Tea Party ideology makes Obama’s agenda look more liberal than it actually is

As I noted HERE this past Wednesday, much of the agenda outlined by President Obama in his Second Inaugural Address enjoys wide support among the American people. Hence, that agenda can hardly be said to be far out of the political mainstream, especially compared to the Tea Party philosophy that currently holds sway in Republican circles.

Zachary Goldfarb has more about this HERE:

Opinion polls show that on almost all of the major positions Obama espoused in his speech— entitlements, immigration, climate change and same-sex marriage — a majority of Americans agree with him.

By that measure, Obama did not advance a liberal agenda. A consequential one, certainly, but one that reflects centrist views or center-left ones at most. The agenda seems liberal only when judged against the liberal-conservative divide we’re used to in Washington.

Over the past four years, politics in the nation’s capital has been consumed by the fight between the president and tea party Republicans. But because Obama is far closer to the center than the tea party is, what counts as middle ground in Washington is more conservative than the political center nationwide. In this setting, even centrist proposals face mighty legislative hurdles.

Beyond the capital’s divisions, citizens across the country resist the “liberal” label — even though polls show that they tend to hold liberal positions on individual issues. Political scientists call this “symbolic” vs. “operational” ideology.

According to one poll, 74 percent of Americans support regulating greenhouse gas emissions to combat climate change. According to another, 68 percent oppose cutting spending on Medicaid, the public health insurance program for the poor. And other polls show that more than half of Americans favora path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, a vast majority opposecuts in education or transportation funding, and a slim majority supportsame-sex marriage.

Obama’s inaugural speech sounded liberal because he offered the kind of robust defense of government’s role in the nation’s life that has seldom been heard from Democratic politicians after President Bill Clinton declared in 1996 that “the era of big government is over.”


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