Iraq in a timely and quick fashion. But I also felt that after bringing the troops home, he would help to build a more equitable America that any soldier-or any American-would want to come home to. While I have faith in the Democratic Party as a Whole on this issue, Im admit there were Democrats in 2004, and still are around in 2008 who I believe would follow the “mission accomplished” scenario described above.
A Democratic candidate for office who follows that scenario will most likely not win a general election-and probably shouldn’t be president anyway! Sure we all want Americans out of Iraq, but who wants our brave soldiers to come home from Iraq so they can live in an oligarchy? In any event if Americans truly want a political party in charge of the country that is perfectly fine with growing inequality in income and opportunity between the classes, ( in wartime or peacetime) then I have good news for Americans. That party already exists, it’s called the modern Republican Party. All you’ve got to do is forget about any economic security and vote for them.
Coming Up Next: Answering Reagan’s Most Famous Question-and How it Lead to Casualties in Iraq and New Orleans!