This week, Mitch McConnell declared the “era of liberalism is back” in response to President Obama’s Inaugural Speech on Monday. Conservatives in the media and online have gone ballistic over the speech; one that they claim is overly partisan and mixed with a highly liberal agenda. But is this actually true?
Well, Obama’s speech didn’t talk much about the fiscal issues of the day and really seemed to focus on a much more social agenda. These issues seemed to be focused on the rights of gays, climate change, immigration, and even a small nod to guns control. And you know what? Mitch McConnell and the Republicans are right to say that this was a very liberal speech.
But it’s not 1950, it’s 2013. These are no longer issues beholden only to the left or liberals. These are the social policy issues taken up by the median voter or the center of this country.
Let’s start with same-sex marriage and rights. Over 50% support such marriage and even more support at least civil unions and therefore equal protection under the law (pesky liberal idea!) and that number figures to increase every month. In fact, 1 in 5 people have changed their minds already on this issue . Nine states and D.C. already have legalized same-sex marriage with nine others allowing for unions of some type. There is also a Supreme Court ruling to come that may legalize it for the whole nation. Same-sex union and marriage have become the centrist position in a short amount of time, blindsiding conservatives.
And we see the same effect in other social areas. Climate change? 4 out of 5 people believe climate change is a real and serious problem. And unlike same-sex marriage, this topic hasn’t seen huge shifts in beliefs (60%+ in the polling). Immigration? 6 in 10 favor a pathway to citizenship with half of all republicans now in support of that very notion. How about gun control? Anywhere from 60-80% of current and former NRA members support forms of gun control the NRA opposes. Republicans, in general, support anywhere from 45% to 80% certain gun control measures. This is true of other social policies like views of Roe v Wade and abortion or throw in fiscal policies like taxes and entitlements which again show the GOP out of step with the median voter including many Republican voters.
And how are other prominent republicans reacting to the changing times?
Well, Paul Ryan ended his silence about the election today by claiming the party’s problem was that it’s not as technologically savvy or as good as getting its message across. Sorry, Mr. Ryan, but the problem isn’t technology or turnout or how you message; the problem is the message itself. The conservative position, by its very nature, is the position of an eventually dying belief. As time passes, we reform and change. It is part of societal progress. This is being reflected in the polling of a lot the issues up for discussion today. Conservatives didn’t want to end slavery, let African Americans to vote, women to vote, blacks and whites to marry, and now they don’t want homosexuals to marry or women to control their bodies or to listen to science. And like the conservatives before them, they will become extinct. Many republicans actually realize this or have naturally changed but the leaders of the party (in Congress or media) are the last to see what’s in front of them. It is imperative that the party on the right recognizes the shift in American values if they wish to remain relevant on a national stage.
So it’s not that President Obama gave a very liberal speech during his inauguration; it is that the country’s center is no longer what Conservatives remember.