Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A Progressive Realignment?

Here's Bertha Lewis, ACORN's chief community organizer, thanking a number of radical left contingents for their help in defending against "scurrilous right-wing attacks and smears":

Recall that ACORN is the radical people's organization that deploys "in your face" methods of intimidation to shake-down banking institutions and force lenders to offer mortgages to unqualified minority borrowers. As Stanley Kurtz writes:

... intimidation tactics, public charges of racism and threats to use CRA to block business expansion have enabled ACORN to extract hundreds of millions of dollars in loans and contributions from America's financial institutions.
Ms. Lewis thanks two of the top "progressive" blogs in the leftosphere, Firedoglake and Open Left. In fact, David Sirota, at the latter, picking up on the current "Obama landslide" predictions, suggests that election day will bring about a "progressive mandate":

In the final weeks of this campaign, John McCain has been telling America that this is a contest between his own neo-Reaganism and Barack Obama's supposed socialism. And the result is McCain not only losing ground in traditional blue states, but also in traditional red states like Colorado.

Obama, of course, is no socialist - far from it (and I've worked for Congress's only self-described socialist, so I have some firsthand idea of what a socialist is and isn't). And his aides, like
Cass Sunstein in today's New Republic, are defensively making that point all over the place. But, as I told Larry King, that doesn't really matter in the shaping of a mandate - what matters is the choice the voters are being told they are making when they walk into the voting booth. And the one thing Republicans have done well in this campaign is portray this election as contest between two differing governing philosophies....

In that success, of course, the Right has set up a McCain defeat not merely as a loss for one candidate in one election, but a larger rejection of conservatism itself. As The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder wrote:

"It might be dangerous for the Republican Party to elevate the stakes for this election to a death match between competing ideologies. If Barack Obama's victory is as decisive as it is shaping up to be, the Democrats can justifiably claim that conservatism itself has been rejected as a political and governing philosophy....
Put another way, progressives may have very substantive concerns with some of Obama's positions on issues ... but because the GOP has framed the election on such extreme ideological grounds, the mandate that would come out of an Obama win would be way more progressive than Obama's own policy platform. It would be as progressive on many issues as the public already is (despite whether people call themselves "liberal" or "conservative").
Sirota mentions that he previously worked for Representative Bernie Sanders, a socialist, and suggests that the experience gives him first-hand insight into "what a socialist is and isn't."

That's good to hear, because
National Journal's 2007 ideological ranking of Senate voting patterns revealed Barack Obama as the most liberal member of the chamber, even further to the left than Sanders, who was elected to the Senate in 2006. Democracy Now wrote a big congratulatory on the election, "Vermont’s Bernie Sanders Becomes First Socialist Elected to U.S. Senate."

There's some controversy on the left as to
the methodological validity of National Journal's rankings, but considering other objective measurements, Obama ranks right up there with Sanders in ideological orientation.

Sirota also cites a report from the
Campaign for America's Future suggesting that the U.S. has shifted to a progressive electoral majority:
An exhaustive review released today of decades of public opinion research by the Campaign for America’s Future and Media Matters for America, using the most reputable, nonpartisan sources, leads to a simple conclusion: America is more progressive than people think—or, more precisely, than the conventional wisdom would lead them to believe. From the economy to social issues, terrorism to trade, Americans want politicians who recognize that we’re all in it together.
I've addressed the question of a possible Democratic electoral realignment in a previous post. The problem with realignment theory is that it's essentially "retrodictive," and thus we really won't know if there's been a fundamental shift in party coalitions and ideological alignments for a few more presidential elections.

That said, the country remains
a center-right polity, and if the Democrats govern under the assumption that they really have won a progressive (radical socialist) mandate, we'll see a backlash in the electorate faster than you can say "Jimmy Carter."