Beyond Self-Interest

Amidst the chortling of conservatives that the president had blown the election by offending the sensibilities of “successful people,” Nate Cohn of TNR had this fascinating snippet of data yesterday:

[H]igh income voters might be less conservative on economic questions than self-interest suggests. Take today’s Quinnipiac poll of Virginia. It was a bad poll for Obama, but the President still earned 44 percent among those making more than $100,000 a year, down just slightly from 46 percent four years ago. But as strong as the President might appear among affluent voters, he’s less popular than his own proposal to raise taxes on precisely those voters. According to the same poll, 62 percent of voters making between $100-250,000/year support Obama’s tax plan and so do 48 percent of voters making more than $250,000/year. In 2008, Obama only received 47 percent of Virginia voters making more than $200,000/year.

Maybe a lot of better-off voters remember they did pretty well when the tax rates being proposed by Obama were in effect. Maybe they’re concerned about issues other than their own bottom line. And hell, maybe their definition of patriotism involves “giving something back” for the blessings they have derived from being American, as Obama suggested they should do in the allegedly offensive quote. But whatever it is, for all the caricatures of the president as some sort of Leveller who hates success, the successful like his Levelling tax proposal even more than they like Obama himself.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.