In seven short years, the American electorate has radically changed, as voters' priorities have shifted to the economy and away from such wedge issues as abortion and gay rights, as well as away from the threat of terrorism and from the war in Iraq, according to a comprehensive survey released Thursday morning by the Pew Research Center.
From 2002 to 2009, voters' partisan identification has moved from virtual parity — 43 percent Republican and 43 percent Democratic at the height of George W. Bush's popularity in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 — to a massive Democratic advantage today of 53 to 36, a 17 percentage point split, by far the largest difference in the past two decades.
I could not help but notice a connection between the shift mentioned at the beginning of this article, a shift from hollow wedge issues to substantial economic ones, and an older notion about the cosmopolitan effects of capitalism. This notion goes all the way back to 1730s, to Voltaire's description of the London Stock Exchange.
Go into the London Stock Exchange — a more respectable place than many a court — and you will see representatives from all nations gathered together for the utility of men. Here Jew, Mohammedan and Christian deal with each other as though they were all of the same faith, and only apply the word infidel to people who go bankrupt.
This cosmopolitan side of early capitalism—which, with the Scientific Revolution and the French Revolution, transformed Europe and established a long-lasting belief in limitless progress—a bit of this older and progressive capitalism can be seen in the current melting of wedge issues by economic concerns.