Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has introduced her family to the nation as small-town common folk since she burst onto the scene as the surprise pick for the Republican vice-presidential nominee last month. A check of financial records, though, shows the Palins live anything but a common life when compared with their fellow residents of their hometown of Wasilla.
Their combined income of nearly a quarter-million dollars last year was five times the median household income for Wasilla’s 7,000 residents. They own a single-engine plane, two boats, two personal watercraft and a half-million-dollar, custom-built home on a lake that is worth three times the average of other homes in town.
The Palin family’s rather luxe lifestyle is, I think, a great illustration of the main point of Gellman, et. al.’s book Red State, Blue State, Rich State, Poor State, namely that the culture war is not, as pundits often have it, fought primarily between fancy pants blue staters and salt-of-the-earth red staters. Rather it’s fought by rich people on either side of the cultural divide. Between the kind of prosperous family that would spend their money on a single-engine plane, two boats, ad two personal watercraft and the kind of prosperous family that would spend their money on a Brooklyn condo that costs substantially more than $500,000. Actual economically struggling people don’t have the means to indulge these kind of outsized consumer preferences and their voting behavior tends to be much less influenced by cultural issues.