ChrisWeigant.com

Mainstream Of American Public A Lot More Progressive Than Media Would Like To Admit

[ Posted Thursday, December 5th, 2019 – 18:12 UTC ]

There is good news for Democratic candidates up and down the ballot who espouse progressive policy positions, according to a recent poll cited by today's Washington Post. But even putting it like that buys in to a rather enormous falsehood that both the media as a whole and the Republican Party would dearly like us all to believe. For decades now, they've been beating the drum of "the American public is center-right," when it is just not true (if indeed it ever was). You see this in the constant framing of Democratic candidates in the media as "too far left" or "going hard left" or "dangerously left ideas" or any of the other myriad of misdirection the media routinely loves to push. As this poll stunningly reveals, this is absolutely false because the wide mainstream of political thought in the public at large is actually currently somewhere between Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, on the political ideology scale.

The key finding in the poll is that over 70 percent of people polled -- including a majority of Republicans -- agreed with all of the following positions:

  • College education is too expensive, and states should do more to "help people afford a college education without getting buried in debt."
  • "Rich families and corporations should pay a lot more in taxes than they do today, and middle-class families should pay less."
  • People who don't receive health insurance from an employer should be allowed to buy into a public plan, and pharmaceutical companies should be "penalized" if drug prices increase faster than the rate of inflation.
  • Increase "good jobs" with a $1 trillion investment in infrastructure, including both roads and "expanded production of green energy."
  • Reduce inequality with a 2 percent "wealth tax" on net worth in excess of $50 million.

Let's take those one by one, and compare the "far left" (as the media calls it) position among the progressives in the Democratic Party with the Republican position on the issue.

College is too expensive. Progressives want to make public colleges and universities free for everyone, and wipe out student debt. Democratic moderates want to make college "more affordable" in various (but not as comprehensive) ways. Republicans have absolutely no position at all on the issue. When's the last time you heard a Republican talking about college costs or student debt?

Tax the rich. This one is pretty easy. Progressives want to hike taxes on the one percent, Wall Street trading, and capital gains. Moderate Democrats also want to do so, but not nearly as drastically (this varies, depending on the candidate). Republicans, however, want to cut taxes on the rich even more, after showering them with benefits in the Paul Ryan/Donald Trump tax cut.

Public option on health insurance. This is one where the moderate message was tested rather than the progressive message. Progressive Democrats want Medicare For All, but moderates are backing the public option without going all the way to single-payer. Republicans, on the other hand, are fighting hard to take away all the benefits of the Affordable Care Act, and replace them with absolutely nothing. They are in court right now arguing for exactly that outcome, in fact. Additionally, the poll showed a majority thought that "making health care more affordable" should be the highest priority for Congress right now.

In addition to penalizing drug companies, "8 in 10 Democrats and three-fourths of independents believe corporations have too much power and should be 'strongly regulated'." Admittedly, this one didn't get a majority of Republicans in agreement -- because "only" 49 percent of them agreed (still a lot higher than you might have thought, though).

Infrastructure and green energy jobs. Infrastructure used to be a bipartisan effort, but this has gone by the wayside ever since Trump took office. He actually campaigned on improving airports and other infrastructure, but then essentially did nothing on the issue for three years. Whenever a deal was close, he'd torpedo it. In fact, "infrastructure week" is now a punchline for the White House going off the rails due to Trump saying or tweeting something explosive. Other Republicans wouldn't utter the words "green energy" to save their lives, obviously.

Wealth tax. This is a signature issue for Elizabeth Warren, and it is regularly described as some sort of socialist plot that is so incredibly far left that it is downright unthinkable. As you can see, this is (as Joe Biden would put it) pure malarkey. Once again, over 70 percent of the public would support a wealth tax. A majority of Republican voters would support a wealth tax. The moderate Democratic position is that this is a bridge too far, and will somehow lose them the votes of independent voters next November. The Republican position is that this is outright socialism, or perhaps even communism.

Does any of this sound like a public that can accurately be described as "center-right"? And yet each and every one of these positions are routinely described as coming from the "fringe left" or the "far left" by the media, when covering politics.

This is false. Seventy percent is not a "fringe" or "far" anything. It is, by definition, the mainstream of political thought. The thirty percent who do not agree with these positions are the ones who are actually out on the fringes. And this isn't the first poll by far which has shown similar results.

So why do Republicans continue to get away with their obviously false framing of these issues as some sort of "extreme" positions? Why does the media go along for the ride without challenging this erroneous assumption?

On all of these issues, Democrats have plans that are in line with what the vast majority of the public would like to see happen. Some Democrats are much more timid than others, obviously, but they all agree that the problems exist and must be dealt with somehow. Republicans, on the other hand, won't even talk about any of this stuff. They do not see any of it as a problem, therefore they have no solutions whatsoever. Everything's fine, they tell us, and we should support their next push to lower taxes on the wealthy because that'll surely make everything better for everyone.

The Post article is written as a guide for Democratic candidates, and they're right about that. These are the issues that win elections for Democrats. This is the platform that will be widely supported by the voters, as every election since 2016 has proven.

Donald Trump ran in 2016 by lying that he'd magically deal with many of these problems. He swore he had a magic health insurance plan that would replace Obamacare by making health care better and cheaper for everyone. This plan never existed. Once elected, he supported the Republican effort to completely dismantle Obamacare and replace it with absolutely nothing. Trump swore he'd usher in a new age in American infrastructure, but he has yet to push any actual bill through Congress which does so. Trump promised that he'd raise taxes on wealthy people like himself, and then supported Paul Ryan's tax cuts which gave people like him millions upon millions in tax breaks. Trump now ridicules both a wealth tax and green energy as being nothing short of Democratic insanity. And neither Trump nor any of the other Republicans have ever uttered a peep about the high costs of college, because they simply don't see it as a problem. They can afford to send their kids to the best schools, so everything must be fine.

Whichever the Democratic candidate wins the nomination, this is the platform to run on. These are the ideas that should be the centerpiece of the Democratic 2020 election effort, in fact. If a more moderate candidate wins the nomination, then this will be somewhat subdued (and definitely won't include a wealth tax). If Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders wins the nomination, then all of it will be front and center in the general election campaign.

If you want to boil it down to a bumpersticker, it would be: "Problems exist. Democrats want to fix them. Republicans don't care." On issue after issue, the only thing Republicans can do is to criticize Democratic ideas -- because they have no ideas of their own. They scream "Socialism!" as loud as possible, but that certainly didn't work out too well for them in the 2018 midterms, did it?

The only place it did work for Republicans (and continues to work) is in the media. They've successfully prevented the political Overton Window on television from moving to where an overwhelming majority of the public already is. Once again, 70 percent of the public agrees with these ideas. They are now the mainstream of American political thought. What the Democratic candidates really should be doing right now is pushing back on the media's blindness to this situation. Every time some reporter asks a question about "going too far left" or "being too extreme," these poll numbers should be thrown in their face. "Well, when seven-in-ten Americans agree that we should tax wealth at two percent, then I fail to understand your question. How can something even a majority of Republican voters agree with be somehow 'too far left'?"

-- Chris Weigant

 

Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant

 

28 Comments on “Mainstream Of American Public A Lot More Progressive Than Media Would Like To Admit”

  1. [1] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    But, clearly, there is only one candidate who can not only implement these policies but who can also restore America's global leadership role the second after he is elected.

  2. [2] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Are American kids taught anything about what it means to be an American citizen?

  3. [3] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Aren't Bernie and Elizabeth advocating for the end of private health insurance or have they changed their minds about that?

  4. [4] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    May I just mention again that the right-left spectrum may no longer be the right way to judge politicians given the ever fragile world in which we all live.

    Perhaps a better way to judge politicians and political issues and what is the best, most effective way forward would be to think about up-wing versus down-wing.

    Another description of "up-wing" may be in order.

    It's a term used by another of my favourite political analysts, William Bradley, and was derived from an idea that former Senator Gary Hart showed him to characterize political figures using a past-future spectrum instead of the usual right-wing/left-wing classification.

    To paraphrase Bradley, this past-future spectrum naturally runs from the up end to the down end of the spectrum, with the futurist, up end characterized by new technology, creative utilizations of existing technology, and new structural forms to pursue enduring values and new visions.

    The up-wing leader places a special emphasis on big think/think big future-oriented and enlightened policies in an effort to position a society on the global cutting edge, even in the midst of great challenges and crises that would paralyze a more down-wing political leader.

    Additionally, to quote Bradley, "big thinking, big ideas need not be about big items per se. In fact, some of the biggest thinking is about small things, or more accurately, how to bring smaller things into play to solve problems that big things might make worse."

    Characterizing the current crop of presidential candidates using the up-wing/down-wing spectrum helps to identify the candidate most capable of outlining a coherent vision for the future and of possessing the courage to carry it out.

  5. [5] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    The quote of the day, from Speaker Pelosi:

    "I'm not on a timetable - I'm on a mission",

    when asked if she would retire if a Democrat wins the WH in 2020.

    Chris, I'm becoming a real fan of the Speaker!

  6. [6] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Where's Michale?

    Can't live with him, can't live without him.

    Hoping all is well ...

  7. [7] 
    ListenWhenYouHear wrote:

    Aren't Bernie and Elizabeth advocating for the end of private health insurance or have they changed their minds about that?

    Anyone who is for Medicare for All is basically advocating for the end of private health insurance... just how quickly they will be phased out is the question. Personally, I cannot understand why anyone would want to continue to rely on getting their basic healthcare package from a middleman that provides no medical services whatsoever! We pay them to make us pay more for healthcare because we have to pay for their involvement! Why does this seem like a good idea to anyone? We have been told that by going in and representing a large base, they are able to secure services at a cheaper rate for us... And we just accept that as being true!

  8. [8] 
    Don Harris wrote:

    Great job of pointing out how the media creates false narratives despite evidence such as 70% of citizens in polls saying just the opposite.

    Now apply that criticism to yourself.

    80% of citizens want the big money out of politics.

    Yet you will not address, much less inform citizens about a possible way to achieve this mainstream goal.

    Perhaps instead of up-wing politicians, we should be seeking up-wing journalists.

    How about setting a positive up-wing example for the rest for the media by addressing One Demand?

    It would be better to be a brick that shatters the ass ceiling than continue to be just another brick in the wall.

  9. [9] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Russ,

    I think the problem with 'Medicare For All' is how the candidates see the path to get there.

    Some candidates wish to break the system to fix it. Which will undoubtedly be a very chaotic way to go about it.

    Other candidates see building on the Affordable Care Act as a very important step on the road to universal healthcare that would not be so disruptive of everything.

    I have not yet heard a full explanation of how exactly the chaotic move to Medicare for All would actually work in the smallest of details. I think Bernie and Elizabeth owe voters this kind of transparency. And, if they don't know how their new system of providing healthcare would actually work, then they need to tell voters this, too.

  10. [10] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    And, Russ, do you suppose that the Medicare For All plan will include health insurance for everything under the sun?

    I believe there will always be room for private health insurance but that governments that wish to move toward universal health insurance must ensure that what gets covered is more than basic healthcare. It seems to me that the US is in a very good position to devise the best universal single-payer healthcare insurance in the world that would set the gold standard.

  11. [11] 
    TheStig wrote:

    EM-1

    I respect Biden, but he does not wear a cape or have superpowers. There is this divided powers thing-y about the USA Governmental System. Changing the Prez doesn't necessarily change the Senate or Congress or The Courts. The US system was engineered to be perpetually constipated.

    EM-2

    In theory yes, but it usually isn't very deep or even particularly accurate. At worst, it is pure mythology. US public education is under state and county control and therefore susceptible to meddling from whoever holds the reins.

    EM-4

    Interesting, I'll have to look into that metaphor.

    EM-5 Me too!

    EM-6

    Frankly I don't know how he lives with himself.

    EM-9

    At root, US Medicare is just a health insurance program implemented by private industries to governmental standards. Somebody has to pay for it. The working (or not working) poor can't and the wealthy don't want to.

    You have to factor in that Health Care is the biggest industry in many communities. It's certainly true where I live. For some unexplained reason, my hospital corporate system is building a clone 10 miles down the road to compete with itself. This goes a long way to explaining why the US health care system pays 2 to 3 times as much for healthcare than other nations getting equivalent medical outcomes.

    The us health care industry is a generous donor to whatever political party holds the reins. Again, this explains a lot.

  12. [12] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    improving civics education is generally considered a priority by most public school districts. the main obstacle is a widespread feeling of apathy and inefficacy.

  13. [13] 
    ListenWhenYouHear wrote:

    Liz,

    I do not think they would come in and just destroy the healthcare system until they have something in place to replace it... they aren’t the GOP acting out of hatred!

    I do believe that all procedures will be covered by our system to some degree, but that elective and non-essential procedures will have costs that will be paid for by the patient if they want it. I do think there might still be a market for private insurance that could market elective procedures that are not fully covered by our healthcare system.

    Warren, better than any politician I have ever seen, gives you the most comprehensive plans for the programs she hopes to implement, but even she cannot provide us with every detail as Congress will have to have input on it before it can be passed.

    One thing that the Democratic candidate will desperately need to bring to our government is a full staff of qualified advisers, experts, and assistants to restore the damaged agencies that Trump has targeted for destruction.

  14. [14] 
    ListenWhenYouHear wrote:

    Don Harris,

    How about setting a positive up-wing example for the rest for the media by addressing One Demand?

    Addressing how One Demand is not a non-profit? How it has no board of directors or community oversight?.

    How One Demand has no plan for getting people signed up to participate or getting candidates to agree to be One Demand candidates?

    How One Demand has no empirical data demonstrating its’ effectiveness at financing political campaigns?

  15. [15] 
    Balthasar wrote:

    One thing that the Democratic candidate will desperately need to bring to our government is a full staff of qualified advisers, experts, and assistants to restore the damaged agencies that Trump has targeted for destruction.

    Could be a great enterprise, or the world's biggest circle-jerk. Depends who we put in there. Biden's got both the contacts and experience to do it right.

  16. [16] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    TS,

    I respect Biden, but he does not wear a cape or have superpowers.

    Nobody on the planet knows that better than I do.

    There is this divided powers thing-y about the USA Governmental System. Changing the Prez doesn't necessarily change the Senate or Congress or The Courts. The US system was engineered to be perpetually constipated.

    Which is precisely why who Americans choose to be POTUS is so very, very extremely important this time around. It all reminds of Hercules and the Augeab Stables ...

  17. [17] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Well, I don't know about the Augeab Stables but, they can't possibly be a better analogy than the Augean Stables, I guarantee you!

  18. [18] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Russ,

    I do believe that all procedures will be covered by our system to some degree, but that elective and non-essential procedures will have costs that will be paid for by the patient if they want it. I do think there might still be a market for private insurance that could market elective procedures that are not fully covered by our healthcare system.

    That is, more or less, the Canadian system.

    Do you think Warren and Sanders can do it without private insurance? I don't think so and that is why I believe they are not being honest with the American people. And, in my mind, they are disqualified for that reason.

    These candidates don't have to give every detail, of course - but, they do have to explain how 'no private insurance' can work. I don't think they know how it will work, in broad terms, or we would have heard about by now.

    One thing that the Democratic candidate will desperately need to bring to our government is a full staff of qualified advisers, experts, and assistants to restore the damaged agencies that Trump has targeted for destruction.

    "Absolutely, positively, unequivocally!"

  19. [19] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Joshua,

    … the main obstacle is a widespread feeling of apathy and inefficacy.

    Something has to be done about that, and fast.

  20. [20] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    TS [11] Re. the US healthcare system and why it's very hard to change it …

    You outline some of the biggest problems in moving toward a single-payer government run healthcare system from where the system is now, though the ACA moved the system forward quite a bit.

    I am still of the opinion that the US is in the best position on the planet to devise a gold standard healthcare system that would set an example for the rest of the world, including my own. But, I firmly believe that the incremental approach is the best, all things considered = politically and economically speaking.

  21. [21] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    TS,

    Frankly I don't know how he lives with himself.

    Heh.

  22. [22] 
    ListenWhenYouHear wrote:

    Liz,

    Do you think Warren and Sanders can do it without private insurance?

    CAN it be done without private insurance? God, yes! Insurance only plays a part in healthcare because we have allowed them to.

    Will it be done without private insurance? No, not at first, at least. The Democrats will not just destroy our healthcare system without something in place to replace it. Like I said, they aren’t the GOP!

  23. [23] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    CAN it be done without private insurance? God, yes!

    I think you're wrong about that, Russ.

    How is it possible for the government to run a healthcare system for everyone, covering everything?

    Did somebody mention a superhero? :)

  24. [24] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Of course, as I've mentioned once or twice before, if any nation could pull it off and create a gold standard for all nations, only the US may be capable of it.

  25. [25] 
    ListenWhenYouHear wrote:

    How is it possible for the government to run a healthcare system for everyone, covering everything?

    By hiring enough qualified people to staff the agency that would be created to cover healthcare and having departments that cover all aspects of it! If a business can do it, why wouldn’t the government be able to do it just as well?

    What are governments and businesses made up of??? People. Government agencies are just as capable of providing amazing service to people as the best companies are.

  26. [26] 
    italyrusty wrote:

    Missing from that list - but one of the biggest differences between Republicans and Democrats - is environmental protection in general, and climate change specifically.
    Every Democratic candidate MUST highlight Trump's deregulatory agenda that benefits polluters -and- his withdrawal from the Paris agreement.
    https://www.politico.eu/article/protests-hit-madrid-as-frustration-over-climate-failure-boils-over/

  27. [27] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    Listen [25]

    About that ". . just as capable of providing amazing service to people . ." part.

    I'm reminded of the SEC, the gov't watchdog agency that was warned multiple times over several years that Madoff was running a Ponzi. Their level of service was sustaantially less than "amazing".

  28. [28] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    @crs,

    madoff was extremely slick, and the government certainly weren't the only ones he kept bamboozled for a long time. i'm sure you could come up with a number of much more pertinent examples of government agencies that generally do a poorer job than their private sector counterparts. just off the top of my head, department of motor vehicles comes to mind...

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