2006 Election: GOP Losing Ground

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While many in the lower middle class have to be scratching their heads trying to figure out what they gained by voting Republican in the last three elections, it is the middle of the middle class which has been largely upward mobile since Bush took office, who are likely to cost the GOP seats this November. There are two reasons for this. One is urban flight, and the other is their kids.

But first, the lower middle class. Except for the morality voters and GOP loyalist "patriots" of war, the psychology of this year's election for them is all about jobs, wages, and fringe benefits. Republicans have allowed between 5 to 10 million illegal aliens to enter this country under their watch, to under-bid the lower middle class for jobs. Additionally the lower middle class has watched the export of 100's of thousands of good paying jobs overseas since Pres. Bush took office and Republicans took Congress.

The looming Social Security and Medicare crisis is threatening their safety net as they watch year after year go by without Republicans acting in anyway to save it for them. Though the overall economy is doing well presently, the majority of Americans aren't feeling it and believe its going to get worse as a late 2005 Gallup poll shows. (Must view ad to view poll.)

Given the enormous growth in Independent voters over recent years, and the negative polls for Congress and Republicans now below those of Democrats (but not by much) it is clear, a portion of the lower middle class that voted Republican previously will be changing their vote or staying home on election day. This however, will not likely be significant in terms of Congressional district races, since, urban lower middle class are likely to already be Democrats and rural Republicans, especially in the South, will fall into that morality and war patriots group hence maintaining their identification with the Republican Party. And those that will reverse their GOP vote of the past, are spread out amongst districts and therefore will not overcome the gerrymandered districting.

It may not weigh heavily on November's elections as a specific news item, but, a federal appeals court ruling this week said that the Bush Administration's imposed restrictions on worker's rights "does not even give an illusion of collective bargaining". Combined with absolutely no movement by Republicans on increasing the minimum wage, which in turn would increase wages for those earning modestly above minimum wage, lower middle class workers have to be feeling, if not outright deciding, that the GOP is not on worker's side. Like the Donner party who canibalized their dead, and later let themselves off the moral hook by justifying the act as basic survival, sociology tells us that voters will tend to vote daily sustenance issues over morality issues when push comes to shove. If the sociologists are right, this could spell trouble for some of the GOP's base vote in November who are looking to the sustenance issues their children will face as they enter the work force.

The middle of the middle class however, is where the real trouble lies for the GOP this November. They read more, follow the political news more, and invest in their futures more than the lower middle class. In addition, they have been moving from urban or inner suburban communities to further outlying suburban communities as they upgraded their housing during these years of low interest rate mortgage financing. This could be a devastating blow for Republicans in many districts that depended on their remaining in their gerrymandered boundaries.

Though the Supreme Court just upheld virtually unlimited gerrymandering by state political leaders, it won't have any impact on this year's election. The movement of urban Democratic voters to the suburbs and moderate and independent suburb residents to outlying areas, the districts, which have not gerrymandered since 2000, could hold some surprises for some GOP congressional districts. Combining with the demographic shift, the low poll ratings for the GOP led Congress and the President will mean some districts, which went GOP in 2002, are going to go Democratic on Nov. 7.

The real prime mover for the middle of the middle class, is their investments in their children's future. These years under the Bush administration have largely benefited the middle of the middle class modestly with tax cuts. However, these folks are very aware that inflation in health care, education, housing, and energy have more than consumed their tax cuts. Far more important however, is how this group of Americans views the economic future for their children. They are investing in IRA's for college education and pressing their children to do well in school. But, they are also aware that their children will be burdened by taxes far beyond what the parents have experienced as the national debt and the demands on the Social Security and Medicare system continues to spiral to unprecedented levels.

They are also aware there is shrinking of good paying jobs in the American economy as more and more of them are exported overseas by legislation favorable to American corporations relocating overseas. More working people are going to be without medical insurance in the near future. These issues do not bode well for children's prospects of making a better living than their parents. Investing in the future welfare of their children is something the middle of the middle class is working harder at. However, they are very aware the Republican led government has all but completely ignored the next and future generations. Nothing says this more clearly than tax cuts for the wealthiest at a time of record breaking deficits and national debt. Republican's offloading of today's government spending on to the paycheck taxes of children's future earnings, along with token gestures for votes, like the No Child Left Behind Act which, never received the funding it needed to succeed nationally, resonate with parents today on both sides of the aisle.

Given the new spate of much less than expected poll numbers for GOP incumbents around the country, it appears now certain that Republicans will lose both Senate and House seats. The big question no one can answer at this point is whether majority status in either side of Congress will change hands. If there is a large anti-incumbent only sentiment driving these polls, then it is unlikely Democrats will take control of either side of Congress, since a proportional number of Democrat incumbents will also lose seats to challengers. If on the other hand, the anti-incumbent sentiment is married to an anti-Republican sentiment that shows up and votes on Nov. 7, then Democrats are likely to win majority party status in at least one side of Congress. To date, the polls do not shed any light on this question.

As David Shribman writes in one of the most non-partisan level headed analyses of the polls at this time:

Though 40 percent have a favorable opinion of the GOP -- not an impressive figure, and in fact the lowest favorability marks for the party in more than a dozen years -- the favorability marks for the Democrats (47 percent) aren't exactly ringing the bells at the Netherlands Carillon across the Potomac either.

My take is the middle class has shifted in ways difficult to detect in polling. So many of the polls are aimed at measuring Iraq and opinions about Bush. But, as history teaches, elections are always about pocket book issues even when other issues consume headlines. And in this time of future uncertainty, the middle class can't help but look to the pocket book issues their children will face in just a few years. If I am right about this, the middle class is about to deal the Republicans a blow on November 7 that not even their doomsayers have yet imagined. Nothing is more dear to the American middle class than the future of their children. And there is little evidence Republicans can deliver in their national campaigns that can overcome parent's worries that their children's future will not be as secure, as free, and as prosperous as the parents enjoyed.

I believe Nov. 7 election results will be as much about the middle class and their children's future as the din of politicians preferred campaign issues, like Iraq and illegal immigration. Of course, Democrats appear oblivious to seizing this middle class moment and topic. It is not stopping a flood of money into Democratic coffers, however. So, if they are carried back into power, it will not likely be on their campaign accumen, but, on the rejection of Republican performance.

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This page contains a single entry by David R. Remer published on June 29, 2006 12:43 PM.

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