One of the commenters in an earlier thread chided me for supposedly ignoring the fact that there are many people sucking at the teat of the welfare state who will vote Democrat to protect their benefits. Well, yeah, there are. But as National Review‘s Ramesh Ponnuru keeps saying, conservatives who see the Dems as a party of the takers and the GOP as a party of the makers really don’t know what they’re talking about. Here’s Ponnuru:
This explanation fits into a long tradition of conservative skepticism about democracy. The underlying idea is that the more people rely on the federal government, the more they will support government activism and the party that favors it. Whatever one thinks of that activism, it’s a plausible idea — just as it’s plausible, though Republicans never say it, that defense spending might promote an unhealthy interest in the defense budget among the Americans who benefit directly from it.
Well said! More:
One major reason for the growth of the federal government in recent years has been that entitlement spending per beneficiary has increased, and so has the number of beneficiaries as people have retired. Yet senior citizens — who benefit from federal programs, on average, far more than younger people — have become more Republican over that same period. They actually voted for John McCain over Obama in 2008 by a slightly higher margin than they did for George W. Bush over John Kerry in 2004.
In 2010, their Republican margin increased even more, to a whopping 21 points. Pollster Scott Rasmussen told me that in his latest poll, Romney still leads among seniors by 19 points.
It’s true that Americans with low incomes — more and more of whom now receive food stampsand federally subsidized health insurance — have generally voted for Democrats over Republicans. But in 2010, these voters shifted toward Republicans even as food stamps,unemployment benefits and the like continued to increase.
And, as Ramesh points out:
Between 2004 and 2008, the Democratic share of the presidential vote grew faster among people making above $100,000 a year than among people making less. People making less than $50,000 moved toward the Democrats in those years too, but that movement was just in keeping with the general trend of voters. More recently, low-income voters have moved toward the Republicans even as the size of the welfare state has grown.
Emotional truth will beat numbers most of the time, though. Ramesh points out something that contradicts the emotional truth preferred by many conservatives.