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Is the United States of America a center-right nation?

 
 
kuvasz
 
Reply Sun 9 Nov, 2008 11:42 am
I heard a lot of that over past several years and questioned the basis for that assumption. It appears to come from the 2004 exit polling of Americans who "According to the network exit polls, 21 percent of the voters who cast ballots in 2004 called themselves liberal, 34 percent said they were conservative and 45 percent called themselves moderate, But is there a mistake common to political elites: assuming that ordinary people look at politics the same way they do.

They would be right if everyone who talked to a pollster understood the words "conservative," "liberal," and "moderate" in the same way people in Washington do. Political elites tend to believe that, like them, voters understand the issues that define contemporary liberalism and conservatism, and that if they call themselves "moderates," that means they must have a clearly defined ideology that resides midway between the positions of the Democratic and Republican parties on the major issues of the day.

Quote:
But, on Tuesday, Americans chose as their next president an African-American named Barack Obama who campaigned on a near-universal health-care plan, allowing the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy to expire, and a move away from the belligerent foreign policy of the past eight years. Republicans, and some journalists, had spent months (falsely) saying Obama is the single most liberal member of the U.S. Senate -- and maybe even a socialist. The American people responded by electing him in a landslide.

This, naturally, is very good news for the Republicans, according to many pundits. It proves once again that America remains a "center-right" nation.

Right about now, you're probably scratching your head, wondering how the election of the "most liberal" member of the Senate, a man who campaigned on a promise of near-universal health care, could possibly be described as evidence of a conservative country.

To be sure, it requires some creative thinking.

NBC's Tom Brokaw, for example, looked at county-by-county election results and concluded that counties carried by John McCain account for greater land mass than those carried by Barack Obama. This would be meaningful, if only fields and streams and rocks and trees were conservative voters. But they aren't: They are fields and streams and rocks and trees. They are neither liberal nor conservative; they tell us nothing about the nation's political leanings. People tell us something about the nation's leanings -- and more people voted for Barack Obama.

Then there's CNN's John King Wednesday night. Just try to follow his logic:
KING: Without a doubt, the electorate voted for Barack Obama, but still perceives him to be a liberal. And one thing you don't want to do when you win an election like this, a sweeping election like this, is alienate the people here in a place like Cincinnati. Why? George W. Bush carried that county four years ago. You don't want to drive them away.

[...]

So, Barack Obama is making inroads in communities that not too long ago voted Republican. The last thing you want to do if you want to keep them four years from now is to alienate them with a liberal agenda.

That simply does not make any sense. John King says Barack won a "sweeping election" even though the electorate "perceives him to be a liberal" -- so he better not pursue a "liberal agenda" or he will "alienate them."

Got that?

Later that same night, King added that Obama "does not get a mandate to be a liberal." Again, this is pure nonsense. John King says voters perceive Obama to be a liberal. John King says Obama won a "sweeping victory." And yet John King says that Obama's sweeping victory among an electorate that considers him a liberal does not constitute a mandate to be a liberal. This is illogical, self-discrediting foolishness.

At least King was considerate enough to debunk his own absurd conclusions in near-real time. Conservatives making similar claims were not so kind.

Several in the media have claimed that President-elect Barack Obama won the election because he ran as a conservative and that notwithstanding Obama's victory, the United States is a conservative country.

In claiming that Obama ran as a conservative, these media figures ignore the central components of his platform, including repeal of tax cuts for the wealthy, near-universal health-care coverage, and redeployment of troops from Iraq to Afghanistan.

Democracy Corps, a Democratic polling group, released a poll

http://mediamatters.org/rd?to=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.democracycorps.com%2Fdownload.php%3Fattachment%3Ddcor110508fq1.pdf

on November 7 that showed strong support for the positions that Obama has articulated on these issues.

Quote:
The poll also included questions that provided a direct choice between the position taken by Obama on a given issue and that taken by Sen. John McCain (without referring to Obama or McCain) -- with the more progressive choice echoing Obama's position and the more conservative echoing McCain's.
For most questions that juxtaposed a clear progressive view with a clear conservative view, the progressive position was more popular.

A list of positions Obama took on major issues during the campaign makes it clear that he did not run as a conservative, and the Democracy Corps poll results rebut the claim that Obama ran as a conservative and that the United States is a conservative country.


A synopsis of these results are linked here

ashttp://mediamatters.org/items/200811070013?f=h_top

as are the preceding paragraphs lifted from the link, verbatim for continuity sake.

So considering that Obama campaigned clearly as a man who calls for the following

1. Repeal the Bush tax cuts for those making over 250,000 dollars and cut taxes for middle class families and anyone making under 200,000 dollars.

2. "Make health insurance affordable and accessible to all Americans." Seventy-two percent said this was at least "near the top" of their priorities.

3. "End the war in Iraq responsibly and redeploy our troops from Iraq to Afghanistan."

4. "Repeal tax breaks that benefit companies that move jobs overseas."

5. "End dependence on foreign oil by 2025 by requiring one quarter of U.S. electric power to come from alternative energy where new investments will create new jobs."

6. Make job-creating investments in America's aging roads and transportation systems and stimulate new economic activity.

It is hard not to consider that having mainstream political pundits, as well as Obama’s past political foes continue to call America a center-right nation is just an act of blowing smoke up the asses of a gullible America public specifically to mold “conventional wisdom” that does not conform to objective reality for maintaining economic and social status quo.
 
MontereyJack
 
  2  
Reply Sun 9 Nov, 2008 11:57 am
No. We're center-left if anything. Polls throughout the Bush presidency showed consistently that people disagreed almost across the board with his policies, from taxation and the economy to the environment, to abortion, to stem cell research to climate change to Terry Schiavo,to the role of government, and on and on. What he scored on mainly were that he was a strong leader and he'd protect homeland security (wrong on both counts). The conservative agenda, when it's actually been presented to people, is largely rejected.

Interesting survey of where the American people really stand:
http://mediamatters.org/progmaj/report

0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  2  
Reply Sun 9 Nov, 2008 12:00 pm
Is the United States of America a center-right nation?

Yes. What are termed liberals would barely qualify as centrists in most nations. Only the far left-wing of American political thought approaches left-wing thought in most other nations.
MontereyJack
 
  2  
Reply Sun 9 Nov, 2008 12:00 pm
IN KUVASZ"S SECOND LINK, BE SURE TO DELETE THE as BEFORE THE http. OTHERWISE IT WON'T WORK
0 Replies
 
kuvasz
 
  1  
Reply Sun 9 Nov, 2008 02:11 pm
@Setanta,
i see your point set, but for the purposes at hand, viz., looking at the meme of "a center-right nation" is clearly a manufacturing of conventional wisdom in the minds of americans about their internal national identity, comparisons with other nations is a non-sequiter, because the purpose of such a meme is to use it as a political weapon by those who fight against the numbered items i listed.

and sorry about the mistaken link
dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Sun 9 Nov, 2008 02:22 pm
@kuvasz,
You may just have hit centre right...time will tell.
0 Replies
 
dyslexia
 
  1  
Reply Sun 9 Nov, 2008 02:29 pm
I'm an american.
0 Replies
 
talk72000
 
  2  
Reply Sun 9 Nov, 2008 08:32 pm
@kuvasz,
You could blame it on Bill Clinton as his administration did most to make American wealthy. The rich tends to be right wing. Also one must be consider the effect of Ayn Rand's novels which created a generation of ill-informed libertarians with little or no historical or geographical knowledge outside of Americana, selfishness and laissez-faire militancy.
nimh
 
  2  
Reply Sun 9 Nov, 2008 09:26 pm
Since Americans have voted in either centrist/centre-right or solidly rightwing Presidents going back to at least Nixon, I suppose you are a center-right nation.

The election of Obama might or might not signal a slight shift. He seems to be somewhat to the left of Bill Clinton, and so maybe better qualifies as a centre-left politician. But he's still solidly centrist compared to any left-of-centre politicians in Europe or Latin America. So for the time being "center-right nation" sounds about right.
nimh
 
  1  
Reply Sun 9 Nov, 2008 09:27 pm
@talk72000,
talk72000 wrote:

a generation of ill-informed libertarians with little or no historical or geographical knowledge outside of Americana, selfishness and laissez-faire militancy.

Hear hear.
0 Replies
 
kuvasz
 
  1  
Reply Sun 9 Nov, 2008 09:47 pm
@nimh,
good grief, you and setanta are still missing the point, the center-right meme being argued by pundits and republicans is exclusive to domestic american politics, not international. nothing i quoted or linked mentioned a single thing about multinational comparisons, both of you are being obtuse. you do not see any of the folks calling america a center right nation say anything about comparing american voter identification in relation to europe, asia or africa. they are talking about american definitions of the words exclusively.

it is your contention that an american who calls himself a liberal is referring to supporting the basic policies of the british liberal party? come on, both of you guys are smarter than that
Thomas
 
  2  
Reply Sun 9 Nov, 2008 10:03 pm
@kuvasz,
kuvasz wrote:
good grief, you and setanta are still missing the point, the center-right meme being argued by pundits and republicans is exclusive to domestic american politics, not international.

Well, if you meant it as a domestic American point, then America is a centrist nation by definition. The average American must by definition hold average American views, because that's what the word "average" means. A nation as a whole cannot logically be more right-wing than its own center.

I just don't see how this insight tells us anything interesting about America.
talk72000
 
  1  
Reply Sun 9 Nov, 2008 10:03 pm
@nimh,
Mr. Green
0 Replies
 
kuvasz
 
  1  
Reply Sun 9 Nov, 2008 10:32 pm
@Thomas,
maybe you dont find it interesting, but its about how the people in economic control in america set conventional wisdom and use it as a tool to undercut progressive policies.

it is a prime example of what chomsky refers to the manufacture of consent.
Thomas
 
  2  
Reply Sun 9 Nov, 2008 10:44 pm
@kuvasz,
Strike the word "interesting" from my previous remark. The sentence "America is a centrist nation", if interpreted as a statement about domestic America, doesn't tell us anything about America. Because the same statement is true about any group of people: On average, its members are average for the group. This has nothing to do with common wisdom. By definition, it is true of every group you might come up with.
0 Replies
 
nimh
 
  2  
Reply Mon 10 Nov, 2008 06:39 am
@kuvasz,
kuvasz wrote:

good grief, you and setanta are still missing the point, the center-right meme being argued by pundits and republicans is exclusive to domestic american politics, not international. nothing i quoted or linked mentioned a single thing about multinational comparisons, both of you are being obtuse.

Well if you ask the question, "Is the United States of America a center-right nation?", as you did here, it automatically raises the question "Compared to what?" Centre-right in comparison with what the US used to be like, 25 or 50 or 75 years ago? Centre-right in comparison with other countries? How else would you define whether a country is centre-right or centre-left or whatever but in comparison with ... well, things to compare it with?

(I think in both those comparisons America now is definitely a center-right nation. It's moved to the right on all but cultural issues since the period of 1932-1980, and it's definitely to the right of most other Western countries.)

Now if your point was as narrow as pointing to a foolish rightwing meme doing the rounds, then yeah sure, whatever. Like Thomas said, a county compared only to itself at its own time is by definition centrist, "centrist" denoting the average or typical view of its citizens. Not much of interest to say on that one, really.

If you're going to ask the question here (on an international forum to boot), of course people will respond to it as the broader question it is.
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Mon 10 Nov, 2008 11:30 am
@kuvasz,
As Habibi has pointed out, if you speak of a center-right nation, you have selected the family resemblance group "nations" as the basis for your comparison, whatever you may now allege your intent to have been.

If you were to provide the basis for comparison which you had in mind, it might help.
0 Replies
 
kuvasz
 
  2  
Reply Mon 10 Nov, 2008 02:35 pm
otay folks, thomas, ninh and setanta, criticism accepted, but reading the links would have likely clarified the context and boundary conditions set for the discussion i had hoped to produce.

as ninh stated, that the right wing meme actually has been run up the flag pole to salute at it or shoot it so you all seem to have recognized the context within which the original post was held, especially since the linked sites stated them so clearly, but to reiterate and clarify, from an article posted by david sirota today at

http://www.creators.com/opinion/david-sirota/mandate-08-reagan-vs-fdr.html

Quote:
Conservatives' contend that no matter how big progressives may win on Election Day, this is nonetheless a center-right nation. Indeed, a LexisNexis search shows this poll-tested term -- "center-right nation" -- is lately among the Punditburo's most ubiquitous Orwellian buzzwords...The "center-right nation" phrase is being parroted with the propagandistic discipline of Cuba's Ministry of Information.

The proof of this center-right nation? Republicans cite polls showing more Americans call themselves conservative than liberal. While that data point certainly measures brand name, those same surveys undermine the right's larger argument because they show majorities support progressive positions on most economic issues.


and today by e j dionne at the washington post

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/11/09/AR2008110901896.html

Quote:
Conservatives are trying to stop Obama from pursuing any of the ideas that he campaigned on...Their gimmick is to insist that the United States is still a "center-right" country because more Americans call themselves conservative than liberal. What this analysis ignores is that Americans have clearly moved to the left of where they were four, eight or ten years ago.


as well as frank rich's column in thr new york times yesterday.

http://topics.nytimes.com/top/opinion/editorialsandoped/oped/columnists/frankrich/index.html

Quote:
We now keep hearing, for instance, that America is "a center-right nation" -- apparently because the percentages of Americans who call themselves conservative (34), moderate (44) and liberal (22) remain virtually unchanged from four years ago. But if we've learned anything this year, surely it's that labels are overrated. Those same polls find that more and more self-described conservatives no longer consider themselves Republicans. Americans now say they favor government doing more (51 percent), not less (43) -- an 11-point swing since 2004 -- and they still overwhelmingly reject the Iraq war.


yet even today the elite media appears willing to publish as many of these 'America is a center-right country' opinion pieces as they can solicit, because we get the editor of Governing magazine, Alan Ehrenhalt, informing us that:

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/10/opinion/10ehrenhalt.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1&ref=opinion

Quote:
despite the Democrats’ remarkable gains over the last two national elections, the party remains to the left of the electorate.


and again the meme is rebutted by Booman

http://www.boomantribune.com/story/2008/11/10/101041/56

Quote:
Ehrenhalt offers no supporting information to bolster his thesis, but just tosses this trope out in tautological fashion. That's a shame because it ruins an otherwise useful and informative essay. As I have written often, the new Democratic majority is both better and more cohesive than the old New Deal coalition of Southern Segregationists and Big City bosses.

.....

Ehrenhalt's thesis is premised on two dubious assumptions. The first, which is implicit, is that the electorate, as a whole, has moved far to the right since 1977. The second, which he makes explicit, is that the current Congress is further to the left than the electorate. In other words, their mandate is illusory.

.....

If the mood of the electorate has moved to the Left because of the economic conditions facing the country, then that is a true movement in ideology and not some illusory mandate. Moreover, if the electorate has observed Conservatism in action and rejected the results, that, too, is a true ideological movement. People no longer believe that the Republicans are better on foreign policy or the economy because they had a chance to see the GOP's performance on those issues. People want health care because the health care system is broken.

In other words, Obama has a real mandate. The people have spoken and the next Congress will be, by historical standards, very well calibrated to their mood.


in the context of the countries on Earth America may well be a center to right country, but within the context of the 2006 and 2008 election the americans may call themselves what ever they want to, but they are electing their democratic representatives who run not on center-right positions, but traditionally center-left, progessive positions, where government is not considered a part of the problem, like reaganite conservatism did, but as a part of the solution.

my purpose in starting the thread was to signal that winning a democratic election running on center-left positions, and obama did, it was only a start, because economic interests, always skewed to the right, will undermine the decisions of the election if possible, and they are doing it by attempting to shape the conventional political wisdom of society.


0 Replies
 
blatham
 
  0  
Reply Mon 10 Nov, 2008 03:40 pm
marque
blatham
 
  2  
Reply Mon 10 Nov, 2008 05:27 pm
I think Kuv's focus here is the valuable one. All of us on this thread read widely enough to understand that the US would have to move a hell of a long way to become Sweden. Or even Canada. I don't think there's much to be learned in reiterating those contrasts which we are all aware of.

Bill Kristol, in today's NY Times column, forwards this presently ubiquitous conservative claim that "America is still a center-right nation". Usually it is claimed as a self-evident truth but when some stat or polling result is used to support the claim, it is almost always the one Kristol uses today...polling of whether people self-identify as 'liberal' or 'conservative'. Given that we all know the decades-long strategy to define 'liberalism' as being something like Satan's unwashed underwear, and given the evidence that we see on this site daily as to how misinformed are the folks who get their news/commentary from rightwing sources, it becomes pretty clear that Kristol's poll disguises far more than illuminates.

Here's one fellow addressing the question re polling on issues.
Quote:
One more time. America is not a "right of center nation." Sorry, very serious cable people. First, there's, you know, the results of the election. An electoral mandate for the so-called "most liberal member of the Senate" (not true, but whatever) and significant pickups in the House and Senate. And then there are the issues. According to Gallup:

• Americans are pro-choice (67 percent) • Americans support the Geneva Conventions with regards to torture (57 percent) • Americans don't want the government snooping in their bank and internet records (67 percent) • Americans want the USA Patriot Act changed or eliminated entirely (81 percent) • Americans support protecting the environment at the expense of economic growth (55 percent) • Americans believe that global warming is happening (86 percent) • Americans believe that it's the government's responsibility to provide health care (69 percent) • Americans support the decriminalization of marijuana (55 percent) and support the legalization of medical marijuana (78 percent) • Americans are opposed to attacking Iran (68 percent, according to a CNN Poll) • Americans support labor unions (60 percent) • Americans want government funding of embryonic stem cell research (56 percent) • Americans believe that free trade hurts American workers (65 percent) • Americans believe rich people and corporations aren't paying enough taxes (66 and 71 percent respectively) • And overall party affiliation? 54 percent of Americans are Democrats (with leaners) and 39 percent are Republicans (with leaners).
http://www.bobcesca.com/blog-archives/2008/11/no_2.html

For myself, I'm more interested in the propagandist and ideological functions that underlie this 'we are a conservative nation' meme, but I've been writing about that elsewhere so I won't duplicate it here.

0 Replies
 
 

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