When words lose their meaning – I do not think ‘conservative’ means what you think it means

Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

Media polling firms have for decades provided respondents with only three choices to self-identify their political beliefs: liberal, conservative and moderate. Based on this categorization, there has been remarkable stability in ideological orientation, with 20% of Americans identifying themselves as “liberal” and about 40% classifying themselves as either “moderate” or ”conservative” according to Gallup polling from 1992 to 2008. The media villagers lazily recite the Gallup polling to assert that America is a center-right country ideologically.

Political scientists, however, know better. The old classifications of liberal, conservative and moderate have long since lost their meaning.The decades long far-right media assault to demonize "liberals" has caused many liberals to defensively identify themseleves as "progressives." The "liberal" brand of the Democratic Party has been watered down by conservative corporatist Democratic organizations like the Democratic Leadership Council, New Democrats, Third Way, Boll Weevils and Blue Dogs, etc. Today's Democratic Party is not the party of FDR and Truman, or LBJ.

I have said many times that conservatives today "are not your father's GOP." Conservatives today are the John Birchers whom Republican conservatives like William F. Buckley kicked out of the GOP for being too extremist, and the theocratic Christian Right whom "the father of movement conservatism," Arizona's Sen. Barry Goldwater, rejected as being too extremist. Think about the irony in that for a moment. This is the man who famously said that "extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice!"

The media villagers collectively suffer from amnesia and cannot recall that the Republican Party once had a liberal wing and many moderates. They have since been purged from the Republican Party by its extemist fringe, but they are still out there in the electorate.

When respondents are given more options from which to identify their political beliefs and, more importantly, when polled on specific issues, a surprising and seemingly contradictory result emerges (only because of media mislabeling). Americans are far more left-of-center in their beliefs on specific issues, even self-identified conservatives. These "liberal" beliefs are in fact the "centrist" or "moderate" position of  large majorities of Americans. For an excellent political science discussion on this topic see the State of American Political Ideology, 2009: A National Study of Political Values and Beliefs.

This helps to explain the latest results of the new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll. WSJ/NBC News Poll Finds Support Lacking for Entitlement Reductions – WSJ.com (link to full report):

In the poll, Americans across all age groups and ideologies said by large margins that it was "unacceptable'' to make significant cuts in entitlement programs in order to reduce the federal deficit. Even tea party supporters, by a nearly 2-to-1 margin, declared significant cuts to Social Security "unacceptable."

The WSJ/NBC News Poll, composed of 36% conservatives and only 24% liberals, found the following support levels:

81% – Taxing millionaires
68% – Eliminating Bush tax cuts
74% – Eliminating oil & gas subsidies
77% – Support public union bargaining rights


The full results of this poll have surprising and seemingly contradictory results for a media village that lazily recites this is a center-right country. The Rachel Maddow Show did an excellent analysis of the poll results and an essay on what liberals/progressives should take away from the poll results: focus on "economic populism" which cuts across all demographic groups and self-identifying political beliefs (except for wealthy conservatives, i.e., plutocrats).

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Transcript of Wednesday, March 2nd – Rachel Maddow show – msnbc.com:

MADDOW: If you were king for the day, if you got to make the decisions in this country and you wanted to bring down the deficit, would you raise taxes on people making more than $1 million a year? Would you let the Bush tax cuts expire for the richest people in the country? Would you get rid of the subsidies, the tax breaks for oil and gas companies?

Would you do all those things? Really? Are you that liberal? Are you that liberal that you would do all those things?

If you are that liberal that you would do all of those things, then you are an average American. The support for these policies—look at this—the support for these policies is the support you get for the contention that puppies are cute. Eighty-one percent of the country supports raising taxes on millionaires to close the deficit, 81 percent.

If you look at the policies that Americans say they support, then we are the “Soviet Republic of Americanistan.” We are a bunch of commies in this country.

If you don‘t, tell somebody whether a policy is a liberal idea or a conservative idea. If you don‘t say who is proposing or supporting the policy, if you don‘t say where the idea is coming from, big majorities of Americans support really, really liberal economic policies—more liberal policies that are being supported even with Democratic majorities in Washington.

These are from the new NBC News/”Wall Street Journal” Poll that just came out today.

* * *

The American people turns out are a bunch of commie, pinko libs.

We‘re hippies. Dogs on streams. Soak the rich. Kumbayah.

Here‘s the most amazing thing, though. The same group of people who says that this is what they believe in, in terms of policy, the same group of people who believes this, mostly call themselves conservatives. Thirty-six percent of people in this NBC News poll, in this poll with these numbers, identify themselves as conservatives. Only 24 percent identify as liberals.

We like to use this word conservative. You keep using this word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

Comments are closed.