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Sunday, March 30, 2008

"Obama and the Class Question"

Richard Florida takes a look at how support for Democratic presidential candidates varies across the creative and working classes, and the how the variation "raises an  interesting dilemma for campaign strategists":

Obama and the class question, by Richard Florida: ...Pundits on all sides have framed this election - and especially the Democratic primary - as turning on the traditional fault lines of race, gender and generation.

The talk shows go on and on about how Mr. Obama is attracting black and young voters and how Ms. Clinton finds her voice among women and baby boomers.

But what is seldom discussed and yet most interesting... At bottom, both the Democratic primary and the upcoming general election turn on an even deeper economic and social force: class.

In 2002, I defined a new creative class of inventors, entrepreneurs, engineers, artists, musicians, designers and professionals in idea-driven industries.

Today, nearly 40 million American workers fit into that group, 35 per cent of the total working population and a good deal more than the 23 per cent who make up the working class. ...

Up to this point, creative-class people have predominantly cast themselves as politically independent or "post-partisan," and their political sympathies have been up for grabs.

The traditional Republican platform of individualism, economic opportunity and fiscal responsibility appeals to them; but so, too, do the Democratic values of social liberalism, environmentalism and a progressive track record on gay and women's rights.

Democratic candidates such as Bill Bradley and Howard Dean attracted the creative class in the 2000 and 2004 elections. But no one has caught fire with this class like Barack Obama. ...

To get a better sense of how this deep this support runs, I asked opinion pollster John Zogby to look into how creative-class people were voting in this primary season.

The result: On issue after issue, they preferred Mr. Obama to either Ms. Clinton or Republican John McCain by wide margins. ... Mr. Obama even bests Ms. Clinton and Mr. McCain substantially on the issue where he is allegedly weakest - "combating terrorism" - registering 50 per cent of creative-class support compared with 24 per cent for Ms. Clinton and 18 per cent for Mr. McCain. ...

Mr. Obama consistently polls strongest in cities and regions with significant creative-class concentrations. Ms. Clinton, on the other hand, has scored better in industrial states with dominant blue-collar towns, where voters are anxious about the economy and job prospects.

Ms. Clinton is more popular among voters without college degrees. Meanwhile, ... Brendan Nyhan has crunched numbers that show a college education to be a big predictor for Obama support.

This divergence in the electorate raises an interesting dilemma for campaign strategists.

Is a coalition between the creative class and working class even viable? Appealing to them both will prove difficult. The creative class anticipates the future while the working class is, in many senses, seeking protection from it. ...

It will be difficult for Ms. Clinton to win wholehearted endorsement of the creative class, as committed as she is to specific programs.

It will also be hard for Mr. Obama's rhetoric of hope and change to resonate with those who are falling farther and farther behind economically. In coming years, it will be vitally important for progressive political leaders to reach out to the working and service classes, and in ways that enable them to connect to the new creative economy.

But in the short months remaining until the general election, deep-seated working-class anxiety about economic and social change is not likely to be overcome.

Clearly, neither race, gender, nor age can provide the core support necessary for a sustainable political majority. Just as Franklin Delano Roosevelt forged a new majority on the swelling ranks of blue-collar workers, so must the candidate and party that hope to win this election, and shape the political landscape for years to come, gain the support of today's ascending economic and political force - the creative class.

    Posted by on Sunday, March 30, 2008 at 01:26 AM in Economics, Politics | Permalink  TrackBack (0)  Comments (31)

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