Conservative Schizophrenia?

Interesting stuff from Conor Friedersdorf on the tension between Galt-going and rightwing elite-bashing populism:

But do you know why we are in a position where this sort of massive expansion of government is possible? It is partly because America’s professional class — its lawyers, engineers, and doctors, those meritocrats who “got into the better colleges and grad schools” — voted in large numbers for the Democratic candidate. Perhaps this has something to do with the fact that affluent professional meritocrats, who often live in urban centers and prize competence, spent the 2008 campaign being told by the GOPticket that big city professionals live in fake America, that a diploma from an elite college is reason for suspicion, that the wine these folks drink marks them as less authentic than the beer of their compatriots, etc.

The GOP cannot wage a culture war against elites when it is convenient to rally the base, and later make a credible claim to be the champion of those same elites when it comes time to talk about marginal tax rates. What does the average, apolitical law firm partner or neurosurgeon or mechanical engineer think when he flips on the television and sees Joe the Plumber being held up as the face of the Republican Party? Do they think, “This is a party that is going to reward meritocrats like me,” or do they think, “I’ve got a choice between a party that’s going to insult my intelligence, and another that’s going to take a slightly higher percentage of my annual earnings.”

I think this tension slackens a bit if we look at one of the most interesting charts in Gelman et al’s Red State, Blue State, which shows the changing voting trends among different occupational groups [the Y axis label, which I couldn’t manage to snatch from Amazon is “Republican vote compared to national average” Thanks to Alphie for the link to Andrew’s blog post about this, which I couldn’t find when I looked.]

Republicans have been losing doctors, lawyers, accountants, and other white-collar types in droves. This is now a pretty solidly Democratic bloc. Let’s just say that these people are important to the economy but they aren’t very entrepreneurial either. Their jobs tend to be pretty secure and sometimes even involve guild-like licensing requirements. Meanwhile the Republicans have strongly consolidated their advantage among business owners and proprietors–people who personally  bear a lot of economic risk bringing products and services to market. It’s this strongly Republican group that I’d guess will most acutely feel increases in taxes and regulations and who are most likely to get mad about it. Meanwhile, the shift of “skilled workers” toward the GOP and the solid gains among “non-skilled workers” helps bring sense to the increasing appeal of bashing latte-sipping elites. That’s one gloss, at least.

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