Thomas Edsall, the longtime Washington Post reporter now writing on his New York Times blog, laments the increasing tendency of high-income Americans to vote Democratic. That leaves the Democrats with an increasingly affluent constituency, presumably unwilling (or less willing than others) to support redistributive policies like Bernie Sanders's proposal for higher tax rates on the affluent.
"In the past," Edsall writes, "Democrats could support progressive, redistributive policies knowing that the costs would fall largely on Republicans. That is no longer the case. Now supporting these policies requires the party to depend on the altruistic idealism of millions of supporters who, despite being relatively well off, often feel financially pressed themselves."
For Edsall, this is a bug, not a feature. Those of us who think that unduly redistributive taxation can be an impediment to growth will regard this as a feature, however. That's a conclusion to which Connecticut's Democratic Governor Daniel Malloy has uncomfortably arrived, after noticing that his previous tax increases have caused the geese who have been laying the golden eggs have been taking wing and flying off to no-state-income-tax Florida. "The reality is in Connecticut," Malloy said last month, "we get most of our money from very few people and that can produce some very wild swings."
Edsall is afraid that redistributive Democrats will lose votes they might otherwise win in general elections. But the specter of redistribution is already haunting affluent Democrats in presidential primaries. In Massachusetts, for example, Hillary Clinton got some of her highest percentages over Sanders in blue-collar towns (63 percent in Brockton) and heavily Hispanic industrial towns (71 percent in Lawrence), but her 50 to 49 percent primary victory was clinched by 60 percent-plus majorities in affluent suburbs (Brookline, Newton, Wellesley, Weston, Needham, Dover, Lexington, Concord).
In Connecticut, which she carried 52 to 46 percent in the primary, 97 percent of her popular vote margin came from Fairfield County, where she carried affluent Greenwich, Stamford, New Canaan, Darien, Westport and Weston with 64 to 71 percent of the vote.
And so on, all the way to the West Coast, where she carried the San Francisco Bay Area by a 53 to 46 percent margin. Radicalism and stuff like that are all very well with voters there. But the 77 percent income tax rate favorably mentioned by Bernie Sanders? No way, San Jose!