The U.S. Is Not A Center Right Country
A common misconception from the “liberal” mainstream media and the GOP is that the U.S. is allegedly a center right country. The mainstream media repeats this myth because it reflects the policy views of many of the pundit class and also because they have been bullied into submission by relentless GOP attacks since the Nixon Administration. The GOP obviously has partisan reasons to perpetrate this right wing zombie lie. But what does the empirical evidence and historical experience tell us?
According to a Reuters poll of August 23, 2018, 70% of Americans support Medicare for all. This same poll also indicated that 85% of Democrats and even 52% of Republicans support Medicare for all. Perhaps this isn’t such an extreme idea after all.
The most significant health care reform since Medicare and Medicaid in 1965 — the Affordable Care Act (ACA) — has rebounded in the polls since Trump became president.* During the Obama era, the ACA was constantly bombarded with false right wing propaganda and wasn’t adequately defended by the Democrats. As a result, the ACA limped along at 40% approval. Since the GOP has tried to end or otherwise sabotage the ACA, it’s approval rating has risen to around 55%. Polling also indicates that around 2/3 of the country would like to maintain the ACA or even expand it. Only about 1/3 want to adopt the GOP platform of repeal and replace.
Just as GOP attacks on the ACA have boosted its popularity, GOP attacks on America’s immigrants have boosted support for immigration. According to a Quinnipiac poll of January 9–13, 2019, 73% of Americans believe immigration has been good for the country and only 18% believe it has been bad for the U.S. In that same poll, only 29% of voters believed immigrants were more likely to commit crimes than U.S. citizens and 63% disagree with that false GOP talking point.
Perhaps the most surprising result of all was a recent Harris poll which indicated that Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s proposal of a 70% marginal tax rate on income in excess of $10 million per year had the support of 59% of registered voters. Nate Silver: “The idea even received bipartisan support: 71 percent of Democrats, 60 percent of independents and 45 percent of Republicans said they were in favor.”
But what about Republican ideas? What do voters make of the GOP agenda? The D.C. pundits and the Republicans will be disappointed to find out that the GOP agenda is radioactive. The problem for the GOP is that many conservative ideas are unpopular once they aren’t entirely abstract.
A September Gallup poll found that the signature achievement of our all GOP government in 2017–18 — the deficit funded tax cut for the wealthy — only clocked in at 39% approval. I suppose that’s progress of sorts since the tax bill had an approval rating of 34% when it passed in December 2017. It was the most unpopular significant piece of legislation in modern history. The Reagan and Bush tax cuts both had majority support when they passed.
The GOP health care plan was even less popular than their tax bill. Trump Care had all of a 17% approval level when the GOP tried to ram it down our throats in the middle of the night in 2017. The American people knew the bill was bad since the Republicans in Congress voted to exempt themselves from its provisions.
The current GOP proposals on the Trump shutdown and the wall are also unpopular.
A recent Washington Post/ABC poll:
53% of Americans blame Trump and Republicans for the shutdown, versus only 29% who blame Democrats.
Importantly, among independents it’s 53–23.
54% oppose the wall, versus only 42% who support it. (Republicans touted this 42% number as good news. LOL.)
Here’s another recent poll from CNN:
55% blame Trump for shutdown; only 32% blame Democrats.
Only 39% support wall; 56% oppose.
Trump approval: 37–57.
Our conservative friends will counter this polling data with the argument that the media is hopelessly liberal and that these polls are skewed. Fair enough. Let’s take a look at the numbers from the recently completed 2018 election cycle. What did the American people have to say?
The numbers certainly support the case that the Democrats won big. According to NBC News, the Democrats achieved the biggest victory in the House elections since their triumph in 1974 in the wake of the Watergate scandal. The Democrats won the national popular vote by 8.6 million votes. That’s the largest margin of victory in history for either party, according to NBC News election data.
Similarly, the House Democrats won the national popular vote by 53% to 45% and picked up 40 seats in the House. The consensus forecast before the election was for a 30 seat pickup. This is a remarkable result since the economy was mired in recession in 1974 and the U.S. had just experienced the most serious political scandal in the history of the country.
Now you ask, how in the world do the Republicans win elections in light of the current state of public opinion in America? As I’ve discussed here before, America is currently in the grips of a tyranny of the minority. Long story short, the GOP is good at campaigning and at exploiting quirks in America’s unique Constitution.
As we all know, the GOP has managed to win a lot of elections it should have lost due to dark campaign cash, partisan voter suppression laws, gerrymandering, the small state bias of the U.S. Senate and the electoral college. I would also submit that poor Democratic turnout in 2010, 2014 and 2016 got us in the present mess. When Democrats turn out strongly — like we did in 2018 -we win big.
Another factor in GOP electoral success that is overlooked is that they run as moderates. The GOP loves Social Security and Medicare between September and early November in even numbered years. In the 2018 cycle, the GOP ran as the champions of pre-existing condition protections even though many of them like Jeff Fortenberry voted over 60 times to end those protections. Candidates like Fortenberry are able to vastly outspend their opponents and are trusted by Republican voters.
There are more Democrats than Republicans. We can overcome this tyranny of the minority by doing in 2020 what we did in 2018. We need to make phone calls, knock on doors, stuff envelopes and vote! We can do it again in 2020!