Sunday, January 06, 2008

Obama and the Creativity of Des Moines

One of my favorite authors is Richard Florida, who wrote Rise of the Creative Class. Florida responded to something Chris Bowers wrote at Open Left and gave some interesting analysis of Obama winning the Iowa Caucuses..

Chris Bowers writes:

I'm looking over the 2008 and 2004 Iowa entrance polls right now. Four years ago, 79% of the Iowa electorate were Democrats. This year, 76% self-identified as Democrats. The huge turnout was just about as Democratic as the 2004 turnout. The new voters were Democrats, not independents. No real surprise in the core of Obama's support. The younger a voter was, the more well-educated a voter was, the higher income a voter was, the more self-identified liberal a voter was, the more likely that voter was to support Obama. It is the same coalition for Obama that people have identified for months. Obama won on the back of the creative class vote.

I think Bowers is right about this. And it seems to me the 2008 election may well turn on class lines. I have long said the central animating issue in American politics is neither partisan polarization nor the culture wars but a festering class divide. Obama may appeal to progressive members of the creative class who swung Iowa, but can that group (roughly a third of the workforce) swing the general election his way. Seems to me there is an even larger group of working and service class people who are frightened, scared, anxious, angry and resentful about what is happening to "their" America. Critics of my own work have already attempted to reduce the creative class to "yuppies, sophistos, trendoids, and gays." My hunch is these same types will be all too eager to hang the label "elitist" all over Obama, framing him as a Harvard educated, Washington insider surrounded by a gaggle of Hollywood glitterati backers and the same old liberal establishment economic advisers (think Robert Rubin and Larry Summers). If the Democrats (and the creative class) cannot figure a way out of this box - to articulate an inclusive agenda for the future which shows in plain and simple terms how working class and service class people can participate and prosper from the global creative economy, my assessment is that the electoral playing field will remain heavily tilted toward a reinvigorating Republican populism. Huckabee has the potential to tap into this zeitgeist in a way that could move far beyond the "Reagan democrats." And Obama, despite his personal attractiveness and oratorical skills, runs the risk of being framed as another Gore or even Kerry. I'm just saying ...
I wouldn't give up on Obama being able to speak to the middle class. His first job out of college was working as a community organizer for factory workers after they lost their job. However, maybe an Obama/Edwards ticket would mesh this divide and unify the creative class and the working class behind a progressive agenda.


Anonymous said...

There is no question that Obama did better with the wealthy liberals and wealthy moderates. The system works for them. They are not interested in Edwards' message about the system being rigged, with corporate interests having too much power.

Obama's rhetoric is very much like Reagan's. It plays on people's desire to believe that everything they want is within reach--they just have to dream big and place their hopes in his campaign.

I think this is why I've actually come to like Obama less over the past few months. When I listen to him and see the crowds of young people following the herd, it reminds me too much of the way Reagan used to talk and the Reaganjugen I knew in high school.

The difference is that Reagan strongly identified with conservatism and the Republican Party, and the Reaganjugen followed him. Obama goes out of his way to stand above the Democratic Party, so I question whether his followers will come to identify as Democrats.


benny06 said...

I think it should be the other way around, JRE/BHO, but that's just my opinion.