Memo to Bill Daley: Most Americans are Liberal
America, meet Barack Obama’s new chief of staff Bill Daley:
Who is Bill Daley? Well, let’s just say if you liked Rahm Emanuel, you’ll love Bill Daley. Not only does he have a background in Chicago politics (he’s the current mayor’s brother), but he’s also got ties to Wall Street as well, having served as the Midwest chairman of JPMorgan Chase. And just like Rahm, he’s bought into the widespread misperception that the country is actually significantly further to the right than it actually is.
We all know how Rahm Emanuel pushed the president to pass any kind of Wall Street reform he could get, regardless of how strong it was. And we know he had the same attitude regarding health care reform: make deals with pharmaceutical companies and private health insurers that will increase the bill’s chance of passing, no matter how much these concessions weaken it. If you were thinking that a new chief of staff would bring a different kind of advice to the president’s ear, think again.
Regarding health care reform, Bill Daley told the New York Times:
They miscalculated on health care. The election of ’08 sent a message that after 30 years of center-right governing, we had moved to center left — not left.
Apparently he thinks the watered-down health care reform legislation went too far. He believes that when the American people voted for Change, what they really wanted was for things to stay more or less the same.
There are plenty of people who still believe that this is a “center-right” country and that liberals and progressives are just a small minority. After all, the media repeatedly and relentlessly trumpets this Gallup poll showing that when asked to describe their political ideology, 40% of Americans self-identify as conservative, 35% as moderate, and only 20% as liberal. Never mind that this poll only asks people how they self-identify and doesn’t ask for their actual opinions on a single actual issue—because more people are comfortable calling themselves “conservative” than calling themselves “liberal” (I wonder if decades of right-wing talk-radio might have anything to do with that?) they consider it an irrefutable fact that most Americans are not liberal, and therefore that most Americans are opposed to things like government-run health insurance, strict Wall Street reform, and raising taxes on the rich. Most Americans, because they call themselves “conservative” must therefore believe that fixing the deficit is the most pressing issue of our time, and that this must be done through spending cuts and under no circumstances with increased taxes for the rich.
As a public service, let me help to bust this myth for you once and for all. When you’re arguing with conservatives who say that you should accept center-right policies from your Democratic president because most Americans don’t agree with you (or when you’re arguing with progressives who say that you should accept center-right policies from your Democratic president because most Americans don’t agree with us), you can tell them that they are simply mistaken.
When you go issue-by-issue, the majority of Americans support the more liberal position on almost every single question ranging from foreign policy to gay rights, as this superb study by Media Matters proves.
When it comes to Wall Street reform, an ABC News/Washington Post poll taken in April 2010 indicated that 65% of Americans wanted reform to be tougher, not weaker.
When it comes to health care, poll after poll consistently showed widespread support for the public option (i.e. “government-run” health insurance), including this New York Times/CBS poll taken in June of 2009 in which a whopping 72 percent of respondents said they were in favor. If Bill Daley thinks most Americans believe the health care bill went too far, he is just plain wrong.
And another great poll just came out this week, and it’s one I hope did not go un-noticed by Bill Daley and the rest of the folks at the White House: A 60 Minutes/Vanity Fair poll asked people what the first step they would take to balance the budget would be. 4% said cut Medicare. 20% said cut defense spending. But an overwhelming 61% said they would raise taxes on the wealthy!
Center-right country indeed.
Incidentally, only 3% of respondents said they would balance the budget by cutting Social Security, but that appears to be the course of action our “representatives” in Washington are going to take. But even though nearly two-thirds of Americans would rather raise taxes on the rich, that won’t even be considered.
Since he took office, the president has been surrounded by political advisors telling him to move to the right, to compromise on the liberal agenda because liberals don’t really matter. They’ve been telling him that most of the country is to the right of the political center.
But this is simply not true. Washington is significantly to the right of the rest of America, which is significantly to the left of the political center. President Obama doesn’t seem to understand that. And sadly, his new chief of staff Bill Daley is not going to be the one to tell him.