Inequality is increasing, but those getting the short end of the stick — blue collar workers — are largely in favor of Bush. How can that be?
The latest available data — for 2000 and 2001 — shows the trend towards greater inequality has accelerated again (not surprising, given the policies of a GOP-controlled government.) Job growth has stalled, leaving the unemployment rate well above the “natural” non-deflationary rate. This is putting downward pressure on cash wages. Meanwhile, soaring health care costs are gobbling up much of the gains from rising labor productivity — further discouraging employers from hiring.
Then the question of why those at the bottom still support Bush. Well, not the bottom exactly, but blue-collar workers — especially men. The author refers to hem as “Nascar Dads” in a catchy phrase that makes a nice contrast with “Soccer Moms:
Until Nixon, Republicans had for a century written off the blue-collar voter. But turning Marx on his head, Nixon appealed not to a desire for real economic change but to the distress caused by the absence of it. And it worked as it’s doing again now. In the l972 contest between Nixon and McGovern, 57% of the manual worker vote and 54% of the union vote went to Nixon. (This meant 22 and 25-point gains for Nixon over his l968 presidential run.) After Nixon, other Republican presidents — Ford, Reagan, and Bush Sr. — followed in the same footsteps, although not always so cleverly.
Now George Bush Jr. is pursuing a sequel strategy by again appealing to the emotions of male blue-collar voters. Only he’s added a new element to the mix. Instead of appealing, as Nixon did, to anger at economic decline, Bush is appealing to fear of economic displacement, and offering the Nascar Dad a set of villains to blame, and a hero to thank — George W. Bush.