Center-right, my tuchus ... (Not-Slacking-At-All Friday)


We've got a new "Think Again" column called " What Obamedia?" here. My Guardian Barack post is finally up here. (P.S. Katie, who last I heard was supposed to be having a baby today or so, has written an Obama-follow up to my Guardian piece here. Turns out somebody mistook the future president-elect for a waiter and asked him to fetch a drink. Unbelievable ...)

Even before Obama won, the MSM was doing the conservatives' work for them, arguing that he had better not try to do anything he promised to do because America was a "center-right nation." We noted that the other day that Tom Brokaw was so enamored of the idea, he made an argument that amounted to a belief of "one acre, one vote" -- which is appropriate to a fellow who lives in a cabin in Montana far, far away from any of his neighbors but downright scary in a guy who hosts Meet the Press. Anyway, here, in its most pristine form, from The Washington Post: House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) appears secure in his spot. He bucks up the troops in a Post op-ed: "Recommitting ourselves to [party] principles means two things: vigorously fighting a far-left agenda that is out of step with the wishes of the vast majority of Americans and, more important, promoting superior Republican alternatives that prove that we offer a better vision for our country's future," Boehner writes. "America is still a center-right country. This election was neither a referendum in favor of the left's approach to key issues nor a mandate for big government."

And now, the truth -- I know that's redundant -- from Why We're Liberals:

As the political scientist Drew Westen aptly observes, the word liberal for most Americans implies "elite, tax and spend, out of touch," and "Massachusetts."52 And yet the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press in Washington, D.C., in conducting an extensive set of opinion polls over the past few decades, has demonstrated a decided trend toward increasingly "liberal" positions, by almost any definition. To offer just a few examples of this liberal-in-all-but-name attitude regarding economic and welfare policy, according to the 2006 survey, released in March 2007, roughly 70 percent of respondents believe that the government has a responsibility "to take care of people who can't take care of themselves" -- up from 61 percent in 2002. The number saying that the government should guarantee "every citizen enough to eat and a place to sleep" has increased by a similar margin over the past five years (from 63 percent to 69 percent). Two-thirds of the public (66 percent) -- including a majority of those who say they would prefer a smaller government (57 percent) -- favor government funded health insurance for all citizens. Most people also believe that the nation's corporations are too powerful and fail to strike a fair balance between profits and the public interest. In addition, nearly two-thirds (65 percent) say corporate profits are too high, about the same number who say that "labor unions are necessary to protect the working person" (68 percent). When it comes to the environment, a large majority (83 percent) supports stricter laws and regulations to protect the environment, while 69 percent agree that "we should put more emphasis on fuel conservation than on developing new oil supplies," and fully 60 percent of people questioned say they would "be willing to pay higher prices in order to protect the environment." Regarding so-called social issues, only 28 percent of respondents agree that school boards should have the right to fire teachers who are known to be homosexual, while 66 percent disagree. A 56 percent majority opposes making it more difficult for a woman to get an abortion, while 35 percent favor this position.53 These findings reinforce previous polls like that in 2004 by NPR, the Kaiser Family Foundation, and Harvard University, which asked voters whether "the federal government should fund sex education programs that have 'abstaining from sexual activity' as their only purpose" or if "the money should be used to fund more comprehensive sex education programs that include information on how to obtain and use condoms and other contraceptives." The condom/contraceptive option won the day by a margin of 67 to 30 percent. Unsurprisingly, a similar number (65 percent) said they worried that refusing to provide teens with good information about contraception might lead to unsafe sex, while only 28 percent were more concerned that such information might encourage teens to have sex.54

Contrary to conventional wisdom, Americans even tend to side with liberals rather than conservatives in their attitudes toward religion. According to a 2006 study sponsored by the Faith and Progressive Policy Initiative of the Center for American Progress and conducted by the firm Financial Dynamism, 67 percent of voters believe that religious freedom is a "critical" part of their image of America, compared to less than three in ten who believe the Judeo-Christian faith specifically is critical to this image. Only 20 percent of American voters approve of leaders using the political system to turn religious beliefs into action. In terms of the role that religious and moral teachings should play in public debate about key issues, American voters do not focus on the issues of abortion, gay marriage, and the kind of topics that so exercise conservative Christian leaders, but would prefer to see their churches lead on issues such as alleviating "poverty and hunger" (75 percent), "homelessness" (61 percent), "government corruption" (58 percent), "terrorism" (56 percent), "the environment" (54 percent), and "health care" (52 percent). Americans specifically reject the conservative Christian desire to suppress science in the service of religious dogma. Eighty percent of those questioned agree that "faith and science can and should coexist. We can respect our belief in God and our commitment to the dignity of every human life by using our scientific knowledge to help those who are sick or vulnerable." The same overwhelming number endorses the view that "stem cell research can be a force for moral good rather than a moral failing."55

The Bush administration's mishandling of almost every aspect of its foreign policy, especially the war in Iraq, has led to equally impressive majorities rejecting the fundamental tenets of conservative foreign policy beliefs on behalf of their more liberal alternatives. Despite the historic advantage the president enjoys in defining foreign policy questions, particularly in times of war and high patriotism, coupled with the fact that this is a nation that has "lost" only one war in its 230-year history added to a never-ending propaganda campaign led by the masterful Karl Rove and his minions, massive majorities of Americans sided with congressional Democrats in their 2007 showdown with Bush over ending the Iraq War without victory. In January 2007, for instance, Bush faced what Bloomberg News termed "record disapproval" of more than 60 percent for his policy of continuing the war as well as "the broader war on international terrorist networks." Just about the only support for Bush's neoconservative foreign policy could be found within the confines of the Republican base, which continues to constitute approximately 28 to 33 percent of Americans questioned.56 While most Americans continue to understand that war -- sometimes even the threat of preemptive war -- can be necessary under certain circumstances, barely four in ten, according to the Pew poll, were willing to trust the conservatives in the Bush administration to make the right decision on whether to begin one.57


52. Drew Westen, "Gut Instincts," American Prospect, November 19, 2006.
53. Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, "Trends in Political Values and Core Attitudes, 1987-2007," March 22, 2007.
54. "Sex Education in America," National Public Radio/Kaiser Family Foundation/Kennedy School of Government poll, January 2004.
55. Center for American Progress, "Voters Deeply Concerned about Rising Materialism and Self-interest in American Society; Desire Government Focused on the Common Good and Basic Decency and Dignity of All," poll, June 5, 2006.
56. Heidi Przybyla, "Bush Faces Deepening War Opposition, Demand for Congress to Act," Bloomberg, January 18, 2007; Ronald Brownstein, "Poll: Most Oppose Troop Buildup," Los Angeles Times, January 18, 2007.
57. Pew Research Center, "Trends in Political Values."

Neocons like war; not fighting them themselves, of course, but talking tough about them on television and telling the rest of us they will be a "cakewalk," for everyone concerned, save a few inconvenient deaths here and there. Before 9/11, they were itching to fight China as part of their "National Greatness" project. Then came Afghanistan, Iraq, and they still hope, Iran. For a brief shining moment last summer, they thought they might have a reunion with their favorite enemy, Russia, and attacked Barack Obama over and over for not sticking out his skinny chest and threatening to beat up anyone who disagreed. George and I wrote a column about the Russia/Georgia crisis at the time, pointing out how many unanswered questions we had about what had really happened. That's here, and I'm feeling pretty good about it in light of this story from the Times (as summarized by Today's Papers):

According to the accounts of an international monitoring team working under the mandate of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Georgian artillery rounds and rockets were hardly limited as the Georgian government claimed since they fell at a rate of one every 15 to 20 seconds in the separatist capital of Tskhinvali. The monitors say that within the first hour of the bombings "at least 48 rounds landed in a civilian area," reports the NYT. The monitors also put in doubt Georgia's claim that Georgian-controlled villages in the separatist area were under intense attack by noting that they heard nothing of the sort. The NYT went to three of the villages that Georgia said were under heavy fire and couldn't get a consistent picture explaining what exactly happened. But OSCE monitors with extensive military experience insist Georgian villages didn't come under heavy fire from Russian forces. These findings complicates things for the United States because it has relied on the OSCE for years and has frequently praised its professionalism, making it difficult to discount these reports as meaningless.

Of course, some the Neocons took the position of "Who really cares who started it?" That has the virtue of being true, but still ... And congrats to the Times ...

Quote of the Day:

"I was born in 1941," he said, a wavering sentimentality in his scratchy voice. "That was the year they bombed Pearl Harbor. I've been living in darkness ever since. It looks like things are going to change now."

-- Bob Dylan

From TomDispatch:

Rebecca Solnit arrived at TomDispatch at a particularly dark moment in our recent history -- just after the invasion of Iraq -- writing about hope in dark times. She's never stopped hoping or dreaming through these terrible years, so it's appropriate that she should return now, just in the wake of the Obama election, with an inspirational piece on what it all means.

She begins: "Citizenship is a passionate joy at times, and this is one of those times. You can feel it. Tuesday the world changed. It was a great day." And she then takes us from that day of voting, from the tears of joy and relief (some of which she shed) to Barack Obama himself, of whom she writes, hopeful and yet utterly clear-eyed:

"You can argue against Barack Obama. I would myself, on the grounds that electoral politics are inherently flawed, corrosive, disempowering. My leftist friends, already cranky about him, warn me that I will be disappointed, but I'm not sure I will, because my expectations are realistic. I love his style, but he's not my messiah. Who he is is so much better than we had any right to expect in a country left to the jackals for so long, even if he's just a pretty gifted liberal Democrat with an uncanny ability to see beyond the binaries and describe what might lie there."

Then, in a review of our last not-quite-decade, nine "wild" years, Solnit takes us through four surprising and crucial moments, including the protests in Seattle in 1999 and against the invasion of Iraq in 2003, as well as the response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and wonders whether Obama will prove to be our Gorbachev.

She concludes: "Today, like yesterday, like tomorrow, is a great day. Remember them. And remember whatever joy, tears, or amazement they have brought you, and don't let go of them. They are the candles you get to bring with you in the darkness in which we will need to look for hope again, and to keep moving onward. There is no stopping now. The wild mare history has us on her back."

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Frank
Hometown: Really Not Worth Archiving

Well, Eric, with conservative pundits trying to stake out the perception that this is a center-right nation, a la Hank Stamper's nightly efforts to fend off river erosion in Sometimes A Great Notion, your column today should practically write itself: all you have to do is cut and paste all those polls you cite in the first chapter of Why We're Liberals.

Name: RW
Hometown: Buffalo, NY

"... but I would like to take this opportunity to offer a genuinely heartfelt "thanks" to all of the people who've helped sustain both me and this site ..."

Right back at ya, Doc.

I've been a daily visitor since '02 and I can honestly say that without your daily deliberations, links and family of contributors my world would have been a little darker.

You inspired me to wander around the toobz, take up my own blog and eventually interact with a community I never imagined existed.

You remain an important and original voice to many of us.

Keep up the good works... and Thank You.

Name: Chuck Williams
Hometown: Augusta, GA

Dr. A: Just wanted to echo the gratitude that so many have already expressed. Your site has been a daily stop since I discovered you on It's been a real comfort to know there were so many who felt as I did but could usually articulate it so much better. Drowning in a sea of red, surrounded by so much smugness and entitlement in a place where time has stood still, you and my fellow Altercators kept me from throwing in the towel. Thank you one and all. Now let's get to work.

Name: Jim Wiseman
Hometown: Downingtown PA

Hi Eric,

Having seen some of the demographics of this election (as posted at, among others), it seems to me there is slant on this election that I haven't seen the press. It is this: If you take out the thirty and under white vote, the election is a virtual dead heat, with Obama's huge majorities among African, Hispanic, and Asian Americans almost exactly counter balanced by McCain's sizable lead among over-thirty whites. From this perspective, it is the thirty and under white vote, which Obama won decisively, that provided the critical margin of victory.

The youth of America has had its say ... and it augurs well for the future of this country. The next generation seems much more idealistic and tolerant than us self-satisfied baby boomers. (And let me add a thank you to my collegiate daughter Jane, who not only voted for Mr. O, but told her boyfriend she would break up with him if he didn't get his lazy butt to the polls.)

Name: Ken G
Hometown: Cherry Hill, NJ

Dr. A,

I was perusing some of the election results today, and happened to notice something interesting. Based on the numbers for Missouri in Thursday's USA Today, Obama received 1,436,745 votes and McCain received 1,442,613, giving a current margin of 5,868 for McCain. Oh yeah, and Ralph Nader got 17,769 votes. Thankfully, those 11 electoral votes won't matter in this election, but they sure could have.

It must truly suck to be Ralph, to have such a massive ego that he has no choice but to feed it by continuously and knowingly attempting to manipulate presidential election results, even when he can only do so in a way that would demonstrably hurt not only a large majority of American citizens but also a large majority of the entire planet. Thanks again, Ralph. Now, will you please GO AWAY!!

Name: Dave Higgins

Hi Eric --

This has been a fantastic election for many of us of the liberal persuasion. But there is at least one story relating to what happened this week that I have seen next to nothing about in the MSM.

A week after Election Day in 2004, I saw Howard Dean speak in Albany, NY. The crowd was pretty glum that night, depressed by Bush's recent re-election. However, Dean immediately brightened the mood with self-parody, saying what a privilege it had been to campaign in Iowa! and New Hampshire! and Arizona! and Wisconsin! etc.

He went on to discuss what had just happened in the election, and made some vague mention of the possibility of his running to become the national Democratic Party chair. But the main point he made was that the Democratic Party had to adopt a 50-state strategy if we were ever to break Republican control over the country.

Many in the Democratic Party establishment -- like Chuck Schumer, Rahm Emanuel and James Carville -- didn't care for either Dean or his strategy, even after the 2006 election. But would Barack Obama have done as well as he did in states like North Carolina, Virginia, Indiana and Ohio if Dean's 50-state strategy hadn't laid the groundwork over the past four years? And doesn't this question deserve more coverage in the mainstream media than just one opinion piece?

Name: Troy Tripp
Hometown: Sandy Springs, GA

One thing I've wondered about over the last several months is: what will a Democratic victory mean for Jon Stewart? No, I'm not joking.

"The Daily Show" and, later, "The Colbert Report" have provided some of the best reporting on television since 9/11 shifted the former from a celebrity-interview show to a program that brings in some of the nation's heaviest hitters. But so much of both shows' success lies with the fact that both dared tell the truth about one of the most corrupt, criminal administrations the nation has ever seen, and they did it while keeping us entertained.

Now, Stewart and Colbert won't have Bush & Co. to play off of. There will be plenty of mistakes in an Obama administration, but unless the fabulous fascists at Fox and Friends were right all along, we won't see the kind of delusional incompetence providing Comedy Central's two-hit wonders an unlimited supply of fodder.

So, will Stewart and Colbert slowly wither away? Will they wind up like "The Simpsons," a show that people watch more out of habit than in expectation of something truly extraordinary?

Or will they be able to shift gears and stay relevant in Obama-world? Here's hoping they can stay funny and honest in the years to come. Of course, if they can't, it's a small price to pay to restore America to her glory and her people.

Name: Mardy
Hometown: Galveston, Texas

The U.S. has forgotten that in September the city of Galveston was heavily damaged by Hurricane Ike. Some call this failure to pay attention to the toll on an American city Katrina fatigue. Nonetheless -- one of our citizens has taken time to pen a fantastic article that puts it all into perspective and acutely demonstrates a new American phenomenon -- Hurricane Politics. The article is by Tom Curtis in the Fort Worth Weekly.

Name: Wes
Hometown: Geneva Il

Like so many other readers I was teary-eyed and choked up. Bateman-Pierce were shut out! Oh, the heartbreak.

Now that would have been the dawning of a new era.

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