2012 Elections / Local / National / Politics / Virginia

Myth: “We are a center-right country”

One of the characterizations of America that I have difficulty with is that we are a center-right nation. Results from last Tuesday should disabuse us of that notion once and for all: With 120,871,984 votes cast, President Barack Obama received 62,088,847 votes and Mitt Romney received 58,783,137.

Some have argued that the president is really center-right. I do not find that argument persuasive, especially with him advocating the DREAM act, an end to the Iraq war,and his embrace of marriage equality, to name a few of his policies.

Democrats now hold 53 U.S. Senate seats. Independent Bernie Sanders, from Vermont, generally caucuses with the Democrats and Sen.-elect Angus King from Maine is widely expected to do the same. While not filibuster-proof, the 55 seats gives the Democrats a majority.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, Democratic candidates for the House of Representatives received more votes than their Republican counterparts. Only because of redistricting did the House remain in the hands of Republicans. The “center-right” Democrats, also known as Blue Dogs? Their numbers are down to just 24 after last Tuesday.

Those who argue in favor of ditching the electoral college for the popular vote might want to refocus their efforts on getting redistricting out of the hands of the legislators. Because here in Virginia, the president won as did Tim Kaine, the latter by an even wider margin.

But every single Congressional candidate was re-elected, and Virginia’s delegation remains an 8-3 Republican majority. Proof that all politics is local lies in the fact that Romney received more than 200,000 fewer votes than did the Republican candidates for the House, despite the fact that 109,000 fewer votes were cast in those races than for president.

(Until the SBE updates its website to include the breakdown of the president and senate contests by congressional district, as it has in the past, I can’t tell how well those candidates did within those districts. In 2008, President Obama carried six of the 11 congressional districts.)

No offense to the losers in the House races, but the odds were stacked against you. The lines drawn make it almost impossible for a candidate of the opposite party to win. The most egregious example of this has to be the 3rd district, where the challenger received less than 19% of the vote. The closest contest was in the 2nd district, where the challenger lost by only 8%. The largest number of votes cast occurred in the 7th district, where a highly touted – and nationally recognized – Democratic candidate still managed to lose by 17 points.

Partisan redistricting results in fewer competitive races and fewer votes cast; the proof is in the numbers. Ours is not a center-right country nor is Virginia  a center-right state. Our country and our state are center – period. No left or right.

And it’s high time that our elections reflect that.

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8 thoughts on “Myth: “We are a center-right country”

  1. How do you define the term “center-right”? I think that makes a big difference in determining whether the claim is myth or fact.

    If one defines the term only in the context of American politics over the course of the last century or so, then there were times during which more progressive policies prevailed on the national level. Roosevelt’s New Deal comes to mind. In that sense, I suppose one could deny the claim that the United States is politically a center-right country.

    In the larger context of global politics, center-right is probably apt. The Democratic Party is nowhere near as far left as numerous other major political parties around the world despite the fact that it happens to be to the left of the Republican Party (which is, itself, considered a centre-right party judging by it membership in the International Democrat Union; see here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Democrat_Union).

      • I always considered the right-left paradigm in the sense of the talking heads to refer towards the role and size of government in American life. In that sense, I think we are probably still a center-right country. Romney got less votes than McCain, while running an exponentially better campaign, because several million more Americans trusted Obama to manage the government more conservatively that Romney would have. These are the so-called moderate Republicans/Democrats, who are small government fiscal conservatives that are much more concerned with pragmatism than ideology. Obama smartly destroyed Romney’s credibility among these swing voters in the first few months of the campaign with the Bain attacks and the Republicans destroyed their own credibility among this group with the debt ceiling crisis, among other things. Had that not happened or had the Republicans had a more credible nominee, I think it would have been a much closer election with possibly a different result.

        Still the fact remains, as far as the electorate is concerned in non-presidential years, we are indisputably a center right country. You can blame some of that on redistricting, but most of it is just that the young and minority voters who turn out in huge numbers every 4 years don’t seem to care much about local and state legislative elections. Which I find hilarious because a electorally significant number of so called “conservative Republicans” would be supportive of progressive policies implemented at the state and local level if they could be assured the Federal government would not be involved. It’s not that they hate all government, just that they view the Federal government as too large and inefficient to implement even the best ideas at the national level. Sadly most Democrats seem entirely incapable or unwilling to recognize that.

        • Still the fact remains, as far as the electorate is concerned in non-presidential years, we are indisputably a center right country.

          Um, no, Max. The non-presidential electorate is just older and whiter. That doesn’t change the country, the mood of which we only truly gauge once every four years, when more people are participating.

          • I hate to say it, but were it not for Obama’s hugely effective political machine, those people would not have voted in such high numbers. So this “mood” is not so much gauged as it is pushed into place. The people who naturally vote without having to be dragged to the polls, the old white people as you say, are clearly more center right. The people who show up make the decisions, so I’m not sure how you can claim we are center-left when this center-left coalition doesn’t care enough about state and local elections to bother showing up in the same numbers. And you can’t blame all of that on redistricting, since if those voters had showed up in say the last 4 years, redistricting would have turned out much different.

  2. The National GOP made a series of mistakes from the end of the 2010 election cycle. These were in presentation of their agenda as well as lack of substance. I never read to much into election results this close to a national election. i remember full well all the pundits i heard on radio and tv bemoaning the long term fate of the Democrats after the 2004 election

  3. I hate to say it, but were it not for Obama’s hugely effective political machine, those people would not have voted in such high numbers.

    “Those people”? Really, Max. I expect better from you.

    So this “mood” is not so much gauged as it is pushed into place.

    You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink. If “those people” were not inclined to support Obama, they wouldn’t have shown up at all.

    The people who naturally vote without having to be dragged to the polls, the old white people as you say, are clearly more center right.

    And they are just one segment of the population, which I believe is the point I made early on.

    The people who show up make the decisions,

    Yep. And the decision was to vote in favor of something other than center-right policies.

    so I’m not sure how you can claim we are center-left

    As I tell my students, reading is fundamental. Just where did I say anything about this being center-left?

    when this center-left coalition doesn’t care enough about state and local elections to bother showing up in the same numbers. And you can’t blame all of that on redistricting, since if those voters had showed up in say the last 4 years, redistricting would have turned out much different.

    The people who turned out included folks on both sides, Max. That’s the point you seem to be missing. Had they shown up in 2009 – and truthfully, that’s the only year they needed to show up – then redistricting would have been different. There was no other election, at least not in Virginia, that could have changed the outcome of redistricting.

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