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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Center Tilting Leftward?

At Campaign for America’s Future website Bill Scher evaluates some of the latest political self-i.d. data and concludes that “The Political Center Is Moving Left.” While other observers have noted leftward drift in public opinion, Scher’s perspective adds revealing context:

Eight years ago, when Campaign for America’s Future and Media Matters for America issued the report “Progressive Majority: Why a Conservative America Is a Myth,” George W. Bush was still president, Barack Obama was trailing by 15 points in the Democratic primary and gays could only legally marry in Massachusetts.
Back then, the report had to explain if the nation was more liberal than perceived by pundits and politicians, then why didn’t more Americans choose to label themselves “liberal.” The word was a “victim of a relentless conservative marketing campaign” and yet “many people who hold liberal issue positions call themselves moderates.”
This may have seemed like a stretch to some at the time. But now the ideological landscape is even clearer, as overt liberal pride is on the rise.
As I explain in Politico Magazine, there’s a big jump in Democrats that describe themselves as “socially liberal” and a notable bump in voters overall who embrace “liberal,” while “conservative” has taken a hit. The vast majority of Americans consider Obama a “liberal,” and elected him twice with solid margins.

NYT columnist/ Nobel Prize laureate Paul Krugman has noted “Growing ethnic diversity is producing what should be a more favorable electorate; growing tolerance is turning social issues, once a source of Republican strength, into a Democratic advantage instead. Reagan was elected by a nation in which half the public still disapproved of interracial marriage; Mrs. Clinton is running to lead a nation in which 60 percent support same-sex marriage.”
Scher acknowledges that midterm elections usually bring a conservative backlash going back to FDR. But he adds that “in the 2014 elections, Republican wins in blue states only came off when candidates leaned left on key issues.”
Scher cautions that “Bad surprises on Obama’s watch could change the current trajectory.” Yet, “The current one is promising, and Republicans need to watch it carefully. If the center of gravity moves from under their feet, 2016 is going to be their 1988 – the last gasp before their ideological dead weight has to be thrown overboard.”
For now the “blue wave” election Democrats long for is a distant hope. But that’s better than a fading dream. It’s only a matter of time before Democrats win a landslide — that’s part of the rhythm of American politics. The Republicans’ overwhelming advantages in terms of gerrymandering and midterm turnouts could be offset by their ideological rigidity and their inability to adapt to rapidly-changing American values — in a more progressive direction.

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