03 Jul 2008

Obama’s Rich Supporters

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Victor Davis Hanson wonders why so many Obama supporters come from California’s most affluent residents, the very people who have benefited most from globalization and free trade and an economy energized by Bush’s tax cuts.

After talking to and observing lots of Bay Area affluent and staunch Obama supporters, I think the key to reconciling the apparent paradoxes is done in the following ways.

Many enjoying the good life worry that their own privilege in some sort of way comes at the expense of someone else, or they fret that their present lifestyle in ecological terms is hardly sustainable. That concern does not translate into much concrete action. SUVs (Mercedes rather than Yukons) are no rarer in Palo Alto than in Fresno, while such progressives are just as likely, or more so, to abandon the public schools, to keep their children out of East Palo Alto or away from the Redwood City ho polloi, and sent off to and on their way at elite prep and public schools. To sum up, Obama offers a reassuring sense of self-image: one can still maintain all the current mechanisms one is accustomed to in ensuring privilege, but visible support for Obama offers a sense of atonement and alleviation of guilt at rather modest cost. (We shall see whether a President Obama really ups the top rates, takes off FICA caps, raises capital gains, and so in fact takes a $50-70,000 greater annual cut from top yuppie joint incomes.)

Somehow an Obama sticker, sign on the lawn, or a lapel button has become the equivalent of a crucifix around the neck of a prosperous 16th-century burgher: easy fides of inner good and a valuable totem in reconciling the apparent irreconcilable.

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