It's just three days after Barack Obama swept the board in the presidential race, and already the mainstream media pundits are repeating their shopworn argument that "America is still a center-right country."
America is still fundamentally conservative, their argument goes, and Obama needs to "govern from the center." They claim his election was the result of his personal charisma and the ineptitude of the McCain campaign rather than widespread support of his (relatively) liberal positions, that he has no mandate for advancing a progressive agenda, and blah-de-blah-de-blah-blah-blah.
America is not a "center-right" country anymore. Okay, maybe it is on "social issues" (gay marriage, gun control, immigration) but it has become a center-left country on economic issues (tax policy, health care, the minimum wage, regulation of business, the environment, energy policy, etc.)
The evidence? Obama ran on a platform of guaranteed health care, a more equitable tax policy and more regulation of banking and finance. He famously said he wanted to "spread the wealth around." John McCain (and Joe the Plumber) seized on that phrase and repeatedly ripped Obama as a "socialist" and a "communist" for taking that position. And Obama won - not by a piddling margin like George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004, but in a landslide.
Can you spell M-A-N-D-A-T-E?
Want more evidence? A Gallup Poll in late October asked: "Do you feel that the distribution of money and wealth in this country today is fair, or do you feel that the money and wealth in this country should be more evenly distributed among a larger percentage of the people?"
Only 37% thought "distribution is fair"; 58% said wealth "should be more evenly distributed." That sure sounds like "spreading the wealth" to me.
Want still more evidence? The day after the election the New York Times posted a fascinating series of interactive maps that showed which counties across the country had shifted from red to blue and vice-versa in each of the last four presidential elections. (I'd give you a link to this feature but I can't seem to find it on the Times' site anymore.) Despite Bush's victories in 2000 and 2004, with each presidential election cycle the map has gotten more blue. In 2008 only a smattering of counties stretching along the northern fringe of the former Confederacy shifted to red.
The mainstream pundits are singing the same tired song they always sing. When Democrats lose, they say the party needs to move to the right to become competitive again. When Democrats win, they still say the party needs to move to the right to stay competitive. But oddly, whether the Republicans win or lose, you never hear those pundits say the GOP has to move to the left.
Whose agenda are they pushing? I'll leave that for you to figure out.
Princeton economist Paul Krugman has an excellent column today about Obama's mandate. Hopefully the next president will listen to commentators like Krugman - and the voters - and ignore the pompous Washington and New York media gasbags who are still peddling horsepuckey about how conservative this country is.