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Get over it

I keep hearing progressives complain because they say Barack Obama is not liberal enough. For example, they say he gave up on single-payer health insurance too easily (I guess he should have wasted all his political capital on single payer like the Clintons did). Or that he should have closed Guantanamo immediately. Or pushed other progressive causes harder.

All I can say is get over it. A new Gallup Poll shows that a slim majority of Americans say that Obama is “too liberal”. In fact, far more Americans think that Obama is too liberal (51%) than think Mitt Romney (33%) or even Rick Santorum (38%) is “too conservative”. Seriously, Santorum wants to outlaw birth control even for married couples and compares gay sex to bestiality and pedophilia, but more Americans think his political views are “about right” (37%) than think the same about Obama’s views (35%).

The fact is, Americans are twice as likely to self-identify as conservative than as liberal. Since Obama was elected, more Americans identify as conservatives than as moderates. And the conservative base is stronger — 20% of Republicans call themselves “very conservative”, while only 10% of Democrats say they are “very liberal”.

One only has to look at the results of the 2010 mid-term election to see that this is true.

Am I upset that we didn’t get single-payer health insurance, or that the Patriot Act got renewed, or that recreational drugs like marijuana are still illegal? You bet I am.

If we want those things to become reality, we can’t just self-righteously blame Obama. We have to fight for those causes. We have to work hard (like conservatives groups have done) to change the opinions of Americans on these issues. Otherwise, we will face more conservative backlashes (like we recently got with birth control).



  1. drew wrote:

    What I really want to know is, who are the 13% of people who think that Santorum is too liberal?

    Friday, February 24, 2012 at 11:24 am | Permalink
  2. drew wrote:

    Looking at the poll details a little more closely, what’s more interesting to me is that about the same number of people say that Santorum is too liberal as say Obama is too conservative. Both that and the number that say either candidate is “about right” appear to be within the margin of error. Based on that it seems that the significant difference between those that say Santorum is too conservative and Obama is too liberal seems is directly related to the fact that Santorum has 3 times the number of people who have “no opinion”. That’s to be expected, given that until recently Santorum was pretty much a nobody outside of his home state. I highly suspect that most Americans don’t have a good idea yet of what he believes beyond the fact that he is pro-life and against gay marriage. And for better or worse, there is a sizable percentage of our population that agrees with him on both issues.

    All that said, I agree with your main point 100%. Sure, there are some big things that I would have liked to see him accomplish. But given the political climate that he has to deal with, I can only think of two issues where I would particularly criticize his handling of them, and I don’t think either is a case of Obama not being liberal enough. 1) Extending the Bush tax cuts, and 2) Pushing harder on PAY-GO, which would have eliminated the deficit within 3 years while all of the plans the Republicans were throwing around would have taken at least 10.

    Friday, February 24, 2012 at 11:56 am | Permalink
  3. Jo wrote:

    I had a conversation the other day with someone who was complaining about the cuts in education. I commented that I don’t understand the thought process that it is better to make cuts to our kids education than to raise taxes. The person looked at me as if this was the first time he ever heard the two were linked. I’d like to believe a little lightbulb went off in his head and am committed to having these conversations more and more. — I may not be able to fight out there, but maybe I can make a few people think.

    Friday, February 24, 2012 at 12:11 pm | Permalink
  4. Iron Knee wrote:

    That’s the best kind of fight, Jo! Keep up the good work.

    Friday, February 24, 2012 at 12:32 pm | Permalink
  5. Michael wrote:

    Jo, your friend is a perfect example of the American cognitive dissonance regarding government: Americans demand big government services with small government taxation. And there are enough people who failed to learn basic economics that they don’t see the contradiction. So it’s no wonder that they can’t understand intermediate-to-advanced (i.e., Keynesian) economics. They don’t even understand scarcity of resources.

    Back to the survey, I am always leery of surveys that involve rating yourself or others as “liberal” or “conservative.” The crux of the problem is this: “Although Americans tend to perceive Obama as too far to the left, when asked whether they agree or disagree with him on the issues they care about, they score him similarly to the Republican presidential candidates.”

    Liberalism has a branding problem. Throughout most of my life, the liberals I’ve known have been less likely to identify as such than conservatives to. The term “liberal” is somehow a dirty word. The GWBush years really cemented this by linking liberals with traitors or appallingly questioning liberal veterans’ patriotism. And yet, it was a Republican Vice President that committed real treason (and got away with it).

    The branding problem is exacerbated by conservative media that eschew all hints of decency. How many times have you heard “liberal [insert anything here] elites?” Now how many times have you heard a liberal–even a very liberal commentator like Rachel Maddow–talk about “conservative [*] ignoramuses?” Would Rick Santorum ever face a backlash for talking about liberals clinging to their ideals and public transit that came anywhere near the storm over Obama talking about conservatives clinging to their guns and religion?

    Conservatives have very clearly won the branding war, but they have certainly not won the war on actual issues or ideas. In fact, I’d say that they’re very much on the losing side, and the only way they can even stay in the game is through branding and smear campaigns.

    Friday, February 24, 2012 at 12:49 pm | Permalink
  6. RK wrote:

    You think that polls are not politically motivated? The wording of polls greatly affects the answers. Polls, IM(occasionally)HO, have moved from getting information into producing results that will influence people. If they really wanted information, the results would not be so public, we have a culture of hiding any information that something thinks might be valuable.

    Friday, February 24, 2012 at 2:20 pm | Permalink
  7. Anonymous wrote:

    Cautions about polls are right on — above that, I think the liberal/conservative problem is simply that noone really knows what an accurate definition of those two ideologies are, what they mean, “etc., etc., etc.” as the King of Siam once said to Anna 🙂

    Friday, February 24, 2012 at 4:10 pm | Permalink
  8. windsavage wrote:

    I think the article was a great whine and should have had some delicious WI cheese with it.

    I agree with those who say the the definitions of terms like ‘progressive’ and ‘liberal’ have become skewed by Democratic party loyalists. If you don’t vote for Obama, you are not a liberal or progressive and our poll says so.


    Friday, February 24, 2012 at 6:42 pm | Permalink
  9. Reed Elliott wrote:

    On the whole, I agree. I’m a wild-eyed radical and I know it. I’d have liked Obama to do everything he said he was going to do but I never thought he would and I’m (sort of) just as glad he didn’t. Pandering to my beliefs frankly is akin to pandering to Rick Santorum’s “core constituency.” I still am giving money to Mr. Obama (while muttering under my breath at his lily-liveredness) but I really do know that the important thing always is to stay in the middle. It ain’t always “right,” but it’s how you stay alive. I’m glad every single day that I’m not the President. Keep at it Barack! I’ll give you Hell, but take it as a challenge, not an obligation.

    Friday, February 24, 2012 at 9:53 pm | Permalink
  10. Iron Knee wrote:

    Reed, good point. I’m definitely not suggesting that anyone should ever stop holding Obama’s toes to the fire.

    Friday, February 24, 2012 at 9:58 pm | Permalink
  11. Reed Elliott wrote:

    But, especially for those of us who aren’t ashamed to consider ourselves “liberal” (“radical?”) give the man some mercy. It’s a nasty, hard job. I don’t want it and I doubt you do either – not really. What we want is different from what we can get and that’s okay. Pushing for more is always justified – sitting in a corner and pouting hands important decisions and influence to others. Let’s not go there. At this moment we need to support Mr. Obama because he’s in a position and willing to do more for the issues we support than any other candidate in the field. Does that mean we never goad him to do more? No.

    Friday, February 24, 2012 at 10:09 pm | Permalink