Good post up on OpenLeft by Mike Lux, The Mystical Center. When talking with more moderate friends, I’m constantly reminded that America is a conservative country, that leftist policies are inaccessible and unpopular, that while we can all wish that Democrats would be leftier, at the end of the day they really need to be centrist in order to get elected and bring about incremental change.
And I’ll concede that there’s an element of truth to that, yes, we do have to balance some of our rhetoric and our more pie-in-the-sky proposals (alas, single payer, we hardly knew ye after ye were locked out of the initial conversations and forcibly removed by police) to remain palatable. But I will continue to challenge the idea that America is necessarily a conservative country, and assert that liberalism, when described in terms of policies and beyond ambiguous rhetoric, is much more palatable than conventional wisdom allows.
Because when you look at the polling data Mike quotes in the article above, it should be clear that the vaguer the question, the more conservative the response (for example: ‘did Obama/Democrats try to have government do too much, or should they have tried to have government do more?’) Whereas when you ask questions that deal with specific policies that might be labeled liberal and conservative, it seems clear that there is strong support among so-called ‘swing voters’ and ‘the center’ for the more liberal position (‘Swing voters supported a message about challenging China on trade, ending subsidies to corporations that send jobs overseas, and stopping NAFTA-like trade deals over a message about increasing exports, passing more trade agreements, and getting government out of the way by 59-28′). We’re conservative only inasmuch as we call ourselves conservative, but when it comes down to what we believe, it turns out we’re a lot more damn liberal than we thought (collectively).
This doesn’t solve anything, really. We’ve been having the tired conversation about why we keep getting reamed despite pushing for policies that obviously favor the majority interest for an exhaustingly long time. But that’s where the challenge lies, is recognizing that we should have a strength (popular support for progressive policies) that we don’t, and figuring out how to really maximize that strength.
A lot of this has to do with the fact that, when your party doesn’t actually follow through on the popular progressive policy (like those mentioned above), it’s hard to run on those achievements and half-hearted values. A lot of this also has to do with simply terrible communication that this is where we actually stand. And finally a lot of this has to do with a conventional wisdom that I’d argue we all have a responsibility to fight- that we are a conservative country and so the whole thing is hopeless. No way. No freakin way.