[freedomtowernight_edited.jpg] 26th Parallel: Redefining Liberals

Monday, June 25, 2007

Redefining Liberals

Leonard Pitts in his latest column argues that our country is more liberal than many give it credit for. He tries to dispel the notion of a conservative nation at heart. Compared to that time 40 or 50 years ago, we are indeed more liberal.

In some ways, I agree with Leonard Pitts that liberalism these days is looked upon less favorably than it was 40 or 50 years ago. Back then, liberals stood for noble things such as civil rights and fairness for all. Nowadays in our polarized environment, too many (not ALL, but too many) otherwise reasonable and intelligent liberals have been afflicted with Bush Derangement Syndrome (BDS) and allow it to cloud their opinions.

"Affirmative Action? If Bush and Limbaugh are against it, I'm for it."

"Fairness Doctrine? As long as it shuts up those morons on the right, great!"

No wonder liberalism is not as popular as it once was. Did I mention Michael Moore?

However, Pitts' arguments are flawed (you knew I wasn't going to let him off the hook).

Media Matters and the Campaign For America's Future, a liberal activist group, have helpfully assembled said facts in a report released earlier this month, ''The Progressive Majority: Why A Conservative America Is A Myth.'' The report analyzes years of public opinion surveys from such respected and nonpartisan organizations as Gallup and the Pew Research Center. On issue after issue, those surveys present a picture starkly at odds with the conservative stereotype.

Abortion? Sixty-two percent of us oppose overturning Roe v. Wade.

Stem cells? Sixty-one percent of us support using them for research.

Guns? Sixty percent of us would like to see more government restriction.

These are not exactly conservative positions. To the contrary, they bespeak a fairly liberal electorate. So how is it we've come to think of ''liberal'' as a bad word?

Let's take it from the top. Abortion? As long as states keep their rights to set their own abortion laws, you're not going to hear too much massive complaining about Roe v Wade. After all, states rights is a largely conservative value.

Stem Cells? Pitts is broad-brushing a bit here. The issue isn't as much stem cells in general as it is the TYPE of stem cells used (a lot of conservatives are in favor of using adult stem cells). Besides, many conservatives, including Sen. Bill Frist, support greater stem cell research.

Guns? There's a big difference between more government restriction and outright elimination of the Second Amendment, which virtually all conservatives are strongly against.

So yes, Pitts really isn't wrong, per se, but he's not telling us the whole story. There's a vast middle ground out there where most of us reside. That middle ground has gotten more liberal over the last several decades, but by no means has it crossed the line to the left of center.

The problem I have with Pitts is that he fails to identify the real reason why the term liberal is often met with scorn. I already mentioned the BDS component of this earlier, but this quote from the column offers more perspective:
An anecdote by way of answer: In teaching on college campuses, I've noticed that my young female students tend to reject being called ''feminists.'' They happily accept the rights feminists have won for them, not least of which is the right to be college students. But the ''F-word'' itself repels them.
Why do you think the "F-word" is so repulsive, Mr. Pitts? Could it be because mainstream feminist groups such as NOW have hijacked a noble intention and have taken it to the extreme? Could it be because many groups that call themselves liberal have advocated for the elimination of public displays of Christian religious symbols under the guise of "separation of church and state"?

Therein lies the real issue. Conservatives, many moderates on both sides of the fence, and traditional liberals have seen what used to be fringe and radical elements of the left become more and more accepted in mainstream liberal culture, with the largely liberal MSM leading the charge. And we don't like it.

Far-right loonies are routinely hammered by the MSM, and rightly so. Why, then, isn't fidel-lover Medea Benjamin roasted over the coals for her blatant ignorance of human rights violations in Cuba? Why is someone like Rosie O'Donnell not heavily criticized by MSM outlets (save FOX) for her ridiculous anti-U.S. comments on national TV?

The bottom line: why do too many mainstream liberals allow this kind of crap to take place without serious indignation? Is it because they would rather see these people stick it to Public Enemy #1 (Bush, not Osama) rather than consider their insane views based on their merits, or lack thereof?

As long as this continues, the L-word will continue to carry a negative connotation among some. And conservative talk show hosts will continue to rule the radio waves while Air America falls flat on its face.

At least until the Dems take over in '09 and the Fairness Doctrine is implemented.

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Blogger Jonathan said...

-The Media Matters "survey" is really a publicity-generating device for Media Matters. It's worthless as a survey. It's very well done as a means to keep Media Matters in the spotlight and help with fundraising. Pitts's column is weak and shows MSM journalism at its worst, channeling interest-group press releases.

-Americans over the past few decades have become broadly less trusting of governmental solutions to public problems. The sloppy use of the vague terms "liberal" and "conservative" obscures this fact, perhaps intentionally. At best MM is reading its own preferences into the survey data. If you frame the question as whether people want more free goods and service you will generally find that they do. OTOH, asking respondents to state their preferences based on the tradeoffs between realistic alternatives will generate much different, and more accurate, results.

Here's the MM press release:


Washington, D.C. ­ Today, Media Matters for America and Campaign for America’s Future released a special report, “The Progressive Majority: Why a Conservative America is a Myth,” documenting how the conventional wisdom that Americans are overwhelmingly conservative is fundamentally false. Through decades of public opinion data from nonpartisan sources, the report shows the majority of Americans hold progressive positions on a broad range of issues.

“This report shows that on issue after issue, most Americans agree with progressives and have for decades, despite what we hear from the media.” said David Brock, President and CEO of Media Matters. “The conventional wisdom advanced by the media -- that the United States is becoming more and more conservative -- has been debunked repeatedly by independent public polling, but that hasn’t stopped them from perpetuating this clearly flawed perception.”

Media Matters and Campaign for America’s Future conducted this study by examining the past 20 years of independent, nonpartisan polling data from sources such as the American National Election Studies (NES), the General Social Survey (GSS), and Gallup polls. By compiling all of this data, we have examined not only the top-level conclusions, but the underlying questions asked in each survey.


* The role of government -- 69 percent of Americans believe the government “should care for those who can’t care for themselves”; twice as many people (43 percent vs. 20 percent) want “government to provide many more services even if it means an increase in spending” as want government to provide fewer services “in order to reduce spending.”

* The economy -- 77 percent of Americans think Congress should increase the minimum wage; 66 percent believe “upper-income people” pay too little in taxes; 53 percent feel the Bush administration’s tax cuts have failed because they have increased the deficit and caused cuts in government programs.

* Social issues -- 61 percent of Americans support embryonic stem cell research; 62 percent want to protect Roe v. Wade; only 3 percent of Americans rank same-sex marriage as the “most important” social issue.

* Security -- 43 percent of Americans say we are spending too much on our military; 60 percent feel the federal government should do more about restricting the kinds of guns that people can purchase.

* The environment -- 75 percent of Americans would be wiling to pay more for electricity if it were generated by renewable sources to help reduce global warming; 79 percent want higher emissions standard for automobiles.

* Energy -- 52 percent of Americans believe “the best way for the U.S. to reduce its reliance on foreign oil” is to “have the government invest in alternative energy sources”; 68 percent of the public thinks U.S. energy policy is better solved by conservation than production.

* Immigration -- 57 percent of Americans feel “most recent immigrants to the U.S. contribute to this country” rather than “cause problems.” Sixty-seven percent of Americans feel that “on the whole,” immigration is a “good thing for this country today.”

* Health care -- 69 percent of Americans think it is the responsibility of the federal government to make sure all Americans have access to health coverage; 76 percent find access to health care more important than maintaining the Bush tax cuts; three in five would be willing to have their own taxes increased to achieve universal coverage.

4:40 PM, June 25, 2007  
Blogger Robert said...

Thanks Jonathan for the additional info. The link in the Pitts article was incorrect or wasn't working.

4:54 PM, June 25, 2007  
Blogger The Universal Spectator said...

Media Matters is a George Soros funded organization. I give them zero credit for anything they do. That the aptly named Pitts should use their data comes as no surprise. They are as unbiased as he is...

8:21 PM, June 25, 2007  

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