osewalrus (osewalrus) wrote,

This is why I am not sure traditional election correlations hold

According to the latest census numbers, the number of Americans at or near poverty is growing and now stands at nearly 1 in 2. That is to say, half of us are now officially poor or near poor.

Conventional logic holds that this bodes ill for whoever is in charge and gets blamed, notably President Obama. But I am less sure. Republicans have, so far, failed to find the populist sweet spot first pioneered by Ron Reagan. True, the basic message of Republican economic populism remains the same: if we reduce government burdens on everyone you keep more of your own, businesses will hire more people, and you will have more opportunity because Government is controlled by "them" and "they" are keeping you down by taking your money and opportunity and giving it to "them."

That message obviously still resonates with the Republican base. But it is muddled by two factors with the electorate. The first is that, as indicated above, a substantial number of Americans are now dependent on the safety net Republicans promise to cut. Food stamps, housing assistance and Medicaid are no longer a wealth transfer from "us" to "them." This is not to say that the "Government is not the solution, government is the problem" argument doesn't still resonate with many. Indeed, for those who believe this argument, the past three years re-enforce this view. But it is unclear whether the majority of Americans doing worse now than they were 4-6 years ago are persuaded enough to vote for candidates who campaign on cutting the social programs on which they are dependent.

The second problem for Republicans is that the newly poor are not enamored of the big business/American success story that has been the standard Republican trope for the last 40 years. Focus groups among all voters show a distrust for the wealthy and corporate America at record highs. Mind you, in true cognitive dissonance fashion, this runs smack into what Americans have been trained to believe for the last 30 or so years. This has the effect of making people very insecure and angsty. In 2010, voters were angry. By 2012, we've moved on to despair.

Not that these things necessarily translate into Obama/Democrat votes. But it muddies the water a great deal around the statistical correlations that pundits and pollsters like to make.

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