What’s Wrong with America?

Suddenly, the standard Right Wing tactic of smearing an opponent as an anti-American Godless commie seems not to be working.  Is it just the economy or is this part of a larger shift of the American Political Center a little bit to the left?  Or have people just gotten so burned out on these kinds of attacks that they no longer have any effect?

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Published in: on October 22, 2008 at 4:54 pm  Comments (5)  

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  1. No, it’s mostly just the economy, with perhaps a touch war weariness as well.

    Funny you should ask, though, because I was just reading an article in Newsweek today about how the U.S. is a fundamentally right-of-center nation, and how Democratic presidents ignore that reality at their own grave peril. Like you, the author predicts that Obama will be much more centrist than liberals expect. I think the author is basically correct. Compared to every other advanced and industrialized democracy, we are very conservative.

  2. “because I was just reading an article in Newsweek today about how the U.S. is a fundamentally right-of-center nation, and how Democratic presidents ignore that reality at their own grave peril.”

    That’s an old trope, but I’m not sure it’s true. Poll after poll shows the overwhelming majority of voters are to the Left of the GOP on a variety of issues, from economic issues to social issues. I’m not saying the majority is absolutely Democratic, but they seem to be closer to the Democrats than the Republicans.

  3. “Poll after poll shows the overwhelming majority of voters are to the Left of the GOP on a variety of issues, from economic issues to social issues.”

    Well, being Left of the GOP on any number of issues doesn’t necessarily mean that we are not, still, a basically conservative nation. By many standards our Democratic Party is well to the right of most European political parties. Our own internal frame of reference for what is conservative and what is liberal is quite different than Europe’s.

    Also, the author of that article focused mainly on presidents since WWII, whose experience has tended to demonstrate that Democratic presidents only survive when they break to the right of their party. Bill Clinton’s presidency was the perfect example. The fact that only only Southern Democrats have been elected to the presidency since Truman in and of itself is pretty insructive. Obama may well mark the end of that streak, but at the same time he has been outspoken in his Christian faith and has, among other things, opposed gay marriage.

    If the electorate does move Left in this election, it will largely be a reaction to the economy. As far as social issues go, I think if anything the American electorate is becoming more “libertarian” than “liberal.” Because they don’t want the government or the religious right telling them what to do doesn’t necessarily mean that they accept or approve of that same behavior.

  4. Incidentally, I offer my own vote today as Exhibit A. After months of planning to vote for McCain, I actually ended up voting for Obama, Noriega and every Democrat on the ballot for which there was no Libertarian alternative. I won’t go into the details of my convoluted reasoning for voting that way other than to say that it was mostly a protest vote against the GOP. I didn’t vote for Obama and Noriega because I suddenly feel more attracted to the Democratic Party and its ideas (to the extent that it even has any); I simply voted that way because there was no other alternative available to me in registering my disgust at the way the GOP has mismanaged the country for most of the past eight years.

    Our dearth of viable alternatives doesn’t leave U.S. voters with much choice other than to eventually punish the party in power for screwing things up by voting for the other party. It rarely has anything to do with a fundamental leftward or rightward shift in the beliefs of the voters. When the Democrats eventually screw things up badly enough, they’ll be punished the same way, and the see-saw cycle of American politics will continue unabated.

  5. Terms like “liberal” and “conservative” are essentially meaningless nowadays. I agree with you that America could stand more choices at the ballot box (third party? Hell, I’d settle for two) but I think the institutional barriers (first past the post voting, state-by-state control over ballot access, etc) may be too high to hurdle, given that we haven’t had a successful third party last more than a decade or so since 1789.


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