Last Friday, Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer called the United States “the quintessential center-right country,” and wondered why it was “poised to reject” Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), “the quintessential center-right candidate.” Last week’s Newsweek cover declared, “America remains a center-right nation — a fact that a President Obama would forget at his peril.”
Ignoring the fact that a progressive majority won back Congress in 2006 — and that Democrats are expected to make dramatic gains in their majority today — conservatives continue to insist that Americans are fundamentally conservative and perpetually wary of Democrats:
FRED BARNES: In a center right country, I don’t think American people really want the liberal agenda. But they may get it anyway because they’re upset during the financial crisis. [Fox News, 10/11/08]
PAT BUCHANAN: The country is center right. As you can tell by the fact Obama’s been moving to the center as fast as he can. [MSNBC, 10/16/08]
JOE SCARBOROUGH: The country is not center left. It is center right. This country is more conservative than it was when we took over in 1994 after two years of calamitous Democratic rule. It is a center-right country. [MSNBC, 10/29/08]
Watch a mashup:
As David Sirota has noted, the idea that Americans are fundamentally conservative is a myth. Indeed, a majority of Americans want progressive solutions to the nation’s problems, supporting universal health care, expanded environmental protections, a higher minimum wage, the availability of safe and legal abortions, federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, and the rights of same-sex couples to be legally recognized. Additionally, a majority opposes the Iraq War.
By insisting that — despite all appearances to the contrary — Americans favor conservatives, the right wing is trying to handicap the progressive agenda before it has a chance of being enacted. But today’s election results are likely to throw an even greater wrench in the “center-right country” myth. The Washington Post’s E.J. Dionne disputed the conservatives’ entire premise, on MSNBC:
I disagree the notion that we are still a center-right country. We may have been a center-right country. But I think what you’re seeing here, John McCain is running very clearly against Barack Obama as a redistributionist and a socialist. And if the country votes for Barack Obama, I think the country will be saying not that they move far to the left, but we’re not center-right anymore. They want some government action to solve some of these problems.
Writing about the conservative myth in April, the American Prospect’s Paul Waldman noted, if a progressive President can “prove that government can solve some of our country’s most pressing problems, then success will build on success, and the conservative case will be that much harder to make in coming years.” Read a Media Matters report on why a conservative America is a myth here.