With its devastating loss three weeks ago, the GOP’s mantra has been, “Still, we are a ‘center right’ country.” They draw that conclusion, in part, by pointing to polls that show only 22% of voters identify themselves as liberal, while 34% say they are conservative and 44% are moderate (read “center”).
What these poll results and the losers’ neat description of the U.S electorate tell us is this: Absolutely nothing.
What is a liberal? Is it my wife, who calls herself a liberal, but supports capital punishment and opposes gun control? Is it one of her friends who is liberal about every social issue in the book, but being in the upper echelon of income earners, goes apoplectic about higher taxes?
Isn’t it conservative to believe the government should not be in our bedroom or a hospital room, or that our foreign entanglements should be measured?
And who exactly is a moderate? Can you imagine a moderate saying that gays should have the right to live their love with the same rights as traditional marriages that fail 50% of the time? Or would a moderate believe that marriage is only for a man and a woman? Would today’s moderate believe that the rich, whose marginal tax rate has fallen from 90% (during the 50s when our economy was booming) be offended if people making a quarter million dollars a year pay another percent or two (and less than 35%)? Or would a moderate say if government were more efficient, it could do with less of our money? Would a moderate object to torture as a national policy or believe that sometimes we need to take extraordinary measures to protect our country?
I don’t know. Do you?
The idea that we can make assumptions on what a legislative agenda should be based on what people call themselves is ludicrous.
Most of this post was written last night. This morning I awoke to this analysis in The Washington Post. It covers some of the arguments I make here. But it concludes that it will be Obama’s success or lack thereof that determines if we move right or left. It suggests that this election was transformational and cites the attitudes of young people as evidence.
In the 2007 [University of California at Los Angeles graduate school of education poll of more than 270,000 first-year students], three-fourths of the students said the United States needs “a national health care plan . . . to cover everybody’s medical costs.” Nearly 57 percent favored legalized abortion. Six in 10 said they thought “wealthy people should pay a larger share of taxes than they do now.” Two-thirds said they believed “same-sex couples should have the right to legal marital status.” Eighty percent said “the federal government is not doing enough to control environmental pollution.”
The article goes on to describe these students as “more liberal” than non-college educated young people and suggests we are moving towards being a “center left” nation.
I would argue, however, that most of the views cited above are not radical leftist positions. Today, they are more moderate positions. Are they center left? Perhaps. But not because we have decided to call ourselves leftists and leave the past behind.
We have evolved, the radical right’s prohibition against evolution notwithstanding.
It is not so much that we have transformed ourselves. Rather, we are seeking new solutions as the old ones, cloaked in “right-wing” ideology, have failed us.
What has and will change over time is likely not the percentage of people who call themselves conservatives or liberal. I would be surprised if those 22, 34, 44 numbers change, even if Obama succeeds with his policies prescriptions.
All that will change is how we define them.
The smartest politicians with power (read Democrats) will be those who seek real solutions they can sell to the public. Initially, those prescriptions might be considered leftist. If the GOP opposes those solutions and then gains power, their solutions will be considered right wing.
But no matter how they are now perceived, if those solutions succeed over time, they will be described as “moderate.”