Wednesday, July 9, 2008

As usual, David Brooks falls half into making sense and half into making me want to punch him in the face.

The observation that Obama has a huge fundraising advantage among "creative classes," "information workers," and the educated is not all that unexpected except for the degree to which he's popular among hedge funders and corporate types. The key here, according to Brooks, is education and training--people who came up from liberal areas, went to "left-leaning institutions" like Harvard (excuse me?) and now want to see people like themselves--educated, liberal, savvy types in government, not "people who used to run Halliburton and are backed by evangelicals."

The crucial thing that I think Brooks is missing here is the following: All these people have access to information (information workers? get it?). They, I would conjecture, are more likely to follow the news closely, to be plugged into the state of the world around them, and to accept experiential as well as empirical evidence of inequity or problems in the country--their educations trained them to believe statistics and to believe an aggregate of experiential accounts. This is the picture the Democratic party is working with.

Meanwhile, the Republican party continues to harp on social alarm buttons like gay marriage and taxes without any reference to reality because that's the only agenda they have to go on. The Republican party has largely enacted the policy platform of the conservative movement, and it was a disaster for everyone but the management-employed, country club set (those who tend to give to McCain). Now they're reduced to OMG GAYZ smoke and mirrors to try to get the electorate to allow them to continue doing the same. I highly doubt that people whose education, training, profession, and so daily lives involve empirical analysis, adaptive thinking, and basic reality-based information analysis are likely to buy that kind of strategy, regardless of their various positions on abortion.

In no way is this meant to denigrate those who do not fit this description as somehow plebeian or dumb. All I am trying to point out is that the kind of occupation Brooks identifies is necessarily a predisposition in this particular political climate to vote Democrat.

Oh, wow. I took a break from writing this and found some really scary statistics totally by accident (well, okay, by reading a political and cultural blog, but without intent):

Only 2 in 5 voters can name the three branches of the federal government.

--Nearly half (49%) of Americans think the president has the authority to suspend the Constitution.

--Only 1 in 7 can find Iraq on a map.

--A majority (70%) continued to believe that Saddam Hussein was responsible for 9/11, even after the 9/11 Commission reported that the claim was groundless.

--Only 1 in 5 know that there are 100 federal senators.

Right now I'm primarily interested in "Nearly half (49%) of Americans think the president has the authority to suspend the Constitution." If you were of this opinion and you heard all the hullabaloo over FISA, for example, you might wonder what the big deal was. The President can do whatever he wants as long as he says so, right? Back to whatever I was doing. That's eminently logical and a fair allocation of one's mental energy, especially since approximately 98.24% of all political hullabaloo is bullshit.

But the kind of professional that Brooks describes is highly unlikely to hold this kind of misconception and so will understand fairly quickly and intuitively what the problem is, again chasing them toward a Democratic vote.

Going back to Brooks, his conclusion that this is "a battle of the elites" is not entirely wrong--information and education elites vs. (his words) country club and corporate elites. I'd say each does have a mistrust of the other. At the same time, the divisions between these two camps are not nearly as clear or as deep as pundits would like us to believe, and even if they were I think it's a misdirection of the information Brooks is using as a starting point. What's important here isn't that the latte-sippers are coming to take over the power of the country-clubbers; it's that the people with information and analytical occupations are trending Democratic.

In addition, Brooks' conclusion that once the power grab is complete, the claims of the liberals' re: unions, economic equality, etc. will fall by the wayside is almost certainly true to one degree or another--we all know about campaign promises. However, I think that this class of voter and politician is more likely to have a systemic understanding and positive valuation of how economic betterment for others results in economic betterment for them, too, in the long term, as opposed to robbing the bank in the short term a la BushCo. Whether or not such people are more likely to be governed by altruism is a question I will not mire myself with.

No comments:

Post a Comment