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Is This a "Center-Right" Country? The Issue Revisited Following Last Tuesday's Results.

by: lowkell

Tue Nov 13, 2012 at 13:01:43 PM EST

In August 2011, I wrote a blog post refuting Jon Huntsman's argument that America is a "center-right country." In fact, on issue after issue - abortion, energy, environment, food safety, guns, health policy, GLBT equality, taxes/deficit, corporate power, etc. - Americans when asked respond in ways that sure as heck don't sound "center-right." In fact, Americans want to keep their government retirement programs (Social Security, Medicare, etc.), want women to have the right to choose, want GLBT equality, want clean energy, want a healthy environment, want more controls on guns rather than fewer, want limits on the power of Wall Street and corporate power, on and on. In sum, based on their responses to polling questions, Americans are not only NOT center-right, they actually are quite progressive, even if they don't call themselves by that label (possibly because it's been absurdly, relentlessly demonized by the right).

Now, after the not-as-close-as-you-think reelection of Barack Obama - a cautious, centrist politician but with progressive instincts, just like the American people more broadly - in addition to Democratic successes in the House and Senate, not to mention passage of state initiatives in favor of gay marriage and marijuana legalization, it's even harder than ever to argue that this is a "center-right nation."  In fact, as Vivian Paige correctly points out, that's nothing more than a myth. So why do Republicans maintain (narrow) control of the House of Representatives? The major reaons: partisan gerrymandering.

lowkell :: Is This a "Center-Right" Country? The Issue Revisited Following Last Tuesday's Results.
No offense to the losers in the House races, but the odds were stacked against you. The lines drawn make it almost impossible for a candidate of the opposite party to win. The most egregious example of this has to be the 3rd district, where the challenger received less than 19% of the vote. The closest contest was in the 2nd district, where the challenger lost by only 8%. The largest number of votes cast occurred in the 7th district, where a highly touted - and nationally recognized - Democratic candidate still managed to lose by 17 points.

Partisan redistricting results in fewer competitive races and fewer votes cast; the proof is in the numbers. Ours is not a center-right country nor is Virginia  a center-right state. Our country and our state are center - period. No left or right.

And it's high time that our elections reflect that.

Of course, these labels themselves are a bit misleading, as the political "center" shifts over time. Today, for instance, the Republican Party has moved far, FAR to the right, almost off the John Bircher cliff, while Democrats are mostly in the traditional "center," with no serious Progressive Party (Teddy Roosevelt style or otherwise) in existence. Thus, the U.S. political spectrum is more skewed to the right than it's almost ever been in our history. It's also far to the right of almost any other advanced, industrialized, Western nation. To put it another way: what's "center" in America today would be "right wing" in the UK, Canada, Australia, etc. Yet, as we mentioned above, the American people on issue after issue give answers that can only be described as "progressive." It's a bizarre situation, and hopefully one that's not tenable. Unfortunately, with both Republicans and Democrats having a common interest in keeping their incumbents as safe as possible (we see it here in Virginia, where despite a 51%-53% victory for Kaine and Obama, Republicans hold an 8-3 edge in the state's Congressional delegation), this situation's not likely to change anytime soon. Unless, of course, the people demand it loudly, clearly, and forcefully.  
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But the DPVA Consistently Defers to the Right (0.00 / 0)
And runs away from the left, offering no distinction from the Republicans who we should supposedly replace. We are never going to out wing nut the right, so we need to figure out how to motivate that progressive center.

That's the Mark Warner model. (0.00 / 0)
Until that fails (which I'd argue it did, spectacularly, in 2009, but I doubt the powers that be "get it"), something tells me they're going to keep going with it.

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[ Parent ]
"We are never going to out wing nut the right" (0.00 / 0)
What "right wing nut" initiatives has DPVA tried to "out wing nut" the right on?

As for the lessons of 2009: I don't think it's the Warner/Kaine model that failed at all (with whether you like that model or not beside the point). 3 bad candidates were locked in a race where the 2 worst, most inauthentic ones (including one with a long history of being known nationally as a partisan operative, not the "businessman" he wants people to see instead) beat each other up and made it easy for the 3rd guy to look reasonable. The 3rd guy went on to reveal he wasn't strategically or emotionally prepared to run for anything outside Bath County.

Hell, if that model is dead, then why does it look like Warner is the only sure shot for 2009 right now? I'm not in agreement with him on everything, but "centrist with progressive instincts" seems to be fitting. He's the center of VA politics. The near future revolves around him, and the potential of any other statewide model will be better-tested if we can get the chance to build a real party on the ground and roll that out over time.

I belong to no organized party. I am a Democrat.

~Will Rogers

[ Parent ]
That's the Point (0.00 / 0)
We can't win with policies that attract that demographic, so why even try to appeal to them by being soft on coal and uranium?

[ Parent ]
Who's soft on uranium? (0.00 / 0)
The only people who are considering voting for that are bald opportunists like Onzlee Ware who don't belong in elected office, period. There's no pro-uranium caucus on our side. Hell, there are no elected Dems in the affected areas anymore.

As for coal, and as someone from Appalachia, it would take me a lot more time than I have right now to discuss the cultural attachment to coal. Local Dems in SWVA do a decent job of maneuvering those rocky shoals. What should the state party say? Maybe you could go talk to the laid off miners in Tazewell, Wise, et al? My father-in-law might have to close his small business due to the corresponding drop in retail activity. Coal might not employ as many people now, but it does have a profound footprint.

I know there's a clear market reason why coal is in decline, but being "tough on coal", while it might not be harmful electorally now, is no way to work to transition the most vulnerable communities in VA. To me, looking out for those places is Democrat Job #1.

I belong to no organized party. I am a Democrat.

~Will Rogers

[ Parent ]
That's Right, No Elected Dems in Those Areas (0.00 / 0)
Because Democrats have not offered a coherent alternative to counter the perception that the only thing that can be produced in those areas or by those Virginians is the product of environmental exploitation. Nothing like nurturing a third world economy and status.

Meanwhile Republicans are allowed to bask in the comfortable glow of defending the status quo even though it represents degradation of natural and human resources.  

[ Parent ]
Voter Turnout (0.00 / 0)
The proof of the poisonous nature of partisan redistricting in Virginia is that in this election, with its maximum turnout, all eleven representatives were re-elected easily. Money played a big part, as did Virginia voters' tendency to keep incumbents in office, but it all started with GOP control of redistricting. Until people decide to clean house, the incumbents stay.

Of course, the corporate media totally skews things (0.00 / 0)
such as on climate change:

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