- The wealthy Republican stereotype is belied by the observation that blue states tend to be richer than red states. However, it is supported by the observation that in red states, gaps in income tend to be larger overall, and the wealthier in those states tend to be the most consistent Republican voters and supporters.
- The elitist Democrat stereotype is belied by the observation that higher income brackets nationally tend to vote Republican. But it is supported by the observation that many of the most visible and generous Democrat boosters are in homogeneous subcultural enclaves in blue states (NYC, Boston, SF, LA, Seattle/Redmond), in which states party preferences tend not to correlate with wealth.
The result is that both sides represent their polarization as a class war: the Ds say the Rs are rich oppressors looking to give themselves a free pass; the Rs say the Ds are wealthy coastal elitists who don't give a flying fig for the values of the heartland.
Dionne, of course, implies that the Ds are more truly populist than the Rs. We, of course, disagree, but not because we think the Rs are deliberately populist.
No, conservative political ideology is populist because in the long run it offers the best chance for the most people to live decent, orderly lives with a reasonable degree of prosperity. Conservatives are indifferent to the liberals' favorite complaint, the "widening gap between rich and poor." Conservatives care little that the few have an exponentially greater pile of stuff than the many. They care whether the many have the means and opportunity to contribute to the general well being through productive labor and entrepreneurship and so provide for their own needs reliably and with dignity.
Economic theory and history argue powerfully that free-market capitalism, not redistributive governmental programs, offers the best chance of that outcome. The only place for informed debate is the level of economic regulation necessary to maximize the outcome.
This observation takes us back to the demographics. The study Dionne cites doesn't go here, and we have nothing except our own seldom-wrong impressions to support the upcoming assertion, but that never stopped us before.
Here it is: the difference in voting patterns among the wealthier people of red states versus blue states has much to do with when and how they acquired their wealth.
- Red-state rich folk tend to be closer to the original and common experience of obtaining wealth. They are more often first-generation entrepreneurs who have built their own startup businesses into modest successes (N.B. that "wealthy" in this instance refers to incomes over $100k/year). They're new-money people. They adhere to conservative ideology not to catch a further break for further wealth but because they see conservative ideology as demonstrated and ratified by their own success in the free market.
- Blue-state rich folk, however, tend more often to be removed from the original or normal experience of obtaining wealth. Some are heirs. Some are entertainers. Some are seeking the acceptance and approval of the former categories. They're old-money people, or old-money wannabes. For them, wealth is really "fortune," winning "life's lottery" (was it Joe Biden who said that?) through exceptional talent or luck. Most others can't possibly expect to do the same. And from their lofty height, they can't imagine that a life of labor for a wage has any dignity or joy to it at all. So they are persuaded that redistribution of wealth is all that can raise the standards of the unwashed masses.
These are, of course, stereotypes as well. But as Dionne demonstrates, there's a reason for stereotypes. We're waiting for someone to correlate voting patterns not just with how much money the voter has, or even with where the voter lives, but with how and when the voter got the money.