In a predictable piece in The Washington Post this morning, there is this:
At its core, Obama’s domestic agenda is a liberal wish list of health care for all, tough new environmental regulations and government solutions to crises ranging from failing schools to faltering auto companies. But as the party’s ranks expanded in 2006 and 2008, its center of gravity shifted to the middle. And the key to a durable majority, White House officials and party leaders agree, is adapting old policy goals to new political realities. [emphasis added]
Sen. Charles E. Schumer (N.Y.), a member of the Democratic leadership, said the party is coalescing as an amalgam of "activist centrists" who think government has a role in solving problems but are more pragmatic than ideological. "I think that’s where the president is, and that’s where we are," he said. "When you win red states, strange things happen." [emphasis added]
I guess the implication is that since Democrats won, it is because they attracted “centrist” or “moderate” voters. Thus, they must govern not by the demands of their base, but by the whims of the centrists, without whose support, the Dems couldn’t control government.
There are two faults with that thinking, as I see it.
One, if that were true, then the same would hold for the GOPers. If they won, it would be because they attracted moderate voters who would then demand that the Repugnican party would govern from the center. Of course, that has not happened. When they were in power, they moved hard in the direction of their base, except in financial policies, where they ignored responsibility so they could fund their war machine.
Two, such “analysis” – and one of the authors of this article, Dan Balz, is famous for passing off conventional wisdom as analysis – demeans the public. Could it be that the public’s view of what is acceptable has changed dramatically. No matter how “progressive” or “liberal” Obama’s policies are described in polls, he has broad support for his goals. While people are concerned about the growing deficit, few except the hard right think the stimulus package was wrong. In fact, many economists think it was too little and not focused enough on infrastructure spending projects. Obama has broad support for financial re-regulation, and the public seems ahead of him on social issues, especially gay rights.
The new political realities may not be that people are looking for small, incremental change with a slight shift left. I argue that “[w]hen you win red states” it reflects a strong move by the public in a new direction. People aren’t looking for a long-term unemployment rate of 7%, a marked improvement over today’s rate. They are looking for full employment again. They aren’t looking for a couple of wrist slaps and a few regulations that simply increase paperwork on Wall St. They are looking for a new structure that rewards steady, long-term investment.
Why is it that reporters aren’t willing to examine if indeed, what we are witnessing in a time of dramatic change in our lives is a dramatic shift in what Americans expect of their government?