Saturday, July 5, 2008

CenterShot: The Myth Of The Middle

Lately there has been a growing and increasingly loudly voiced call from some of the more extreme centrists and from the DLC itself pushing the idea that to win elections - the upcoming 2008 presidential election comes to mind for some strange reason - and gain power Democrats will have to move sharply to the right, and that liberals and progressives are dooming America to successive republican administrations.

Sunday morning, March 11, 2007 in "Where Is America's True Center?" David Sirota wrote that:

The purported proof of such an assertion by Democratic Leadership Council mouthpieces Elaine Kamarck and Bill Galston was this finding:
"In 2004, only 21 percent of voters called themselves liberal, while 34 percent said they were conservative. The rest, 45 percent, characterized themselves as moderate."
The Washington media joined with Kamarck and Galston in billing this as an extraordinary finding that proved once and for all that Democrats must become more "moderate" or "conservative" because so few voters labeled themselves "liberal."
Sirota also went on in the same post to note that:
[C]onservative pundit James Joyner shows exactly what I'm talking about. Responding to a new Gallup poll showing more Americans label themselves conservative rather than liberal, Joyner admits:
"This is especially interesting considering that the public seems to continue to demand liberal policies, opposing even nominal market-based reform of Social Security, continuing to push for the socialization of health care, expecting instant bail-outs for poor financial decisions, and generally wanting more federal spending on a variety of social programs."

Put another way, all that corporate front groups inside the Democratic Party really prove when they cite polls on "liberal" vs. "moderate" vs. "conservative" labeling is how well the right has vilified the term "liberal" and how nebulously appealing and Apple Pie-ish a term like "moderate" is - but they prove nothing about where the public actually is on issues. That the Washington media goes out of its way to ignore this by, for instance, continuing to label as "fringe" antiwar Democrats representing the antiwar position of most Americans is a testament to how powerful the Beltway status-quo-defending propaganda system really is.
So what do the numbers really show us about where the mainstream of America is on the political spectrum? Well, in late 2004 and early 2005 Pew Research conducted an in depth Political Typology study of American society: Beyond Red vs. Blue. It's Principal Findings, among other things, were that:
Coming out of the 2004 election, the American political landscape decidedly favored the Republican Party. The GOP had extensive appeal among a disparate group of voters in the middle of the electorate, drew extraordinary loyalty from its own varied constituencies, and made some inroads among conservative Democrats. These advantages outweighed continued nationwide parity in party affiliation. Looking forward, however, there is no assurance that Republicans will be able to consolidate and build upon these advantages.

Republicans have neither gained nor lost in party identification in 2005. Moreover, divisions within the Republican coalition over economic and domestic issues may loom larger in the future, given the increasing salience of these matters. The Democratic party faces its own formidable challenges, despite the fact that the public sides with them on many key values and policy questions. Their constituencies are more diverse and, while united in opposition to President Bush, the Democrats are fractured by differences over social and personal values.
And as Profiles of the Typology Groups break down, Liberals [Liberal Democrats/Seculars/60's Democrats] comprise the largest group at 17% of General Population and 19% of Registered Voters, followed by Conservative Democrats at 15% of Adult Population and 15% of registered Voters.

Enterprisers [Staunch Conservatives] made up only 9% of Adult Population and 10% Registered Voters, tied with Pro-Government Conservatives on both scores.

Liberals have swelled to become the largest voting bloc in the typology.

And since Pew Research did their study there have been a couple of curious occurrences. Just anomolous blips, obviously. Probably mean very little, if anything. Heh. One was the November 2006 mid-term election rout of the republicans. That was a good indication of a strong rightward shift, no? What the hell could people have been thinking? Didn't they know? Hadn't anyone told them that they were supposed to move to the right? Jesus, just how in the hell are you going to run a proper democracy unless people do what they're told? Things would be so much easier if this were a dictatorship, right George?

George? Well, since the 2006 midterm elections George W. Bush's job approval ratings have continued the same calamitous slide towards falling off the bottom edge of the page. (see Historical Bush Approval Ratings)

Liberal progressives as a group are beating the rest of 'em, hands down.

Sirota concluded with the observation that:
Democrats major problem in recent years has been their willingness to listen to the tired - and inaccurate - rhetoric of people like Kamarck and Galston who have continued to push the party away from America's true center.
And Obama is the guy who is going to get us out of Iraq?