Examining the political map of America, as I am obliged to do as I write the chapters of The Almanac of American Politics 2006, reveals a previously unidentified segment of the American electorate, one which has been growing for some years now but has reached a critical mass and become a major force in one of our two great political parties: the trustfunder left.
Who are the trustfunders? People with enough money not to have to work for a living, or not to have to work very hard. People who can live more or less wherever they want. The "nomadic affluent," as demographic analyst Joel Kotkin calls them.
These people tend to be very liberal politically. Aware that they have done nothing to earn their money, they feel a certain sense of guilt. At the elite private or public high schools they attend, and even more at their colleges and universities, they are propagandized about the evils of capitalism and globalization, and the virtues of environmentalism and pacifism. Patriotism is equated with Hiterlism.
Their loyalties, as Samuel Huntington explains in Who Are We?, are not national, but transnational -- they are citizens of the world with contempt for those who feel chills up their spines when they hear "The Star Spangled Banner." They are taught to have contempt for the economic contribution they make to their country as investors and to feel guilty if they make no other contribution. Their penance is that they must vote left.
Where can you find trustfunders? Not scattered randomly around the country, but heavily concentrated in certain areas. Places with kicky restaurants, places tolerant of alternative lifestyles, places with lots of art galleries and organic food stores and Starbucks competitors. The heaviest concentration is in the San Francisco Bay area, which, Kotkin says, has the largest percentage of trustfunders of any major metro area in the country.
The Bay area stands out in stark relief on the political map. It voted 70 percent to 29 percent for John Kerry in 2004, up from the 64 percent to 30 percent margin it cast for Al Gore in 2000. Without the Bay area's 1.15 million-vote margin for Kerry, California would have come within 82,000 votes of voting for George W. Bush.
Trustfunders stand out even more vividly when you look at the political map of the Rocky Mountain states. In Idaho and Wyoming, each state's wealthiest county was also the only county to vote for John Kerry: Blaine County, Idaho (Sun Valley), where Kerry stayed at his wife's imported Cotswold farmhouse on his much photographed skiing and snowboarding vacation, and Teton County, Wyo. (Jackson Hole), where Dick Cheney has a house and where Bill Clinton took a pre-election holiday after his pollster Dick Morris reported that a trip to the mountains focus-grouped better than Martha's Vineyard.
Speaking of Martha's Vineyard, it voted 73 percent for Kerry, and nearby Nantucket, where Kerry's wife has another house, voted 63 percent for him -- indeed, Nantucket was one of only three of the nation's 100 fastest-growing counties that did not vote for George W. Bush. Massachusetts Catholics gave their fellow Massachusetts Catholic Kerry only 51 percent of their votes, but he won 77 percent in Boston, 85 percent in Cambridge, and 69 percent and 73 percent in trustfunder-heavy Hampshire and Berkshire Counties in the western mountains.
Where Democrats had a good year in 2004 they owed much to trustfunders. In Colorado, they captured a Senate and a House seat and both houses of the legislature. Their political base in that state is increasingly not the oppressed proletariat of Denver, but the trustfunder-heavy counties that contain Aspen (68 percent for Kerry), Telluride (72 percent) and Boulder (66 percent).
You can see the trustfunders' imprint as well in New York. In 56 of the state's 62 counties, the Republican popular vote margin increased or the Democratic margin fell between 2000 and 2004. Five of the six counties that moved away from George W. Bush are trustfunder havens: New York (Manhattan), Ulster (Woodstock), Columbia (trendy Hudson River country), Otsego (Cooperstown) and Tompkins (Cornell University).
The political map shows the trustfunders' impact. So, I suspect, would an analysis of the sources of the vast amounts of money that flowed in through the Internet first to Howard Dean and then to John Kerry and to outfits like moveon.org.
The good news for Democrats is that they have found a new source of votes and money. The bad news is that an important part of their core constituency has the characteristic that the British Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin ascribed to the press, "power without responsibility, the prerogative of the harlot throughout the ages."