Liberals Declare America Liberal


First there was the Republican National Committee proposal to re-label the Democratic Party the "Democrat Socialist Party"; now Campaign for America's Future and Media Matters have declared America "a center-left nation," releasing an 18-page report that cites polls on Americans' opinions on health care, taxes, abortion, and gay marriage.
Their point is that it's erroneous to claim that America is conservative, or center-right, as a few in the media have following the 2008 election--given that Barack Obama won on a relatively liberal platform, and Democrats have crushed the GOP in the last two election cycles. If Republicans want to call Obama a liberal, that's fine: he is, and America agrees with him.

Particularly on gay marriage, which has gained a lot of ground this year as more states have approved it, CAF and Media Matters make a strong point: one reason it's been said that America is conservative, relative to other nations, is its social tendencies. But growing support for gay marriage has marked a shift on that front.

Polling data, however, show most Americans still opposed to gay marriage. The CAF/Media Matters report cites 61 percent support for gay marriage or civil unions.

After looking at some of the poll-question wordings, it's not surprising that people answered the way they did: for instance, "Would you like to see major corporations have more influence in this nation, less influence, or keep their influence as it is now?" (Even if you're conservative, do you necessarily want major corporations to have "more influence"?)

The report finds that Americans don't mind big government, especially when it comes to health care. The idea that government can do more to ensure access to health care has long been a major underpinning of Obama's health care platform, and a Gallup poll this year found that 54 percent to 41 percent think it's government's responsibility to make sure all Americans have healthcare coverage. (It should be noted, however, that 54 percent is a low point for the past eight years.)

Unintentionally, the report leads us to a question: even if America is center-left, do Americans identify themselves as such? And, if they don't, will calling Obama and Democrats "liberal" have much of an impact?

The last election showed that it doesn't have much of one. As CAF/Media Matters points out, the GOP spent much of the '08 campaign labeling Obama as "the most liberal senator"--and look how that turned out.

The GOP's labeling game is about convincing the nation that Obama and his party are out of sync with national sentiment; CAF and Media Matters want to convince us that the nation is farther left than the GOP thinks, and that Obama is a liberal zeitgeist.

Taking the RNC proposal into account, we can now safely ask: if the Democratic Party is socialist, and it enjoys widespread support, does that mean the nation is not just center-left, but socialist in its own right?

Perhaps Obama should run to his left.

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Chris Good is a political reporter for ABC News. He was previously an associate editor at The Atlantic and a reporter for The Hill.

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