Democratic Party

Both Parties Lack Middle-Class Confidence

Political pundits have spun a lot of spitballs to explain voter anger in this year’s presidential election. The Pew Research Center may have the answer in data that shows voters question both political parties' commitment to rescue America’s struggling middle class.

Rejection of “status quo” solutions and “establishment” economics by large blocs of voters in the Republican and Democratic parties have been attributed to concerns about job security, inability to put aside money for retirement and rising college student debt.

Pew Research findings suggest another reason – "62 percent of Americans say the federal government does not do enough for middle-class people.” That view, Pew says, has persisted since 2011, which may account for the simmering resentment and political disenchantment evident on the campaign trail.

Respondents to the Pew poll conducted in early December say Republicans tilt more toward the rich and Democrats care for the poor, but they don’t see much difference in Republican and Democratic policies toward the middle class.

That lukewarm assessment of both parties parallels the decline over the last four decades of middle-income Americans as a percentage of the population along with a shift of aggregate household income to upper-income families.

Providing more help to the middle class isn’t just a middle-class concern. It is a view shared by older people, children and poor people. The only cohort that disagrees, according to the poll, are wealthy people who believe the middle class gets too much help.

Seventy-seven percent of Democrats and 61 percent of non-aligned voters believe wealthy people get too much help from the federal government, as do 44 percent of Republicans.

As the Democratic and GOP presidential races tighten heading into New Hampshire next week, it is worth noting that nominees who don’t win on the first ballot of their party convention are more likely to lose the general election.

As the Democratic and GOP presidential races tighten heading into New Hampshire next week, it is worth noting that nominees who don’t win on the first ballot of their party convention are more likely to lose the general election.

Self-assessments within economic classes have generally improved as the United States has climbed out of economic recession. People who identify as part of the middle class and say they are in financially good shape has ticked up 12 percent over a similar financial self-assessment in 2011.

Despite improving economic conditions, 48 percent of the middle class describes themselves as “staying even” and 43 percent say they are “falling behind.” Lower-income Americans have a gloomier outlook, with 66 percent feeling they are “falling behind.”

As presidential campaigns tighten as they head into next week’s New Hampshire primary, Pew Research offers another cheery note – nominees who fail to win on the first ballot in their party conventions are more likely to lose the general election. Pew reached that conclusion by looking at presidential elections between 1868 and 1984.

The Soft-Spoken Legacy of George McGovern

George McGovern, who died over the weekend, is best known for his lopsided loss to Richard Nixon in the 1972 presidential election, but is less well known for some of the most formative and influential aspects of his life.

Born in rural South Dakota in 1922, the son of a minister who was a Republican, McGovern witnessed first-hand momentous events in the early part of the 20th Century, including the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl and World War II.

McGovern is remembered for his lonely battle in Congress against waging war in Vietnam, but many forgot he was a WWII pilot who flew a B-24 Liberator on numerous missions over enemy territory, crash-landed on an island in the Adriatic and received the Distinguished Flying Cross for his bravery.

Like the late Senator Mark Hatfield, who was stunned by the devastation he saw after the United States dropped nuclear bombs on Japan, McGovern came to regard war as a last resort, not another diplomatic tool. Hatfield and McGovern were allies in their battle to end the war.

Most political observers view McGovern's improbable presidential campaign in 1972 as a colossal failure. Few expected the soft-spoken former college professor from the prairie to win the nomination. Senator Edmund Muskie of Maine was the frontrunner in a field that also included former Vice President Hubert Humphrey and segregationist George Wallace.

How McGovern won the nomination is his legacy, according to Scott Farris, the Portland-based author of "Almost President." He notes how McGovern rewrote the rules for nominating a presidential candidate in the Democratic Party and benefitted when he ran in 1972 by the rule changes that threw open the doors of participation to everyday Democrats, including women and minorities. Primaries and caucuses counted for more and deals in smoked-filled rooms all but disappeared.

The result was a boisterous convention that produced a platform calling for immediate U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam, amnesty for war resisters, abolition of the draft and a full employment plank. Contentious floor debates delayed McGovern's acceptance speech into the wee hours of the next day, denying him his best chance to speak directly to millions of TV viewers.