Today, Eags offers a post-mortem of the second inaugural address proclaimed by the POTUS 44. The verdict? The Dumbos are terminally ill. It was the biggest butt-kickin' taken by the old white guys since the final scenes of "Django Unchained." If this is a (fair & balanced) example of life imitating art, so be it.
[x NY Fishwrap]
The Tomorrow Majority
By Timothy Egan
Tag Cloud of the following article
Oh, the horror: a gay bar mentioned in the same sentence as Selma and Seneca Falls, a call to fix a gasping planet, a stirring defense of health care for the elderly and citizenship for 11 million people living in the American shadows. And now, women in combat. What’s become of this country?
“One thing is clear from the president’s speech: the era of liberalism is back,” said the perpetually puckered Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell.
“Unapologetically liberal,” was the takeaway quote in a video sent out this week by Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS.
Liberal, liberal, liberal! The wedge label is the last weapon of people who are out of step with their era. Rove and company are betting that “liberal” still has the power to scare. But did you notice that these opponents of President Obama’s Inauguration Day aria didn’t take issue with the substance of what he said? Are they for a legal system that excludes gays from rights that other citizens share? Do they favor global warming? Do they intend to deport the millions of immigrants without papers, and further alienate the fastest-growing block of voters?
A larger question for those who want to stand athwart history yelling “Stop!” is whether a majority of Americans now favor all the things that Obama alluded to on the first full day of his second term. In fact, they do. The electoral realignment is happening so quickly it looks like an Alaskan river thawing before our eyes. In opposition, Republicans speak for a fast-fading past, or a permanent winter.
And that sneaky, Machiavellian Obama: he made them do it. He’s trying to “just shove us into the dustbin of history,” said House Speaker John Boehner this week. No shoving was required — the Republicans climbed right into the dustbin and put the lid on to keep out the light.
McConnell believes Obama’s words in the 57th Inaugural Address were “unabashedly far-left of center.” Maybe in 1956 that was true. Or 1981. But not in 2013. Obama’s framework is the new center. Call him a liberal. But if you forget the label, and poll on the substance of his remarks, you find a broad, fresh coalition siding with the president on all the major issues he highlighted.
This doesn’t necessarily mean the country is more “liberal.” But it does mean, at the least, that the center has moved, and Republicans have not.
On climate change, a Pew poll at the height of last’s fall’s election found strong bipartisan support for taking steps against many of the effects of global warming. There was a significant increase in those who say the storms, fires, droughts, record-high-temperatures and ice-melting of the last decade or so are human-caused. Only 12 percent — and here’s where the talk radio and Fox wing of the Republican party are glaringly out of step — believe it’s some kind of hoax.
Gay marriage support has surged so quickly, and across the board, that only an aging cohort of Republicans is still against it. Among young people, those 18 to 29, it’s no contest: 73 percent favor it, according to Gallup last November.
Immigration reform is another loser for Republicans. An Associated Press survey released this week had 62 percent in favor of allowing illegal immigrants a path to citizenship. The Republican Party cannot survive without Hispanic support, and this poll recognized that: 53 percent of G.O.P. members now favor the “liberal” solution — amnesty! — up an astonishing 22 points in just two years.
On and on, from protecting Medicare and Social Security against voucher plans like those advocated by Representative Paul Ryan, to increasing taxes on the wealthy, a big majority prevails. Guns? About 9 in 10 Americans favor criminal background checks for gun buyers, which is the one idea that seems most likely to pass, despite opposition from leading Republicans.
If the era of liberalism is back, as McConnell said in deriding Obama’s speech, it has metastasized and taken on a new form. It’s nonwhite, young and urban. It’s college-educated women. It’s West Coast and East Coast, the Rocky Mountain states of Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada and, soon, Arizona. It’s the upper Midwest, and the Philadelphia exurbs. In the South, it’s Florida, Virginia, North Carolina, and maybe Georgia to follow within a decade.
Of course, the Democrats can always overreach. Arrogance breeds hubris. What do not have majority support are huge new government spending programs. And Obama, in his speech, did not call for such things. (His health care law is the product of Mitt Romney and the Heritage Foundation, and relies on free enterprise “exchanges” rather than a government takeover, despite what critics say.)
But Obama did defend the two great government programs that work and must be shored up: Social Security and Medicare. “These things do not sap our initiative; they strengthen us,” Obama said. “They do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great.” If those words are the distillation of liberalism, bring on the chisels and scratch them into marble.
So, who is out of step? Who is to the far side of the center? In 1958, just four percent of those polled by Gallup were in favor of allowing blacks and whites to marry each other. That figure now is 86 percent. The Republicans of 2013 can stand still, like those Eisenhower-era opponents of interracial marriage. But they cannot call their opposition to gay marriage, climate change measures, immigration reform and raising taxes on the wealthy mainstream positions.
Looking at the coming battles in Washington, Representative Justin Amash, Republican of Michigan, spoke more political truth in one sentence than Boehner and McConnell have in four years of speeches. “The public is not behind us,” he said, “and that’s a real problem for our party.” Ω
[Timothy Egan writes "Outposts," a column at the NY Fishwrap online. Egan — winner of both a Pulitzer Prize in 2001 as a member of a team of reporters who wrote the series "How Race Is Lived in America" and a National Book Award (The Worst Hard Time in 2006) — graduated from the University of Washington with a degree in journalism, and was awarded an honorary doctorate of humane letters by Whitman College in 2000 for his environmental writings. Egan's most recent book is The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire that Saved America (2009).]
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