For Brooks, "middle class" apparently means middle-class whites

››› ››› RAPHAEL SCHWEBER-KOREN

In his October 23 column, New York Times columnist David Brooks wrote that President Bush's "recasting" of conservatism away from "the Government-Is-the-Problem philosophy of the mid-'90s" has contributed to transforming the Republican party into "the party of the middle class." To support this claim, Brooks wrote that "Bush beat [Sen. John] Kerry [D-MA] among whites earning between $30,000 and $75,000 a year by 22 percentage points." In other words, under Brooks' reasoning, "the middle class" is synonymous with white people earning between $30,000 and $75,000 a year.

Had Brooks considered the entire "middle class" -- including non-whites -- within the income levels he identified, he would have found the margin to be much slimmer. In fact, 2004 exit poll data show that Bush's margin over Kerry for voters of all races earning between $30,000 and $75,000 a year was seven percentage points (53 percent to 46 percent), only four points more than Bush's margin in 2000 and one point more than President Clinton's 1996 middle-class margin of six points over Republican Bob Dole:

Income

Democrat

Republican

2004 total: $30,000 - $75,000

46% (Kerry)

53% (Bush)

2000 total: $30,000 - $75,000

47% (Gore)

50% (Bush)

1996 total: $30,000 - $75,000

48% (Clinton)

42% (Dole)

Sources: Edison/Mitofsky National Exit Poll for 2004 Election, National Exit Poll for 2000 Election, National Exit Poll for 1996 Election.

Non-whites made up 22 percent of $30,000-to-$75,000 income earners in 2003, according to the Census Bureau's 2004 Community Population Survey. The skew of Brooks' chosen data can be seen in a breakdown of the 2004 vote by race: According to 2004 exit polls, Bush won among white voters of all income levels by 17 percentage points (58 percent to 41 percent). He did not gain a majority of any other race's vote; for example, 88 percent of African-Americans voted for Kerry, and only 11 percent voted for Bush; 58 percent of Hispanics voted for Kerry, and 40 percent for Bush; and 56 percent of Asians voted for Kerry, and 44 percent for Bush. Kerry also received the vote of 54 percent of those who chose "other" when listing their race, while Bush received 40 percent.

From Brooks' October 23 New York Times column (subscription required):

Let's start by remembering where conservatism was before Bush came on the scene. In the late 1990's, after the failure of the government shutdown, conservatism was adrift and bereft of ideas.

Voters preferred Democratic ideas on issue after issue by 20-point margins. The G.O.P.'s foreign policy views were veering toward isolationism, its immigration policy was veering toward nativism, its social conservatism had crossed into censoriousness, and after it became clear that voters didn't want to slash government, its domestic policy had hit a dead end.

Almost single-handedly, Bush reconnected with the positive and idealistic instincts of middle-class Americans. He did it by recasting conservatism more significantly than anyone had since Ronald Reagan. He rejected the prejudice that the private sector is good and the public sector is bad, and he tried to use government to encourage responsible citizenship and community service. He sought to mobilize government so the children of prisoners can build their lives, so parents can get data to measure their school's performance, so millions of AIDS victims in Africa can live another day, so people around the world can dream of freedom.

''Government should help people improve their lives, not run their lives,'' Bush said. This is not the Government-Is-the-Problem philosophy of the mid-'90s, but the philosophy of a governing majority party in a country where people look to government to play a positive but not overbearing role in their lives.

In part because of Bush's shift, the G.O.P. has become the party of the middle class. Bush beat Kerry among whites earning between $30,000 and $75,000 a year by 22 percentage points.

Posted In
Diversity & Discrimination, Class, Race & Ethnicity, Economy
Stories/Interests
2004 Elections
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