Well, we all do.
This is too funny. (Reagan?) Of course, most of us here on Wall Street know that super-rich dudes like Loeb don’t really want the policies that Democrats peddle, they only want to be Democrats so that you know they care. In other words, whereas Republicans hate their RINOs, Democrats love their DINOs – they want Democrats who talk the talk but won’t upset their sweet apple cart. Wall Street is waking up to the fact that Obama ain’t no DINO. The fact that he is clueless about business doesn’t help either. I have many friends and associates just like Loeb and I have been telling them not to cry to me – they made their bed. Still, they won’t learn, they’ll still stick with the Dems in order to move in the best social circles, but they might be a little more circumspect about buying Dems that stay bought in future.
That dovetails remarkably well with this passage from Kevin D. Williamson’s “Losing Gordon Gekko” piece on Wall Street in National Review in early 2009, which also has a replacing religion with aesthetics angle of its own:
Wall Street isn’t politically agnostic, and there’s more to its politics than money. Culture matters, and you won’t find a lot of Pentecostal churches in Greenwich, Conn. Wall Street guys, for the most part, do not have time for social conservatives. “Of course these guys aren’t conservative,” says one longtime bond trader. “Why the [expletive deleted] would they be? We’re talking about guys who live in Manhattan, guys with manicures and eight-figure bank balances. And their wives–their wives aren’t showing up at parents’ day at Brearley with a Sarah Palin button. It’d be like showing up in flip-flops from Wal-Mart. Like showing up in a [rather lengthier expletive deleted] tracksuit.”
This cultural divide is particularly visible in New York City politics. “Ten to 15 years ago, half of the Upper East Side [officeholders] were Republican,” says John Mills, executive vice president of the Lexington Democratic Club. “There’s not one Republican there now. Abortion and gay rights are two of the biggest issues, and there are a lot of Jewish voters here not comfortable with Christian conservatives.”
Wall Street has no love for the southern, rural, and evangelical. But it’s not just the Jesus stuff–the southern and rural parts matter, too: Republican congressmen tend to represent places like Glasscock County, Texas, America’s most Republican jurisdiction, which reliably gives 90-odd percent of its votes to the GOP. Those districts are not going to feel the pain of the financial markets the way New York, New Jersey, California, and Connecticut are. The bailout is not very popular in farm country. Wall Street knew there was a gathering storm in the markets, and it didn’t want to find itself at the mercy of small-town and rural Republicans’ riding to the rescue.
In other words, it’s all fun and games until the business-friendly Clinton-style Democrat you thought were backing turns out to be anything but.
And it’s also a reminder of something that Sean Trende wrote in Real Clear Politics last year, when he asked, possibly quite prophetically, “Can The Clinton Coalition Survive Obama?”
The historical base of the Democratic Party for two centuries has long been what Jay Cost and I call Jacksonians: Culturally conservative, hawkish, and populist whites located throughout the South and Border states. They began breaking away from Democrats in the 1950s and 1960s – their reaction to the Party’s embrace of unions, blacks and liberals is a story is so well known there’s no need to rehash it here.
But this group remained at least in play for the Democrats. Clinton inherited a coalition consisting of minorities, liberals, urban voters, and a decent remnant of Jacksonian voters in the Ohio River Valley and the South, who still preferred a moderate-to-conservative Democrat to a Republican. This coalition became a majority coalition when Clinton used a combination of fiscal conservatism and social moderation to bring suburban voters on board. This was a huge innovation for Democrats; suburbs like Nassau County, NY, Orange County, CA and Fairfax County, VA had fueled the rise of the Republican parties in those states. Clinton moved them substantially toward his side. This coalition allowed him to win by eight points in 1996; absent Perot and a last-minute fundraising scandal, he probably would have won by more.
Clinton intuited that suburban voters are, generally speaking, culturally cosmopolitan – they don’t like it when you call someone “macaca,” and aren’t crazy about the religious right. But they’re generally not particularly socially liberal either, and are fans of “law and order.” They like taxes low and appreciate economic growth, but like good schools and a clean environment. Having to balance a bunch of spending priorities with somewhat limited income in their daily lives, balanced budgets are the ultimate “good government” indicator for these voters.
Clinton delivered on all of these issues, keeping tax increases fairly small, and balancing the budget for much of his term. In so doing – and this is very important – he re-branded the Democrats as the party of fiscal responsibility, economic growth, moderate taxes, and smart government.
Of course, that was the post-’94, post-GOP Congress Bill Clinton, something that voters, including those far beyond Wall Street, forgot in 2008. Fortunately, they seem to have gotten the wake-up call this year.