The conventional (alleged) wisdom from mainstream media punditry has been telling us for years that America is a center-right nation. Never mind the contrary evidence that polls reveal about a populace that favors higher taxes on the rich, marriage equality, action to mitigate Climate Change, immigration reform that includes a pathway to citizenship, enhanced gun safety measures, breaking up big banks, fewer foreign military engagements, an end to gerrymandering and voter suppression, and greater access to healthcare. Somehow the pundit class still manages to define the electorate much farther to the right than reality dictates.
Two polls this week illustrate the fallacy of the media perception of where America stands. These aren’t the first polls to set the record straight, but coming out within a couple of days of each other as a new presidential election cycle begins to gear up is instructional and ought to have an impact on how the press frames the political discourse for the next few months.
The first poll is from NBC News and the Wall Street Journal. It asked respondents to indicate their comfort levels with various traits of potential candidates. The poll produced an index that expressed the mood of the voters with regard to these traits. Topping the list as the most acceptable trait was “African-American,” with a rating of 75. Those that followed with ratings above fifty were women (74), persons under age 50 (66), Hispanics (63), military background (62), governors (62), and Catholics (57).
Even more telling (and troubling for Republicans) were those at the bottom of the list with negative ratings. They were persons with no prior elected experience (-39), Tea Party leaders (-28), and persons with no college degree (-22). Notables in those categories include Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, and college dropout Scott Walker. Additionally, our allegedly center-right nation is more comfortable with a gay or lesbian presidential candidate (33), than with an evangelical Christian (7), or any of the previously mentioned bottom dwellers.
By contrast, when the poll is segmented by party affiliation, Republicans are exposed for their overt biases. They do not rank an ethnic minority until the fifth and sixth spots: Hispanic (69) and African-American (66). Women don’t rate until ninth place with a comfort level barely above fifty (54). However, as might be expected, gays and lesbians are second to last with a negative 15 rating.
The other poll is from Reuters who surveyed Americans to ascertain their favorite pundits. On this poll Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert were in a virtual tie with about 47% saying they admired them. The same two topped the charts on the question of who “generally shares your view of the world.” Rush Limbaugh brought up the rear with only 25% giving him any admiration. And it was all right-wingers (Ann Coulter, Laura Ingraham, Glenn Beck, etc.) at the bottom for both the admiration and the world view questions.
One pundit in the survey must be particularly pissed off by these results. Bill O’Reilly ranked significantly lower than Stewart and Colbert on every issue. Since he has been obsessed with attacking them as “deceivers” and the “key components of left-wing television,” he isn’t going to take well the news that large majorities of Americans prefer the Comedy Central duo to him.
The real question is: When will the media take notice that the United States is not the center-right nation they keep pretending it is? We now have evidence that covers both policies and personalities that undeniably paints the country as more progressive. And the only reason that our political representation doesn’t reflect that is because of the corruption of money in campaigns and the corruption of gerrymandering in drawing legislative districts.
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Were those problems resolved we would see where the nation really comes down ideologically. But don’t count on Republicans to willingly allow more fairness and honesty in the electoral process. The corruption in the system currently is the only reason they have any power now and they aren’t about to let it go. It will have to be taken from them by committed proponents of true democracy. In the words of Patti Smith: “People Have The Power. The power to dream, to rule, to wrestle the world from fools.” We just need to exercise it.