Here’s a little news that probably won’t dominate the post-election punditry. More than 60% of voters considered Sen. Barack Obama a “liberal.” And he won.
Politico interviewed Sen. John McCain’s long-time close aide Mark Salter, who revealed the result from the McCain campaign’s own polling.
Our polling showed that more than 60 percent of voters identified Obama as a liberal. Typically, a candidate is not going to win the presidency with those figures. But I think the country just disregarded it. People didn’t care. They just wanted the biggest change they could get.
Some conservatives are trying to rationalize their defeat by claiming Obama duped the nation into thinking he wasn’t liberal. For example, the conservative blog Power Line said: “Despite his thoroughgoing liberalism, Obama did not run as a liberal. LIberals can run successfully for president under camouflage donned for the occasion.”
Sorry folks, but McCain’s own polling completely refutes that claim. America read the label, saw all the plans for active government, and knew what they were buying.
We at Campaign for America’s Future have always held that the American majority was already a progressive majority when it came to the big issues: role of government, public investment, taxation, clean energy, environment, health care, wages and worker rights.
But there was no getting around that conservatives have been able to deploy “liberal” as an all-purpose damning slur for a long while. Self-described moderates may be supporting progressive positions, but could be made wary people tarred with liberal stereotypes: soft, weak and irresponsible.
Not today. The liberal boogeyman card could not be played, no matter how hard they tried. Perceived fear of liberals is far outweighed by the disgust of the actual damage conservatives have wrought.
Despite this hugely positive change in American politics, it does not mean we should assume the American public will embrace every liberal progressive policy proposal that comes down the pike without question.
Conservatives may no longer be able to quickly dismiss ideas with the “liberal” slur. But a poorly conceived plan can still be beat on the merits, and a poorly argued plan can still have its details distorted to appear poorly conceived. A big policy failure (such as 1994 Clinton health care plan) can rapidly resurrect debilitating stereotypes.
But conservatives will not be able to stop us just by screaming “liberal” over and over again. And the longer conservatives delude themselves about the choice America has made for the direction of our country, the easier it is going to be for us to turn the progressive mandate into progressive policy.