The GOP and the Wal-Mart voter: forget smaller government Posted by: McQ
on Tuesday, June 27, 2006
To put Jon's point, below, to practical use, let's review Ryan Sager's recent article. In it he identifies and emerging and seemingly powerful political faction which has, to this point, identified itself with Republicans. In some ways, it explains why Republicans have acted as they have.
The bloc is identified as the "Wal-Mart voters":
Live by Wal-Mart. Die by Wal-Mart. That could be the fate of the Republican Party this November if millions of government-loving voters suddenly abandon the GOP and return to their natural home in the Democratic Party.
The worst-case scenario for conservatives, however — that's red-blooded, small-government conservatives, in case you were wondering — would be if the Republican Party bent over backward to convince these voters to stick around.
What's Wal-Mart got to do with anything? Not a whole lot, except as a symbol of a particular type of voter: largely Southern, rural, lower-middle-class, female, socially conservative — not big fans of tax cuts, but huge fans of government programs.
When Sager speaks about "government-loving voters" he's addressing Jon's point below. What keeps them, or what has kept them, mostly on the Republican side until now is a combination of "social conservatism" and government benefits.
Not small-government conservatism, however. Again these voters like any and all government programs that benefit them. While Republicans continue to make more benefits governmentally available, and remain champions of social conservatism, the Wal-Mart voters have a reason to stay.
Where does that leave small-government conservatives? With essentially no place else to go, if you want to know the truth. Well, except a third party.
Interestingly the term and identity, "Wal-Mart voter" comes from pollster John Zogby. While looking at this new grouping of voters, previously identified as "populists" he found that one of the common links they shared was the propensity to shop at Wal-Mart. In fact, the numbers are fairly startling:
Zogby finds that while 85 percent of frequent Wal-Mart shoppers voted for President Bush's reelection in 2004 (and 88 percent of people who never shop there voted for Sen. John Kerry), Wal-Mart voters have turned on the president dramatically. In a poll taken earlier this month, they gave Bush a 35 percent approval rating — compared to a 45 percent positive rating from born-again Christians, 49 percent from NASCAR fans, and 54 percent from self-identified conservatives.
The approval rating pretty much mirrors the RCP average approval rating for Bush. And they're not a small group of voters with 20% of the US shopping at Wal-Mart.
Now, as Sager points out, the fact that these people shop at Wal-Mart has less to do with anything than what these people are and what they believe. Social conservatives combined with a love of government programs.
But, for now, it's a useful shorthand. And Zogby's findings should be a huge red flag to the GOP.
And why is that? Because, as Sager points out, it isn't a voting bloc the GOP can count on in either '06 or '08.
But this year, voters are fed up with the war in Iraq, and other than that they're focused on the economy, immigration, health care and gas prices. None of this cuts in favor of the GOP with the Wal-Mart set. Wal-Mart voters are giving Democrats a 6-point edge as to who's better equipped to handle foreign policy, an 18 percent edge on health care and a 25 percent edge on gas prices (the parties are dead-even among Wal-Mart voters on the economy and immigration). What's more, moral values hardly rate as an issue this year, for any voting bloc.
Values voters are out, Wal-Mart voters are in ... and they're not happy, per Sager, with what the GOP is offering up.
However you now understand the purpose of the proposed gay marriage and flag burning amendments. And what you can probably expect are some programs suggested which would appeal to this set. That's especially true in the face of this:
Most worrying for the GOP: Fifty-one percent of Wal-Mart voters agreed with the statement that it's "time for the Democrats to take over and run" Congress — as opposed to just 31 percent who think "Republicans deserve to retain control."
What I got out of Sager's piece is that, as usual, small-government conservatives will be fully taken for granted. I think it can be fairly assumed that the GOP believes they'll hold their noses and vote Republican while the GOP panders to the social-conservative, government- program-loving Wal-Mart voter in an attempt to keep enough of the from defecting to the Democrats to win in '06.
My guess is they'll get a bit of both (thereby validating a corollary to Jon's point that while small-government conservatives want small government in theory, many are willing to do what is necessary through government to hold power).
In reality, what they may end up doing is alienating both sets of conservatives.
[Or I could be completely wrong. But the joy in this sort of endeavor is in the pitch.]
Opinion polls are as wise or as stupid as the respondents.
As far as Wal Mart Republicans staying home, that’s as good as voting for a Democrat.
And finally, the recent credit card written bankruptcy bill, senior prescription bill written by the drug industry and Katrina response, have likely made more than a few Wal Mart voters angry.
Remember, they had high bankruptcy rates, often live close to the Gulf or have family that does, are inordinately financially hurt from outsourcing, and due to economic conditions, have a huge share of the burden in casualties in Iraq.
I think some of the identifiers and assumptions flagged for this ’bloc’ are probably flat-out wrong, thereby making prognostication mere entertainment at best.
For one thing, I doubt this bloc (as broadly described by Zogby, at least... and remember to take that as a caveat) are ’not big fans of tax cuts’, and I suspect that while most of them have few qualms about using government programs, they don’t actually ’love’ (or even like) Big Government itself like the Left does (especially its anti-Wal-mart elements).
Give them a situation where the response to "keep money in your pocket in the first place" isn’t "they want to make your grandparents eat dog food!", and many of ’em would probably let Social Security gradually be chipped away at, for example.
But then, I’m just shooting in the dark, as a Social Con, Bush-voter, Southern, Wal-Mart Shopper.