CenterShot: The Myth Of The Middle (reprise)

( – promoted by buhdydharma )

After reading Tocque’s comment a few minutes ago in which he said

Obama is the best weapon the bank-o-crats have ever had. He’s destroyed the left in this country and probably globally.“,

and to which I responded with

I don’t think he’s destroyed the left. I think what he’s done is shown up most of what the media has long called the left to be center right and full of shit. The real left hasn’t gone anywhere. It’s right here on the page, for example…“,

I thought it was time, for what it might be worth for people who weren’t here at DD then, to repost this (originally from July 03, 2008).


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 rethuglican 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.

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 rethugs.  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:

Historical Bush Approval Graph

So 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.


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    • Edger on November 18, 2009 at 00:07

    And much, much smarter too, of course.

    But we knew that without a study.

    • Edger on November 18, 2009 at 01:55
  1. “…but I like the sound of the Public Option and what is this Single Payer ?”

    As Sirota noted many people who describe themselves as conservative favor progressive policies.

  2. progressive left; expressions of determination and political power. The worker made the employer come to the table. America manufactured its own products and the middle class grew and prospered.

    My hobby is collecting old newpapers, magazines, images etc. I can tell you that towards the end of WW2 up to Eisenhower, there was optimism in the air. You could see it and read about it. This optimism had an egalitarian flavor to it. And I remember quite well the 90% tax bracket. People joked and bitched about it a little, but it was in the context of this powerful egalitarian sentiment. I think it is clear that the sacrifices in WW2 caused this cultural humility, a kind of respect for all who gave their lives.

    So we had strong labor unions, fair taxation and a growing middle class. Then what started to change after the Eisenhower period ended? I believe that the Cold War started taking its toll. Left Right labels started being attached to Communism and Capitalism (McCarthyism didn’t help). Civil Rights exploded on the scene in 1955. And again Left Right labels were used as descriptors. The birth of Women’s Lib also got thrown into the mix in the 60’s, along with the increased visibility of the environmental movement with Left Right descriptors.

    My point is that these labels began to be used as accepted jargon in the media. And the Great Communicator used these descriptors quite well. He smashed the Air Traffic Controller Union on day one, ridiculed payments to the underpriviledged as unfair transfer payments to the poor,

    promoted Law and Order to enhance the environment of free enterprise etc.  And Foreign Policy was designed to challenge the USSR, the Communist menace. All these “bad things” were connected to the Left.

    By the time Bush 1 took office, the labor movement was being dismantled, progresssive income tax was being dismantled, and American manufacturing was beginning to be dismantled. In 1988, 43 years after WW2, the Defense Dept had developed an unquenched thirst for money, and still used Communism as its rationale. The minimum wage even became a Left Right thing.

    By the time Obama was sworn in, the labor movement had lost its power to bring “management to the table”, it had lost its power and influence. We were no longer manufacturing ourselves into a middle class powerhouse.

    Progressive income tax was dead. War was omnipresent, America was broke and it was clearly a time for change.

    Ten months ago Americans voted to swing that pendulum back to optimism and the middle class and restore some balance to our free enterprise system. Wars needed to be ended to accomplish this, along with financial regulation and fair taxes. And Americans especially needed to be relieved of oppressive costs for health care. And the manufacturing

    base needed some big time stimulation.

    These are just basic Democratic values that stand in the great tradition of the post WW2 Democratic Party. They have been made into Left Right positions again (except both parties have been guilty of submission to the MIC since WW2). These labels seem to reflect historical swings and, as such, I don’t think these terms can describe Obama as fitting one or the other, as yet.

    For me, Obama’s actions do not reflect any egalitarian point of view. He seems passive and content to tinker. He is not leading using his Bully Pulpit. His main advisors are old, recycled people. He does not want to communicate directly to the American People. And the consolidation of wealth does not bother him. He is not in the great tradition of fighters for the middle class and the poor. To me, he’s just a disappointment. As an anti-war protester and a civil rights activist in the 60’s along with my FDR family background, I see Obama as another Clinton. Clinton was a conservative Democrat in the Great Democratic Tradition.

    I don’t necessarily think he’s destroyed the left, he has just faked them out badly. He seems to be paralyzed to take a firm position on anything. He is suspended in

    absurdly cautious calculation that is almost beyond categorizing. I don’t think he is ready to have a label tagged onto him, but if I did, it would be a conservative who desires deep down to be a liberal. What that means for labels I don’t know, but so far he seems to be looking for his voice; quite a strange phenomenon for a brilliant orator inspiring millions in the campaigns.

  3. But it was more of believing that in order to be elected I assumed he had to camoflage some of his truly held positions (Remember his own M.D. saying he was surprised about Obama’s lack of passion on reform?). I assumed he would hit the ground running, instead of curling up into a ball.

    Did I trust him? I don’t think I ever trusted any politician, but I was excited that we had a good “chance” to get some needed legislation. I was horrified the day he chose Rahm Emanual for his COS. Dredging up the Clintons was not something I ever expected. I also thought he was going to take a shot at revitalizing our manufacturing infrastructure; I was hoping for a New Deal approach.

  4. that are in fact right. He is correct that Klein, Moore and others who are true progressives are pulling their punches. This is not because they are not true progressives but because they do not want to alienate possibly progressive Obama loyalists. Bush was a unifier of what has become of the “Left” in this country – enough that many Progressives thought their vote for NAder was a mistake and gave Bush the presidency (Although it had much more to do with the SC decision). But by definition the “true” Left, ie those who put Left-wing policies before candidates were and are always there. A good thing to be sure.

    I have to say I was skeptical of Obama but more so of his supporters who seemed in only a very superficial way, ie through their parents, their culture, and their region have come to support progressives. These people very well could be turned into real progressives, or true leftists if they devoted the time and thought into the issues. But this effect of reducing Politics to politicians and Party is a result of the Horse Race coverage of mainstream television and poor schooling.

    I eventually found Obama to be quite inspiring in the Campaign once summer rolled around but by the time he Nominated Geithner to Treasury, I was baffled and shocked and did not know what to think. Then as the administration pursued the policy of bipartisanship and when I saw the nets roots just sit their watch the Auto industry fail and then defend the Bankers, I saw there was something wrong with both DK and the administration.

    1) we do not have a netroots and grassroots strong enough or aligned enough to pressure our president effectively. Too many in both groups have adopted DLC beltway think of attempting to win the “center” by becoming the “center” or to mouth the talking points of DC insiders, who I think they really believe.

    2) The president has adopted this kind of thinking as well. I am pretty sure he believes in it, as evidence by his cabinet – made up of DLCers, Hawks, Republicans and Corporatists. It would be one thing if he were not following their lead but he seems more than willing to follow their advice. So what we have is policy that corresponds accordingly.

    I don’t know what strategy to take now, as DK has seemed to take the policy of don’t “demonize the president” which for many seems to translate into don’t criticize any of his policies.

    If we could criticize his policies or Appointments I think we can begin to really have an effect and people would be able to separate the man from the politician. And would soon be there with us.

    Tocque was also referring to himself pulling the punches – as I saw in some of his diaries early in the Administration were quite forgiving.

    I posted much less forgiving comments which he then ignored because he did not want to look as if he were not giving the president a chance.

    I did, just by that time, the time of the auto bailout, I could see what was coming.

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