Friday, August 10, 2007

Democratic Party is growing more liberal

From McClatchy courtesy of

The Democratic Party is growing more liberal for the first time in a generation.

It's more antiwar than at any time since 1972. Support is growing for such traditionally liberal values as using the federal government to help the poor. And 40 percent of Democrats now call themselves liberal, the highest in more than three decades and twice the low-water mark recorded as the conservative Reagan revolution swept the country in the early 1980s.

While politicians such as Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama shun the liberal label, they're rushing to court new power brokers who wear it proudly and constituencies that could barely win a nod from party leaders just a few years ago. For example, the top Democratic presidential candidates all planned to attend the YearlyKos convention of liberal bloggers in Chicago this weekend and a Human Rights Campaign debate this week in Los Angeles on gay, lesbian and transgender issues.

They all skipped an annual gathering of the Democratic Leadership Council last week in Nashville, Tenn. The DLC is the centrist group that pushed for welfare overhaul and a pro-business agenda in the 1990s, helped launch Bill Clinton to the presidency and stood by centrist Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., when liberals attacked him for supporting the Iraq war and he effectively was drummed out of the party in a primary last year.

here for the rest.

It may very well be that the so-called pendulum of American politics is starting to swing in the other direction--this Democratic shift is an extraordinarily good sign. Of course, I really have come to hate the pendulum metaphor because it strongly suggests that political change is something that just happens. The truth couldn't be further away from that.

Going back to the early 90s, well after "liberalism" had been discredited during the Reagan years, the right wing went into hyperdrive in its attacks on the left, all of which culminated in the impeachment of a popular Democratic President for a crime which any reasonable person wouldn't define as being "high." Compounding matters is the fact that Clinton wasn't even all that liberal. I think the US public started getting heartburn from all this conservative agitation. Meanwhile, elected Democrats, scared shitless of the conservative liberal hate-machine, started moving to the right themselves. This, too, put a bad taste in Americans' mouths. Then, both at around the same time, Nader decided to start agitating from the left, running for President in 2000, and the liberal blogs hit the ground running, doing essentially the same thing as Nader.

Throw in the obviously stolen election, and Americans were starting to realize something was fishy about conservatism. Then Bush took the Oval Office, 9/11 happened, and the rest is history.

This is all just armchair historical analysis, but I think that conservatives overplaying their hand combined with liberal agitation now has the country at a point such that it's ready to move to the left again. That is, if the country ever actually moved to the right in the first place. Certainly, the word "liberal" was successfully demonized long ago, but, as Chomsky has observed repeatedly, issue polling has consistently showed the US population to be well to the left of the ruling class for years and years. Conservative America may very well have always been something of a propaganda induced illusion.

Maybe the re-liberalization of the Democratic Party signals not a change in pendulum direction, but rather an unmasking of where the country's actually been for decades.