Obama’s 2012 prospects: now for the bad news
John Cassidy, The New Yorker
December 30, 2011
“Consider yet another survey from Gallup, released on Thursday, which examined the ideological views of about a thousand people, who were roughly equally divided between Democrats, Republicans, and independents. (Actually, there were slightly more independents.) Despite this relatively even partisan split, forty-two per cent of the respondents described themselves as “conservative” or “very conservative.” Thirty-seven per cent described themselves as “moderate,” and just nineteen per cent described themselves as “liberal” or “very liberal.”
If you think this sounds promising for the Republicans, I would agree with you, especially since fifty-seven per cent of the respondents described President Obama as “liberal” or “very liberal” and only twenty-three per cent described him as “moderate.” (Another fifteen per cent described him as “conservative” or “very conservative.”) When asked to categorize the Republican candidates in turn, the overwhelming majority of people described them as “conservative” or “moderate.” For Romney for example, the figures were forty-five percent and twenty-nine per cent. (For Gingrich: they were fifty-five per cent and eighteen per cent.)
As a professed liberal, I find these poll figures rather disturbing. I am disturbed not so much because the indication is that we liberals are perhaps rightly (pun intended) perceived as being statistically more “fringe” than conservatives, but because our challenge is thus just that much greater and spanning a much greater period of time than my inner optimist would like. When considering the results highlighted in the quote above, the implication is that the conservative electorate in this country is actually more conservative than the slate of GOP candidates vying for the nomination. For 57% to think Obama liberal (while the left often considers him right-moderate) would seem to indicate that 57% polled (from my left perspective) fall to the right of right-moderate, else their perspective wouldn’t lean that way.
57% are to the right of right-moderate.
I think we’re beyond hoping that an “independent” uprising at the polls will make the difference we need, or that a third-party candidate will save the day. It’s time to seriously assess the social underpinnings of conservatism, the vital mechanism of how conservatives become conservatives, and find some way of effectively influencing that development. My gut says this is the work of revolutionizing school boards, municipal governments and local, small (dare I say it), print media (if only as a driver to online sources) in order to effectively counter the conservative indoctrination of youth. This isn’t the work of one election cycle, or even four presidential terms. It’s a work to span the next generation (currently in diapers) and the generation they will bear.
Does this mean we should not be doing all we can in the present moment to influence presidential and congressional outcomes? To get back the paper ballot? Get corporate money out of politics? End insider trading in Congress? Jam the revolving door from Congress to lobby? Terminate the endless march to endless war? The list of present goals could continue ad nauseum. Of course we should keep up the fight. Our work right here, right now, is equally vital.
Even so, if we don’t start directing more focused effort on claiming equal ground on the shore-to-shore mental battlefield of ideological development, these numbers will remain conservatively skewed, maybe even become more skewed, not just for our grandchildren, but theirs as well. To be fair, if we let poll numbers be a guide to success, I don’t propose that we aim for some 57% of some future generation to look at a president like Obama as conservative to very conservative. I think we simply need to redress the balance so that 50% of any population would see moderate as moderate with only smaller percentages either side of moderate seeing the “opposition” as radically opposed.
Your thoughts on this are most welcome. Admittedly, I’m late to the political awakening and a new-comer to the existing modalities of effecting grassroots change in consciousness. As well, I’m just one blogger in a sea of pundits with far greater chops and resources. I won’t radically change the prospects of generations to come on my own, but I can’t let that stop me from contributing what little I have to offer.