America has just watched a self-professed liberal Democrat win the presidency by an overwhelming margin and Democrats expand their majorities in the House and Senate. And yet we're all supposed to believe we still live in a "center-right" country.
Pundits are idiots. The American people are starting to recognize that when a political party promotes as its overarching philosophy the idea that government is by definition ineffective, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. When Republicans say that government is the problem, they are doomed to make it so. What we saw yesterday wasn't just a repudiation of George Bush; it was a desperate plea for competent and active government.
61% of the country disagreed with Bush's decision to veto an expansion of government-funded health insurance for children (the SCHIP program). 60% would like new government spending to help cover the uninsured (both adults and children). 67% believe the government should be proactive in tackling complex economic problems, while only 33% believe the market can handle economic problems without government intervention.
Entitlement programs such as Social Security are as popular as ever, to the point that no Republican would dare propose cuts in them unless they don't mind getting thrown out of office. Overwhelming majorities believe the minimum wage should be increased and that corporations and the wealthy pay too little in taxes. In other words, the progressive programs that were established between 1930 and 1968, a period of immense economic growth for all Americans, have maintained their status as essential public institutions.
On foreign policy, 67% percent believe we should open up diplomatic relations with countries considered enemies of the United States.
On social issues, 61% support embryonic stem cell research. Only 29% believe Roe v. Wade should be overturned. Most oppose making abortion less available to women. While most Americans still do not favor gay marriage, that number has been steadily declining over the past decade. A slim majority (54%) favor civil unions for gay couples.
And yet, 41% of the country self-identifies as "conservative," compared to 21% who identify themselves as "liberal."
Sorry to inundate all of you with a bunch of statistics, but I think it's important to understand that the country only leans right when you completely ignore public opinion on specific issues.
Nonetheless, many conservative pundits and "strategists" I have seen on TV claim that the reason they are getting trounced in elections is not because conservatism is unpopular, but because Republicans aren't conservative enough. They say Republicans need to return to the principles of Ronald Reagan if they are to regain electoral majorities. But what they don't realize is that the Age of Reagan is dead, as is the Reagan coalition of conservatives that led it. The conditions that sustained this coalition (racial tension, cultural insecurity, corporate power) do not carry the same weight that they once did, as Barack Obama's election so poignantly demonstrated.
There is a dramatic realignment taking place in America. The myth of the quintessential American as the white, rural, nascar-watching Republican male is disintegrating. It is being replaced by an image that more resembles Barack Obama himself: culturally ambiguous but inescapably American. How fitting, then, that he should come to represent us at this point in time, when America is once again recognizing its status as a proudly liberal country.