Dan Balz reports on “a troubling culture gap” for Democrats. He bases his piece on a new Democracy Corps study which concludes that “cultural issues trump economic issues by a wide margin for many [swing] voters — giving the GOP a significant electoral advantage.” There’s a sense of deja vue to this study. Pundits observed the same phenomenon in 2004, some professing disbelief that voters in Ohio whose economic status had declined since 2000 were dense enough vote for President Bush.
The study in question analyzed focus groups of rural voters in Wisconsin and Arkansas and disaffected supporters of President Bush in Colorado and Kentucky. It found that all of the groups were dissatisfied with the direction of the country and with the leadership of the president and the GOP-controlled Congress. But they found the Democrats wanting on national security, and on cultural and moral issues, and thus were unwilling to embrace the Dems. The study leaders, Stan Greenberg and Karl Agne concluded: “No matter how disaffected they are over Republican failures in Iraq and here at home, a large chunk of white, non-college voters, particularly in rural areas, will remain unreachable for Democrats at the national level.”
Their proposed remedy, “a reform-oriented, anti-Washington agenda,” sounds pretty unresponsive to me. Nor is it clear how the probable Democratic nominee in 2008, Hillary Clinton, could run a plausible campaign along these lines. Taking the concerns of non-elite white voters more seriously strkes me as a better course, which may explain why Hillary is talking tough on defense and conciliatory on values. However, to the extent that it’s valid, the study suggests that a socially conservative security hawk with no connection to Washington would have a considerable built-in advantage against Ms. Clinton.
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