These Are Not Your Grandfather’s Democratic Nor Republican Parties
As a life-long Republican I have to admit to major disappointment and embarrassment over the recent developments and lack of meaningful accomplishments generated in Washington, DC since the election. It makes me appreciate even more the leadership demonstrated by Governor Holcomb, Speaker Bosma and President Long in Indiana.
Last week when one of my Democratic friends had me on the ropes trying to defend the inaction in DC, I came across an article asking whether the Democratic Party had become too rich for its own good. It pointed out that Bernie Sanders had lost to Hillary Clinton even though he represented the grand Democratic tradition of slamming the rich (normally viewed as Republican) to reward the poor and working classes (normally viewed as Democrat).
As recently as 1976 the most affluent voters, the top 5%, were solidly Republican – 77% to 23%. Those in the bottom third of income distribution were solidly Democrat – 64% to 36%. However, the 2016 election saw the economically elite in the top 10% income level favor Clinton over Trump – 47% to 46%.
Additionally, for the first time ever, a majority of voters (54.2%) casting Democratic ballots for President had college degrees. Clinton won the top 15 states with the highest percentage of college graduates.
The problem for the Democratic Party is that the “them” (rich Republicans that they could always blame and tax) has become “us.” A case in point:
When President Obama proposed a modest change in the 529 College Savings Plan designed to assist people with moderate incomes at the expense of those with higher incomes, he ran into a wall of opposition. Approximately 70% of the tax benefits for 529 Plans currently go to families with incomes above $200,000.
It wasn’t the Republicans who led the opposition; it was Nancy Pelosi and now Senator Chris Van Hollen from Maryland along with many of their Democratic colleagues. Nearly half of Pelosi and Van Hollen’s constituents are six-figure income households. In less than a week President Obama dropped the proposal and it certainly wasn’t because he was afraid to fight the Republicans on the philosophical or political battlefield.
Let me be clear, this economic division is not just a political problem for the Democrats, albeit is a relatively new one for them. The Republicans face the same problem. As I mentioned in my November 11, 2016 blog, of the 700 counties around the country that voted for Obama in both 2008 and 2012, more than 30% of them switched and voted for Trump in 2016. Trump would not have won if Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin and Iowa voters had not switched.
Many of these problems have been fostered by the socio-economic changes which have developed over the past decades. How the parties, and more importantly the country, address these problems will be discussed in my next blog.