U.S. Is Not a Center-Right Nation
Is our nation really right-of-center? It's a quick throwaway-line parroted by Republican talking heads.
According to Republicans, they speak for us -- they are the voice of the "people" -- and all Americans agree with the Right.
Just to pick one: If we actually were a right-of-center nation, Social Security would not be the immortal sacred cow it is now. Right-of-center elected officials would have long ago done away with this safety net. A right-of-center nation would have never embraced the extremely liberal notion of public retirement insurance for its citizens.
And government-funded health care for seniors like Medicare?! That's not "free market" -- that's not "freedom."
If we were a right-of-center nation, you could win an election by saying you planned to eliminate Medicare and Social Security. After all, this would be an effortless way of leaving the unprecedentedly bloated defense budget intact while still cutting big "gubment." Instead such a proposal is grounds for getting you burned in effigy.
Even in 2005, President George W. Bush with his Republican majority in the infamously lazy, never-in-session 109th Congress couldn't "privatize" Social Security. A right-of-center nation would have not only embraced the proposal, but also stood up and collectively swelled with pride that when they retire, they'll be on their own! "The government will get off my back about only being able to afford to eat cat food!" Liberty!
This "right-of-center nation" sound bite is useful to Republicans because it is a means of getting their way while still seeming as if they're negotiating. It's actually very clever on their part.
If you want to sell an item for $100, price it at $150 and let someone talk you down to the price you really want. The buyer feels good about his power of persuasion, and you feel good about controlling the final price. The sound bite frames the debate to move liberalism to the outskirts of the conversation. The left side becomes the outlier -- the spectrum of the debate is then between the conservative far-right and the conservative right-of-center.
It's reminiscent of the Henry Ford quip about the Model T, "You can have any color you want as long as it's black."
The reality: the majority of Americans are actually progressive whether or not they call themselves that. Poll after poll finds when Americans are asked how they feel about issues like the minimum wage, protecting the environment, gay rights and even gun control -- the majority agrees with the Left. And no, "a majority" isn't two-thirds or 60%. A majority still means more than half unless you're in the U.S. Senate.
Progressives believe the future will be better. The whole idea of America is progressive. It's a new country founded on idealism and unalienable rights. America was an idea so progressive that even now as the U.S. Constitution is the oldest currently in use it still seems radical. We believe in equality. We believe in government protections of individual rights. We believe in the right of due process. We believe the government is best run by and for the people. We are not and have never been a conservative country.
According to Forbes, we have more millionaires than any other country in the world, and progress is about prosperity. Listen to Republicans and they'll try to sell you on business being only right-wing. Innovation isn't partisan. Our country's biggest export is the union-packed liberal staple of Hollywood entertainment. Job-creating venture capitalists like Warren Buffett are also progressive. Venture capitalism -- investing to improve the world through new ideas -- is the definition of progressive. Ditto Silicon Valley. The richest man in the world, Bill Gates, is nowhere near conservative. Saying liberals are anti-business is like saying conservatives are anti-border control.
Are we a right-center nation? No. First off, it's a false premise. We have to be a center-center nation. The consensus is the center. And the center voted for Democratic majorities in the House, Senate and White House.
So when a minority of 40 senators hold up unemployment insurance because mid-January of last year they inexplicably became worried about spending are the same 40 who tout continuing tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans -- it has nothing to do with "center right."
It's center not right.
© 2010 Statesman Journal