Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Affluent Suburb Question

The exit polls have spoken. Affluent suburban voters are returning to the GOP. Uber-analyst Karl Rove agrees. Here's Rove in the Wall Street Journal:

The trend here is that suburban and independent voters moved into the GOP column. The overall shift away from Democrats was 13 points in Virginia, 12 points in New Jersey, and eight points in Pennsylvania.

What is going on? Michael Barone has the answer. Affluent suburbanites are back to voting their pocketbook. That's a change from the recent past.

High earners in non-Southern suburbs have been voting Democratic since the mid-1990s largely because of their liberal views on cultural issues[.]

It's the "social liberal, economically conservative" political axis. For ten years, since Democrats began seriously demonizing the Christian Right, affluent suburbanites have leaned to the Democrats. On social issues like abortion and gay marriage they didn't like the intensity of the Christian Right. But now economic issues have come to the fore.

A health-care bill financed by either higher taxes on high earners or on those with generous, employer-provided health insurance, looks like a hard sell in high-earner constituencies.

This gives conservatives a golden opportunity to do a bit of "consciousness raising" among the affluent set. Affluent voters inside the conservative movement have long ago accepted the Christian Right as "one of us." We see the liberal line on the "religious right" as anti-religious bigotry.

We know that enthusiastic Christianity is the best way for newcomers to the city to change their culture from the fatalist peasant culture to the purposeful commercial culture. A strong dose of Christian doctrine turns the undeserving and the failing poor into productive and happy citizens imbued with the spirit of democratic capitalism. For men there are the rules: work hard, stay sober, stay faithful; for women there is the loving relationship with Jesus.

But the folks in the affluent suburbs don't get to hear the conservative message. They go to liberal public schools and liberal colleges and all they know is the liberal line and liberal anti-religious bigotry. They weren't listening to conservatives because they didn't need them.

But that was then and this is now. The affluent suburbanites voted for Obama thinking they were doing their bit for racial progress; they were "ready for a black president." They thought they were getting a moderate, post-partisan president. After all, the MSM wasn't exactly stretching itself to report on Obama's left-wing past, corrupt connections, and curious way of getting damaging court records released on his political opponents.

But now the health reform bill is before Congress. It collapses the US medical care system into a vast health bureaucracy in order to pay for the health care of slacker liberals. And guess who's going to pay for it? I'll tell you: the social liberal, economically conservative small-business owners and high-tech entrepreneurs of the affluent suburbs.

For some reason, the Obamites neglected to tell them that part of their agenda.

The movement of the affluent suburban voters into the GOP column is a golden opportunity for conservatives. It means that for the next election cycle or two they will be listening to us. We need to reach out to them, using a language that is comfortable for them. Now we can get our message out to them.

That message must be that "social liberal" sounds good, but, in the hands of liberals it isn't very social and it isn't very liberal. We need to communicate the idea that social liberalism works only if society has well-developed social and cultural norms, standards of personal and social behavior that most people follow. If you don't encourage that then you have to run everything with law and government supervision. You have to do it the liberal way, with the government interfering not just in economic regulation but as smoking Nazis, food Nazis, life-style Nazis.

And don't be fooled. Under this liberal fascism we'll end up under the rule of the liberal bedroom Nazis, too.

If we can talk to the affluent suburbs and teach them a little tolerance for the social conservatives then maybe we can solve conservatism's big problem: The Affluent Suburb Question.

Then we will really have Karl Rove's conservative majority.

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