Whole Foods Republicans

The GOP needs to enlist voters who embrace a progressive lifestyle but not progressive politics.

by Michael J. Petrilli
The Wall Street Journal
December 14, 2009

The Republican Party is resurgent—or so goes the conventional wisdom. With its gubernatorial victories in Virginia and New Jersey, an energized “tea party” base, and an administration overreaching on health care, climate change and spending, 2010 could shape up to be 1994 all over again.

Maybe. The political landscape sure looks greener than it did a year ago, when talk of a permanent Democratic majority was omnipresent. But before John Boehner starts measuring the drapes in the Speaker’s office, or the party exults about its possibilities in 2012, it’s worth noting that some of the key trends driving President Barack Obama’s strong victory in 2008 haven’t disappeared. Republicans need to address them head-on if they want to lead a majority party again.

There are the depressing numbers on young voters (two-thirds of whom voted for Mr. Obama), African-Americans and Latinos (95% and 67% went blue respectively). But these groups have voted Democratic for decades, and their strong turnout in 2008’s historic election wasn’t replicated this fall, nor is it likely to be replicated again.

The voting patterns of the college-educated is another story. This is a group that, slowly but surely, is growing larger every year. About 30% of Americans 25 and older have at least a bachelor’s degree; in 1988 that number was only 20% and in 1968 it was 10%.

As less-educated seniors pass away and better-educated 20- and 30-somethings take their place in the electorate, this bloc will exert growing influence. And here’s the distressing news for the GOP: According to exit-poll data, a majority of college-educated voters (53%) pulled the lever for Mr. Obama in 2008—the first time a Democratic candidate has won this key segment since the 1970s…

…What’s needed is a full-fledged effort to cultivate “Whole Foods Republicans”—independent-minded voters who embrace a progressive lifestyle but not progressive politics. These highly-educated individuals appreciate diversity and would never tell racist or homophobic jokes; they like living in walkable urban environments; they believe in environmental stewardship, community service and a spirit of inclusion. And yes, many shop at Whole Foods, which has become a symbol of progressive affluence but is also a good example of the free enterprise system at work. (Not to mention that its founder is a well-known libertarian who took to these pages to excoriate ObamaCare as inimical to market principles.)

What makes these voters potential Republicans is that, lifestyle choices aside, they view big government with great suspicion. There’s no law that someone who enjoys organic food, rides his bike to work, or wants a diverse school for his kids must also believe that the federal government should take over the health-care system or waste money on thousands of social programs with no evidence of effectiveness. Nor do highly educated people have to agree that a strong national defense is harmful to the cause of peace and international cooperation…

The article continues at WSJ.

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