I promised that I would write about this, but unfortunately I haven’t had the time to do the proper research on it. Maybe just writing my thoughts down will prompt someone to do some due diligence on the matter. Anyway, the issue is this: Obama (and by extension the Democratic party) has been selling itself as ‘the party of the common man’. In essence, Obama and the Democrats are banking on the American voter punishing the Republicans for the current state of the economy. The Democrats have found their example cases to feature in commercials: “people just like you” who have lost their homes, lost their jobs, their way of life, etc. These ads are meant to cause empathy between the average voter and the Democratic party.
The problem: who is going to empathize?
I do not know if anyone has actually conducted a poll about this, but I have grave doubts that in today’s America very many people identify themselves as ‘middle class’ or even ‘poor’. I am not trying to weave a delusional quilt that portrays most Americans as well-off. However in recent years it has been easy to secure personal debt (via credit cards and mortgages). This, combined with the recent drop in prices of seemingly ‘luxury’ goods such as flat-screen televisions and portable electronics, and most Americans are buying things that 20 years ago would have been inconceivably expensive. What I think this means is that most Americans don’t even want to consider themselves as middle class. This is shown by the last two presidential elections. Even though the Democrats have been screaming about how the Bush tax cuts only favor the rich, people have consistently voted Republican. Why is this the case? I think that many people don’t want to consider themselves ‘poor’, and they look at a small mutual fund account or 401k as something that should not be taxed and taken away by the government.
In short, I think that Obama will have a difficult time winning this election because no matter how tough things become, the idea of making a pitch to a large demographic (‘working class’ voters) is subverted by the strategy that appeals to the individual employed by the Republicans. Republicans appeal to selfish, narrowly self-interested voters. It does not take a lot of stereotyping to see Americans for what they are. Narrow self interest and a so-called ‘faith in the market’ are hallmarks of American identity. They will not be eradicated in the near future; worse still is the idea that by appealing to a sense of ‘collective’ will inevitably fail in a country that is more than anywhere else on earth interested in protecting the individual from the ‘tyranny of the majority’.