The Red Wave predicted in the 2022 Midterms has become the Red Mirage. Democrats retained control the Senate and the House is still up for grabs, although most pundits expect a small Republican majority if the interminable vote counting ever ends.
The consensus is that the big loser is Donald Trump and this is accurate. Trump-endorsed candidates defeated more electable candidates in various Republican primaries but went on to lose in the general elections.
But this oversimplifies the situation. Trump’s presidency was a temporary set back for the white upper middle class (WUMC), which over the past two generations has become more secular and materialistic while increasing its stranglehold on political power.
Beginning with the upheavals of the 1960s, the WUMC has been able to avoid military service by creating an all-volunteer army. The Supreme Court legalized abortion enabling WUMC women to receive the extra education required to become highly paid professionals without the risk of unwanted pregnancies. President Clinton enacted NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement) allowing corporations to increase profits by moving jobs overseas and enabling the WUMC to accumulate wealth in the subsequent bull market. Unenforced immigration laws enabled corporations to hire cheap labor while the WUMC had a work force to repair their roofs, watch their children and scrub their toilets.
This massive political power culminated in the bailouts of Wall Street and the banks in the 2008 financial crisis while the middle class and poor received foreclosure notices. Not one banker or Wall Street executive was ever prosecuted.
Both parties catered to the WUMC until President Trump was elected in 2016. While this group did not suffer significant financial losses during the Trump presidency, their worldview was assaulted. Unlike other Republican presidents who gave social conservatives lip service, Trump honored his campaign promise to only appoint judicial conservatives to the Supreme Court, and with his ruthless personality, saw to it they were confirmed.
The result, the Trump Supreme Court hurled three issues sacred to the WUMC into the circular file — abortion, gun control and climate change. The backlash was quick and furious. In my neck of the woods — Fairfield County — the midterm elections revealed Republicans to be as popular as gonorrhea. Once a Republican bastion, not a single WUMC town voted Republican and moderate Republicans got squashed as badly as conservative ones. Like Trump himself, the Republican brand became toxic.
But it is not just the WUMC that has become Democratic. The ultra-rich are overwhelming Democratic such that the tech oligarchs, corporate CEOs, Hollywood celebrities and hectomillionaire athletes are the backbone of financing for the Democratic party.
The Republicans were so outspent in the midterms because of ultra-rich that the Democrats couldn’t figure out what to do with all the contributions they received. Stacy Abrams, the unsuccessful gubernatorial candidate from Georgia, received $105 million. Unsuccessful Florida Democratic Senate candidate Val Demings raised over $50 million. Over $300 million was spent on the Pennsylvania senate race. Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan of miniscule New Hampshire raised $38 million. In fact, the Democrats spent over $3 million supporting her unsuccessful opponent during the Republican primary — General Don Bolduc — because they thought (quite accurately) he was the weaker candidate. This was more than Bolduc raised for himself in the general election!
Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg literally bought the presidential election for Joe Biden by spending hundreds of millions in the swing states of Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin harvesting ballots made legal because of bureaucratic decisions arising during the COVID pandemic.
Thus, we have seen a role reversal of our political parties: Democrats are now the party of the rich while Republicans are making inroads into the working class and to a lesser extent, minorities.
Not only is this obvious in the social policies of the Democrats, but also in their fiscal ones. They have passed no legislation to increase taxes on the wealthy as they constantly promise their poor base. There is no talk of means-testing Social Security. This would outrage the WUMC.
In fact, the Democrats have proposed reducing taxes on the wealthy by raising the limits on state and local taxes that can be deducted from federal taxes. And in a move that received very little publicity, the Democratic House overwhelmingly passed legislation increasing the age of mandatory withdrawal from 401Ks and similar plans from 72 to 75 — meaning the increased value accumulates tax free.
This does not mean Republicans are dead in the water though. All they have to do is jettison the Wall Street Republicans — who are now voting Democratic anyway – and support increased taxes on the super-rich, Medicare for anyone who wants it, and force the tech companies exploiting gig workers to give their workers defined pension plans rather than inadequate 401K plans.
But no matter what happens, the WUMC will do fine. We will live in crime-free neighborhoods, receive excellent health care, avail our children to fine educations, have security in our old age and be able to pass our accumulated wealth to our children tax free. Why?
Because our politicians themselves come from the WUMC, including minority politicians who adopt WUMC values in order to receive campaign contributions and favorable media publicity. The rest of the country is politically powerless.
Joseph Bentivegna MD is an ophthalmologist in Rocky Hill.