The Morning After
by Mark Wilson, Editor
November 6, 2008
National Journal: Barack Obama is the most liberal U.S. senator.
American people: Okay, so what’s the problem?
The mythology that liberals must become more conservative in order to win votes has been successfully body-slammed. This tactic rested on the assumption that America is a right-leaning country, and the only way for a liberal political party to succeed is to cater to those conservative urges. As Daily Kos observes (see link above), however, Americans overwhelmingly voted for a candidate whose message was clearly liberal: yes, let’s give Americans access to government healthcare. Yes, let’s reduces taxes for the middle class while increasing them for the very wealthy. Yes, let’s end preemptive foreign wars. These are all liberal positions, and yet Obama didn’t back down on one of them. (His stance on gay marriage, however, leaves much to be desired.)
It’s time to acknowledge that the United States is becoming more liberal. Everyone agrees that the economic crisis of this fall is what did McCain in. His blustering and sputtering about what to do — combined with revelations of his history as a de-regulator — caused even his supporters to lose confidence in his ability to solve such a problem. You can’t fix the problems caused by capitalism by throwing more capitalism at them. What’s required is a change in ideology: a shift away from the time-honored veneration of The Market and a shift toward more government regulation. The Market can’t solve all our problems, and indeed, it can’t even solve its own.
And what conservatives have failed to realize is that Americans are overwhelmingly against the Iraq War. A CNN poll conducted a week before the election found that 64% of those surveyed opposed the war. In a separate Pew Research poll, 50% thought that it was the “wrong decision” (compared with 39% who thought it was the “right decision”). In a third poll, conducted by CBS News/New York Times, 54% of respondents said they thought we should have stayed out of Iraq. Hindsight is 20/20, but at least there is hindsight. A John McCain administration would have promised only more wars, since war is all McCain knows. With reports coming out for the last two years of veiled threats against Iran, and last week’s incursion into Syria, more war is what McCain would have delivered. A McCain victory would have been interpreted as a mandate for more preemptive war.
Here’s some more news for you: while 22% of the country voted more conservatively than it did in 2004, the rest of the country either stayed the same or voted more liberally. Where has the Republican Party gained power? The South. Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, eastern Texas, Oklahoma. The House and Senate numbers show this, as well. Even Virginia, North Carolina, and Florida were Obama country. Barely Obama country, but his, nonetheless.
As it turns out, Joe the Plumber and Joe Six-Pack may not like the abstract concept of the government taxing people who make more than $250,000, but they don’t make that much money right now, and right now, they could use a tax break. They could also use some health care. Maybe they’ll worry about supply-side economics when they’re making money again.
And that’s the key to this victory: Obama got 65 million voters to believe that the Democrats, not the Republicans, could make their lives better. I recall something he said in his closing argument of the last debate: the question is not “Are you better off now than you were four years ago?” The answer to that is a resounding no. The question is, “Which party will make you better off four years from now?”
We have our answer.