Get on board or get out of the way!

How is the American population controlled? The main way is by controlling how the public perceives others in their society and hence how they experience their place in relation to others. It doesn’t matter what people think in their own minds, what beliefs they hold privately, as long as it is kept out of what is allowed to seen and heard in the public sphere. In fact, the more there is a sense of disconnect the more isolated and powerless the individual feels, and this is makes the public all the more easy to manipulate and manage.

Washington Post put out a two-part series about the real moral majority (The Democratic Party has moved left — but so has the U.S. This explains how and why.; & The nation’s liberal shift is likely to continue. Here’s why.). They were brought to my attention by Lane Kenworthy, a professor of sociology and the author of the WaPo pieces. “The shift,” he wrote in his blog, “is long-run, unsurprising, and likely to continue.” I wholeheartedly agree. I’ve been saying this for many years, such as a major post I put together about a decade ago (US Demographics & Increasing Progressivism), along with many posts written since then (Political Elites Disconnected From General Public, American People Keep Going Further Left, Sea Change of Public Opinion: Libertarianism, Progressivism & Socialism, The Court of Public Opinion: Part 1 & Part 2, Fox News: Americans are the ‘Left-Wing’ Enemy Threatening America, ). It’s amazing to finally see the corporate media come around to acknowledging this fact. I wonder what caused the WaPo to point out the obvious all this time later. Since this has been going on for decades, why haven’t they been hammering home this simple observation? That is a rhetorical question. I’m sure the media elite knew this info all along, as the polling data is from respectable mainstream sources and has been often reported on, despite rarely having been put into a larger context or depth of analysis. My cynical suspicion is that it’s precisely because they knew the American public was going left that they kept talk about it as limitedly and as unclearly as possible.

The corporate media and political elite, instead of causing Donald Trump’s election could have prevented it, assuming they were genuinely worried about it, but that would be a false assumption. Even a crazy plutocrat gaining power within the plutocratic establishment is not a great concern to the plutocratic-owned-and-operated press and bipartisan political machine. Trump was one of their own, a product of wealth and a creature of corporate media. By the way, the main reason Trump won or rather Hilary Clinton lost is because, among those two options, he spoke with stronger progressive rhetoric (Old School Progressivism) — from Lane Kenworthy’s first piece: “Donald Trump’s success in the Republican primary race in 2016 owed partly to the fact that he was, as he tweeted in May 2015, “the first & only potential GOP candidate to state there will be no cuts to Social Security, Medicare & Medicaid.” When President Trump abandoned this pledge and joined congressional Republicans in trying to pare back Medicaid coverage, it was the least popular major legislative proposal since 1990.” Have the Democrats finally learned from this harsh lesson that publicly shamed them on the world stage? Do they even care or have a capacity to be shamed into better behavior? Maybe. Time will tell. We are seeing major push back in the Democratic Party and even the DNC preferred picks (Biden, Warren, and Bloomberg) are embracing more progressive rhetoric, even if its empty words and false promises.

The push back will continue until there is eventually reform within the system or, failing that, riots and revolt that forces change. Until then, the shift will keep going further left and the pressure will keep on building. Already at this point on many major issues, the average American is surprisingly far to the left. Within corporate news reporting that has pushed the Overton window into the reactionary right, majority public opinion is too radically far left to be part of allowable ‘mainstream’ debate. Most Americans are well to the left of the DNC elite not only on economic issues but also ahead of the curve on cultural issues like same-sex marriage. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama didn’t support same-sex marriage until many years after it had already become majority opinion. I bet the same thing is seen in comparing the average news reader and the media elite. Many, maybe most, WaPo readers surely already knew on some level that this was true without a WaPo article telling them it was so. Corporate media has primarily served the purpose of not only protecting corporate interests but also representing the ruling elite of the two-party system. Now will the WaPo write a series of articles showing how the actual substance of campaign promises of the likes of Warren, Biden, and Bloomberg are to the right of the American voter?

To put it in historical perspective, the two Roosevelts, Kennedy, Eisenhower, and even Nixon were in many ways far to the left (economically, at least) of the present DNC elite, which leaves the GOP on the distant right-wing fringe about ready to tip over the ledge into outright fascism. Neoliberal and war-friendly politicians like the Clintons and Obama are essentially Reagan Democrats. The entire political elite, in both parties, shifted hard right. It’s not that Democrats (or rather the DNC elite) were dragged right. They went in that direction of their own free will. Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton were Blue Dogs in opposing leftist reform and more direct democracy, labor unions and fiscal liberalism, a strong safety net and social democracy, etc. As presidents, that was their political ideology and identity. Look at how Bill Clinton used racist dog whistle politics, such as creating a photo op while standing in front of chained black prisoners with the most infamous KKK memorial in the background when introducing his racist crime bill to the public. And Carter, of course, was president before Reagan. His financial adviser instituted much of what later would be called the “Reagan Revolution”. Reagan inherited this adviser and so it’s somewhat a misnomer to call it Reaganomics, although Reagan did add his own special twist to it (Starve the Beast and Two Santa Claus Theory; National Debt, Starve the Beast, & Wealth Disparity).

That the two corporate parties shifted right doesn’t lessen the author’s point that simultaneously the American public shifted toward what the ‘mainstream’ media hacks and political elite have portrayed as the extreme left-wing. That is the sad part. The divide isn’t a split in the general population. Rather, it’s a class war between the powerful rich and everyone else. In starting this war, the plutocracy sought the support of the shrinking and increasingly reactionary middle class in keeping a solidarity of the majority from forming. The elite have become quite talented and successful in their strategy of divide and conquer. One of their best tactics is lesser evilism, not that they’re limited to this (Inequality Means No Center to Moderate Toward; Political Elites Disconnected From General Public; Wirthlin Effect & Symbolic Conservatism; & The Court of Public Opinion: Part 1). No matter how far right both parties go, the DNC elite always argue that we have no choice but to vote for the DNC candidate who is slightly less right-wing ‘evil’ than the other right-wing of the one-party state. And so the duopolistic stranglehold is maintained. Meanwhile, the corporate media works closely with the two-party system to silence third parties and independents who are in line with majority opinion (The Establishement: NPR, Obama, Corporatism, Parties; NPR: Liberal Bias?; Corporate Bias of ‘Mainstream’ Media; Black and White and Re(a)d All Over; & Funhouse Mirrors of Corporate Media).

All of this is brilliant in its Machiavellian evil genius. You have to give them credit. It is highly effective for propaganda campaigns, perception management, social engineering, and social control. The majority of Americans, the real moral majority, have been kept in the dark about the fact that they are the majority. Instead, we Americans have been made to feel isolated and powerless in not realizing most other Americans agree with us. But we the majority aren’t without influence. The DNC party platforms have been slowly and reluctantly drifting leftward in following the lead of Democratic voters, although the DNC elite is still trailing behind in this trend. Even conservatives haven’t gone further right and, in some cases, have also gone left, including on social programs — again from Lane Kenworthy’s first piece: “As political scientist Matt Grossman has documented, most conservative states in recent decades have either offered slow increases or no change, rather than reductions. In a few instances, such as universal preschool for 4-year-olds in Oklahoma and Georgia and free community college in Tennessee, these states have led in expanding social policy.” Of course, party elites remain right-wing corporatists, but pressure from below is forcing them to moderate their authoritarian tendencies or at least to hide them better. They are talking the talk, if not yet exactly walking the walk (e.g., Obamacare’s corporate-friendly insurance ‘reform’). But they are coming around on certain issues, such as how Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama finally came out in support of same sex marriage years after it had developed into a majority position. On economic issues, the shift has been slower, though one can feel the ground moving beneath one’s feet.

A right-wing reactionary like Trump having used progressive rhetoric to steal enough votes from the political left and cobble together a narrow victory was a game-changer. Now every candidate has to use progressive rhetoric. This is populism and progressivism returning to its non-partisan roots, as seen in the movements from earlier last century. These kinds of social movements that seize the entire population are never constrained by party politics or else, when they do take partisan forms, it is most often in the shape of third parties, independents, and local politics. That is until it becomes an undeniable force that reshapes even the main parties, maybe as we are seeing now. It is a groundswell of change that sweeps up from below, a seismic shift that reorients all of society. That is what we are in the middle of, but it didn’t come out of nowhere. Anyone with their eyes open these past decades saw this coming.

I might add this shift would have happened much more quickly and dramatically if the public hadn’t intentionally been kept ignorant by the media and education system. Polling has shown that the American public has zero tolerance for high inequality. So, why do we have such high inequality without any populist revolt to threaten the plutocracy? It’s because the American public has been lied to with corporatocratic propaganda. Most of the citizenry simply does not know how bad it has gotten, just as most don’t know they are part of a majority. Everything that the public is told is carefully framed and all debate is tightly controlled. The specific lie in this case is the claim that inequality is small when it is actually large (Christopher Ingraham, Wealth concentration returning to ‘levels last seen during the Roaring Twenties,’ according to new research; ). In fact, it is immensely larger than public polling shows most Americans think should be allowed (Dan Ariely, Americans Want to Live in a Much More Equal Country (They Just Don’t Realize It); & Chuck Collins interviewed, U.S. Public Opinion Favors Bold Action to Address Rising Economic Inequality). Why is it that the elites of both parties and all of the corporate media conveniently forget to tell the public this inconvenient truth? That is another rhetorical question.

Despite being trapped in this black iron prison of managed perception, many see through the spectacle and illusion while still others sense, if unclearly, that something is wrong, that there must be something else than what is being shown. Even in not fully grasping how bad it is, the vast majority nonetheless support more regulations on corporations and more taxes on the rich. Americans are strongly in favor of better social programs and a stronger social safety net. There is split opinion about how to pay for it, but that brings us to the next part of how social control is maintained. Our demiurgic overlords in their paternalistic concern explain so kindly that we can’t afford it, as if chastising a child asking for cake for breakfast. Money doesn’t grow on trees. All that wealth belongs to others and it would be wrong to take it. Naughty children! The intellectual elite over at Reason Magazine, the propaganda rag for the Koch Robber Barons with numerous corporate front groups as the funding sources (SourceWatch, Reason Foundation), want to help us understand the error of our ways: “Tens of trillions of dollars in new taxes are likely to prove a bit of a hurdle for Americans who want lots of new goodies from the government only if they’re entirely free” (J. D. Tuccille, More Americans Want Bigger Government—If It’s Free).

Trillions? Such a big scary number. Really, asshole? I think I’ve seen where the trillions go. We can’t afford ‘socialism’, you say. Well, I suspect most Americans would agree with me in thinking that we can’t afford kleptocracy, socialism for the rich (Americans Can’t Afford Kleptocracy). Just look at one small part of one industry over a single year, and it still would be an underestimation because most of the wealth, resources, and other benefits given away goes uncounted: “fossil fuels enjoy $5 trillion in direct and indirect subsidies” (Brian Kahn, Building All the Fossil Fuel Projects Already in the Pipeline Would Wreck the Climate). Multiply that by the other areas of big energy such as nuclear and coal. Then multiply that by the numerous other industries that suck at the government teat: big tech, big ag, etc. And finally multiply that over the many decades that have bled the American public dry. Just over the past decade alone, we could be talking about the equivalent of hundreds of trillions of dollars of public wealth being stolen and stuffed into the pockets of the already rich. Now think about the incomprehensible amount of wealth that has disappeared into the private sector over our lifetimes, most of it probably having been diverted into foreign investments and secret bank accounts or wasted in financial gambling and conspicuous consumption.

All that money stolen and wasted, not to mention externalized costs on top of that. According to a study sponsored by the United Nations, “The report found that when you took the externalized costs into effect, essentially NONE of the industries was actually making a profit. The huge profit margins being made by the world’s most profitable industries (oil, meat, tobacco, mining, electronics) is being paid for against the future: we are trading long term sustainability for the benefit of shareholders. Sometimes the environmental costs vastly outweighed revenue, meaning that these industries would be constantly losing money had they actually been paying for the ecological damage and strain they were causing” (Michael Thomas, New UN report finds almost no industry profitable if environmental costs were included; also see An Invisible Debt Made Visible). So, not only are industries like that of big energy taking trillions of dollars of corporate welfare as part of plutocratic socialism for they are simultaneously, on the other side of the equation, offloading trillions of dollars of costs onto the public. And we have no way to measure the further costs externalized through pollution and ecological destruction. It is an incomprehensibly large net loss for all of society, in the United States and across the world.

We are told that we can’t afford a few trillion to ensure most Americans don’t suffer and die from preventable and treatable health concerns, some of it caused by the very costs of pollution externalized on the public, especially the poor who are more likely to live in industrial toxic zones. That is psychopathic to a degree that is truly evil, not lesser evil, just plain evil. If the public ever figures this out, it will be game over for the plutocracy. And the plutocracy knows it. This is why they spend so much of their wealth in keeping the American public ignorant, confused, and divided. It is an investment in maintaining plutocracy itself. Yet, for all this effort of manipulation and deception, the entire population continually and steadily heads further left, in an instinctive reaction to such grotesque corruption as the public runs away from the stench. Americans, in being kept in the dark for so long, don’t know where they are heading in embracing a progressive sensibility, but they understand that there is no other moral choice than to seek something different by leaning forward into new possibilities. That is the first step toward radical imagination and political will, wherever it might end up.

The self-appointed ruling class will either get out of the way and follow the public’s lead or they will be find themselves trampled under foot. As we face global crises of a scale never before seen, old school authoritarianism won’t work in the way it did in the past. Such authoritarianism could only make things worse, for poor and rich alike. I don’t know that, if given a chance, progressivism will succeed, but nothing is going to stop the masses from trying. With climate crisis and global catastrophe on its way, the sense of urgency will only increase and with it public demand for justice and fairness. Either we will find a way to create a better society or we will go crashing into mass conflict, quite possibly not just world war but total war. We would be lucky if such mass conflict merely ended in revolution.

This isn’t about one ideology defeating some other ideology. What is at stake is the survival of civilization as we know it. This is why most people, not only in the United States but in many other countries as well, are looking toward egalitarianism. Amidst the threats of disaster, we humans somehow hold onto a sense of hope, that maybe, just maybe we will pull out of this tailspin at the last moment before smashing into the ground. Is that sense of hope realistic? If nothing else, it is far more realistic than what the kleptocratic kakocracy is offering with more of the same and worse in wringing every last drop of wealth out of society. Instead of cynicism, maybe its time to try something else. Let’s choose hope and see where it takes us. But if so, that would mean choosing egalitarianism as the first step before anything else would be possible.

A highly unequal society is inherently unstable and conflict-ridden. And as Walter Scheidel argues in The Great Leveler, there has been no society in human existence, from hunter-gatherers to empires, where wide disparities of wealth did not end in violence — if not revolution or war, then catastrophe and collapse. Put that in the context that the inequality in the present United States is higher than anywhere in the world and higher than any other society in all of history and prehistory, and it’s getting worse (Immobility Of Economic Mobility; Or Running To Stay In Place; Inequality Divides, Privilege Disconnects; Inequality in the Anthropocene; On Conflict and Stupidity; Class Anxiety of Privilege Denied; The Coming Collapse; & “Not with a bang but with a whimper.”). So, willingly or unwillingly, this age of concentrated wealth and desperate poverty will end. How it ends is our only freedom of choice. Knowing that this oppressive and unjust social order is doomed, we could choose to soften the crash landing by overhauling society as quickly as possible with mass reforms. Peaceful resolution is always a possibility, if we so choose, but that would require us to envision it as a real and desirable possibility. I’m not sure we have the wisdom and foresight to take this course of action, as history shows that humans and especially Americans tend to react to vast problems only after it’s too late to correct them. Have we learned from such mistakes and will we avoid repeating them?

I could end there, but let me shift gears. This kind of discussion can feel abstract, in speaking about a ‘majority’ and ‘inequality’. Looking at data, whether polling data or economic figures, can create a psychological distance from lived human experience. The reality on the ground is that ordinary people are involved, people who are suffering and struggling as individuals, families, and entire communities. An increasing number of Americans are trapped and isolated in poverty and this has stark consequences (Keith Payne, The Broken Ladder; Kate Pickett & Richard G. Wilkinson, The Spirit Level).

In speaking of the upper, upper (self-identified) ‘middle class’, what is in fact the top 9.9% that is only below the 0.1% ruling elite, Matthew Stewart offers the kind of class critique that is almost shocking to find published in the corporate media (The 9.9 Percent Is the New American Aristocracy). This 9.9% is the right hand of the powerful, whereas it is the 0.1% that owns the media, buys elections, controls society, and such, the puppet masters behind the scenes (we wouldn’t know about the puppet masters at all if not for investigative journalism that has dug up their covert actions, dark money, and webs of influence: Jane Mayer’s Dark Money, the Buzzfeed expose, a WaPo investigation, etc). The new aristocracy of inherited wealth and privilege are the henchmen who carry out the orders of the ruling elite or else act as a buffer between the ruling elite and the dirty masses — they are the upper class professionals: politicians, lawyers, lobbyists, CEOs, corporate board members, think tank operatives, talk show hosts, movie producers, etc. Together, the top 10% maintain the rigid hierarchy of inequality and the social control that protects and enforces it.

Matthew Stewart writes that, “The sociological data are not remotely ambiguous on any aspect of this growing divide. We 9.9 percenters live in safer neighborhoods, go to better schools, have shorter commutes, receive higher-quality health care, and, when circumstances require, serve time in better prisons. We also have more friends—the kind of friends who will introduce us to new clients or line up great internships for our kids. These special forms of wealth offer the further advantages that they are both harder to emulate and safer to brag about than high income alone. Our class walks around in the jeans and T‑shirts inherited from our supposedly humble beginnings. We prefer to signal our status by talking about our organically nourished bodies, the awe-inspiring feats of our offspring, and the ecological correctness of our neighborhoods. We have figured out how to launder our money through higher virtues.” This is how the immense gulf between wealth and poverty has been hidden. It’s not only hidden from the poor and the dirty masses, including those directly below them, the genuine middle class. More importantly, the reality of their privilege is hidden from their own awareness, a total dissociation. They are playing make-believe because the reality of inequality would cause them to feel uncomfortable and one of the most cherished advantages to higher class status is the ability to maintain a sense of comfortable numbness to the suffering of others, but this requires also maintaining the inequality that keeps the rest of humanity separate for if the 9.9% ever saw how most others lived their illusion would be shattered.

Pretending to be middle class is necessary for plausible deniability about class war. Rather than flaunting their status, the upper classes have flown under the radar. The 9.9% present themselves as ordinary Americans, as “middle class.” And the 0.1%, for the most part, don’t present themselves at all. Consider how disheveled and unimpressive Steve Bannon appears, and I have to wonder if that is an intentional disguise. In reality, he is one of those 9.9% working on behalf of the ruling elite. Bannon had a successful career in Wall Street banking and Hollywood movies, but he wasn’t part of the highest echelon of the capitalist class. He was one of those henchmen who, even if he aspired to be part of the ruling elite, was used and funded by those far more powerful than he is (the Mercer, Koch, and Trump families). He was used and, when no longer useful, he was discarded. Yet he remains influential within his lesser sphere and will be comfortable for the rest of his life. He will go on playing his games of power and privilege, and he will go on trying to scramble further up the socioeconomic ladder while kicking down at those behind him.

This is the world we find ourselves in and one of the results is disparity of not only wealth but also of health. To be rich means to live well and to live long while poverty is a sentence of life-long suffering and dying young. Socioeconomic status is built into our lives and bodies. This is to be comfortable in a visceral and concrete way, to experience full physical development and expression, to ensure optimal health — as explained by Stewart: “This divergence of families by class is just one part of a process that is creating two distinct forms of life in our society. Stop in at your local yoga studio or SoulCycle class, and you’ll notice that the same process is now inscribing itself in our own bodies. In 19th-century England, the rich really were different. They didn’t just have more money; they were taller—a lot taller. According to a study colorfully titled “On English Pygmies and Giants,” 16-year-old boys from the upper classes towered a remarkable 8.6 inches, on average, over their undernourished, lower-class countrymen. We are reproducing the same kind of division via a different set of dimensions. Obesity, diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, and liver disease are all two to three times more common in individuals who have a family income of less than $35,000 than in those who have a family income greater than $100,000. Among low-educated, middle-aged whites, the death rate in the United States—alone in the developed world—increased in the first decade and a half of the 21st century. Driving the trend is the rapid growth in what the Princeton economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton call “deaths of despair”—suicides and alcohol- and drug-related deaths.”

We are seeing a decline in the health of Americans (Health From Generation To Generation; Dietary Health Across Generations; A Century of Dietary and Nutritional Trends; & Malnourished Americans), but it isn’t not affecting everyone equally. The wealthy, of course, are doing well. And the older generations, having grown up at a time of greater wealth in the general population, are also doing better than the younger generations with increasing poverty. Many of the 9.9% (or their parents or grandparents) were able to enter the new aristocracy at a time when there was much greater and easier upward mobility that created a once growing middle class that, for many, served as a step ladder into the upper classes. If you look at wealth, it is also disproportionately tilted toward the older generations. On average, those in the Boomer and Silent generations were never as poor when younger and started off with many advantages; cheap education and housing, unionized jobs with large pensions, a booming economy that grew their stock market investments, etc. The class divide is magnified and further hidden within a generational divide, not unlike how class gets obscured by race. Instead of talking about class, we use demographic and social proxies that are tied into economic realities.

Health is another one of those proxies. Since data began to be kept, American longevity has been continually increasing, that is until the past three years. It’s not for a lack of healthcare funding, as the money going into the healthcare industry is increasing, but we are getting less bang for our buck, in spite of spending way more than other developed countries that get better health results, including longevity rates that continue to rise. It is hitting the young the hardest — Joel Achenbach writes that, “By age group, the highest relative jump in death rates from 2010 to 2017 — 29 percent — has been among people age 25 to 34” (‘There’s something terribly wrong’: Americans are dying young at alarming rates). That is not a positive sign, considering the young represent the future. It is already fueling social and political unrest: “About a third of the estimated 33,000 “excess deaths” that the study says occurred since 2010 were in just four states: Ohio, Pennsylvania, Kentucky and Indiana — the first two of which are critical swing states in presidential elections. The state with the biggest percentage rise in death rates among working-age people in this decade — 23.3 percent — is New Hampshire, the first primary state.” And it is cutting across racial demographics: “Increasing midlife mortality began among whites in 2010, Hispanics in 2011 and African Americans in 2014, the study states.” So, we’re not only talking about the resentment politics of poor whites. The anger and anxiety did help Trump in his victory, but keep in mind that Trump also gained strong support from older Hispanics in the rural Southwest, Haitians and Cubans in Florida, etc. The sense of social fracture doesn’t always follow simplistic media narratives and political rhetoric.

Much of the health problems, by the way, are tied into metabolic syndrome which is primarily caused by diet — Achenbach continues: “Obesity is a significant part of the story. The average woman in the United States today weighs as much as the average man half a century ago, and men now weigh about 30 pounds more. Most people in the United States are overweight — an estimated 71.6 percent of the population age 20 and older, according to the CDC. That figure includes the 39.8 percent who are obese, defined as having a body mass index of 30 or higher in adults (18.5 to 25 is the normal range). Obesity is also rising in children; nearly 19 percent of the population age 2 to 19 is obese. “These kids are acquiring obesity in their early teen years, sometimes under the age of 10,” said S. Jay Olshansky, a professor of public health at the University of Illinois at Chicago. “When they get up into their 20s, 30s and 40s, they’re carrying the risk factors of obesity that were acquired when they were children. We didn’t see that in previous generations.” “This isn’t a one-time phenomenon,” he added. “It’s going to echo through time.”” The quotes directly above come from one of the articles linked by Chuck Pezeshki in his recent post with a long descriptive title, More Societal Implications of the Obesity Epidemic — Insulin Resistance, Epigenetic Preloading and Obesity Showing Up in Mortality Stats.

Pezeshki takes a systems approach to understanding humanity and often focuses on health with a rare understanding of diet as part of a food system, specifically the problems of a high-carb diet in being the main contributing factor to metabolic syndrome. He has had a prediction, one that I agree with: “That prediction is that our awful diet that excludes saturated fats, and gives a pass to sugar and refined carbs, is combining with epigenetic preloading of insulin resistance and driving obesity in our young people. This earlier expression of insulin resistance, leads to earlier onset of Type II diabetes, and the incumbent Western diseases that flow from that. And that will lead to an increase in All-Cause mortality at younger and younger ages, leading to an enormous public health crisis.” But it’s coming quicker than he predicted: “I thought that it would take until the 2030s to really see some effect. As the data shows, I was wrong. The bell is tolling now.” And  it may result in “a compounding civilization-altering event.” Also shared, he has an even better piece, linking diet and a growth in authoritarianism (which was used as a jumping-off point for one of my own writings, Diets and Systems). Like some others, he points out that, “The states most affected are swing states looking for reversals of their fortunes, because their people are suffering.”

Similar to my own perspective, he links a high-carb diet to a particular mentality and way of being in the world, from addiction to authoritarianism. But more fundamentally is the most immediate and undeniable impact on the body: “What’s really wild is the documentation, through photos, of the obesity and incumbent diabetes crisis. Though obesity is not even discussed, almost all the photos included in the article show people who are morbidly obese. The kicker is the one healthy person in the story resisted his doctor’s advice and put himself on a de facto ketogenic diet.” A ketogenic diet, in case you didn’t know, is one that is extremely restrictive of starches and sugar; and a diet, I’d add, that probably was the norm of human society and evolution prior to modern agriculture. The shift to a high-carb diet was dramatic and traumatic and, since then, has become systemic with immense consequences in altering how the body functions.

“Even the basic concept of diet as a metabolic destabilizer — the real phenomenon going on here — is not understood. It’s not surprising. We still count food in terms of meaningless calories, instead of the most powerful medicine we ingest regularly into our systems. The problem with the whole issue of metabolic destabilization is that it drives diseases that are well-recognized, like cancer, with their own pathologies and entire industries set up to treat. Few scientists or physicians are talking about how to prevent cancer in the first place. It’s not that these people are evil — with rare exception (like cigarette smoking) the causal thought just doesn’t occur to them. Like the AIDS virus that destabilized its victims’ immune systems, leading to contracting all sorts of diseases one normally has resistance to, metabolic destabilization runs under the surface of the epidemic. Out of sight, out of mind. And that, dear readers, is a function of the social structure that is investigating the problem. Medical and dietary research organizations are just not set up to investigate root cause.”

This goes back to inequality, not a topic Pezeshki talks much about. Structures and institutions calcify as hierarchies form and become entrenched. This is why systems lose the capacity to cause change from within. And when reform fails, the only option is revolution or some violently disruptive equivalent, whether from internal factors (e.g., economic collapse) or external factors (e.g., plague), as Walter Scheidel describes in his history of inequality. Demagogues, sociopaths, and social dominators like Ancel Keys become increasingly common as the system rigidifies, since it becomes prone to authoritarian control. All Keys needed was to co-opt the American Heart Association and draw in some political allies, and from there he was able to command a total transformation of the US nutrition studies, food system, government recommendations, and medical practice that enforced a dietary pattern onto the entire population. That society-wide change is still with us more than a half century later. It is unsurprising that, during that same period, inequality kept growing greater and greater. Going back many centuries, it was understood that dietary ideology was important for social control, based on an explicit understanding that food alters not only health but thought, mood, and behavior (Diets and Systems), and I argue that the high-carb diet not only has to do with addiction and authoritarianism but also the fracturing and isolation of a hyper-individualistic worldview.

Let me use the example of doctors to make an important point. To return to the topic of the 9.9%, Matthew Stewart asks a key question and offers an explanation: “Why do America’s doctors make twice as much as those of other wealthy countries? Given that the United States has placed dead last five times running in the Commonwealth Fund’s ranking of health-care systems in high-income countries, it’s hard to argue that they are twice as gifted at saving lives. Dean Baker, a senior economist with the Center for Economic and Policy Research, has a more plausible suggestion: “When economists like me look at medicine in America—whether we lean left or right politically—we see something that looks an awful lot like a cartel.” Through their influence on the number of slots at medical schools, the availability of residencies, the licensing of foreign-trained doctors, and the role of nurse practitioners, physicians’ organizations can effectively limit the competition their own members face—and that is exactly what they do.” Yes, a cartel. That is another way to say a hierarchical and authoritarian system, which is to say an expression of the mentality of control.

As part of the 9.9%, doctors play a pivotal role in moderating the harm and decline of our society. It fits a high inequality society that medical practice has come to primarily focus on treating symptoms rather than preventing, reversing, and curing disease. The authority of doctors helps shift the blame of societal problems onto individuals and so scapegoat the patient who is supposedly suffering the wages of their own sin because of gluttony (eating too many calories, fat, etc) and sloth (not exercising enough). But the reality is that most doctors are as ignorant as the rest of us since, in never having been educated on the topic, they know little about the science of diet and nutrition (Most Mainstream Doctors Would Fail Nutrition; & “Simply, we were dumb.”). The problem is, as authority figures, few of them will admit their ignorance. And the fact of the matter, most doctors at this point have become simply one more cog in the machine. Most doctors today are employees of large hospitals and clinics, not independent practitioners, and so they aren’t free to do what they want. If they don’t toe the line, they can have their license removed. Doctors, in being key to the system of social control, are also under the thumb of those above them. That is the plight of the 9.9%. Even among the wealthiest Americans, there is an underlying sense of being trapped within the dominant paradigm, though rarely acknowledged, and ideological realism makes it seem inescapable. So, most people just go along to get along.

What this does, though, is make all the problems worse in the long run. It doesn’t only shut down the ability to change but also shuts down the awareness of the need for change, in the way that the 9.9% refuse to acknowledge that they are on the top of a vast hierarchy that leaves most people impoverished, powerless, and disenfranchised. They might be the 9.9% in the United States, but still they are among the tiny fraction of a percentage in terms of global inequality. These are among the richest people in the world, but all they see is the super-rich far above them. It’s hard for this new aristocracy to realize what they are and the role they play. The drugs they overprescribe and the diet they tell their patients to follow, these are integral parts to a system of corporate profit. To challenge that oppressive and harmful system would mean, instead of being a beneficiary of power, making oneself a target of that power (as happened to Tim Noakes, Gary Fettke, Shawn Baker, etc). If only unconsciously, the 9.9% know they are disposable and replaceable.

If that is how the 9.9% is feeling, imagine the impossible situation for the rest of the population. Underemployment has become rampant, affecting nearly half of Americans and, as with so much else, that is probably an undercount because of who is excluded from the data (Alexia Elejalde-Ruiz, Nearly half of U.S. workers consider themselves underemployed, report says). This means that these people and their families are barely making ends meet or, without welfare, they aren’t even able to pay the bills and are forced to skip meals. Consider that the majority of welfare recipients are employed, but minimum wage no longer pays enough to live on in many places, much less enough to try to raise a family with. No one actually knows how many unemployed and homeless there are, as an official full count has never been done. The permanently unemployed, imprisoned, and institutionalized are purposely kept out of the unemployment records. As jobs have become more scarce, teenage employment has gone down as well, but the government doesn’t count that either as part of total unemployment (Teen Unemployment). Combine all forms of unemployment and underemployment, throw in welfare and disability and so much else, and we are talking about the vast majority of the population is largely or entirely out of commission, what some would call “useless eaters” (Alt-Facts of Employment; Worthless Non-Workers; Whose Work Counts? Who Gets Counted?; Conservative Moral Order & the Lazy Unemployed; Invisible Men: Mass Incarceration, Race, & Data; Invisible Problems of Invisible People; On Welfare: Poverty, Unemployment, Health, Etc; When Will the Inevitable Come?; & A Sense of Urgency).

At least a third of the population and growing is now a permanent underclass, in that they inherit poverty as the upper classes inherit their wealth (the data shows that most wealth in the US is inherited, not earned), that is to say we’ve become a caste system. Most of the lower classes, of course, are without higher education (70+% of the population) and, unlike other developed countries, little is being offered in way of job retraining or any other form of useful assistance to better their lives. They are simply being left behind, abandoned by the economy and government — surely, that is how it feels to these people and the injustice of it burns, but more than anything they’ve given up trying or hoping for anything else. This is why we are seeing the return of multi-generational households, for purposes of survival.

Along with the wealth gap, we are falling into another kind of inequality, that of work. There are those who have little, if any, employment and, on the other side, there are those working multiple jobs and long hours. Those doctors, for example, in order to keep their jobs have to be willing to work 16 hour days and 60-80 hour work weeks. That is why there is much drug abuse. It’s just that doctors and other white collar professionals use prescription uppers, instead of meth, but it’s the same difference. The safer and more reliable sources of drugs along with better access to healthcare and drug rehabilitation programs, though, for these wealthier folk means they are less likely to die, as happens in poor communities, from drug overdose and poisoning. A large part of the rising death toll among in certain demographics is partly due to untreated drug use. Poor people are forced to turn to the unregulated black market for their drugs and that is not conducive to health and long life. Whether uppers to help work long hours and hard work or downers to deaden the despair of poverty and hopelessness, the entire American population is turning to ever greater drug use.

Both conditions create stress and failing health, the drug use merely being one of many symptoms of an ailing society (Stress and Shittiness; & The World Around Us). On top of that, quality healthcare is increasingly out of reach for most Americans, that is when they can afford healthcare insurance at all, and without healthcare insurance people simply don’t go to the doctor. Even when it’s a life or death situation, many people won’t call an ambulance because they know that ambulance ride alone will put them into permanent debt that they might never escape: “Not long ago a young boy came into the emergency room at Pemiscot Memorial with a severe asthma attack. His mother didn’t know how to use the inhaler properly. She hesitated before seeking help, and she drove him to the hospital herself rather than pay for an ambulance. The boy died. “To have a kid die of asthma,” Dr. Arshad says, “who’d have thought that could happen in 2017?”” (Sarah Brown & Karin Fischer, A Dying Town). They can’t afford to go on living, and in some cases dying can be more cost than families are able to pay. So, people die at home from preventable health conditions, often dying alone, to save on costs.

Beyond lack of healthcare, the poorest communities also lack clean air and water, with heavy metal toxins in their water pipes, not to mention the paint chipping away in their aging houses and schools, and on top of that it is in these communities that old industrial zones and toxic dumps are located. In areas of the South, the living conditions are equivalent to what used to be called “third world” with open sewage that causes high parasite load, which like lead toxicity contributes to developmental and neurocognitive issues (Lead Toxicity is a Hyperobject). That contributes to even more need for the very healthcare they don’t have. To deal with the worst problems, local and federal government is being forced to pick up the costs in treating the most basic of preventable diseases. In the US, we spend more on healthcare and get less for it, as compared to other Western countries. It’s not only the costs of healthcare but also the costs of increased number of people taking sick days, on disability, and spending their time taking care of sick family members. Furthermore, such things as lead toxicity stunts impulse control and increases aggressive behavior, which translates as higher rates of abuse, bullying, violence, crime, policing, and incarceration (Connecting the Dots of Violence). The diseases of civilization keep on rising and soon will be so costly as to bankrupt our society. Add that to the costs of an entire planet become sick from destroyed ecosystems, housing burned down from wildfires, storms devastating entire coastal areas, people starving and dislocated from droughts and plagues, political unrest, wars over limited resources, and wave after wave of refugees.

The world seems out of control. Sadly, it is the modern ideological system of control that has created the very problem of being out of control and then offers to solve the problem it caused. It just so happens that the rich get richer in selling us their solutions or in being funded by the government to do so. The whole paradigm of control is the problem itself, not the solution. But the system of control keeps us from seeing outside to any other possibility, as it keeps us from seeing how bad inequality, public health, etc has become. We are trapped in Fantasyland mediated by corporate media. We are a well managed population, but disease and climate change doesn’t give a fuck about human ideologies of control. Our ignorance and obliviousness of our situation is not helping us, and in the big scheme of things it isn’t even helping the rich and powerful. But we are addicted to control because the two are inseparable, such that control serves no purpose other than furthering the desire for control or, as William S. Burroughs put it, control is controlled by its need for control. Basically, a system of control is a self-contained reality tunnel. As it gets worse, the imposing of authoritarian control becomes greater. And the more control is asserted, it gets worse still as we spiral out of control.

The data does tell us much: shifting public opinion, rising inequality, declining public health, worsening climate change, and on and on. It offers a dark view of where we are and where we are heading. But all the data in the world can’t really explain anything, can’t offer any deeper insight nor any meaningful response. We didn’t get to this point out of no where, as the cultural underpinnings were put into place over centuries and maybe even millennia. I look at something like the EAT-Lancet report and what stands out is the narrative being told, the framing of perceived reality (Dietary Dictocrats of EAT-Lancet). This is part of what I’ve called corporate veganism. The argument goes that human health, moral order, the environment, etc are out of control and so need to be put back under control. According to the EAT-Lancet report, the ruling elite need to enforce a different diet and food system onto the global population by way of food regulations, taxes, and bans. The public itself needs to be controlled because they are acting badly in eating too much meat that, as claimed, is harming humanity and destroying the world.

This is a particular way of seeing the world. There is a reason why diet has long been understood to be central to culture and social control, since food influences thought and behavior, and so public health has played a key role in moral panic and culture wars, public policy and political action (The Agricultural Mind; “Yes, tea banished the fairies.”; Autism and the Upper Crust; To Be Fat And Have Bread; Diets and Systems; Moral Panic and Physical Degeneration; The Crisis of Identity; The Disease of Nostalgia; & Old Debates Forgotten). Maybe this relates as well to the inequality we see in who gets access to quality healthcare, food, and nutrition. There historically has been a caste or class separation in what people eat and are allowed to eat. Slaves, serfs, and indentured servants typically subsisted on a high-carb diet of cheap grains and root vegetables. Based on Belinda Fettke’s research, I’ve noted that modern “plant-based” rhetoric originates in the Seventh Day Adventist’s agenda to control the sinful nature of humanity, such as advocating high-fiber grains (e.g., cereal) to suppress libido and so lessen the attraction to moral wrongdoing and sexual deviancy such as masturbation that endangers the mortal soul. So, eat your veggies! The Seventh Day Adventists seem to have inherited this dietary ideology from the older cultural strain of thought of Galenic theory of humors that was revived, popularized, and Christianized during the Middle Ages. Social control was essential to maintaining the feudal order and, as red meat was considered invigorating, it was often banned, although fish allowed (maybe explaining the cultural bias of why vegetarians and vegans will sometimes make exception for inclusion of fish in their diets).

Why has Western society been so obsessed with control? This goes back quite far and so is obviously significant. Control is definitely more important as inequality goes up and the social order destabilizes. As a contrast, consider the Mongols contemporaneous with European feudalism. Mongols had low inequality, lacked rigid hierarchy, and apparently required no oppressive social control. Even in organizing a large military, they operated in an organic manner that allowed them to be extremely adaptable to changing conditions on the battlefield without requirement of a strict chain-of-command to tell them what to do in every moment. Europeans, in their rigid minds and rigid social order, couldn’t respond quickly enough and were overwhelmed.

That is an old conflict, farmers vs herders, Cain vs Abel; and this was made part of the American mythos with the Wild West narrative where clod-hoppers and businessmen clashed with open-range ranchers and cowboys. This same basic contest of ideological and cultural worldviews echoes in the present public debate over a plant-based diets and animal-based diets where one side must win and dominate, but interestingly it is primarily the plant-based advocates who are interested in this public debate and so it’s a bit one-sided. Meat-eaters don’t tend to be opposed to plant foods in the way that vegetarians and vegans hold such strong opinions about meat. And so the meat-eaters are less interested in enforcing dietary control on the other side. Maybe there is something about the two diets that feeds into different mentalities and attitudes about control. Related to this, maybe this explains the coinciding rise of inequality and the high-carb, plant-based diet based on the big ag and big food. Industrial agriculture and the modern food system is all about enforcing control on nature to ensure high yields in order to make cheap, shelf-stable, and highly profitable food products. This has brought inequality into farming itself where the small family farm and small farming community has almost entirely disappeared.

Yet it is this modern economy of industrialization and neoliberalism, plutocracy and inequality that has caused so many of the problems. We wouldn’t need to control nature, from big ag to climate change measures, if we hadn’t done so much damage to the environment in the first place, if we hadn’t gotten so far out of balance in creating an unsustainable society. Everything feels precarious because we’ve collectively taken actions that create instability, something that in the past was openly and proudly embraced as creative destruction. But now everything feels out of control with creative destruction threatening to become plain destruction. Climate change causes catastrophes and that sends waves of refugees around the world. Those refugees are dangerous and so must be controlled. Whether it’s building a wall to keep people out or enforcing a vegan diet to keep people in line, it’s the same desperate demand for control. And the demand for control comes from up high with the dirty masses, foreign and domestic, as the target of control. But the only way the ruling elite can control society is by controlling the public mind. And likewise any revolution of society would mean revolution of the mind, the ultimate threat to a system of control. That is what some of the American founders understood. The revolution of the mind came first and prepared the way. I’d add that it came from the bottom up. Decades of social unrest, populist riots, and organized revolts preceded the American Revolution. To go further back, there had been uprisings since the early colonial period in the British colonies.

Here is the issue. We know changes were happening in the colonies. But why were they happening? And despite Thomas Paine’s attempts to inspire his fellow Englishmen, why did revolution fail to take hold back in England? Maybe that is where diet and food systems come in. What changed before both society and mind was a change in diet. In the colonies, some of the most common foods were fish, meat, lard, and butter (Nina Teicholz points this out, as quoted in Malnourished Americans); whereas back in England, the poor, when they weren’t starving, were eating an impoverished and urbanized version of a peasant’s diet with few nutrient-dense animal foods. It’s a rather simple dynamic. Unlike the English poor, the colonists were healthy, tall, and strong. Also, their food system was independent as they were surrounded by an abundance of wild game. From a Galenic viewpoint, it’s maybe relevant that the colonists were eating a lot of red meat, the very thing the old order of the ancien regime feared. Red meat was sometimes specifically banned before Carnival for fear that riots might develop into revolts. They genuinely thought red meat had this power over collective behavior and maybe they were right. As long as we modern Americans remain under the control of a high-carb, plant-based diet, we might never be able to achieve a revolution of mind and so no any other kind of revolution could follow from it. If we are hoping for radical change toward a free society, we’ll first have to have a dietary revolution and regain autonomy of our own food sources. As with the American Revolution, this will be a fight against the imperialism that has colonized our minds and lives and the transnational corporations that seek to dominate our society.

The American Revolutionaries had to create a new identity as a public. We’ll have to do something similar in coming to realize we the public are a moral majority, a progressive majority. That means changing the most basic structures of our lives that shape and influence who we are. Political change will be an effect of that, not a cause. There are many possible leverages, but maybe we’ve been overlooking one of the most powerful, that of diet and food systems. A nutrient-dense(and bioavailable), animal-based, and largely ketogenic diet sourced in local regenerative farming could be revolutionary with repercussions we cannot as yet imagine. Once there has been a shift in neurocognition and consciousness, then and only then can we begin to open up some space for radical imagination. Following that, we can do the hard work of working out the details, the same challenge the American colonists were faced with once their own mentality had started to shift in a new direction. But first things first. Changing diet is a far easier thing to accomplish and will make all the rest easier as well. Until we regain our birthright of physical and mental health, we will go on struggling as a society and find ourselves without the strength to fight back with determination. To have a revolution of the mind, we will have to nourish our brains and bodies. In the coming era of crises, we are going to need all of our human potential out on the table.

Who Are the American Religious?

I was looking at polling data for the religious. Just minor curiosity, on this Sunday morning.

Like the rest of the population, the overall US trend is toward progressivism and liberalism (I wonder what the trend is in other countries and across the world). One poll from Beliefnet was done in 2008.

Beliefnet Poll: Evangelicals Still Conservative, But Defy Issue Stereotypes

It’s probably a little out of date, as the results of demographic shifts are quickly changing and becoming more apparent. In the intervening years, progressives have increased among Evangelicals, although many others have left Evangelicalism. More broadly, religious progressives now outnumber religious conservatives.

Anyway, what interested me was the following section from the above link:

“In some ways, the survey reveals evangelicals to be quite conservative: 41-percent said they were Republican compared to 30-percent who were Democrats; 47-percent said they were conservative versus 14-percent who said they were liberal. Almost 80-percent said they attended church weekly or more than weekly and 84% said the Bible is the “inerrant word of God.”

“Generally speaking, however, evangelicals ranked traditionally progressive or Democratic causes as more important than traditionally conservative or Republican ones. Twenty three percent said their views had become less positive about Republicans, twice the number who said they’d soured on Democrats, though half of respondents said they had become less positive about both parties. Almost 60-percent said they favored a more progressive evangelical agenda focused more on protecting the environment, tackling HIV/AIDs, and alleviating poverty and less on abortion and homosexuality.”

That mirrors the same confusion of labeling confusion as found in the general population. This weird phenomenon creates problems in interpretation. It is rare to see the self-identification data clearly compared and contrasted with public opinion data.

Still, this is far from an unknown social reality, as far as it concerns academic researchers.

Political Ideology: Its Structure, Functions, and Elective Affinities
by John T. Jost, Christopher M. Federico, & Jaime L. Napier

“Since the time of the pioneering work of Free & Cantril (1967), scholars of public opinion have distinguished between symbolic and operational aspects of political ideology (Page & Shapiro 1992, Stimson 2004). According to this terminology, “symbolic” refers to general, abstract ideological labels, images, and categories, including acts of self-identification with the left or right. “Operational” ideology, by contrast, refers to more specific, concrete, issue-based opinions that may also be classified by observers as either left or right. Although this distinction may seem purely academic, evidence suggests that symbolic and operational forms of ideology do not coincide for many citizens of mass democracies. For example, Free & Cantril (1967) observed that many Americans were simultaneously “philosophical conservatives” and “operational liberals,” opposing “big government” in the abstract but supporting the individual programs comprising the New Deal welfare and regulatory state. More recent studies have obtained impressively similar results; Stimson (2004) found that more than two-thirds of American respondents who identify as symbolic conservatives are operational liberals with respect to the issues (see also Page & Shapiro 1992, Zaller 1992). However, rather than demonstrating that ideological belief systems are multidimensional in the sense of being irreducible to a single left-right continuum, these results indicate that, in the United States at least, leftist/liberal ideas are more popular when they are manifested in specific, concrete policy solutions than when they are offered as ideological abstractions. The notion that most people like to think of themselves as conservative despite the fact that they hold a number of liberal opinions on specific issues is broadly consistent with system-justification theory, which suggests that most people are motivated to look favorably upon the status quo in general and to reject major challenges to it (Jost et al. 2004a).”

It interested me to see this same type of thing in the religious polling. But it isn’t surprising. Confusion abounds, especially when it comes to politics on the left.

By the way, the following are links to some of the data on changes in the religious demographic(s), especially among the younger generations. I’ve seen much of this data over the years. There is a shift that has been happening for a long time. It’s nothing new, but it’s good to keep in mind.

Survey | Generations at Odds: The Millennial Generation and the Future of Gay and Lesbian Rights
by PRRI

Young Evangelicals in the 2012 Elections
by Sojourners

Are Millennials Killing Off the Religious Right?
by Amanda Marcotte

More than half of evangelicals oppose cutting government funds for poor, survey shows
by Electa Draper

Survey shows diversity in political opinion among mainline Protestant clergy
by Mary Frances Schjonberg

Evangelicals Are Changing Their Minds on Gay Marriage
And the Bible isn’t getting in their way.
by Jim Hinch

Young U.S. Catholics overwhelmingly accepting of homosexuality
by Michael Lipka

Millennial Christians Are More Socially Progressive Than You Might Expect, Shattering Some Conservative Stereotypes
by Emma Cueto

Why Pope Francis is Polling The World’s Catholics
by Jack Jenkins

If Vatican conservatives are so afraid of gay rights, young Catholics aren’t going to wait around
by Zach Stafford

Young Christians Are Fleeing Evangelicalism—And Here’s Why
by Eleanor J. Bader

Politico: Catholic Republicans Have a Pope Problem
by Courtney Coren

Poll: Americans Prefer Gay President To Evangelical Christian
by Alan

How evangelicals won a war and lost a generation
by CNN

 

Widening the Field of Debate

In my life, I’ve known about as many people on the far left as on the far right. A comparison came to mind. This comparison is based on my personal experiences and so take it for what it is worth.

The most thorough critics of our society that I’ve met tend to be on the far left. Why might that be the case?

I suspect this relates to the outsider status that those on the far left have in American society. Unlike on the far right, far left positions aren’t particularly respectable or even always allowable in mainstream American society. The average American rarely, if ever, hears any left-wing perspective about anything. It is as if the left-wing perspective doesn’t exist, except as a Cold War spectre (although I also suspect this may be changing, however slowly).

All the time, right-libertarians and fundamentalists are seen in the MSM, as regular guests and sometimes even with their own shows. There have even been some genuinely extremist religious leaders on the right who have had the ears and personal phone numbers of major political figures, including presidents. Yet it is rare to come across Marxists, socialists, and anarchists anywere on the mainstream, whether media or politics. Could you imagine how shocking it would be to turn on the tv and see, on a primetime network news show, a panel of left-wingers discussing a presidential election debate where one of the candidates was as left-wing as is Ron Paul right-wing? In the US, liberals are the symbolic representatives of the entire left and, in most cases, they make sorry representatives at that.

Besides socialists and Marxists, there also have always been left-libertarians and many progressive evangelicals in the US, but you don’t even see them much in the mainstream. Most American libertarians I’ve met don’t even know that left-libertarians exist or know the origins of libertarianism itself. Likewise, most religious people on the right seem to assume that they have sole proprietorship of religion, especially evangelicalism, and are clueless about the large and growing religious left. Among the young generation, there are more progressive than conservative evangelicals (and the same is true for young Christians in general).

Furthermore, as a label, socialism is gaining majority of favorability among the young and certain minority groups, and still you don’t hear much about this in the mainstream. The Milwaukee sewer socialists were once highly praised in this country and yet today they are forgotten. Why is that?

None of this inspires politicians and pundits, reporters and journallists to take any of these views seriously.

Every newspaper has a business section where one regular comes across libertarian and other right-wing views. It used to be common for newspapers to also have labor sections, even including left-wing opinions and analyses, but not these days. Where in American society, besides the alternative media, is the far left supposed to be regularly heard? Why don’t they have a place at the table, even if only a voice to offer balance?

The left-winger’s outsider status probably radicalizes them more than otherwise might be the case. Because they are excluded from the system, they have less invested in the system and so are in a position to be the most critical.

This is why I argue that liberals need left-wingers. We liberals need them to keep us honest and keep us focused on what matters. Mainstream liberalism not unusually fails for a similar reason that equally applies to much of the right, a resistance to fully and radically challenge the status quo, the established order. From progressive to libertarian, from Democrat to Republican, they all are simply varieties of ‘liberals’ in the broad sense and all of them grounded in the classical libreralism, the Enlightenment Project that is the inspiration and foundation of American society.

Left-wingers aren’t entirely outside of the liberal order. In this post-Enlightenment age, no one entirely escapes the touch and taint of ‘liberalism’. But many left-wingers are definitely further than most people from the center of the American ‘liberal’ order. It is only on the far left that you find people genuinely struggling (beyond mere reaction) for a path beyond this ‘liberal’ era and hence beyond the mainstream debate that remains constrained within th narrow political spectrum.

I say this as a liberal, atypical but still more or less liberal in the mainstream sense. As a liberal, I find it surprising that I’m usually more radically critical than are many libertarians on the right. I see the problems within the liberal order, both in terms of progressivism and capitalism. I see these problems as someone who is part of this liberal order and hopes the best for it, but my vision has been made clear by listening to the views of those standing further out. I’m giving credit where it’s due.

Those on the left often know more about those on the right than vice versa. This as true as for politics and economics as it is for religion and science. I’ve noted this in my debates about genetics with hereditarians, specifically race realist HBDers. Many on the right think they are outsiders, that they are being excluded and no one is paying them the attention they deserve, but in my experience those on the left (especially the far left) pay them lots of attention — it’s just that those on the right are too oblivious of that attention, having the insider privilege to be oblivious to those truly on the outside. These right-winger’s views aren’t as challenging to the status quo as they’d like to think, often just a reactionary position that attempts to shift the status quo backwards slightly.

Right-wingers are more invested in the system. Like liberals, most want reform, not revolution. They are basically content with the established order.

Right-libertarians claim they’d like a smaller federal government that regulates capitalism less, but very few of them want to fundamentally change either the federal system or the capitalist system that is at the heart of our present social order and its attendant problems. Fundamentalists complain that religion should play a bigger role, but they tend to see this as simply as a process of putting the religious right into positions of power within the present system.

Except for the extreme fringe of anarcho-capitalists and Randian Objectivists, those on the right don’t seem willing to be so radical as to be a genuine threat to the social order. It requires a radical mindset to follow one’s principles to their fullest expression and furthest endpoint, a mindset that most liberals and most right-libertarians lack.

Why is it common to hear right-libertarians attacking big gov while defending big biz? And why isn’t it common for left-libertarians to do the opposite, attack big biz while defending big gov? Why do so many left-libertarians seem more consistently principled in criticizing all threats to liberty, political and economic? Why are left-libertarians more concerned than right-libertarians about all forms of concentrated wealth, centralized power, and hierarchical authority?

I hear conservatives and right-libertarians constantly talk about free markets. But if you question them, most have never given it much deep thought. Their views are mostly based on political rhetoric and talking points. They are repeating what they’ve heard, instead of thinking for themselves. It never occurs to them that even most people who disagree with them also want free markets. It never occurs to them to consider what freedom actually might mean or should mean. I’m almost shocked by how many right-libertarians take a globalized economic system as being a free market, despite all the social oppression and military force involved in maintaining it. What is libertarian about that? In a principled sense, it is the complete opposite of any meaningful sense of liberty.

The harshest critics on the right are those that even the right doesn’t pay much attention to. That is particularly true for the anarcho-capitalists. They at least have the balls to take free market theory as far as it can be taken. When an anarcho-capitalist speaks of free markets, they are touching upon the fundamentally radical essence to the freedom part of that equation.

I’d like to see more radical thought in general. It is what we need right now and I suspect people are becoming more open to it. I do want a far left to keep  liberals on their toes. For the same reason, I want a far right to keep conservatives (and other moderate/mainstream right-wingers) on their toes as well. Widening the field of debate at both ends will lead to more vibrant debate in between the extremes.

 

Most Oppose Cutting Social Security (data)

There is class warfare. The rich have declared class warfare on the middle class. They want to take your money. They’ve already spent it on tax cuts for the rich. They took that 2.5 trillion dollar surplus and already gave it to the rich and the defense contractors and the bankers and the bailouts, etc, etc. They already gave it away, and now they don’t want to give it back… even though they owe it to you.

Now, you’re going to sit there and take that.  Don’t worry. Why don’t we elect a president that campaigned on change so that we don’t have to take it? Oh right. We already did that… and he’s got a deficit commission with 14 out of 18 people who are fiscal conservatives looking to cut social security. And you wonder why the American people get discouraged with politics.

If Obama were a progressive or a liberal, he wouldn’t even think about touching social security. If he doesn’t want to be criticized by the professional left (and by the average American for that matter), he shouldn’t have a commission with fiscal conservatives to discuss how to go about robbing average Americans of the benefits they’ve already paid for.

Doesn’t Obama understand that Social Security is one of the most popular progressive accomplishments ever to be passed? It is, certainly, a far greater accomplishment than Obama’s health insurance bill which excluded the majority support for such things as public option. Even Republicans used to understand what now even most Democrats in Washington have apparently forgotten. As Esenhower explained it:

…the Federal government cannot avoid or escape responsibilities which the mass of the people firmly believe should be undertaken by it. The political processes of our country are such that if a rule of reason is not applied in this effort, we will lose everything–even to a possible and drastic change in the Constitution. This is what I mean by my constant insistence upon “moderation” in government. Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things. Among them are H. L. Hunt (you possibly know his background), a few other Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or business man from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid.

Is Obama really so clueless, so out of touch with the American people to believe that the criticisms of the ‘professional left’ aren’t shared by many Americans across the political spectrum. The American people are a lot more liberal and progressive than they are given credit for.

See my post which shows the overwhelming evidence:

US Demographics & Increasing Progressivism

And here is the article where the poll was first written about:

Public Opposes Cutting Social Security To Trim Deficit: New Poll

…according to a new survey paid for by AARP and conducted by GfK Roper […] finds that 85 percent of adults oppose cutting Social Security to reduce the deficit; 72 percent “strongly oppose” doing so.

Numbers like that simply don’t appear in surveys of almost any other national issue that is subject to debate.

In fact, the AARP survey turns conventional wisdom about taxes on its head: half of all non-retired adults said that they would be willing to pay higher payroll taxes to ensure that Social Security will be there for them; 57 percent of adults under 50 would be willing to pay such a tax.

…The survey found that support for the program is intense even among those who said they aren’t confident that it will survive — a reasonable conclusion, given the hysteria and deception involved in the debate.

The anti-Social Security propaganda is having an effect, the poll found: Only 21 percent of respondents knew that if the trust fund is exhausted, the program will still be able to pay out benefits at a slightly reduced level.

See the poll data at the following link:

Social Security 75th Anniversary Survey Report: Public Opinion Trends

 – – – 

Since I posted the above, the debate about social security continues and the threats to it are increasing. That was just one poll from a year ago. I figured I should add some additional polling data and commentary. I came across a single page that appears to present all the polling data done in recent years:

PollingReport.com – Social Security 

Social Security has always been and continues to be widely and strongly supported, but Americans aren’t unreasonable. They are willing to compromise, although agreement about compromises are hard to find.

Hawkeye Poll: Majority of Americans supports Social Security reform

Nearly nine out of 10 respondents supported at least one reform, and two-thirds supported at least two reforms.

Of the five possible reforms proposed, two received majority support: half supported increasing the retirement age by up to three years, and 55 percent supported raising the income ceiling on Social Security taxes. Nearly half (48 percent) supported increasing the payroll tax by 2 percent.

Some proposed reforms would be much less popular, according to the poll. Seventy-eight percent opposed a decrease in benefits, and 60 percent opposed decreasing the cost-of-living adjustment.

The poll revealed important differences across generations, and across parties.

Nearly 60 percent of Democrats and half of Independents support increasing the payroll tax, but 68 percent of Republicans oppose such an increase. A majority of Democrats (66 percent) and Independents (60 percent) also support raising the income limit on Social Security taxes, but only 40 percent of Republicans would like to see that happen. In contrast, 64 percent of Republicans support increasing the retirement age while many Democrats (48 percent) and Independents (47 percent) oppose this option.

Younger Americans were more supportive of increasing payroll taxes. That option was supported by 53 percent of people ages 18 to 34 and 57 percent of those 35 to 54. Only 30 percent of respondents in the 55 to 69 age range and 33 percent of those older than 70 support such a move.

Older respondents were more supportive of raising the retirement age. Fifty-eight percent of people 70 or older and 50 percent of those ages 55 to 69 supported a three-year increase in the retirement age. But only 42 percent of 35- to 54-year-olds and 40 percent of 18- to 34-year-olds support that option.

Americans would rather put the burden on the rich (than on the poor and elderly) and cut almost anything else before they’d go along with letting politicians take an axe to Social Security.

2010 Midterm Election Voters Reject Cuts to Social Security

5: Which of the following statements do you agree with more: To reduce the federal budget deficit… Congress should let the tax cuts for the wealthy expire as planned? Congress should cut Social Security benefits? Or, do you agree with neither?

1030 Election-2008 Voters All Gender Party
Margin of Sampling Error: ± 3.1% Male Female Republican Democrat Independ
Let The Tax Cuts For The Wealthy Expire 40% 38% 42% 17% 61% 40%
Cut Social Security Benefits 4% 6% 3% 6% 2% 4%
Neither 56% 57% 56% 78% 37% 56%
Composition of Election-2008 Voters 100% 49% 51% 29% 32% 39%

6: Which of these statements best describes your views on Social Security: Congress should make up for possible budget gaps by cutting Social Security benefits? Congress should make up for possible budget gaps by changing the social security tax to also apply to income above $108,000, which currently is not taxed by Social Security? Or, Congress should not make any changes to Social Security?

1030 Election-2008 Voters All Gender Party
Margin of Sampling Error: ± 3.1% Male Female Republican Democrat Independ
Cutting Social Security Benefits 4% 4% 3% 5% 1% 5%
Changing The Social Security Tax 55% 58% 52% 44% 59% 59%
Not Make Any Changes 31% 28% 33% 40% 28% 26%
Not Sure 11% 10% 11% 12% 11% 9%
Composition of Election-2008 Voters 100% 49% 51% 29% 32% 39%

7: OK, which of THESE statements best describes your views on Social Security: Congress should make up for possible budget gaps by raising the Social Security retirement age? Congress should make up for possible budget gaps by changing the social security tax to also apply to income above $108,000, which currently is not taxed by Social Security? Or, Congress should not make any changes to Social Security?

1030 Election-2008 Voters All Gender Party
Margin of Sampling Error: ± 3.1% Male Female Republican Democrat Independ
Raising Retirement Age 13% 14% 11% 18% 7% 14%
Changing The Social Security Tax 54% 56% 53% 40% 60% 60%
Not Make Any Changes 25% 23% 27% 33% 23% 21%
Not Sure 8% 7% 9% 9% 11% 5%
Composition of Election-2008 Voters 100% 49% 51% 29% 32% 39%

The problems Republicans face are: (1) most Americans would rather not make changes unless there are no other options; (2) most Americans don’t agree on which changes would be best; and (3) most Americans (particularly Democrats & Independents but also including Republicans & Tea Partiers) are more in agreement with most liberal positions on this issue than they are with what has been presented by the GOP. There is much more public support in making no changes than there is public agreement on which changes should be made if it comes to that. Republican leaders, in terms of the American people, can’t win for losing. But somehow, despite everything being in their favor, Democrat leaders keep bending over backwards to agree with the unpopular position of Republicans.

Poll: Cut Social Security benefits or raise payroll cap? Not even close

Public Policy Polling for Daily Kos. 1/20-23. Registered voters. MoE 3.1% (No trend lines)

Currently, workers pay social security payroll taxes on up to $106,800 of their salary. To ensure the long-term viability of Social Security, would you rather have people pay social security taxes on salaries above $106,800, or would you rather see benefits cut and the retirement age increased to age 69?

           Raise
payroll cap   Cut benefits

All         77            10

Dem         84             4
GOP         69            17
Ind         77            11

Tea Party   67            20

18-29       80             0
30-45       69            17
46-65       82             8
65+         75            13

$0-30K      79             5
$30-50K     75            11
$50-75K     79             7
$75-100K    78            13
$100K+      72            18

The numbers above are stark. The largest proponents of cutting benefits are the Tea Party folks, and just 20 percent of them opt for the austerity solution. Even among those most affected — people making over $100,000 per year — only 18 percent opt for benefits cuts rather than raising the payroll tax cap. And for those least affected — the youngest cohort — the poll couldn’t pick up any support for cutting benefits.

Yet outside of the punditry, the DC political class, and a tiny fringe, no one wants benefits cuts.

Democrats could be scoring mad political points by going on the offensive, vowing to defend Social Security against all enemies, and fighting to equalize the program’s tax burden. (I wouldn’t just raise the cap on payroll taxes entirely, but I’d also use the increased revenues to lower payroll taxes on the low and middle classes and/or lower the retirement age.)

But no, raising the cap is off limits, and the entire political establishment is focused on delivering more pain to seniors.

There’s no better illustration of how DC is broken than this.

National Academy of Social Insurance

…a new brief and recent poll show that support for strengthening Social Security is strong across racial and cultural groups. The brief, Tough Times Require Strong Social Security Benefits (PDF), released today by the National Academy of Social Insurance (NASI), presents detailed views on Social Security among African Americans, Hispanic Americans, and White Americans.

Current economic hardships brought on by instability in U.S. financial markets have reinforced Americans’ belief in the importance of Social Security. Anxious about their economic security and prospects for retirement, large majorities of Americans (88%) say that Social Security is more important than ever. Although Social Security enjoys support from a majority of Americans, African Americans and Hispanics (91%) are more likely than whites (77%) to say that we have an obligation to provide a secure retirement for all working Americans.

Plagued by higher unemployment rates, fewer assets, and worries about paying their monthly bills, African Americans and Hispanics are especially supportive of strengthening Social Security, according to the brief (PDF). For example, when given a choice between cutting taxes and government spending or strengthening Social Security in response to the economic crisis and large deficit, two in three Americans (66%) – including 73 percent of African Americans, 67 percent of Hispanics, and 66 percent of whites – support strengthening Social Security over cutting its benefits.

“Although African Americans and Hispanics, who are more heavily reliant on Social Security benefits, express stronger support than whites in most areas,” said Maya Rockeymoore, CEO of Global Policy Solutions and co-author of the brief (PDF), “these findings show that Americans of all colors firmly believe in Social Security’s value to society and want government leaders to take action to keep the program vibrant for future generations.”

Americans are also willing to pay to keep Social Security in existence for future generations. More than three in four Americans (76%) and an even greater proportion of African Americans (86%) and Hispanics (85%), don’t mind paying Social Security taxes because otherwise they would have to support their family members in their retirement. Similarly, 90% of African Americans, 90 percent of Hispanics, and 86 percent of whites agree that Social Security’s societal benefits are worth the cost.

Further polling data and commentary:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/politics/polls/postpoll_03142011.html

http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/abc-newswashington-post-poll-cut/story?id=13153578

http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0311/51476.html

http://prospect.org/cs/articles?article=ignoring_public_opinion_on_social_security#

http://msnbcmedia.msn.com/i/MSNBC/Sections/NEWS/A_Politics/___Politics_Today_Stories_Teases/11023%20Jan%20NBC-WSJ%20Filled%20in%20beta.pdf

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/41876558/ns/politics/

http://blogs.wsj.com/washwire/2011/03/02/wsjnbc-poll-hands-off-medicare-social-security/

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704728004576176741120691736.html

http://www.peoplesworld.org/new-poll-americans-disagree-with-republicans-on-social-security-medicare/

http://socialsecurity-works.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/SSSCHighlightsofElectionPollonSocialSecurity.pdf

http://elections.firedoglake.com/2010/11/19/toxic-shock-poll-confirms-social-security-cuts-are-still-political-third-rail/

http://www.rockefellerfoundation.org/news/publications/economic-crisis-fuels-support-social

http://www.ourfuture.org/report/2010083211/deficits-and-economic-recovery

Warmongering Politicians & Progressive Public

Here are two recent videos from The Young Turks. I thought they went together well.

Note: Sources for the polling data include Pew Research Center, Gallup, and several other respected groups.

Non-Partisan Polling Data 1:
http://www.ourfuture.org/files/Center-Left-Nation.pdf

Non-Partisan Polling Data 2:
http://cloudfront.mediamatters.org/static/pdf/progressive_majority.pdf

See my previous posts:
US Demographics & Increasing Progressivism
America: Conservative & Progressive

Shooting in a Unitarian Universalist Church

Shooting in a Unitarian Universalist Church

Posted on Jul 27th, 2008 by Marmalade : Gaia Explorer Marmalade
 
This past Sunday, a man entered a Unitarian Universalist Church in Tennessee and opened fire.  Here is the Associated Press article.  The gunman made the attack probably because UU Churches are very socially progressive.  This is a sad situation, but that isn’t the reason I wanted to blog about it. 

I’ve been a member of a UU Church and I’m proud of how this congregation responded.  Because of their quick response in tackling the gunman, only two people died.  Witnesses say that the first person died in blocking the shotgun blast from hitting other congregants.  The gunman had many shotgun casings on him and there were around 200 people in the church.  He obviously intended a mass killing.  Many people could have died if they hadn’t stopped him after only a few shots.

So often people respond to violence with fear or passivity, but not these people.  UU attracts people who are very pro-active in trying to make the world a better place.  The actions of the congregants seems very representative of the UU attitude towards injustice. 

Over the years, I’ve heard of many shootings described in the news, but it seems rare that the people being attacked respond so quickly.  I’m proud of these people because they refused to act as victims.

Access_public Access: Public 3 Comments Print Post this!views (233)  

Nicole : wakingdreamer

about 8 hours later

Nicole said

that’s beautiful! very inspiring… thank you

Marmalade : Gaia Child

about 14 hours later

Marmalade said

yes it is

1Vector3 : "Relentless Wisdom"

about 19 hours later

1Vector3 said

Difficulty and danger bring out the best in some folks, and the worst in others. It is good to remember and affirm the former. It will help see us through.

Thanks for the blog !

Blessings, OM Bastet

Conservatives Fear the Progressive Uprising

I noticed these two posts:

http://michiganredneck.wordpress.com/2009/04/14/who-were-the-progressives-and-why-are-they-important/

http://newsrealblog.wordpress.com/2009/11/24/oh-those-progressives/

And here is my response:

No matter what you think of Progressives, there is no doubt in my mind that they’ll be playing a big role soon. Several pieces of data have caught my attention this past year.

Supposedly most Americans identify as conservative, but according to one survey public opinion on many issues has become fairly progressive. What this would seem to mean is that the very meaning of the ‘conservative’ label is changing.

Tea Party protesters represent 13% of the population and they represent some of the most rightwing people of the Republican party, but many of them have left the Republican party or become critical of it. So, this seems to imply that moderates in the Republican party now represent a larger ratio than they did in the past. With a relatively liberal Democrat as president, the political spectrum could become skewed so that many moderate ‘liberals’ might identify as ‘conservative’.

If you look at the youngest generation, they’re the most progressive generation seen in a long while. Also, they’re the largest generation seen in all of US history. One pertinent detail is that the younger generation has a very positive view of big government… but interestingly also very much in favor of big business just as long as it’s regulated.

I don’t know what all of this means, but the culture wars seem to be losing steam. I was thinking that Glenn Beck’s criticizing social justice Christians might be a sign that social justice is regaining popularity within Christianity. Earlier last century, it was Christianity that led the social justice populist movements.

One further point is that white fundamentalists are a shrinking demographic. Religious ‘nones’ (atheists, agnostics, & non-religious spiritual types) are quickly increasing in numbers. And, in schools, white kids are already the minority. Immigration increased massively in the past decade or so which has led to much mixing of cultures and an increase in interracial dating/marriage.

I’m curious to see how this will play out. Those involved in the Tea Party movement will of course fight this. The fundamentalists in Texas have been fighting it for some time with their trying to make school textbooks more conservative-friendly. But on certain issues it looks like a losing battle. More and more states are considering legalizing marijuana and gay marriage. I’m sure that political partisanship is going to become even more extreme.

America: Conservative & Progressive

I’ve noticed two pieces of data. Supposedly most Americans identify as conservative. The problem is that self-identified labels are very vague with many meanings. Demographics show that public opinion has become rather progressive.

Looking at US history, political labels are constantly changing meaning. Conservative at one time meant something along the lines of libertarianism or other similar ideologies. With the Southern Strategy, conservative became identified with “white culture” and the culture wars in general. This transitioned into neocon policies of being tough on crime along with being supportive of big military and big business. Now, conservative is regaining some populist connotations, but in America populism has always been connected with working class liberalism/progressivism/socialism.

To focus just on the younger generation, a clear future can be seen. They’re overall very liberal and progressive, but I think they might identify as more conservative/moderate than Boomers. I’m not sure though.

What I’m thinking is that we’re in the middle of an ideological shift in public opinion. In the last half of the 20th century, the entire political spectrum was shifting to the right. What that created was a rightwing corporatist government. Maybe in the first of the 21st century the entire political spectrum will be shifting back to the left again.

The one thing that seems very clear to me is that the culture wars as we knew them are over. Glenn Beck’s ranting against social justice Christians is proof that Christians themselves are becoming more interested in social justice.

People like Beck and Palin have helped to divide the conservative movement which has forced the extreme rightwingers into their own separate Tea Party. Some in the Tea Party would like to take over the GOP and make it even more rightwing, but I don’t think they’ll be successful. Instead, I think that Republican politicians will realize that they have to cater to a new base which isn’t exclusive to the shrinking demographic of white fundamentalists.

The GOP might become more moderate which means Democrats might become more strong in their opinions. This could explain why a nearly century old fight for universal healthcare has finally led to a bill being passed. Progressivism is returning. This fits the vision the younger generation has of government.

US Demographics & Increasing Progressivism

“America is conservative in fundamental principles…
But the principles conserved are liberal
and some, indeed, are radical.”
 ~ Gunnar Myrdal

“Conservatism is the blind and fear-filled worship of dead radicals”
~ Mark Twain

 – – –

There are many polls that show most Americans self-identify with the label of ‘conservative’. I’ll first show you the self-identification data before I share other data which undermines the simplistic interpretation of America being a conservative nation.

But it should be pointed out here at the start that ‘conservative’ and ‘liberal’ are relative terms that exist on a spectrum. So-called ‘conservatives’ from earlier last century (such as Eisenhower) were in many fundamental ways more progressively ‘liberal’ than many so-called liberal politicians today (such as Obama), a topic that gets analyzed in another post of mine (Back to Our Future: David Sirota on the 80s). And what gets called ‘conservative’ nowadays is more radical than it is traditional. As I’ve pointed out elsewhere: What gets called fiscal conservatism doesn’t seem very conservative. The meaning of conservative is to conserve, to maintain social order, to uphold institutions of authority, to resist radical change. Accordingly, what Americans call fiscal conservatism seems radically liberal in essence. Conservatives of the more traditional bent clearly are not the base of the Republican Party. Some have argued that America doesn’t have a truly conservative tradition. In The Liberal Tradition in America, Louis Hartz wrote:

But how then are we to describe these baffling Americans? Were they rationalists or were they traditionalists? The truth is, they were neither, which is perhaps another way of saying that they were both. [ . . . ] the past became a continuous future, and the God of the traditionalists sanctioned the very arrogance of the men who defied Him. [ . . . ] one of the enduring secrets of the American character: a capacity to combine rock-ribbed traditionalism with high inventiveness, ancestor worship with ardent optimism. Most critics have seized upon one or the other of these aspects of the American mind, finding it impossible to conceive how both can go together. That is why the insight of Gunnar Myrdal is a very distinguished one when he writes: “America is … conservative… . But the principles conserved are liberal and some, indeed, are radical.” Radicalism and conservatism have been twisted entirely out of shape by the liberal flow of American history. [ . . . ]  The ironic flaw in American liberalism lies in the fact that we have never had a real conservative tradition.

The contest of ideologies in American society hasn’t been between traditional conservatism and radical liberalism. Rather, it’s been a contest between John Locke’s self-oriented liberalism and Thomas Paine’s social-oriented liberalism, the former often defending class divisions (in defense of the ownership rights of the ownership class) and the latter challenging them.

Anyway, here is the data which many use to confirm their belief about America’s inherent conservatism. 

In 2010, Conservatives Still Outnumber Moderates, Liberals

 Political Ideology -- 2010 Half-Year Update (1992-2010 Trend)

Liberal-Conservative Self-Identification 1972-2008

  ’72 ’74 ’76 ’78 ’80 ’82 ’84 ’86 ’88 ’90 ’92 ’94 ’96 ’98 ’00 ’02 ’04 ’08
Extremely Liberal 1 2 1 2 2 1 2 1 2 1 2 1 1 2 2 2 2 3
Liberal 7 11 7 8 6 6 7 6 6 7 8 6 7 7 9 12 9 10
Slightly Liberal 10 8 8 10 9 8 9 11 9 8 10 7 10 9 9 9 8 9
Moderate, Middle of Road 27 26 25 27 20 22 23 28 22 24 23 26 24 28 23 22 25 22
Slightly Conservative 15 12 12 14 13 13 14 15 15 14 15 14 15 15 12 10 12 12
Conservative 10 12 11 11 13 12 13 13 14 10 13 19 15 13 15 21 16 17
Extremely Conservative 1 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 3 2 3 3 3 2 3 4 3 3
DK, Haven’t Thought 28 27 33 27 36 36 30 25 30 33 27 24 25 23 27 22 25 25
  















PERCENTAGE WITHIN STUDY YEAR
Table 3.1
Source: The American National Election Studies
Link to the ASCII text version of this table   

This data makes conservatives think their beliefs and policies are the norm of American society (that they are the ‘Real Americans’) and that therefore liberals are radicals who don’t understand what America stands for. Similarly, conservatives make the allegation that the mainstream media is ‘liberal’, implying that liberals are elitists who are out of touch with the average American. The liberal media allegation is particularly ironic considering that it’s the mainstream media that has failed in challenging the false claim of a conservative majority and failed to report on all of the polling data that disproves this false claim. 

Dispelling the Myth of Conservative America
By Shahdabul Faraz

As expected, Republicans have used these poll results to assert that the American people are, and always will be, unfriendly towards liberal ideology. This is, however, a blatant lie. 

In reality, the country is solidly center-left on the political spectrum. While this does directly contradict the above poll results, one must understand that the word “liberal” has been violently under attack for decades. 

The highly effective, right-wing propaganda machine has successfully demonized the word “liberal” almost out of existence. Instead of defending the word, those on the political left effectively abandoned the term “liberal” and settled on “progressive.” The combination of constant right-wing attacks coupled with a lack of defense from those on the left has unfortunately tarnished the “liberal” brand. As a result, the American people are naturally hesitant to self-identify as being a liberal.

Much of the traditional media has failed to critically analyze this 2009 Gallup poll as well as other similarly misleading ones. Republican politicians have taken advantage of this failure by actively promoting misinformation on air. In an interview with MSNBC airing November of last year, former Representative Rick Lazio, R-N.Y., confidently stated, “[America] is a center-right nation.” Apart from a few prominent liberal commentators, there has been a lackluster effort to counter this falsehood. As a result, the failure of the media has allowed what was once misinformation to become conventional wisdom.

Even without analyzing what these labels mean, it’s obvious that the picture isn’t so simple. Plus, merely looking at the years between 2005 and 2008 hardly gives a large context in which to determine if there is any stable pattern or trend.

Is America really becoming more conservative?
By E.J. Dionne 

First, those Gallup numbers: Forty percent of Americans describe their political views as conservative, 36 percent as moderate, and 20 percent as liberal. “This marks a shift from 2005 through 2008, when moderates were tied with conservatives as the most prevalent group,” Gallup reported of its study based on combining16 surveys for a sample of 16,321. 

The shift from 2008 is hardly startling. Conservatives were up three points from 2008, moderates down one and liberals down two. On the other hand, the country was ever so slightly less conservative in the most recent third quarter of the year than it was in the second quarter: According to Gallup, the conservatives’ advantage over moderates went from 6 points in the second quarter to 3 points in the recent quarter. It’s not exactly clear which way the trend is running.

Of course these are all small shifts, and that’s the point: We are not going through some ideological revolution.

The complexity begins to show more clearly when comparing to other similar polls about self-identified labels.

In the 2009 Post/ABC News surveys, moderates still lead conservatives. The average for the year: 39 percent moderate, 36 percent conservative, 22 percent liberal. In only one survey did the conservatives “lead” the moderates, by 38 percent to 36 percent. Conservatives will be happy to know that was in the most recent survey.

At Pew, Keeter divided his surveys in half, from January to the end of June and from July to the present. 

In the January to June surveys (involving 10,630 interviews), the Pew numbers were: 37.9 percent moderate, 36.9 percent conservative and 19.7 percent liberal

In the Pew surveys since July, there was a shift (of 1.6 percent) toward the conservatives. The numbers were: 38.5 percent conservative, 35.5 percent moderate and 20.1 percent liberal.

Keeter described the 1.6 percent shift toward “conservative” as “on the borderline of statistical significance” and the movement as “glacial.”

And if you add in a few more choices of labels, the data becomes even more interesting.

It’s important to note that there is a debate over what these ideological labels actually mean to voters. And polls that give respondents the chance of calling themselves “progressive” produce a substantially larger number on the left end of the spectrum, since many who won’t pick the “liberal” label do call themselves “progressive.” A study earlier this year by the Center for American Progress found that when progressive and libertarian were offered as additional options, the country was split almost exactly in half between left and right.

So, even without looking at any specific issues, we can see there is no obvious conservative lean to the American public. I could argue (as I’ve often done) that ‘progressive’ isn’t necessarily left and ‘libertarian’ isn’t necessarily right. But, as far as I can tell, for most people these labels are mostly thought of that way. According to common understanding, left labels and right labels are about equally popular.

Before I get into the deeper analysis, let me show some data that further demonstrates the complexity of the issue. The mainstream perception is that the Democratic Party is the ‘liberal’ party. I disagree with this considering that, based on Pew data (Beyond Red vs Blue), liberals are only about 1/3 of the Democratic Party (with conservatives & moderates each about a 1/3) and about 1/2 of liberals are independents, but for the sake of argument let’s pretend the mainstream perception is correct. Based on those assumptions, how would the following data be interpreted (with higher numbers equaling higher positive feelings which correlates to campaign victories)?

Average Feeling Thermometer Toward Parties 1978-2008

  ’78 ’80 ’82 ’84 ’86 ’88 ’90 ’92 ’94 ’96 ’98 ’00 ’02 ’04 ’08
Democratic Party 62 61 63 62 63 61 61 59 54 59 60 59 ** 58 57
Republican Party 55 57 54 58 57 59 55 52 57 53 50 54 ** 54 48
Net Pro Dem. – Pro Rep. 54 52 55 52 53 51 53 54 49 53 55 53 ** 53 55
Both Parties 59 59 58 60 60 60 58 55 56 56 55 56 ** 56 54
‘Parties in General’ ** 55 56 55 57 ** 53 ** 51 52 ** 53 ** ** **

PERCENTAGE WITHIN STUDY YEAR
Table 2B.2
Source: The American National Election Studies
Link to the ASCII text version of this table   

So, if most Americans are actually conservative and the Democratic Party is actually liberal, then why does the Democratic Party have higher positive ratings than the Republican Party for more than a decade? Either Americans aren’t so conservative or the Democratic Party isn’t so liberal. I’d argue it’s both. 

Now check out this data.

Average Feeling Thermometer Toward Liberals and Conservatives 1964-2008

  ’64 ’66 ’68 ’70 ’72 ’74 ’76 ’78 ’80 ’82 ’84 ’86 ’88 ’90 ’92 ’94 ’96 ’98 ’00 ’02 ’04 ’08
Libs 53 50 51 43 54 54 52 ** 52 46 56 53 52 55 51 50 52 52 54 51 55 55
Cons 57 56 57 53 61 61 59 ** 62 53 60 58 61 60 56 61 60 56 59 58 61 60

PERCENTAGE WITHIN STUDY YEAR
Table 3.2
Source: The American National Election Studies
Link to the ASCII text version of this table   

If Americans are so conservative, then why do they have a decently positive feeling rating toward what they perceive as ‘liberals’? The positive feelings for liberals hasn’t dropped below 50 in several decades. That ain’t too shabby for a supposedly conservative population.

People are free to self-identify any way they so choose, but labels are meaningless if objective definitions and deeper issues aren’t considered. My point is that other data doesn’t support the conservative interpretation of the ‘conservative’ label (as it’s being used by most Americans). There are many ways to interpret the data as it’s confusing and sometimes seemingly conflicting. Some fair-minded analysts have concluded that Americans aren’t entirely conservative or liberal, rather that it depends on specific issues. I respect such cautious objectivity, but I would point out some relevant factors that demonstrate a specific direction in which the country is leaning.

It’s hard to make sense of which positions are liberal and which conservative. There are both liberal and conservative arguments for and against various aspects of government. Being for government isn’t inherently liberal, but having a more trusting attitude toward government, especially democratic government for and by the people, does seem to be more liberal (as a general principle, liberals are more trusting of almost everything). The issue for conservatives is more about which authority one should submit to (government, church, etc) which isn’t the same as the liberal sense of trust (one major thing liberals distrust is the submitting to any authority without question and for reasons of fear). Confusing though it may be, there are certain issues that seem more fundamentally liberal such as human rights (for all people, inclusive of those who have been traditionally disenfranchised and oppressed throughout history: minorities, immigrants, women, gays, etc). As Robert F. Kennedy stated it in his Day of Affirmation address (1966):

“The essential humanity of men can be protected and preserved only where government must answer — not just to the wealthy, not just to those of a particular religion, or a particular race, but to all its people.”

These liberal rights are the rights of the living, quite distinct from the conservative rights of unchanging principle (or even Divine Law); or, to put in American political terms, a living constitution that is increasingly inclusive of all people vs a constitutional originalism where the constitution is treated like the Ten Commandments. A core issue of disagreement between conservatives and liberals (in the US) is whether human rights (i.e., equality) are based on ownership rights (i.e., liberty) or vice versa (those who traditionally have had power and property of course emphasize liberty, often meaning freedom from the demands — ‘mobocracy’ — of those who lack power and property). This has been a divisive issue since the beginning of the country, having played out in the very wording of the Declaration of Independence. As Gunnar Myrdal explained, in An American Dilemma (pp. 8-9):

For practical purposes the main norms of the American Creed as usually pronounced are centered in the belief in equality and in the rights to liberty. In the Declaration of Independence–as in the earlier Virginia Bill of Rights–equality was given the supreme rank and the rights to liberty are posited as derived from equality. This logic was even more clearly expressed in Jefferson’s original formulation of the first of the “self-evident truths”: “All men are created equal and from that equal creation they derive rights inherent and unalienable, among which are the preservation of life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

The key values of the ideological divide are the basis of the key issues of society and politics. As such, determining the key issues is important in distinguishing liberalism vs conservatism in the American population. Key issues are important because they are the wedge issues that decide elections. What is telling to my mind is that it’s specifically the key issues of American politics that have been strongly moving leftward. I would conclude two things. First, the majority of Americans are definitely not right-leaning in any clear sense and there isn’t any evidence that the center of public opinion is shifting rightward. Second, however one might add up all the various issues, the majority of Americans are progressively liberal or becoming more progressively liberal on many if not most of the key issues. 

A large part of the confusion comes from the fact that a major political shift happened in the middle of last century. This shift altered the way Americans understood politics. At that time, conservatives gained control of the political narrative (which was assisted by the assassination of several popular voices and key figures of progressivism; sadly, conservatism ‘won’ by progressivism being literally killed).

Kennedy’s assassination, so soon after that of Martin Luther King, spread a deep pall of hopelessness over many Americans. [ . . . ] Political scientists who studied national polling data before and after Robert Kennedy’s assassination believed that his chances of winning the election were substantial. “One cannot help but be impressed,” notes one such study, “by the reverberations of Kennedy charisma even in the least likely quarters, such as among Southern whites or among Republicans elsewhere. . . . There is evidence of enough edge . . . to suggest that Robert Kennedy might have won election over Richard Nixon, and perhaps with even greater ease than he would have won his own party’s nomination.”
The Liberal Hour, Mackenzie & Weisbrot

With the last of the great progessive leaders of that era gone, the political narrative shifted. And it’s the political narrative that determines how people perceive the world and how they label themselves.

Some details need to be given to explain the ideological and labeling confusion that followed. Out of this era of assassinations and riots, it was actually the neo-conservatives (not traditional conservatives or Goldwater classical liberals) who captured power. Reagan was the penultimate neocon, former union leader and progressive Democrat who, using his actor’s skills, had become a corporate spokesperson and eventually a Republican politician. Reagan took the progressive language he had learned earlier in his life and put it to use in promoting the neocon narrative (e.g., Morning in America). Conservatism became all about a starry-eyed vision of capitalist progress and the American Dream became a greed-driven ‘meritocracy’ (with the government portrayed as the problem and with the lone businessman portrayed as the agent of moral reform; not what you can do for your country but what you can do for yourself).

With its progressive language usurped by neocons, the remaining progressives had a hard time competing. All of the most charismatically inspiring progressives were dead and so there was no one capable of challenging the neocon rhetoric. So, for the last 40 years, there hasn’t been any major political figures genuinely speaking for the progressive vision… or, at least, few progressive leaders who were charismatic enough to capture the public imagination. On top of that, I’d argue neither has there been any major political figures genuinely speaking for anything vaguely resembling the conservatism of the past. The only ideology that has been able to challenge neo-conservatism is neo-liberalism which is hardly an inspiring alternative. In the process, the Democratic leadership has merely become a watered down version of the Republican neocons. And the mainstream media just parrots the rhetoric from inside the Beltway. Is it surprising that the average American today is apparently clueless about what labels mean?

When words lose their meaning – I do not think ‘conservative’ means what you think it means
By AzBlueMeanie 

The media villagers lazily recite the Gallup polling to assert that America is a center-right country ideologically.

Political scientists, however, know better. The old classifications of liberal, conservative and moderate have long since lost their meaning.The decades long far-right media assault to demonize “liberals” has caused many liberals to defensively identify themseleves as “progressives.” The “liberal” brand of the Democratic Party has been watered down by conservative corporatist Democratic organizations like the Democratic Leadership Council, New Democrats, Third Way, Boll Weevils and Blue Dogs, etc. Today’s Democratic Party is not the party of FDR and Truman, or LBJ.

I have said many times that conservatives today “are not your father’s GOP.” Conservatives today are the John Birchers whom Republican conservatives like William F. Buckley kicked out of the GOP for being too extremist, and the theocratic Christian Right whom “the father of movement conservatism,” Arizona’s Sen. Barry Goldwater, rejected as being too extremist. Think about the irony in that for a moment. This is the man who famously said that “extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice!”

The media villagers collectively suffer from amnesia and cannot recall that the Republican Party once had a liberal wing and many moderates. They have since been purged from the Republican Party by its extemist fringe, but they are still out there in the electorate.

When respondents are given more options from which to identify their political beliefs and, more importantly, when polled on specific issues, a surprising and seemingly contradictory result emerges (only because of media mislabeling). Americans are far more left-of-center in their beliefs on specific issues, even self-identified conservatives. These “liberal” beliefs are in fact the “centrist” or “moderate” position of  large majorities of Americans.

The following are words which express the liberal-minded faith in America’s inevitable progressive direction and the hope that we Americans can live up to our collective potential. This was spoken by Robert F. Kennedy to the Senate and so he was more specifically warning the political elite about would happen if they attempted to thwart rather than embrace this era of social change.

“A revolution is coming — a revolution which will be peaceful if we are wise enough; compassionate if we care enough; successful if we are fortunate enough — But a revolution which is coming whether we will it or not. We can affect its character; we cannot alter its inevitability.”
~ Robert F. Kennedy

It should be clearly noted that this progressive direction isn’t anything new. I’d argue that the continuing progressive revolution is the central story of America and of post-Enlightenment Western civilization in general.

People seem to have short memories when it comes to history. The labor movement and the creation of the first unions preceded the American revolution. In fact, all of the working class riotings and organizing in Britain and Europe at that time were behind much of the revolutionary fervor in America. It was Paine who first described the progressive vision of a “Free and independent States of America” (i.e., the unified vision of liberty and equality, of individual freedom and collective betterment), and it was Paine who was first inspired by the working class movement in England. The ideal of progress wasn’t just discovered in the 20th century. If the founding generation didn’t care about progressivism (i.e., social progress), they wouldn’t have fought a revolution to create a new kind of democratic republic.

 – – – 

No one should be surprised that America’s progressivism, which began before America was even a country and which inspired the American Revolution, still continues to this day and will continue for as long as the American Dream continues. America was founded on and remains defined by the seeking of improvement, individual and collective. To oppose progressivism is to oppose America and all that America stands for.

– – –

In making my case for a progressively liberal (or liberally progressive) America, I’ll now share data from various sources showing a different interpretation is required to make sense of actual public opinion.

 – – – 


Gay Marriage Opponents Now in Minority

poll from CNN this week is the latest to show a majority of Americans in favor of same-sex marriage, with 51 percent saying that marriages between gay and lesbian couples “should be recognized by the law as valid” and 47 percent opposed.

This is the fourth credible poll in the past eight months to show an outright majority of Americans in favor of gay marriage. That represents quite a lot of progress for supporters of same-sex marriage. Prior to last year, there had been just one survey — a Washington Post poll conducted in April 2009 — to show support for gay marriage as the plurality position, and none had shown it with a majority.

As we noted last August, support for gay marriage seems to have been increasing at an accelerated pace over the past couple of years. Below is an update to the graph from last year’s article, which charts the trend from all available public polls on same-sex marriage going back to 1988.

Marijuana Legalization: Poll Suggests Public Support Growing

Data compiled by the Pew Research Center and drawn primarily from the General Social Survey has found a consistent trend towards supporting legalization of marijuana for recreational use, but no poll so far has shown a majority in favor.

In a poll released Tuesday by CNN, 41 percent of American adults said they favored legalizing marijuana, while 56 percent opposed. Another poll, conducted early last month by the Pew Research Center, found 45 percent of adults supporting legalization and 50 percent against it.

[ . . . ] Demographic trends show that the movement to embrace legalization will likely continue: Both recent polls reveal younger respondents as the most likely supporters. In the Pew poll, the majority of 18-29 year olds (54 percent favor/42 percent oppose) and a slim plurality of 30-49 year olds (49 percent support/47 percent oppose) said marijuana use should be legal. In the new CNN poll, about as many respondents under 50 said they supported legalizing marijuana (49 percent) as opposed it (50 percent).

New Poll Confirms Country is Clearly Progressive
Cenk Uygur 

When asked what’s the first thing they would do to balance the budget, Americans had an unmistakably clear answer — raise taxes on the rich. It came in number one by a mile, with a whopping 61 percent.

If that wasn’t progressive enough, cutting defense spending came in number two, with 20 percent.

And if all of that wasn’t clear enough, when asked about cutting Medicare, only 4 percent were in favor of it. Only 3 percent wanted to cut Social Security as a way to balance the budget.

I thought the country was center-right? That’s what all of the pundits tell us 24/7 on television. What happened now? Do those answers look center-right to you? They look decidedly center-left to anyone with a pulse.

[ . . . ] Well, apparently the American people disagree with Washington’s priorities. If the Democrats, Republicans and the president persist in trying to cut Social Security in the face of these numbers, then we will know that we have lost our democracy altogether. That the people in power couldn’t give a damn what we want. That the take over of the American government by the corporations, the rich and the powerful is complete.

America: A Center-Left Nation

The idea that America is a center‐right country whose citizens are skeptical of, if not hostile toward, progressive candidates and policies has long been a staple of political commentary. There would be nothing problematic in journalists’ relying on this notion if actual evidence existed to support it. The truth, however, is that in most policy areas, it is progressive ideas that enjoy majority support. At a time when Democrats control not only the White House and both houses of Congress but a majority of governorships and state legislatures, as well, the picture of America as a center‐right country has become particularly hard to sustain.  

The term “center‐right” itself is based on questionable premises. It comes from the notion that combining the “right” ‐‐ self‐described conservatives ‐‐ with the “center” ‐‐ self‐described moderates (or in a partisan context, Republicans with independents) ‐‐ creates the center‐right majority of the country. But on issue after issue, and in growing percentages over time, nominal independents or moderates increasingly mirror the opinions of nominal Democrats or liberals. The majority is center‐left; it is the right that is isolated. 

[ . . . ] It is one of the most fundamental ideological divides between the left and the right: Conservatives purport to believe that government should be as small as possible and favor market‐oriented solutions to social problems; progressives, on the other hand, see government playing a more vital role in meeting basic social needs, including infrastructure, economic security, education, and health care. As the most recent National Election Study (NES) data demonstrate, clear majorities of the public recognize the importance of a well‐run and well‐funded government to their lives and to the security and prosperity of the country, and, indeed, want it to do more.  

On all three of the following measures, the public has moved in a more progressive direction. The number saying the government should be doing more things increased by 9 points from the 2004 study, the number saying government has gotten bigger because the problems have gotten bigger increased by 3 points, and the number saying we need a strong government to handle today’s economic problems increased by 5 points.

The Progressive Majority: Why a Conservative America Is a Myth

When asked for evidence, advocates of the idea that America is a conservative country will often cite the fact that polls show more people labeling themselves as “conservative” than “liberal.” This is certainly true, as data from the NES show:

Yet there are a number of reasons to conclude that the data on self-labeling tells us relatively little about the actual ideological positioning of the public. First, as political scientists have understood for more than 40 years, most Americans simply don’t think in ideological terms. To take one example, the national election studies has asked respondents in the past, “Would you say that either one of the parties is more conservative than the other at the national level?” The number answering “the republicans” seldom exceeded 60 percent when the question was asked in the past; after a 12-year hiatus, the nes asked the question again in 2004, when two-thirds of the public, an all-time high, gave the correct answer. This means that, at a time when the parties are more ideologically distinct than ever, one-third of the public can’t name correctly which party is more conservative. If this bare minimum of knowledge is unavailable to such a large proportion of the population, it is fair to say that their self-placement on ideological scales will not be a particularly reliable gauge of their actual beliefs on issues.

Is One Party More Conservative 1960-2008 (source)

  60 62 64 66 68 70 72 74 76 78 80 82 84 86 88 90 92 94 96 98 00 02 04 08
Yes
Dems
11 ** 14 ** 9 16 15 ** 17 ** ** ** 15 ** 12 18 12 ** ** ** ** ** 17 16
Yes
Reps
61 ** 59 ** 63 51 57 ** 54 ** ** ** 53 ** 57 44 57 ** ** ** ** ** 68 67
No
Both
Same
Don’t
Know
28 ** 27 ** 28 33 28 ** 29 ** ** ** 32 ** 31 38 31 ** ** ** ** ** 15 17

         

PERCENTAGE WITHIN STUDY YEAR
Table 2B.5
Source: The American National Election Studies
Link to the ASCII text version of this table   

There is an understandable assumption within Washington that if survey respondents answer the ideological self-placement question by choosing “liberal” or “conservative,” then their positions on issues roughly correlate with those of the Democratic and republican parties, respectively; and that if they choose “moderate,” then their issue positions are midway between those of the two parties. But in fact, this is not the case. According to the NES, 56 percent of those who call themselves moderates associate with the Democratic Party, while only 31 percent associate with the republican Party. As one of the authors of this study wrote previously:

“And it isn’t just party identification; on issue after issue, moderates have opinions almost exactly mirroring those of liberals. In the NES survey, 4 percent of liberals say we should increase spending on Social Security, as do 8 percent of moderates—while only 47 percent of conservatives agree. Eighty-eight percent of liberals and 84 percent of moderates say federal funding on education should be increased, compared to only 58 percent of conservatives. Seventy-three percent of liberals and percent of moderates want more spending for child care—but only 8 percent of conservatives agree. Sixty-two percent of liberals and 57 percent of moderates want to spend more on aid to the poor, compared to only 9 percent of conservatives.”5 

Another reason people don’t use the liberal label is that the term “liberal” has been victim of a relentless conservative marketing campaign that has succeeded at vilifying liberals and liberalism. The consequence is that only strong liberals are willing to identify as such. But many people who hold liberal issue positions call themselves moderates, or even conservatives. As Christopher ellis wrote in a recent study of ideological labeling, “[M]any conservatives are not very conservative”:

“…nearly three-quarters of self-identified conservatives are notconservative on at least one issue dimension [size and scope of government, or abortion and homosexuality], and considerably more than half hold liberal preferences on the dominant dimension of conflict over the size and scope of government. Simply put, many conservatives are not very conservative”54 

When people do use ideological labels, they often apply them inconsistently. In 1967, Hadley Cantril and lloyd Free famously observed that Americans were “ideological conservatives” but “operational liberals.”55 They didn’t like the idea of government, but they liked what government does and can do.

As all the data presented in this report make clear, whatever Americans choose to call themselves, on issue after issue—economic issues, social issues, security issues, and more—majorities of the public find themselves on the progressive side. And on many of the most contentious “culture war” issues, the public has been growing more progressive year after year. Much of the news media seems not to have noticed. But the facts are too clear to ignore.

Poll: 70 Percent of “Tea Party Supporters” Oppose Medicare Cuts

(data from a McClatchy-Marist poll)

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Progressivism Goes Mainstream
New research on ideology refutes the conservative myth that America is a “center right” nation.
By John Halpin and Ruy Teixeira

How do we make sense of all this righteous anger? Are conservatives tapping into a deep-seated aversion to progressive government among the electorate? Hardly. Not unlike the characters in Rand’s various fantasies of libertarian anarchy, conservatives today are living in an alternative universe. And the sooner they wake up to this reality the better off they will be.

The 2008 presidential election not only solidified partisan shifts to the Democratic Party, it also marked a significant transformation in the ideological and electoral landscape of America. In two major studies of American beliefs and demographic trends–the State of American Political Ideology, 2009 and New Progressive America, both conducted by the Progressive Studies Program at the Center for American Progress–we found that the president’s agenda reflects deep and growing consensus among the American public about the priorities and values that should guide our government and society. Not surprisingly, conservatives are the ones who are out of line with the values of most Americans.

Interactive Map: A New Progressive America

New Progressive America

Between 1988 and 2008, the minority share of voters in presidential elections has risen by 11 percentage points, while the share of increasingly progressive white college graduate voters has risen by four points. But the share of white-working class voters, who have remained conservative in their orientation, has plummeted by 15 points.

[ . . . ] These trends will continue. The United States will be majority-minority by 2042. By 2050, the country will be 54 percent minority as Hispanics double from 15 percent to 30 percent of the population, Asians increase from 5 percent to 9 percent and African Americans move from 14 percent to 15 percent.

Other demographic trends accentuate progressives’ advantage. The Millennial Generation—those born between1978 and 2000—gave Obama a stunning 66 percent-to-32 percent margin in 2008. This generation is adding 4.5 million adults to the voting pool every year. Or consider professionals, who are now the most progressive occupational group and increase that support with every election. Fast-growth segments among women like singles and the college-educated favor progressives over conservatives by large margins. And even as progressives improve their performance among the traditional faithful, the growth of religious diversity—especially rapid increases among the unaffiliated—favors progressives. By the election of 2016, it is likely that the United States will no longer be a majority white Christian nation.

Geographical trends are equally as stunning. Progressive gains since 1988 have been heavily concentrated in not just the urbanized cores of large metropolitan areas, but also the growing suburbs around them. Even in exurbia, progressives have made big gains. Progressive gains were only minimal in the smallest metropolitan areas and in small town rural America and only in the most isolated, least populated rural counties did progressives actually lose ground.

[ . . . ] As the country is growing and changing, so are the American people’s views on what government can and should do. This is shaping a new progressive agenda to go with the new demography and the new geography, starting with the likely diminution in the culture wars that have bedeviled American politics for so long. While cultural disagreements remain, their political influence is being undermined by the rise of the Millennial Generation, increasing religious and family diversity and the decline of the culturally conservative white working class. Culture wars issues, which so conspicuously failed to move many voters in the last couple of elections, will lose even more force in years to come.


State of American Political Ideology, 2009
A National Study of Values and Beliefs
By John Halpin and Karl Agne

The growing progressive movement in the United States finds itself at a historic and propitious crossroads. With large Democratic majorities in both chambers of Congress and an ambitious new president who campaigned and won election on promises of bold changes—both serving a citizenry that is deeply frustrated with the status quo and desperate for new leadership at all levels of our society—the potential for true progressive governance is greater than at any point in decades. Driven by a rising generation of young 18- to 29-year-old “Millennial” generation voters whose vast numbers and unique worldview have already made a significant impact at the ballot box, our country is embracing many core progressive values and shows a real commitment to a progressive vision of government, international affairs, and economic and political policies that could transform the country in a way that has not been seen since FDR and the New Deal.

The 2008 presidential election not only solidified demographic and partisan shifts toward the Democratic Party but also marked a significant turn in the ideological landscape of the electorate. After nearly three decades of public acceptance of the Reagan-Bush model of conservatism—limited government, tax cuts, traditional values, and military strength— a broad and deep cross-section of the American public now holds markedly progressive attitudes about government and society.

Public Opinion Snapshot: The Weakness of Conservative Opposition to Health Care Reform
By Ruy Teixeira

In recent polls, more of the public opposes than favors the health care reform bills in Congress. Conservatives would have you believe that the opposition plurality in these polls is a result of public distaste for a big government takeover of our health care system. Not so. In a December CNN poll, a total of 55 percent either favored the Senate health reform bill outright (42 percent) or opposed it at this point because its approach to health care isn’t liberal enough (13 percent). Just 39 percent said they opposed the bill because its approach to health care was too liberal.

NBC/WSJ poll: Voters deficit-worried but wary of cuts
By Mark Murray

As politicians in Washington — and across the country — seek to cut spending to reduce their budget deficits, the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll finds that the American public is divided about how far they should go.

In the poll, eight in 10 respondents say they are concerned about the growing federal deficit and the national debt, but more than 60 percent — including key swing-voter groups — are concerned that major cuts from Congress could impact their lives and their families.

What’s more, while Americans find some budget cuts acceptable, they are adamantly opposed to cuts in Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security and K-12 education.

And although a combined 22 percent of poll-takers name the deficit/government spending as the top issue the federal government should address, 37 percent believe job creation/economic growth is the No. 1 issue.

Republican pollster Bill McInturff, who conducted the survey with Democratic pollster Peter D. Hart, says these results are a “cautionary sign” for a Republican Party pursuing deep budget cuts.

He points out that the Americans who are most concerned about spending cuts are core Republicans and Tea Party supporters, not independents and swing voters.

“It may be hard to understand why a person might jump off a cliff, unless you understand they’re being chased by a tiger,” he said. “That tiger is the Tea Party.”

Public Proposes Federal Budget Dramatically Different Than House or White House

Full report(PDF)
American Public Shows How it Would Cut the Budget Deficit

An innovative study has found that when a representative sample of the American public was presented the federal budget, they proposed changes far different from those the Obama administration or the Republican-led House have proposed.

The biggest difference in spending is that the public favored deep cuts in defense spending, while the administration and the House propose modest increases. However, the public also favored more spending on job training, education, and pollution control than did either the administration or the House. On average the public made a net reduction of $146 billion–far more than either the administration or the House called for.

While there were some partisan differences in the magnitude of spending changes, in two out of three cases average Republicans, Democrats and independents agreed on which items should be cut or increased.

The public also showed readiness to increase taxes by an average of $292 billion–again, far more than either the administration or the House.

“Clearly both the administration and the Republican-led House are out of step with the public’s values and priorities in regard to the budget,” comments Steven Kull, director of the Program for Public Consultation (PPC), which conducted the study.

American Public Shows How it Would Cut the Budget Deficit

Full report(PDF)
Questionnaire with Findings, Methodology (PDF)

Through a combination of spending cuts and tax increases, on average, respondents cut the discretionary budget deficit projected for 2015 by seventy percent. Six in ten solved the problem of the projected Social Security shortfall through adjustments in payroll taxes, premiums, and benefits. The projected Medicare shortfall was also dramatically reduced.

The Political Ideology of the Millennial Generation
A National Study of Political Values and Beliefs Among 18- to 29-Year-Old Adults
By John Halpin and Karl Agne

Of all the storylines emerging from the historic 2008 elections perhaps none has more impact on the future of our country than the rise of the Millennial Generation. These young 18- to 29-year-old Americans born between 1978 and 2000 represent the largest and most diverse generation in American history. Last year, their record turnout and overwhelming support for Barack Obama—as well as Democrats up and down the ballot— delivered a decisive victory and signaled a turning point in our country’s political history.

What is most important about these voters is not their current predilection for Democratic candidates, however, but rather the deeply held progressive beliefs underlying their voting preferences. The progressive beliefs of these young adult voters could recast the core ideological battles that have defined our country’s post-Vietnam political discourse.

The presidency of George W. Bush marked the formative political experience for many of these younger Americans, and the results are not good for conservatives looking to gain support among this critical segment of the electorate. The combined effect of Bush’s social policies, the war in Iraq, his tax cuts, and the collapse of the economy clearly had a strongly negative impact on the ideological views of Millennial voters. Younger Americans today express broad and deep support for a progressive worldview on government, society, and world affairs and are ambivalent to outright hostile to many core elements of the conservative worldview.

Case in point: Of the 21 values and beliefs garnering majority support in our recently completed national study of political values and beliefs among young adults, only four can be classified as conservative.

Think Again: Why We’re Liberals: The Polls Speak
By Eric Alterman and George Zornick

The November 2004 National Election Study—which tries to eliminate the “moderate” option—found that 35 percent of those questioned call themselves liberal, compared to 55 percent who identify as conservative. A Pew poll at roughly the same time found 19 percent liberal and 39 percent conservative, with the balance preferring “moderate.” Then a Democracy Corps poll in January 2006 found 19 percent calling themselves liberal versus 36 percent conservative.

These numbers are practically indistinguishable from the average for the past 30 years (20 percent liberal, 33 percent conservative, 47 percent moderate). And yet when “moderates” were questioned by pollsters for Louis Harris and Associates in 2005, they turned out to share pretty much the same beliefs as self-described liberals—they just couldn’t bring themselves to embrace the hated label.

In fact, due primarily to the hijacking of the Republican Party by a coterie of extremist conservatives on issue after issue, a powerful supermajority of more than 60 percent of Americans questioned in these surveys almost always espouse the “liberal” alternatives. And most Americans’ answers, believe it or not, frequently fall to the left of those espoused by many liberal politicians.

[ . . . ] And yet the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press in Washington, D.C., in conducting an extensive set of opinion polls over the past few decades, has demonstrated a decided trend toward increasingly “liberal” positions, by almost any definition.

To offer just a few examples of this liberal-in-all-but-name attitude regarding economic and welfare policy, according to the 2006 survey released in March 2007, roughly 70 percent of respondents believe that the government has a responsibility “to take care of people who can’t take care of themselves”—up from 61 percent in 2002. The number saying that the government should guarantee “every citizen enough to eat and a place to sleep” has increased by a similar margin over the past five years (from 63 percent to 69 percent).

Two-thirds of the public (66 percent)—including a majority of those who say they would prefer a smaller government (57 percent)—favor government-funded health insurance for all citizens. Most people also believe that the nation’s corporations are too powerful and fail to strike a fair balance between profits and the public interest. In addition, nearly two-thirds (65 percent) say corporate profits are too high, about the same number who say that “labor unions are necessary to protect the working person” (68 percent).

When it comes to the environment, a large majority (83 percent) support stricter laws and regulations to protect the environment, while 69 percent agree that “we should put more emphasis on fuel conservation than on developing new oil supplies,” and fully 60 percent of people questioned say they would “be willing to pay higher prices in order to protect the environment.”

Regarding so-called social issues, only 28 percent of respondents agree that school boards should have the right to fire teachers who are known to be homosexual, while 66 percent disagree. A 56 percent majority opposes making it more difficult for a woman to get an abortion, while 35 percent favor this position.

These findings reinforce previous polls like that in 2004 by NPR, the Kaiser Family Foundation, and Harvard University, which asked voters whether “the federal government should fund sex education programs that have ‘abstaining from sexual activity’ as their only purpose” or if “the money should be used to fund more comprehensive sex education programs that include information on how to obtain and use condoms and other contraceptives.” The condom/contraceptive option won the day by a margin of 67 percent to 30 percent. Unsurprisingly, a similar number (65 percent) said they worried that refusing to provide teens with good information about contraception might lead to unsafe sex, while only 28 percent were more concerned that such information might encourage teens to have sex.

Contrary to conventional wisdom, Americans even tend to side with liberals rather than conservatives in their attitudes toward religion. According to a 2006 study sponsored by the Faith and Progressive Policy Initiative of the Center for American Progress and conducted by the firm Financial Dynamism, 67 percent of voters believe that religious freedom is a “critical” part of their image of America, compared to less than three in 10 who believe the Judeo-Christian faith specifically is critical to this image. Only 20 percent of American voters approve of leaders using the political system to turn religious beliefs into action.

In terms of the role that religious and moral teachings should play in public debate about key issues, American voters do not focus on the issues of abortion, gay marriage, and the kind of topics that so exercise conservative Christian leaders. They would prefer to see their churches lead on issues such as alleviating “poverty and hunger” (75 percent), “homelessness” (61 percent), “government corruption” (58 percent), “terrorism” (56 percent), “the environment” (54 percent), and “health care” (52 percent).

Americans specifically reject the conservative Christian desire to suppress science in the service of religious dogma. Eighty percent of those questioned agree that “faith and science can and should coexist. We can respect our belief in God and our commitment to the dignity of every human life by using our scientific knowledge to help those who are sick or vulnerable.” The same overwhelming number endorses the view that “stem cell research can be a force for moral good rather than a moral failing.”

Liberal and Conservative Trends in the United States Since World War II
By Tom W. Smith

Overall, the post-World War II period has been a time of liberal advance. Liberal trends outnumbered conservative trends by over two-to-one (Duncan, Schuman, and Duncan, 1973; Hamby, 1985; Hoge, 1974; Hoge, Luna, and Miller, 1981; Willits, Bealer, and Crider, 1977). Liberal gains were strongest on such topics as race relations and women’s rights that concerned equal rights for all (Gusfeld, 1981; Rokeach and Ball-Rokeach, 1988; Smith and Sheatsley, 1984) and on abortion, civil liberties, and sexual morality that dealt with individual choice (Caplow et al., 1983; Hoge, Luna, and Miller, 1984; McClosky and Brill, 1983; Mueller, 1988). Topics dealing with material concerns and government regulation were mixed in their trends. Responses to calls for more government action were also quite mixed, with the number of trends in opposition to more government edging out trends in favor of more government. In addition, this role of government dimension had little relationship to liberalism/conservatism. Finally, crime was the one topic that consistently showed little or no liberal growth.

Liberal movement slowed appreciably in the mid-1970s and a number of trends, especially in the areas of abortion, civil liberties, crime, and spending and taxes, slowed, stalled, or even, in a few cases, reversed. But the hosannas from the right and wailing from the left over a conservative tide and the Reagan Revolution (Smith, 1982 and 1985a) are both overreactions. On average, liberal momentum and advance ended on the liberal plateau of the mid-1970s, but no general conservative advance occurred.

Government is Good

If we are asked about this issue in the abstract, 45% of us say we want “a smaller government providing fewer services,” and 42% say that we want “a bigger government providing more services”5 – a pretty even split. But then when people are asked about specific policy areas, much larger numbers of people say they support expanded government services. For example, almost three quarters of Americans say they want to see more federal involvement in ensuring access to affordable health care, providing a decent standard of living for the elderly, and making sure that food and medicines are safe. And over 60% want more government involvement in reducing poverty, ensuring clean air and water, and setting minimum educational standards for school. These are hardly the answers of a people who want drastically smaller government.

Table 1: Public Attitudes Toward Spending on Government Programs8

Should Spend More Spending About Right Should Spend Less Don’t Know or No Answer
Protecting the environment 59.8% 27.9% 7.7% 4.6%
Protecting the nation’s health 66.8% 25.0% 5.6% 2.6%
Halting the rising crime rate 60.9% 28.4% 9.3% 3.0%
Dealing with drug addiction 58.2% 27.9% 9.3% 4.6%
Improving the education system 69.7% 22.1% 6.3% 1.9%
Social Security 55.7% 31.9% 6.3% 6.1%
Solving urban problems 45.5% 29.8% 12.1% 12.5%
The military, arms, and defense 17.5% 46.3% 30.3% 5.9%
Highways and bridges 38.2% 47.1% 9.6% 5.1%
Welfare 16.0% 36.1% 43.3% 4.6%
Parks and recreation 34.0% 55.2% 6.1% 4.7%
Mass transit 31.7% 47.3% 9.4% 11.5%

In Search of Ideologues in America

Figure

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If you want to look at the public opinions on certain issues, check out some of my other posts:

Gun Violence & Regulation (Data, Analysis, Rhetoric)

Public Opinion on Tax Cuts for the Rich

Claims of US Becoming Pro-Life

Culture Wars Continuing