Back in 2004, Thomas Frank wrote a famous book, "What's the Matter with Kansas?", in which he lamented working class white people's choices to vote their "values" rather than what -- in his not-so-humble opinion -- was in their "genuine" economic interests. Why didn't they identify as liberals and vote Democratic?
Frank's book was the midwife of President Obama's infamous "clinging to guns and God" remark on April 11, 2008:
The last few years have not been kind to Frank's or Obama's dogmatic assumptions that economic liberalism is in the interest of Kansas -- i.e., the working people of America.
The presumed tension between Kansans' economic interests and their social values appears increasingly fake.
But in the meantime, as Newark, N.J., Mayor Cory Booker's dramatic heresy on Bain capital last weekend shows, the inverse divide is opening up in the Democratic base that could be called "What's the Matter with Manhattan?"
Liberals live in rich social enclaves with artistic, progressive values that are underwritten largely by the wealth that Wall Street and capitalism create.
A 2009 Quinnipiac poll notes that socially liberal values rise with income -- "support for same-sex marriage also rises with income, as those making less than $50,000 per year oppose it 54 to 39 percent, while voters making more than $100,000 per year support it 58 to 36 percent."
The very rich are disproportionately strong social liberals, whom Bill Clinton persuaded could safely vote for Democrats. Obama's attacks on private equity and the 1 percent are making them think anew: Why should Manhattan vote their values against their pocketbooks?
Manhattan (metaphorically speaking) is thinking hard about that:
In 2008 Obama carried the majority of the rather rich -- those making $200,000 or more per year -- earning 52 percent of the vote, which was 17 points more than John Kerry in 2004. The latest Quinnipiac poll shows Obama trailing among the more modestly affluent -- those making $100,000 or more -- 49 percent to 43 percent.
Raul Fernandez, part owner of the Washington Capitals and the Washington Wizards, donated $30,000 to Obama in 2008. He told The Washington Post last month to count him into the "anybody but Obama" camp. "They paint (wealth creation) with one big brush," Fernandez told the paper. "They are truly trying to make it evil."
And it's not just as donors that these people count.
Maggie Gallagher is a nationally syndicated columnist, a leading voice in the new marriage movement and co-author of The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better Off Financially.
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