Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Progressive nation

Before the last election Roger Smith wrote a special report for the January 2017 edition of The Washington Spectator (this article online eventually). Smith tackles the “big lie” peddled by conservatives that a solid majority of the country holds conservative views. He does this by looking at the poll results of respected polling organizations on a wide range of issues and over a decade or two. He then sometimes contrasts the type of legislation Democrats have passed (or been thwarted from passing) with the type the GOP has passed. He doesn’t look at election polling, but at issues polling – not who people vote for but what they believe. Smith’s conclusion: we are not a conservative nation.

The obvious question: If we aren’t a conservative nation why are conservatives in control of the federal government and the governments of 2/3 of the states? Why do our beliefs not match our votes? Alas, Smith leaves these questions for others. In addition, what he did write is 6½ pages of an 8-page newsletter. Another article for another time. Here’s a summary of what he did write about:

* Lower the cost of student loans: 82% in favor.

* Increased spending on infrastructure: 75% in favor.

* Raise the minimum wage to $12: 66% in favor. Even 60% of small business owners are in favor of increasing the minimum wage. In 2014 four solidly red states passed increases to their minimum wage rates.

* Raise Social Security retirement age to 69: 66% against.

Yet, in 2014, when the party that opposed all of the above ideas swept into Congress 53% of those polled said they were “happy” with the result.

* Limit campaign spending by Super PACs: 78% in favor.

* Limit campaign spending by individuals: 77% in favor.

* Support of same-sex marriage: this year 61% in favor, a massive swing in 20 years from 27% in favor in 1996.

* Belief that immigrants “strengthen our country because of their hard work and talents”: 59% in favor.

* There should be a way for undocumented non-criminal immigrants to stay in the country legally: 74% in favor.

* “Build a Wall”: 62% opposed with opposition growing the more Trump talked about it.

* Legalization of marijuana: 58% in favor.

* The Affordable Care Act: The GOP likes to trumpet that polls show that 58% said they oppose it. The GOP, of course, leaves out a crucial piece: 43% oppose it because it is “too liberal” while 15% oppose it for not being liberal enough. This last group is looking for Medicare for all. Smith criticizes Dems for failing to explain the ACA, allowing the GOP to define it.

* When asked about Medicare for all, meaning a government-funded single-payer health care system, 58% of those polled are in favor. Thanks Bernie!

* Equal pay for women: 84% in favor, including 77% of Republicans. This is another issue Democrats have failed to seize and adequately explain.

* Tax supported universal child care: 59% in favor. The GOP wants to do this through tax deductions, meaning it is available only those who itemize deductions – which is rarely the working class most in need of it.

* Economy – “Are you making more than five years ago?”: 68% said yes. So maybe this past election wasn’t about the economy?

* Taxation fairness: 64% say they are “bothered a lot” that corporations “don’t pay their fare share” of taxes. 61% say that wealthy people don’t pay their fair share.

* Global warming: In 2014 59% said they felt strongly enough about climate change to support limiting carbon emissions. This year 64% said they worry about climate change “a great deal.” Dems haven’t countered the false GOP claim that we can battle climate change or we can have a healthy economy, but not both.

* Is free trade good or bad? 37% said it is good, 39% said it is bad.

* Defense spending: Those saying to cut back rose from 30% to 35% in five years. Those saying to increase rose from 13% to 35%. Even so, we’re tired of war.

* Who do you trust to handle foreign policy? In 2008 (after Bush II) Dems were favored at 48%. This year the GOP is favored by 40%.

* Abortion: 56% say abortion should be legal either “always” or “in most cases.” 59% say abortion should be legal in the case of rape or incest.

* Gun control: 85% are in favor of background checks at gun shows or for online sales. 79% are in favor of banning guns to the mentally ill. 70% are in favor of a federal database of gun sales. 50% say it is more important to control gun ownership than protect the right to own a gun. 47% say the reverse.

* Capital punishment: 49% in favor, down from 80% in favor in 1995.

A conservative country? Doesn’t look that way. Yet conservatives push that idea. And the people most receptive to that idea? Democratic politicians, led by Bill Clinton and his move towards the center in 1995.

Democrats do not have to accommodate the right. They should embrace – and adequately explain – progressive issues.

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