CONSERVATIVES AND THE COMMON MAN. Today's New York Times op-ed page features not one but two precious examples of the Republican fetish I call Blue-Collar Heartland Chic, the eternal desire of GOP blue-bloods to convince us that they and their party are down-home folks, Middle Americans, reg'lar fellas and gals who love nothing more than opening a can of Bud and munching on some pork rinds while NASCAR plays on the television and Toby Keith croons from the kitchen radio. First, we have David Frum, who in his Karl Rove retrospective drops this absurd line:
The Democrats are the party of the top and bottom of American society; the Republicans do best in the great American middle, which is losing ground.
Um, no. The Republicans do not "do best in the great American middle," and the Democrats are not the party of the top in American society. The Republicans do best at the country clubs and corporate board rooms. It may be an old story, but it's still true. The middle is contested, but "the top" is still Republican territory, something that all the phony outrage at "limousine liberals" in the world hasn't changed.
Let's look, for instance, at the 2004 election. According to the exit polls, there was a clear correlation between income and votes: the richer you were, the more likely you were to vote for Bush. The group he performed best with was those making over $200,000 a year, where he beat Kerry 63 to 35 percent. Or look at these charts, from the Pew Research Center. The higher you go up the income ladder, the more Republicans you find. None of this should surprise anyone, but what is so odd is the need people like Frum feel to assert that Democrats are the party of the rich, even as they advocate more capital gains tax cuts and fight against universal health insurance.
The other side of this coin comes from the second example of Blue Collar Heartland Chic, coming (inevitably) from David Brooks. His column starts this way:
Last Saturday evening, I found myself at the counter of a truck stop diner in Caroline County, Va.
Because that's what David Brooks does on a Saturday night--just hangs out at truck stops, chilling with his peeps. Not for him the company of those snooty elitists who read David Brooks in the New York Times, watch David Brooks on "The Newshour with Jim Lehrer," or listen to David Brooks on "All Things Considered"! You can imagine what was running through his mind as he saw the sign, cruising down the highway in his Lexus. "Truck stop, huh? I've got some time before Buffy and Tad are expecting me at the beach house. I'll bet if I stop in there and strike up a conversation with a real live trucker, I could get a column out of it!" And so he did.
I'll resist the temptation to do a line-by-line analysis of the column, but for those who want to learn more about the fundamental fraud at the heart of Brooks' oeuvre, you simply must read Sasha Issenberg's classic debunking of the book that made Brooks' career.
-- Paul Waldman
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