By Mario Carter
“This just proves that America doesn’t agree with liberalism.” “The Democrats were too far to the left.” “This is a repudiation of Washington big spending.”
What you just read was a compact amalgam of some of the more nauseating talking points being tossed around (without a degree of seriousness) on why the Democrats (in the House) were soundly eviscerated in the midterm elections.
Since last week, we have been treated to little else but horrendously unbearable coverage on how the left have only themselves to blame for why Republicans have now captured control of the House and why the Senate, which once had a commanding majority, now has one that is much narrower. Whether it is on “Morning Joe” or “Meet The Press,” we see the same blasé members of the intelligentsia scalding liberals for being too intolerant of differing opinions and failing to recognize how America is a “center-right nation,” (We’ll return to this later) but if one wades past all of the nonsensical characterizations, the reality becomes crystal clear.
One need not look any further than the current decrepit state of the Blue Dog Caucus to know that these view that if Democrats “tack to the center,” they will achieve electoral success. It was recently revealed that the Blue Dog Caucus, a group of moderate and conservative (read: corporate, sell-out) Democrats suffered a debilitating loss as 23 incumbents of their 46 member coalition failed to be reelected. This number stands in stark contrast to the vast majority of liberal Democrats, who were overwhelmingly reelected.
While I have to acknowledge that liberal members of Congress do not have to worry about walking the same tight rope due to the security of their districts, this does not mean that Democrats who compete in more conservative districts have to run as faux Republicans.
Neither I nor any other serious liberal expects a Democrat who shares the political views of The Nation to successfully run for Governor of Mississippi but there is an expectation of that Democrat siding with his own party on at least a modicum of its most basic core issues. Harry Truman once said, “If it’s a choice between a genuine Republican, and a Republican in Democratic clothing, the people will choose the genuine article, every time.” This affirmation rings just as loudly today than when it was said then.
This now brings us back to the patently untrue and terribly insufferable conventional wisdom that dictates America is a, “center-right nation.” This myth is based not on any serious minded, exhaustively researched, empirical data, but on a single Gallup Poll from 2009 based on the opinions of 40% of respondents. The poll results stated that 37% of people considered themselves to be, “conservative,” 36% of people considered themselves “moderate” and a pitiful 20% of people considered themselves, “liberal.” But this poll was highly suspect from the beginning because there was no established working definition of what these terms actually meant.
Someone who supports the decriminalization of drugs and wholeheartedly believes in the preservation of abortion rights may consider themselves to be conservative as many Libertarians do. Someone who supports an aggressive policy of expanding government programs for the more downtrodden of our society and strongly believes in the right of gays to marry may consider themselves to be moderate. Someone who supports the deregulation of the financial industry and believes that the use of torture is an essential tool in combating terrorism may consider themselves to be liberal.
Personally, I believe that this nation is fundamentally centrist. Not center-right, not center-left but squarely in the mainstream middle. But I believe that if a more thorough approach were taken to determine people’s true political leanings, one might discover that people were actually more progressive than they actually thought. I’d be inclined to assume that the vast majority of Americans would actually favor a “socialist” agenda in the form of Medicare, Social Security, Public Housing, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), National School Lunch Programs, unemployment insurance, a public school system and I could go on and on.
Unfortunately, because this myth has become so dominant and widespread in our political culture, it has often lent itself to shaping horrendously bad policy. One of the most recent examples of this was put on full display during the year and a half debate on health care. Conservatives in both parties, signaled their opposition to the legislation under the guise that, “it went too far,” and argued that a more, “bipartisan, fiscally responsible,” approach should have been pursued. It didn’t matter that the Congressional Budget Office had given the Democratic health care legislation a positive score and reported that it would actually cut the deficit. And it really didn’t matter to those same talking heads that make their living excoriating liberals on a daily basis that the shield of being, “fiscally responsible” was nothing more than an artifice used to mask their real interests of protecting their corporate benefactors.
But why have serious debates on what these vacuous terms actually mean when it would be so much easier to simply boil everything down to clichéd platitudes?