Myth of the Center-Right Nation

There’s a small discussion going on about Obama’s State of the Union speech over on Jeff Pelline’s Blog. One of the commenters repeated the old canard about the United States being a “center/right-of-center nation,” and also made the claim that no one can successfully govern here from the left.

On the contrary, when US citizens are polled on issues, we are definitely a center-left — or liberal/progressive — nation.

Obama, if he hopes to win a second term, should study those who have successfully governed from the center-left, like FDR, and he should take a lesson from someone like Bernie Sanders of Vermont, a European-style social democrat — a liberal progressive socialist in our parlance — who (both as a congressman and as a senator) has won huge majorities in a mostly red state that also gave huge majorities to George Bush.

Obama should look closely at the kind of Democrats who are now in trouble. They are mostly of the center-right variety.

Obama should recall Harry Truman’s warning that “when given a choice between a Republican and a Democrat imitating a Republican, voters would not hesitate to vote for the real thing.”

What I was hoping — but not expecting — to hear last night from Obama was something more akin to the following sentiments, expressed by our most successful center-left president, Franklin Roosevelt (whom Obama purports to admire) in his famous 1936 Madison Square Garden speech:

For nearly four years you have had an Administration which instead of twirling its thumbs has rolled up its sleeves. We will keep our sleeves rolled up.

We had to struggle with the old enemies of peace: business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering.

They had begun to consider the Government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs. We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob.

Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me … and I welcome their hatred.”

Here’s the audio:

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