Are Rich Democrats the Problem?


Sean McElwee of Demos writes on occasion for Salon. He’s usually well worth reading, because he’s informed by the research he’s doing at Demos. In other words, he’s no hack.

His piece today, The GOP’s lottery ticket philosophy: How extreme wealth is deranging American politics, largely focuses on the influence money has on one’s political affiliation. He shows what we all suspect. Money does influence political affiliation.

But there were a few nuggets tucked inside that I found perhaps more insightful. First, the folks at the top of the income scale are more liberal socially than the population at large. Makes sense. Social conservatism is driven at least in part by religion. If you have the dough to belong to a country club or head to the ski slope on Sundays, you’re less likely be hanging out in church. Second, rich Democrats are more conservative on fiscal / economic issues than poorer Democrats. No surprise there, either.

Consider what that means in today’s pay-to-play politics, when the top .01 percent are a bigger funder of Democrats than is organized labor. The views of elected Democratic office holders reflect those of their rich benefactors, not those of their less affluent base. And what is the focus of the political debate? The social issues, of course, because that’s the sweet spot for rich Democrats. They don’t really want to get into things like the safety net or tax rates.

The bottom line: If you think electing Democrats will move the needle sufficiently on economic justice, think again.


  1. That’s probably more true at the DC level than at the state and local. I’d say there’s a pretty vast gulf between Katie Hobbs and John Kavanagh where views on economic justice are concerned.

  2. Fred duval in a nut shell! Rich democrats hearts are in the right place but their heads tell them look we got a lot to lose so be careful! Free trade is the perfect example. All it does is export high paying union jobs. All I heard was fred duval has got money to run on before the primary. We have arizona democratic party chairman who’s main qualification seems to be able to raise money from rich donors so the paid staffs checks don’t bounce. We need somebody like raul grijalva leading the party he refuses to be the republican partys punching bag!

    • To put it another way, and I don’t remember who originally said this but: “We need not more Democrats but better Democrats.” More Grijalvas, more Graysons, more Warrens, etc..

      In the eternal battle between quality and quantity, quality should win every time.

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