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3 December 2012

Conservatives can win floating voters and core voters, but not by sucking up to the rich

Apologies for yet another article on the US Presidential election, but they are still counting the votes. What’s more, the winner won’t formally be decided until the Electoral College meets on the 17th.

Now, at the Deep End, we like to deal in serious issues rather than political gossip, but what we hear is that it’s likely to go Obama’s way. Just so you know.

In a fascinating analysis for NewGeography, Joel Kotkin puts Obama's success – or, rather, Romney’s failure – into perspective: 

  • "What should concern Republicans was declining turnout in traditionally GOP-leaning suburbs, the very places where middle-class professionals and business owners reside. These voters were not energized by Romney. So even though he improved the GOP’s 2008 vote among the middle class and independents, Romney’s total was about 1,000,000 below that of John McCain. Had Romney equalled McCain’s performance in four states (Florida, Ohio, Virginia, and Colorado), he would have won, rather than losing to a president who received 7 million fewer votes than in the previous election. 
  • "Let’s take a measurement of base stagnation: the nation’s population has grown 20 million since George Bush was elected in 2004, but the GOP vote has actually shrunk. This correlates as well with a stunning decline of roughly 8 million white voters compared to 2008. The white population may be getting old, but it’s not dying off that rapidly." 

Joel Kotkin says that the failure of the Republican core vote to turn out is all the more serious because, as a social group, these are the sort of people who'd love to love to see a change at the White House:

  • "In fact, as Gallup notes, nearly 60 percent of small-business owners disapprove of Obama. The problem was many simply did not see Romney as a viable—let alone an attractive—alternative. In contrast, the Obama team did a far better job of turning out their base of minority, youth, single and childless women, and union members..." 

Kotkin argues that "to change the political dynamic, Republicans need to address class concerns, particularly those of small property owners and aspirant small entrepreneurs":  

  • "Yet the GOP has no program for this group other than lower taxes and hollow promises to cut the budget… The party’s hodgepodge of corporate managerialism, social regressiveness, and, above all, protection of the plutocratic class is demonstrably not compelling to most Americans." 
  • "It’s hard for a Main Street business owner, or sole proprietor working from home, to relate to a plutocrat, like Romney, who pays lower effective tax rates than they do. Outrage against looming tax hikes would be justifiable, if the true motivation were not so plainly to preserve the privileges of the haute bourgeoisie. This is a politically doomed approach…"  

There is an important lesson here for the British Conservative Party. After years of pointless argument over the relative merits of a ‘core vote strategy’ versus a ‘centre ground strategy’, we’re finally realising that our core vote is much closer to the centre ground than the stereotypes would suggest. However, that also means that they’re a lot further from the wealthy elite, which one could define as that tiny proportion of the population that pays (or will ever pay) the highest rate of income tax.

By going the extra mile for the rich we won’t just distance ourselves from the centre ground, but from our core voters too.


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