“Remember all those supermajority poll results? Think where the polls on all these things would be if the press did its job, instead of aligning with the corporations and the political establishment to stonewall and deny. The polls would be shifting a lot further. Those things the public wants and is told it can’t have would be even more popular. One area where polls would shift is where the public would now be positioned on the subject of Democratic Socialism which the public, especially young people are increasingly in favor of.”Michael D. D. White, Everybody’s Realizing It Now, National Notice
The past few weeks we’ve been researching how a false public perception of a conservative majority was created in hiding the reality of a leftist majority. We’ve known the polling data on public opinion for a long time now. It was perplexing that not only a majority but a supermajority could exist without most Americans knowing. A little over a decade ago when we discovered that a leftist majority existed, we were maybe too cynical at that point to be surprised, but it did catch us off guard. Decades of MSM viewing never indicated even slightly how far left most Americans were.
It was yet another example of how we had been lied to or misled our entire lives. Our minds kept coming back to this over the years, as we looked at more and more data. There was one point that drove this home from some years back. Pew’s Beyond Red vs. Blue showed that 9%, almost 1 in 10, of Solid Liberals (strongly liberal on every issue) identified as ‘conservative’, but the opposite pattern was barely seen on the other side, maybe like 1-2%. This is the result of decades of the Wirthlin effect where symbolic ideology has replaced pragmatic ideology, in forming highly manipulated social identities.
The strangeness of this phenomenon kept nagging at us. We had picked up a few explanations like the Wirthlin effect, but it still felt dissatisfying. How can a leftist majority be made to not know the fact of its own existence for over at least 40 years? That is pretty much the entire adult life for anyone who is GenX or younger, which is most of the population. The Wirthlin effect alone couldn’t accomplish this if there wasn’t a complicit corporate media apparatus that was acting as the propaganda arm of the ruling elite. Most Americans presently get at least 90% of their infotainment from a few big biz media oligopolies.
This was a central point made by Michael D. D. White in his piece Everybody’s Realizing It Now. In describing what most Americans want, he points out how politicians ignore public demand and dismiss the consent of the governed. “The political establishment only gets away with denying the public these things that the public could have,” he writes, “if it is aided and abetted by a complicit press. We have a press owned by corporate conglomerates that exaggerate the costs and underestimate the benefits of such public goods.” Then he goes on to say that,
“For example, when a Koch funded study reached a conclusion (a conclusion the Koch’s certainly didn’t want the study group they funded to reach) that Medicare For All would save the American public $2.1 trillion (in actuality, probably more would be saved), the corporate press went into overdrive to misrepresent and ignore the math and report something quite the opposite. See the reporting of this press misbehavior by Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting which was included in Counterspin, a program they broadcast on WBAI: Reporting on Medicare for All Makes Media Forget How Math Works, Justin Anderson, July 31, 2018.”
So, that is what has been on our minds. We’ve wanted to know how this happened and how Americans so often seemed to not notice it was happening or were too apathetic to protest. But it’s hard to be too harshly critical of the public that has been fed a constant diet of lies and propaganda. Another clue was the religious Paul Weyrich admitting they weren’t a majority at the launching of the 1980 Moral Majority organization, in concert with the presidential election of Ronald Reagan, and then also admitting they wouldn’t win elections without voter suppression. That demonstrated how fully aware they were when they decided to implement perception hacking on the American public.
In our research, we used that as a starting point. Richard Wirthlin seemed mostly a dead end, as he was simply a standard politico in the Reagan administration, but looking into Weyrich was much more fruitful. As we dug into it, the connections that came up were fascinating. It suddenly became clear how much of a major operation this was, as it required at least hundreds of millions of dollars a year to build the present shadow network, which meant a minimal of many billions has been invested into this long-term propaganda campaign.
The 1980s was the same period when media deregulation began. Weyrich and others also started to invest immensely in media companies and pushing them strongly on both the old media and new media platforms. To put it in perspective, our now elderly conservative parents were still in their 30s when the Moral Majority organization was founded. By the late 1980s, conservative media was already becoming a national political and cultural force. That was when our family moved to the South Carolina where our parents remained for 20 years, up through the entire Bush jr. administration.
During that time, Fox News was started and right-wing talk radio took hold, along with the rise of reactionary paranoia with the likes of Alex Jones and Art Bell (even if the latter was personally more liberalish/libertarian). You could imagine what this was like in the Deep South. Our parents became trapped in a far right media and cultural bubble. So, as the country continued to go left, our parents went right. But they had no context to realize how far right they had gone because, by Deep South standards within their upper middle class social circle, they were moderates. One of our father’s friends even jokingly accused him of being a “secret liberal”.
It’s true that our parents had gone through a liberal phase when we were younger. One of our mother’s best friends in the late 1970s to early 1980s was a pot-smoking hippy. Our father has told us that, in their early marriage, our mother was pro-choice; but now she calls abortion “baby-killing”. Along with our brothers, we became liberals, largely because our parents raised us in liberal New Agey churches, many years having been spent in a liberal college town. But now our parents in their mid-70s have forgotten how liberal they used to be, although always Republican. When Reagan was president, the GOP still had a left wing of the party, including a significant number of blacks (with the living memory at the time of Democrats having previously been the party of Southern white racists).
Since retirement, our parents moved back to this same Iowa liberal college town where we also now live and where our family previously lived back in the mid-to-late 1980s. It’s been a culture shock for them. What goes for a moderate conservative in the Midwest would be perceived as a liberal in the South. And what is considered conservative in a Midwestern liberal college town is pretty far left. Our parents suddenly find themselves on the far right, although that might have already been true, but the stark contrast of the local population has made it undeniably true, uncomfortably and inconveniently true.
What our parents have struggled to come to terms with is that it isn’t merely a small demographic of liberal elites. The majority view in this liberal college town in moderate Iowa are about the same as the majority views across most of the country. Yet they’d been so trapped within an ideological reality tunnel that, until recently, they didn’t have to acknowledge the existence of the majority of other Americans. We suspect this has been true of many other conservatives as well, particularly those who are older and otherwise isolated by geography, lifestyle, retirement, and echo chambers.
Our mother has maybe more easily accepted her newly perceived minority status. She grew up working class and so always knew she was not part of the upper class that determines social norms and public perception. And as a public school teacher, she probably has been exposed to more liberals over her career. But my father has always been in positions of authority and specifically conservative-minded authority (army officer, factory manager, & business management professor). In fact, he grew up as the son of a small town minister and so had authority status thrust upon him from a young age, from having been expected to give public prayers to adult groups to havng been expected to become class president.
So, even when told the polling data, our father dismisses it because it simply doesn’t fit his sense of the personal reality he knows within upper middle class authority where he is used to the majority of others being deferent to him and his opinion, as opposed to speaking honestly to him. As most Americans are more leftist, they probably realize they should hide their leftist views from authority figures, such as their bosses, who are disproportionately on the political right. Plus, as research shows, people on the higher end of the economic scale lose or never learn the full capacity for carefully listening to others and accurrately reading the emotions, motivations, and intentions of others. Indeed, our mother is more psychologically and socially aware than our father.
Because of the sense of conflict and feeling out of place, our parents are thinking of leaving their church here because it is too social justicey for them, not that it is to the left of the American public. To find a church that does fit their right-wing politics, such as my father’s newfound faith in the cultural Marxism conspiracy theory, they’ll probably have to join a Baptist or other fundamentalist church. But that doesn’t fit our father’s identity as he has always thought of himself as ‘mainstream’, as definitive of the ‘majority’ and the ‘normal’. The reality, though, is his views maybe never were majority, not even decades ago. It’s just that he never had to face this reality until recently since leaving his Deep South social world.
In general, maybe even in the Deep South, it’s getting harder to ignore how far left the country has gone. It’s not merely that there have been Black Lives Matter protests everywhere but the fact that now a supermajority agrees with the message of BLM leaders, the view that racism is systemic and the police should be reformed. Yet, to our father, BLM leaders are all Marxists (probably cultural Marxists, the worst kind) and, his having been bottlefed on Cold War propaganda, that means they are pure evil trying to destroy everything that is good about America. That the supermajority sides with BLM is simply incomprehensible to him. It irritaes our mother as well, if with more fatalistic resignation.
Because of older conservatives like our father, there is a powerful backlash going on at the moment, but it’s temporary, During the rise of the Tea Party in the Obama administration, we thought of it as an injured and cornered dog acting all the more vicious because it knows it’s weak and dying, and indeed such a desperate creature can be dangerous (as the MAGA insurrection demonstrated). Our parents, assuming they live long enough, might eventually come to accept this state of affairs and hopefully become less reactionary from the Fox News effect. This morning, our mother had on CSPAN’s Washington Journal. The guest was Cenk Uygur and, interestingly, he was making the exact point of how most of ‘radical’ AOC’s positions are the same as most views held by the American public. She wasn’t necessarily paying attention to what was being said, but it was at least further exposure that might slowly seep down into her psyche.
This is how change happens. As last wave GenXers, we’re barely old enough to remember the old Moral Majority rhetoric and the dwindling of Cold War propaganda. Many Americans our age still carry that ideological indoctrination. But the oldest Millennials, a few years younger than us, have far less sense of any of that. The younger generations know they are a leftist majority. The now old New Right propaganda operation was able to gin up reactionaries during this era of New Media in order to win elections (because of the Electoral College makes progressive and democratic supermajorities impotent), but they ultimately couldn’t tightly control the messaging like they did in the past prior to the internet and social media.
This next decade will be key. The Silent generation has almost entirely been eliminated from power. And the quickly aging Boomers have been losing influence, retiring, and dying. Biden will surely be the last of those older generations to be president. For the first time in our lifetime and maybe in all of American history, there will finally be an ideologically self-aware leftist supermajority that knows it is a leftist supermajority. Already, leftist labels and rhetoric have become normalized and attractive to the younger generations. Yet even then the leftist supermajority might in a way remain unaware or unidentified as such because, as supermajority public opinion becomes a social fact and social norm, the Overton window will move left and the whole political spectrum will realign.
What was called left in the past could simply be the new perceived center, by which all else is defned and compared. Then again, maybe it always was the center. During the Populist and Progressive eras, prior to McCarthyism, Hollywood blacklisting, Cold War propaganda and FBI COINTELPRO, Americans used to be even more economically leftist in support of high taxation on the rich and massive social programs, even significant support of socialism and communism, particularly among the working class and even in the Deep South. We have yet to return to the large and powerful left-wing movement that once existed. But a publicly acknowledged leftist supermajority will begin to move us back in that direction.
* * *
The real point of this post was the below National Notice piece from 2019 by Michael D. D. White. The author is one of the many people who are bringing together the data to show the reality of the majority. Indeed, we picked up from him that we shouldn’t only be speaking of this actual majority for, in fact, it’s a large supermajority — on average, about two-thirds of Americans and sometimes much higher with certain issues. But what we really liked about White’s analysis is his explanation of how this came about, specifically the important role of media.
Everybody’s Realizing It Now: The Political Establishment Is Not Willing To Give The Public The Things The Vast Majority Of Americans Want And That We Could Easily Have
by Michael D. D. White, National Notice
The disappointing experience we had with New York City elected officials respecting libraries may be why when Citizens Defending Libraries participated in producing a forum about Voter Disenfranchisement (how voting is being suppressed, neutralized and the will of the electorate thwarted) it zeroed in and posted the following as grist for discussion:
The re-enfranchisement of all U.S. citizens voting should also be fought on multiple other fronts. Evidence that electeds don’t follow the popular will is ample, with the majority of Americans wanting but not getting:
• medicare for all; • protection of women’s reproductive rights; • stricter gun control laws; • stricter regulations on and breaking up of the big banks; • more environmental regulation; • equal pay for women; • easier, less restrictive immigration; • less surveillance of American citizens; • less military spending and a pull back from the U.S.’s endless and ceaseless military interventions (wars); • net neutrality; • continued support for traditional public schools, and free college; • more restrictions on money in politics.
Full disclosure: I am a co-founder of Citizens Defending Libraries and I worked to set up that forum.
More recently, Columbia law Professor Tim Wu (author of “The Master Switch,” “The Attention Merchants,” and “The Curse of Bigness”) wrote an op-op in the New York Times that included the following list of things he observed the public wants, but is not getting:
About 75 percent of Americans favor higher taxes for the ultrawealthy. The idea of a federal law that would guarantee paid maternity leave attracts 67 percent support. Eighty-three percent favor strong net neutrality rules for broadband, and more than 60 percent want stronger privacy laws. Seventy-one percent think we should be able to buy drugs imported from Canada, and 92 percent want Medicare to negotiate for lower drug prices. The list goes on.
Professor Wu offered his analysis of why that is. While he acknowledged that we are supposed to have checks and balances to get thoughtful government rather than mob rule, he noted:
. . . In our era, it is primarily Congress that prevents popular laws from being passed or getting serious consideration. (Holding an occasional hearing does not count as “doing something.”) Entire categories of public policy options are effectively off-limits because of the combined influence of industry groups and donor interests. There is no principled defense of this state of affairs — and indeed, no one attempts to offer such a justification. Instead, legislative stagnation is cynically defended by those who benefit from it with an unconvincing invocation of the rigors of our system of checks and balances.
Tim Wu with his list is following also in the footsteps of film maker and political critic Michael Moore (also a library defender) who included a segment in his film “Fahrenheit 11/9” released last fall (pre-election) intended to bring home the realization of how much more to the left the American public is than what the political establishment is providing.
To quote what is included about this 38 minutes into the film:
There seems to be a misunderstanding about who the real America is. Let me share with you a fact that has never been stated in the press or reported on the nightly news, or even spoken amongst ourselves. The United States of America is a leftist country.
That’s right. We are one rocking, shit-kicking, gay-loving, gun-rejecting, race-mixing, pot-smoking, tree-hugging, hip-hopping, anywhere breast-feeding, quince-cooking, left-leaning liberal nation. Here are the facts.
The vast majority of Americans are pro-choice.
[Slide: 71% pro-choice (NBC News/Wall Street Journal, 2018)]
They want equal pay for women,
[Slide: 82% Equal pay for women (YouGov, 2013)]
stronger environmental laws,
[Slide: 74% stronger environmental laws (Gallup, 2018)]
[Slide: 61% legalized marijuana (Pew, 2018)]
a raise in the minimum wage,
[Slide: 61% raise the minimum wage (National Restaurant Association Poll, 2018)]
Medicare for all,
[Slide: 70% medicare for all (Reuters, 2018)]
[Slide: 60% tuition-free public college (Reuters, 2018)]
free child care,
[Slide: 59% free child care (Gallup, 2016)]
support for labor unions,
[Slide: 62% Approve of labor unions (Gallup, 2018)]
a cut in the military budget,
[Slide: 61% a cut in the military budget (University of Maryland, 2016)]
break up the big banks.
[Slide: 58% Break up the big banks (Progressive Change Institute, 2015)]
Most Americans don’t even own a gun.
[Slide: 78% Don’t own a gun (Harvard University, 2016)]
And 75% believe that immigration is good for the U. S.
[Slide: 75% Immigration is good for the U.S. (Gallup, 2018)]
And on and on and on.
. . . . Those crazy motherfuckers have won. . . If America is us and we’re the majority, why is it that we do not hold a single seat of power? Not the White House, not the Senate, not the House, not the Supreme Court. To go one better that Moore in terms of showing how power and money supersedes what people want, most gun owners and even a majority of the members of the National Rifle Association (plus those who live in households with guns) want more sensible and restrictive gun laws than we have, laws which those leading the NRA seek to fend off.
Moore makes the point in his film that the Democrats are missing the boat by not representing the people. Even more harshly critical of the Democrats as a corporately captured party masquerading as “opposition” is comedian and media watchdog Jimmy Dore who points out that those in charge of the Democratic party like Nancy Pelosi are actually making it their job to tell the public along with all registered Democrats that they can’t have what the majority of Americans want, an effort to marginalize the most important issues. . . And they tell those wanting to work through the Democratic party that they shouldn’t even be working for those things!
Dore recently provided his own list of things that “people want and that we know we can have. . What everybody else gets to have in other countries” (and we are, he comments, the “richest country in the world?”)
• 70% of Americans are for medicare for all
• 63% are for a $15 minimum wage
• 66% are for tuition free college
• 81% support a Green New Deal
• 59% (almost 6 out of ten Americans support a 70% top marginal tax rate.
• 72% of American support expanding social security
• 62% of American want to legalize marijuana
• 65% want to reform our incarceration system
• 63% want same sex marriage freedom
• 69% seven out of ten, want to keep Roe vs. Wade
• 75% think that immigration is good.
• 83% want net neutrality
• 61% want to stop climate change
• 77% want campaign finance reform (which is not what the Democrats want, just repeal Citizens United)
• Almost six out of ten American want to break up the big banks
• 64% want a guaranteed jobs program
• 76% Want to tax the rich
• 67% want to tax big corporations more
• Eight, almost nine out of ten Americans want to use the military only as a last resort
Listen to Jimmy Dore Show, April 18, 2019 (“Warmongers Exposed” starting at 27 minutes in.) You can also catch the Jimmy Dore Radio Show on WBAI radio.
Dore points out that the only place these things like Medicare For All are “not mainstream” is inside the beltway and “cable news green rooms.” This goes to show, says Dore, that we live in an oligarchy where democracy has already been stolen from the public– hacked by Wall Street, Big Oil and Big Pharma. And we blame the Russians? asks Dore.
It’s not just democracy that’s being stolen from us: Our ability to communicate sensibly with each other has been sabotaged. Wanting to make his points in his film Michael Moore proclaims that we are a “leftist country. . . a left-leaning liberal nation.” But does that language of Moore’s ceding “the center” to others who are further right truly make sense? Consider this tweet from Ralph Nader:
They call Bernie Sanders, Senator from conservative Vermont, a leftist. All his major proposals to improve our economy’s fairness and productivity have healthy majority support. Doesn’t that make him a centrist? -R
[…] That gets us to our second major topic for consideration here: The political establishment only gets away with denying the public these things that the public could have if it is aided and abetted by a complicit press. We have a press owned by corporate conglomerates that exaggerate the costs and underestimate the benefits of such public goods.
For example, when a Koch funded study reached a conclusion (a conclusion the Koch’s certainly didn’t want the study group they funded to reach) that Medicare For All would save the American public $2.1 trillion (in actuality, probably more would be saved), the corporate press went into overdrive to misrepresent and ignore the math and report something quite the opposite. See the reporting of this press misbehavior by Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting which was included in Counterspin, a program they broadcast on WBAI: Reporting on Medicare for All Makes Media Forget How Math Works, Justin Anderson, July 31, 2018.
Similarly, in New York City, we got reporting telling us that New Yorkers had to suffer the huge loss of selling public libraries for less than they were worth because otherwise New Yorkers couldn’t be expected to be able to afford libraries at all. How very little we were spending on libraries in the overall scheme of things, especially given their benefit, went more or less unreported. The New York Times ran a front page article about how great it was to be selling off libraries and schools ignoring information Citizens Defending Libraries gave them to the contrary.
Think back for a moment– Remember all those supermajority poll results? Think where the polls on all these things would be if the press did its job, instead of aligning with the corporations and the political establishment to stonewall and deny. The polls would be shifting a lot further. Those things the public wants and is told it can’t have would be even more popular. One area where polls would shift is where the public would now be positioned on the subject of Democratic Socialism which the public, especially young people are increasingly in favor of. See: Libraries As A Threat To The “Perspective” That Virtually Everything Should Be Dictated And Run By The Forces of Market Capitalism, August 31, 2018.
There’s still another reason to keep those all supermajority poll results in mind (including where the polls could shift to with a little help from less biased news coverage): When you find people selling you the idea that ours is an extremely divided nation (that’s a common meme for the press now harps on these days), you can scoff and reject the notion that such divisions explain almost everything as a lot of tripe. As a nation we have much more in common than we are being told. That’s true no matter how much our differences are being stoked, and it’s true no matter how much the extreme right and its hateful passions, in particular, are being stoked these days. (Listening to “On Contact” on WBAI, you may have just heard Matt Taibbi explain to host Chris Hedges how American journalism is now engaged in purposefully stoking hate between citizens.)
The buttressing by the press of the political establishment’s unwillingness to represent the public on issue after issue of major importance leaves these huge supermajorities of our populace unspoken for and lacking information vital to the conduct of our democracy. Plus, let’s once again reiterate: The supermajorities these polls record would certainly swell mightily if there was a decent flow of information out to these audiences.
[…] ADDENDUM (added 6/11/2019): One more list! After this article was written and posted, Chris Hedges interviewed Green Party presidential candidate Howie Hawkins on his “On Contact” radio show (on WBAI and earlier episodes of the show were mentioned in the article as first written). In the course of that interview Hedges presented another list of things that Americans want, could have, but are not being allowed to have by those dominating politics and government in the United States.
Hedges observes that his sampling from his list below is an example of how the positions that are taken by the Green Party are, in fact, in almost all cases, majoritarian positions.
Here is that list, that begins at 10 minutes into the interview:
• 82% of the Americans think wealthy people have too much power and influence.
• 69% think large businesses have too much power and influence in Washington.
• 78% of likely voters support stronger rules and enforcement and regulation of the financial industry.
• 48% think economic inequality is very big while another 34% think economic inequality is moderately big. (48%+34%= 82%)
• 59% of registered voters and 51% of registered Republicans favor raising the minimum that low wage worker can make and still be eligible for earned income tax credit from $14,820 to $18,000.
• 96% of American, including 96% of Republicans believe that money in politics is responsible for the dysfunction of the American system.
• 76% believe wealthy American should pay higher taxes.
• 59% favor raising the federal minimum wage to at least $12 an hour.
• 61%, including 42% of Republicans approve of labor unions.
• 60% of Americans believe it is the federal government’s responsibility to make sure all Americans have health care.
• 60% of registered voters favor expanding medicare to provide health insurance to every single citizen.
• 59% favor free early childhood education.
• 76% are concerned about climate disruption.
• 84% support requiring background checks for all gun owners.
• 58% of American believe that abortions should be legal.
“And yet,” notes Hedges, “from both of the parties (except maybe abortion*), none of these majoritarian issues are being addressed.”
“And that’s the problem of American politics,” says Hawkins, “political preferences don’t translate into public policy, because the political system responds to the donors, not the voters.”
* * *
*Note: The majority Americans are pro-choice in most or all cases, although many also support moderate restrictions on abortion in certain cases, such as late-term pregnancies barring threat to the mother’s life. The point remains that a supermajority is in favor of protecting the Roe v. Wade decision, as opposed to the minority that wants to overturn the decision and remove the federal protection of pro-choice access to abortions. This support has grown stronger over the decades.
In another blogging piece in the works, it is noted that the present culture wars are very much an invented phenomenon. The new religious right didn’t form in response to abortion but, as religious right leader Paul Weyrich admitted, to a Supreme Court Case banning racial segregation in Bible Colleges. In fact, most earlier Americans, including most conservative evangelicals, supported women’s pro-choce rights in ensuring safe abortions were available to all women. In the early-to-mid 1900s, the divide was not between liberal secularists and conservative fundamentalists but between two paired groups. Catholics (or rather the Vatican) and First Wave feminists were anti-choice while Protestants and Second Wave feminists were pro-choice.
When the Roe v. Wade decision was made, many well known religious right figures came out in support of it. So did many Republican leaders, including Dwight Eisenhower who made the liberal argument that it wasn’t helpful to ban abortions because, then, women would feel forced to get illegal and unsafe abortions. Eisenhower’s wife, by the way, helped found Planned Parenthood in Texas. It was only years later, when the anti-segregationist case happened, that the religious right leaders decided to start using abortion as a symbolic dog whistle to oppose social liberalism because they knew they couldn’t gain support by organizing around racism.
During the first half of the 20th century, Christianity had become quite liberal, as had the population in general. This is seen in the data reported by John Sides, as taken from Ideology in America by Christopher Ellis and James Stimson: “On average, liberal responses were more common than conservative responses. This has been true in nearly every year since 1956, even as the relative liberalism of the public has trended up and down. For decades now there has been a consistent discrepancy between what Ellis and Stimson call symbolic ideology (how we label ourselves) and operational ideology (what we really think about the size of government)” (Why most conservatives are secretly liberals).
For some specific numbers, consider that, “almost 30 percent of Americans are “consistent liberals” — people who call themselves liberals and have liberal politics. Only 15 percent are “consistent conservatives” — people who call themselves conservative and have conservative politics. Nearly 30 percent are people who identify as conservative but actually express liberal views. The United States appears to be a center-right nation in name only.” So, though only a third of Americans are politically liberal and liberal-identifying, the supermajority of Americans hold liberal views, including about abortion. Think about the fact that there is only 15% of hardcore conservatives.