Ezra today tackled the depressingly constantly-deployed media canard that the U.S. is a “center-right” country. Prompted by a Newsweek article warning that, regardless of the prospects of a massive Democratic sweep of the 2008 elections, both on the national and state-by-state levels, the U.S. “remains a center-right nation—a fact that a President Obama would forget at his peril“, Paul Waldman at Huffington Post wrote that
On foreign policy, on economic policy, on social policy, on just about everything, it’s the progressive position that is more popular. The median voter in 2008 is pro-choice, supports civil unions for gay Americans (a position that seemed insanely radical only a decade ago), rejects the Bush foreign policy, supported the recent increase in the minimum wage, wants strong environmental protections, favors reasonable restrictions on gun sales, thinks the wealthy and corporations don’t pay their fair share of taxes, and wants the government to guarantee universal health coverage. Does that sound conservative to you? And younger generations are more progressive than their elders — in fact, it is the pre-baby-boom generation that is the most conservative on most issues. And they will only be around for so long.
This whole “center-right” thing really depresses the hell out of me every time I hear it stated. I most often hear it coming from the rectum-shaped orifice which graces the face of George Will on This Week. It’s always stated as a simple fact of nature, with no particular evidence needed. When pressed, the only meaningful statistic that can really be brought forward is the fact that, in poll after poll, about 40% of Americans call themselves ‘Conservtive’, while only 20% or so call themselves ‘Liberal.’
But, at the same point, as Waldman pointed out, when you take an issue-by-issue look at things, many more people hold positions that would, in an objective fashion, be called ‘liberal’. So, what’s the disconnect?
Well, it’s quite simple, really – for decades, the Right has been engaged in a war on the word ‘liberal’. You hear it all the time, when John McCain refers to Barack Obama as ‘the most liberal member of the U.S. Senate.’ Here in Colorado, commercials for Republican Bob Schieffer refer to Senate Candidate Mark Udall as ‘Boulder Liberal Mark Udall’. It’s why current liberals are much more likely to use the word ‘progressive’ to describe their policies.
And so, having effectively poisoned the word ‘liberal’, the Right has assured that there will always be more people referring to themselves as conservatives. But really, to call this country ‘center-right’ because we are further to the right than Western Europe, but more to the left of just about everyone else in the world is somewhere between moronic and absurd, a fact which needs to be pointed out every time it is uttered.