Concern by the white middle class with what it thinks is decay of the moral fiber of America will remain an important factor in national elections, James Q. Wilson, associate professor of Government, maintained last night.
Wilson said he believes many, if not most, of those who voted for Goldwater did so because he expressed this concern better than anyone else has in recent elections. Many others shared the Arizonan's fears but voted with Johnson on other issues, Wilson asserted.
Speaking to Young Democrats at Adams House, Wilson said, "This issue is at the heart of the American experience. No country has had to deal with it before, except perhaps the Scandinavian countries."
Wilson explained he thinks the issue is not corruption in government ("which I believe is far less than 20 years ago, and less now than critics believe"), but "the perceived absence of a moral code enforced by feelings of guilt."
White, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant, middle class voters expect moral standards to rise with prosperity, he said. Wilson attributed their resentment of the federal government to increasing crime which, he said, is a result of higher incomes and more personal freedom.
This middle class, especially in the Southwest, sees Washington as pressuring courts to release criminals, protecting labor unions to keep workmanship down, secularizing religion in schools and "giving people something for nothing." He added that this is not an expression of an alienated fringe, but of a large, dissatisfied middle class.