15 Apr 2011

Vaguely Center-Left Budget Speech Puts Leftist Dems in a Tizzy

Being a centrist independent, it’s strange to watch the folks inside the two major parties wring their hands when their own more ideologically extreme members flip out over things like Obama’s vaguely center-left budget speech.

Apparently some left wingers in the Democrats’ shrinking tent are screaming even louder for a primary challenge to Obama next year, since his speech wasn’t sufficiently, purely liberal / progressive. Somewhere along the line they haven’t noticed that Obama is just a regular liberal, not left wing, and he does compromise at times (which he said he’d do on the campaign trail).

It’s amazing that Nancy Pelosi is even in the position as the Dems’ leader in the House still, following her leading their caucus to a tidal wave of a defeat. But as the budget compromise deal passed the House, she communicated disdain for the bill, and that the negotiations had included the less-far-left Harry Reid, Obama and Speaker Boehner.

She must not have gotten the memo that she wasn’t the head honcho in the House anymore, which is odd, given that she led her party into the minority.

These are the consequences of losing elections. The Democrats lost huge majorities because they lost the swing vote that gave them the majority in 2006, and the White House in 2008. They did that, largely through completely ignoring moderates, centrists and independents.

The right has a bit more momentum on the budget issue, and the public leans a bit more conservative on fiscal issues in some ways as well. That Pelosi and the progressive left in the House refuse to accept that reality and try to get what they can from a compromise rather than having hissy fits is both telling and disappointing.

Author Details
After a few years of blogging on other sites, Solomon launched ‘Rise of the Center’ – the precursor to Uniters.org, leading to a number of interviews and freelance opportunities, most notably covering the 2012 election cycle on WNYC.org – the website for the largest NPR station in the country, in New York City – and reported from the floor of the 2012 Democratic & Republican National Conventions. After a hiatus from politics, the horrific circus of the 2016 election, and more generally increasing extremism and corruption, brought him back to this project.
After a few years of blogging on other sites, Solomon launched ‘Rise of the Center’ – the precursor to Uniters.org, leading to a number of interviews and freelance opportunities, most notably covering the 2012 election cycle on WNYC.org – the website for the largest NPR station in the country, in New York City – and reported from the floor of the 2012 Democratic & Republican National Conventions. After a hiatus from politics, the horrific circus of the 2016 election, and more generally increasing extremism and corruption, brought him back to this project.

0 thoughts on “Vaguely Center-Left Budget Speech Puts Leftist Dems in a Tizzy”

  1. A “vaguely Center-Left Budget speech” that accompanies a rather center-right budget, and I believe that is what the fuss is more about.

    I also say that the de3mocrats lost huge majorities not because “they lost the swing vote, largely through completely ignoring moderates, centrists and independents”, but rather becuase democrats, particularly liberal democrats did not come out to vote. Key constituencies that elected Obama and Democrats in 2008 just did not show up at the polls. Pres. Obama was actually working very hard to appeal to the middle, and working to bring compromise to the 2 sides (note stimulus package and Health Care Reform) that their base on the left was disillusioned and disappointed and just didn’t show up to vote. A good indication of this how large the drop off in the youth vote was from 2008 to 2010.

    1. This isn’t borne out in the polling data. Hard core partisans came out in high numbers during the midterms, which is typical for midterms. The big shift came among those that usually don’t vote in high numbers, especially in midterms. Independents were the biggest shift.

      1. Actually there is polling data that shows this. In the 2008 election, 51% of the youth vote (under 30 population) came out to vote. In 2010 only 22.8% of the youth vote voted, which is a drop 12+ million voters. That is a large number of people — the overwhelming majority of whom vote democratic (by a 19 point margin) — who just didn’t show up in 2010. There were lots of disaffected liberals in 2010, and that was the result of compromise and appeasement with the Right. yes, there was a independent shift but it was not the only thing going on, and in many elections it was not as decisive as the drop in the youth vote, and other typical “liberal” voters.

        1. You’re not disagreeing with me. This is normal for midterms. The only abnormal thing was how high Obama got them to come out in 2008. They’ve seen he’s not the transformative figure he made himself out to be, and have gone back down to normal levels. Had this been all that happened, there wouldn’t have been a wave election, that was caused by swing voters going right, just like swing voters going left put dems in power in 2006 and 2008.

          1. I think the “left” or the “liberals” (really need to try to define some terms here) are realizing the price of their disaffection. If they don’t vote, even if they are not excited, crazy people take over. In the past, in the midterms if the other party gained seats or even control, it didn’t matter so much. 8 or 12 years ago, or even 4 years ago, the GOP/Right would have never even dreamed, much less attempted, the types of changes to our government and society that they are now trying force. With these new extremists, the Left and dare I say a good portion of the center, are better coming to understand the necessity of their vote and they can no longer just stay home. Can’t bother to vote in the midterms, then the crazies will come out to play.

            The volume of voters in 2008 was highest, but, its only about 8 million more than in the 2004 Bush election, a portion of that is due to the overall increase in the population (similarly in the mid-terms: 2010 – 90 million, 2006 – 85 million). Ultimately, while they were energized and motivated to come out and vote in 2008, it is the Left/Liberals that reverted to their old behavior and stayed home and didn’t bother to vote.

            I’ve heard some pundits say (particularly those on the right) that this is a “center-right” country. I disagree (particularity with what the Right seems to current represent) and would modify that statement. The regular voting public center-right, but the overall country is center-left. Realizing a government that represents the overall country requires turnout, turnout, turnout. Typical political wisdom still holds. If turnout is big Democrats have the advantage. No one knows this better than the GOP, who around the country are redoubling their efforts to suppress voters — voters that might generally vote democratic – minorities, students, of the poor. GOP current efforts to disenfranchise potential Democratic voters are astonishing.

            Keep the liberals from coming to the polls and the GOP can win. 2010 is a good example of this.

            1. When they say that, that our country is center-right, they mean something that is actually provable with pollig data.

              We all know that polling has been consistant for years that the country leans right on fiscal issues, and leans left on social issues. But when you look at which issues people think are the most important, the fiscal issues take most of the higher ranks. This is why that statement actually does make some sense, although the right takes it to mean more than it actually does.

              Not being as crazy as the other side is not an argument that holds water with many actual swing voters. I think Obama has a near lock on reelection, unless Huntsman magically finds a way to win the nomination, but that isn’t the case with the House and Senate.

              Like it or not, the districts that swung last election were predominantly swing districts, where swing voters are even more powerful. If you want dems in, they need to build a big tent, the way Howard Dean did with his 50 state strategy, and push legislation that moderates and centrists actually like. I’ll say again, the left contending that they are less extreme than the other side is not an argument centrists like me give a damn about. Both sides are extreme, I’m not going to vote for anyone unless they have at least a moderate streak, period… and the number of people who think this way is growing.

              1. A few points:

                national political polling has biases — and the biases are growing. The Pew Center’s analysis suggest that it is as large as 6 percent favoring the GOP/Right 9anf that’s of just “likely” voters). This percentage is due entirely to the the polls only surveying landline phones and excluding cell phones. And of course, as you know, the younger you are, the more likely you are to have only a cell phone and no landline. Further, if you have a landline you are less likely to answer questions over the phone, or even answer the phone if you are poor or young adding addition Right-leaning bias (these are for the most part “unlikely voters — the group that tends not to show up at the polls. So I any conclusion that purports to know the tone of the country without explicitly recognizing it’s limitations and inability to capture all segments of our society adequately.

                Further, a lot depends on how one defines the “center”, or the “left”, or the “right”. Without actually defining what these terms mean for those surveyed responses to the survey are inconsistent, and inconsistent from period to period as meaning/connotation change over time. For example, personally, I consider myself to be a “centrist” or a “moderate” and have considered myself that for at least a couple of decades. 4 or 8 years ago a segment of the society concur. Today, there is a manipulated swath of the population that would consider me a raging socialist liberal. The term “liberal” has been under attack as well, there has been a consistent and relentless campaign by the Right to turn the word “liberal” into a pejorative. And it’s been successful — less people self-identify as “liberal” today than a few years ago. Not becuase their views have change, but becuase negative connotations have been attached to the word. Note that if you substitute the word “progressive” for “liberal”, you’ll get a much bigger response. Words matter, and for the surveys to be really effective in capturing the mood of the Nation, you really have to remove differing bias/understanding/sensitivity of the terms.

                As for the “not being as crazy” point, I didn’t say that. But it is obvious to any reasonably informed participant. Further my use of the word “crazies” is exactly how anyone on anywhere to the left of center views those Tea part Republicans, and all that is required for my point — it is how they view what has happened.

                The Democratic strategy regarding a “big tent” has not changed. It is, in fact, a much bigger tent than the GOP, who are purging members who aren’t on the far right (note Charlie Christ, among others). Dennis Kucinich and Ben Nelson are in the same party. The Democrats are still a pretty big tent and it is set to get bigger as the few remaining moderate Republicans find homes as Democrats. I also think it is hard to suggest that Pres. Obama has not proved to be anything but a moderate and centrist in office. In fact, as “Compromiser-in-Chief” Obama’s change has proved to be fairly conservative. To believe anything else, you have to duped by the relentless rhetoric of the far right “crazies” (where even policies and positions taken by Republicans in the past are considered “radical socialism” and “anti-American”.

                I totally reject the idea that “both sides are extreme”. I’m firmly in the center, and I’ve seen nothing offered by the Democrats over the past few years that even has a hint of extremism. If you can find something I’d love to know about it. I really reject the idea that both sides are the same and do the same thing as promoted by some in the main stream media. This is a false equivalency was just an easy way out to rationalize or even legitimize the extremist rhetoric and tactics on the far right. But its pure bunk, and some in the media have started to roll it back (like CNN, for example).

                You ending statement begs the question for me, what is a “moderate streak”? How do you define “moderate” or even the “Center”. is it merely a compromise position between the Right and the Left — and therefore dependent on what they say the debate and issues are about, or is it something else? Is there an unwavering set of principles, ideals, ideas and philosophy that define it? Clearly the center, as implicitly positioned by current far right rhetoric, would probably be to the Right of Ronald Reagan. I reject that. The center can no be defined by an attempt to push rhetoric to an extreme on one side. it is not just the average or median position across a changing and fickle spectrum. My identity as a “moderate” or a “centrist” is guided by what I believe in — regardless of whatever extreme rhetoric dominates coverage in the media and regardless of whatever extreme Right wing insanity that gets repeatedly pushed on the public.

                1. I don’t have time to answer all of this, but…

                  Polling data is by far the most accurate gauge we have. I don’t agree with the conclusions of the American people sometimes, but I don’t whine about it and cry foul because I’d rather it be different. Saying polling isn’t perfect is obvious, but pretending that is a reason to project what you’d like the results to be instead is silly. Their models have been shown to be quite accurate over and over and over.

                  And my experience volunteering for campaigns in both parties over the years, reading blogs on both sides, watching campaigns, etc… there are more extreme republicans in elected office at this moment in time, but that was flipped not too long ago, and there are just as many extremists in the democratic base as the GOP base.

                  1. Whether is the most accurate we have or not doesn’t mean it is accurate. I’m not whining about it. I’m an economist and trained in statistical methods and data quality. You can’t just take these things a face value, you have to look at the data, how it was collected, the wording of the questions, etc. It’s not just me saying this, many others do as well. It’s far from perfect, and as I pointed out significant biases existing in the sampling methods, and in this country at least, they result in a strong conservative bias. That’s just the way it is.

                    I am also not saying that there are not saying that there aren’t people with extreme views in the Democratic base. However, unlike the Republican party, they do not have control of the party, they have not shifted the party to take these extreme positions, their rhetoric does not dominate the party platforms, policy positions, messages, or statements. The extreme Right fringe is the tail wagging the Republican dog. The fringe in the Democratic party is just that, a fringe. It does not dominate any aspect of the party and has not dominated any aspect of the party and its activity for many decades. The Democratic party and the Republican party are just not the same in this regard. There is no equivalence in this regard. Again, it’s just too easy to say that they are” both the same”, even if only to justify a space in the middle. But any reasonable analysis, will show that’s it’s just not accurate.

                    1. I’ll say again… what is your problem?

                      I’m not using a damn thing to justify anything. I’m telling you my perspective based on my personal experience and my familiarity with polling data. Go right ahead and attack the messenger for lack of perfection, just like the crackpots that find reasons to doubt global warming. I take polling data as aggregate, because that is the most accurate bell weather I have. Until something better comes along, that is the measure I’ll use. Anything else is reading the tea leaves.

                      I didn’t say both are the same, I said both are extreme. If you want to play the game of who is more extreme, go right ahead, and I agreed with you that the GOP has more extremists in elected office already, so I don’t know what you’re going on about.

                    2. I really have no problem. I appreciate what you are trying to do. I just want to understand what you are promoting, and if I have an issue with what is said Ill question it to build greater clarity.

                      What I don’t understand is how the Democratic party is “extreme”. By what measure are they extreme? What is your definition of extreme? What policies are they promoting that could possibly be considered extreme? Please tell me.

                      I really don’t see both parties as “extreme”. They are not the “same” in that respect. Is it both are extreme and crazy and therefore I am not?

                      All you seem to say it that I am in the middle and the 2 parties are extreme. Yet i still have no idea what you think it means to be “centrist”. What policies, solutions would a centrist offer as solutions to our current problems. I don’t know what the center, as you identify it, believes. Falling in line with the center is all well and good, but what does that imply? Or are all you saying is take couple things from column D and a couple things for column R? (Basically, that sums up Pres. Obama.). Or are you just where the majority ends up in polls at any particular point in time, regardless of how that shifts in whatever direction for whatever reason? I think that type of position is unsatisfying intellectually, and does not bode well for any “centrist” movement if they can’t describe what they stand for. Merely saying both are extreme is not a position on the issues.

                      What does a “centrist” think about Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Education, Defense, immigration, taxation, debt and deficits, international affairs, the Middle East. Surely you are not going to tell me, “take a poll and I’ll tell you where I stand”.

                      I’ve been in the center for a long time. I’ve worked for a Democratic Administration and a Republican one. I’ve been involved with policy and politics for more than 20 years. Regardless of movement at the ends of the political spectrum my centrist beliefs and values and what I consider to be correct and reasonable have not changed. I’m happy to discuss exactly where I stand with my centrist positions.

                      I’m happy to promote an centrist ideology, and perhaps this site, as a third way forward. But I think a third way has to be for something and can’t be defined as just being between and against the others.

                    3. Biggest example of extreme policy coming from the dems lately… Obama is thankfully taking a more moderate approach, but if it were up to many in his party, any cuts to entitlement spending would be off the table. This is just as extreme of an idea as Paul Ryan’s gutting of Medicare.

                      I differentiate between extreme and wingnuts/crazy. I’ve known plenty of politically extreme folks who are far from crazy… among them hard core libertarians, socialists, even anarchists, and I’ve known my share of crazy centrists and moderates. The terms crazy and extreme are not interchangeable.

                      I already told you what centrist means. Its just a range in the center of the political spectrum. What is at all hard to understand about that? It is only difficult to understand if you try to make it more than it is. It doesn’t “imply” anything.

                      I’m not taking anything from any column. In some cases the center agrees a lot more with one side over the other, but doesn’t go as far as either side would go.

                      I wasn’t taking a position on the issues, pointing out that both sides are extreme…

                      Seriously man… stop reading between the lines. I’m saying very straightforward things and you’re taking them to mean all sorts of things that don’t have anything to do with what I’ve said.

                      You’re a smart guy, look at polling to show where the center is on the issues. Its not rocket science… and as much as I would love to lay out where the average centrist lies on most issues, I really don’t have time to do that. This doesn’t mean I agree with the center on everything, it just means that’s where the center is. This is also no different than finding out what your average voter on the right or left thinks.

                      And perhaps you are making the mistake of thinking there *is* a centrist ideology. There isn’t. An ideology is a system of connected political beliefs. That doesn’t exist for centrists. The centrists and moderates I’ve talked to enough to understand where they are coming from have come to their political conclusions through looking at the issues separately. They don’t buy into any of the ideologies of today for the most part, although they might look at some of the logic behind their stances on some things and buy into that.

                    4. I think we are getting somewhere.

                      You suggest that resisting cuts to entitlement programs is extreme. But by your own definition that is “centrist”. A very recent McClatchy-Marist Poll indicated that four in five registered voters oppose cutting Medicare and Medicaid (a margin more than big enough to offset any bias). According to a WSJ/NBC poll three-in-four Americans reject the idea of cutting Social Security benefits. What entitlements are really left, whatever they are comparatively they are white noise in the budget. A vast majority of the Nation oppose cuts to entitlements. So rather than “extreme”, that is clearly “centrist”, and certainly the majority point of view.

                2. “My identity as a “moderate” or a “centrist” is guided by what I believe in — regardless of whatever extreme rhetoric dominates coverage in the media and regardless of whatever extreme Right wing insanity that gets repeatedly pushed on the public.”

                  Your definition has nothing to do with what a centrist is. All it is is a range on a spectrum of political belief, like left or right. It’s the classic bell curve you learn about in poly sci 101. I’m not a centrist on everything, more like 80ish% of the time, and I don’t define it based on anything related to myself.

                  1. Wow. So what you believe in changes with how the political winds are blowing. So essentially you are saying that a centrists views and positions are actually defined by others. That you don’t have firm beliefs and just want to be in between what other people are saying? Really? That doesn’t seem to be “centrist” to me, and dare I say to a lot of people.

                    I guess “centrists” can’t even agree on what it means to be a “centrist”, and maybe that’s part of the problem.

                    1. What the hell is your problem? This is a bunch of bullshit stereotyping and personal crap you decide to read between the lines.

                      I’m not a centrist BECAUSE the center is where it is, I just happen to fall in line with the center most of the time. My beliefs come from years of learning about politics, and I can assure you I don’t know a single person who’s beliefs are stronger than mine.

                      I don’t care what other people want to make centrist out to being. My definition is literal… the center of the electorate, based on the best data we have.

  2. Also, overall, the number of voters dropped off. In 2008, there were 132.6 million voters, in 2010 there were only 90.7. Given that the hard core Right was energized and came out to vote, I suspect that the 42 million voters that didn’t show up in 2010 were mostly democratic voters — they were the not the “energized” group making all the noise (mostly incoherent), they were the disappointed and disaffected.

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