Saturday, August 15, 2009


Gallup published a really striking poll yesterday:

The strength of "conservative" over "liberal" in the realm of political labels is vividly apparent in Gallup's state-level data, where a significantly higher percentage of Americans in most states -- even some solidly Democratic ones -- call themselves conservative rather than liberal....

In fact, while all 50 states are, to some degree, more conservative than liberal (with the conservative advantage ranging from 1 to 34 points), Gallup's 2009 party ID results indicate that Democrats have significant party ID advantages in 30 states and Republicans in only 4.

Got that? There are more self-described conservatives than liberals in all fifty states. (There are more liberals in Washington, D.C.) To a great extent, this is because large numbers of people call themselves "moderate" -- but still. And this despite the fact that Republicans have a significant party-ID advantage in only four states (and have a small advantage in only four others). Democrats dominate the country, but liberals are a distinct minority.

A big problem here is that this is what happens when hardly any high-profile Democrat will stick up for the word "liberal" or the notion of liberalism. None of them will even try to find a way to equate liberalism with plain, decent, common-sense, common-good Americanism. Bill Clinton didn't do it. Barack Obama hasn't done it. (Both have at times done just the opposite.) We have no equivalent to Ronald Reagan, or Rush Limbaugh and the imitation Limbaughs who came in his wake, all of whom said, "Conservatism! Hell yeah!"

What's not clear to me is whether the people who are pro-Democrat but anti-liberal really aren't liberal or just reject the label. "Liberal" may be like "feminist" -- for years, polls have shown that many women don't want to call themselves feminists, yet support the vast majority of feminism's goals.

But whatever's going on, I find myself thinking that if we're never going to have Democrats who work to restore pride in liberalism, what the hell, we'd probably be better off with moderates running the country -- a President Powell or President Bloomberg. I'm not saying this because I prefer moderates -- I'm saying it because the fact that they're seen as moderates seems to give them cover to do some things we progressives want without stirring up crazies on the right, or at least to neutralize the rhetoric of the crazies. Whatever you may say about Bloomberg as mayor, the desire in New York City for a jackboot-wearing mayor on a balcony is gone -- nobody here wants Giuliani back in office, or anyone like him, playing group against group and stirring up hatreds.

I'm not rooting for a centrist president. I'm just saying that if the only apparent liberals we elect are those who won't work to make liberalism seem normal, rather than freakish and dangerous, then we'd probably be better off with a centrist.

And I mean someone who focuses on governing from the middle, and doesn't emphasize scoring political points against liberals, -- like the blowhard Blue Dogs and GOP "moderates" in Congress.

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