America center-right? Wrong

How conservatives try to submarine the Obama agenda before it begins.

By Thomas Schaller

Published November 10, 2008 4:35PM (EST)

Barack Obama's national popular-vote margin and Electoral College vote total were both higher than those posted by George W. Bush in either 2000 or 2004. The Democratic majorities of the incoming 111th Congress (57 percent minimum in Senate, 59 percent in House) are as large as any since the Democrat-controlled 95th Congress of 1977-78. The Democrats control 29 of the nation's 50 governorships, which is 58 percent.

Basically, then, in political control this is just shy of a 3:2 ratio. And yet, according to some quarters, the Democrats are a 58 percent minority because somehow, despite supporting more popular positions, controlling majorities at every level of government, America remains forever a "center-right" nation.

Well, in today's Washington Post E.J. Dionne begins to push back against this meme, as Paul Waldman and David Sirota and, most creatively, Steve Benen have done previously. Benen:

Would a Democratic Congress do it?

How about a Democratic President with a Democratic Congress?

How about a Democratic President, Democratic Congress, and a Democratic majority among the nation's governors?

How about a Democratic president, Senate, House, governors, and polling data showing Americans support universal healthcare, are pro-choice, oppose the war in Iraq, and support the Democratic agenda on everything from the environment to the minimum wage to international diplomacy?

To hear prominent conservatives tell it, this wouldn't be persuasive enough to shake their view of the ideological landscape. It would still be, they say, a center-right country.

I'm genuinely curious what it would take for them to think otherwise. My hunch is, no evidence would be sufficient. They just know it's a center-right country, and have no reason to trust their lying eyes.

Before the election, John McCain and the Republicans depicted Obama as one of the most liberal senators in the entire chamber. Guess what? They were correct.

And yet somehow this center-right nation of ours elected him. Funny, but I don't remember these same voices saying how Bush, who won more narrowly on every count, was elected by a fundamentally "center-left" electorate.

Heads we're center-right, tails we're center-right. You got that? Just because we're not a Scandinavian country doesn't mean we're fundamentally center-right.

Thomas Schaller

Thomas F. Schaller is professor of political science at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the author of "Whistling Past Dixie: How Democrats Can Win Without the South." Follow him @schaller67.

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