GOP Improving on Middle Class Issues; Dems Doing Worse ... and the Money Party Wins!

News & Politics

When an election brings a shift in power, tens of thousands of people flood into DC to fill tens of thousands of jobs left vacant as an equal number beat a path out of the city in search of a cozy sinecure at a university or some think-tank that fits their ideological views. 

The money, of course, stays in place. And while political scientists tell us that the influence of campaign cash on policy is greatly exaggerated -- there was a great chapter about it in Freakonomics -- that lucre buys access and access results in influence. So while it may be difficult to demonstrate a true quid pro quo, I doubt it's simply a matter of coincidence that a ton of campaign giving has shifted from the GOP to the Dems in recent years, and, according to the Drum Major Institute's latest "middle-class scorecard" (PDF), the partisan gap on issues of importance to working families -- while still very wide -- appears to be shrinking.

From DMI's executive summary:

•  Republicans Improve, Democrats Slip. While Democrats generally voted for the middle-class position more often than Republicans, the partisan split was less pronounced than in past years. House and Senate Democrats received a lower proportion of A or A+ grades than in 2007. Meanwhile, Republicans in both chambers received fewer failing grades and more Cs. The trend was especially pronounced among House Republicans–while 72% failed in 2007 and just 18% earned a C or better, the failure rate dropped to 41% in 2008 with 38% earning a C or better.

•  Robust Democratic Support for the Middle Class Falls Short on Bailout, Bankruptcy, and Corporate Immunity. A majority of Democrats in both chambers of Congress voted to support the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act, authorizing $700 billion for the Treasury Secretary to bailout the collapsing financial sector. While action to stabilize the financial system was imperative to ensure the flow of credit necessary for middle-class prosperity, this legislation went about it the wrong way, providing a blank check to banks rather than addressing the home mortgage crisis at the root of the financial collapse. Senate Democrats also faltered when it came to enabling middle-class homeowners at risk of foreclosure to renegotiate their mortgages in bankruptcy court. Finally, Senators stumbled by approving legal immunity for telecommunications companies that illegally spied on Americans as part of President Bush’s anti-terrorism program, setting a disturbing precedent for businesses’ relationships with their middle-class customers. Republicans also voted against the middle class on these bills.

•  Republicans Back Consumer Products, Higher Education, and Stimulus. Republicans in both the House and Senate provided strong support for legislation to improve toy safety, a bill that toy manufacturers also supported. Many Republicans also voted for higher education legislation which will enable more Americans to enter the middle class by increasing access to college. Finally, a substantial majority of Republicans in both chambers of Congress backed the stimulus bill. Democrats also voted with the middle class on these pieces of legislation.  

You could make an argument that this is a nothing more than proof that governing is different than lobbing criticism from within the minority party, that one has to take the interests of a wider range of stakeholders into account. But I think the shift of campaign dollars, which you can see after the jump, can't just be written off.

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