David Brooks wrote an article Saturday about poor Repubicans, and their sway in American politics. It notes a recent pew poll showing poor representation of poor voters by both parties. The poll classifies poor demographics as socially conservative and fiscally conservative regardless of party. Regarding foreign policy, poor Republicans are hawkish, wheres their Democratic counterparts are against the war in Iraq.
Those identified as poor Republicans are, like poor democrats, critical of big business; the difference lies in how they view responsibility for their position. Poor Repulicans take more personal responsibility, but remain optimistic that individual persistence, character, and hard work will prevail against economic insecurity. Their Democratic counterparts are more likely to feel that economic security is beyond their control.
Not to say that the lefties love government assistance, while the conservatives reject it completely. Both are looking for assistance. It's only that the right-leaning poor don't want programs that undermine work ethic. Undoubtedly, the poor Republicans' position is admirable and practical. Strong work ethic, individuality, and optimism are desirable and distinguishable American traits. Our founding fathers, and mothers, thrived on there ability to innovate and survive despite adversity.
Nevertheless, I believe many rich and elitist leaders on both sides of the aisle don't pay enough attention to these poor constituents. 83 percent of the poor Republicans polled believe big business has too much control, compared to 26 percent of rich Republicans. 80 percent believe the government should help the needy, compared to 19 percent of rich Republicans. The trouble is, most Republican leaders belong to the later cohort.
Large deficits in the present, caused by miscaluculated tax-cuts and pork spending, will make difficult future goals of raising the lower class to the desired middle class. Cuts to Pell grants and Medicaid are also making it more difficult. If social movement is a goal, individual optimism is a must, but if conditions are too hostile, that mentality may slowly become more cynical.
Democrats who loathe free trade and costly welfare handouts are no better. Throwing money via a bureaucratic umbrella at the impoverished will not aid them in improving their condition. Additionally, those poor Republicans who value individuality abhore such policies. Furthermore, protectionist policies, as anyone who took economics in high school knows, cheats the consumer (unnecessarily high prices) and insults the workers by not allowing them to adapt to globalization and the increasing need for market flexibility.
The poor Republican/poor Democrat cohort has often been called "middle America." I believe true representatives of them must respect their individuality, aiding them through streamlined healthcare and education assistance. Results, testing, and accountability of such programs is a must. Which is why such programs as No Child Left Behind are a good concept (though lack of funding and state-flexibility are obstacles to its success).
Those in office must do a better job at connecting with these groups, especially running Democrats. If they want to win the next election, they're going to have to adopt "middle American values." Hopefull signs of fiscal responsibility and bipartisanship are evident in such models as Barack Obama, Russ Fiengold, Bill Richardson, and Evan Bayh. Their Republican counterparts: John McCain, Chuck Hagel are also on the right, ahem correct track.