Bob Burnett – Berkeley writer, retired Silicon Valley executive
These are hard times. The weather’s bad and the economy awful. Obama has lost his mojo and 14 million Americans are unemployed. Many Liberals are discouraged and fearful about the 2012 election. But there’s plenty of time to re-energize, so long as Liberals remember who we are and what we are fighting for.
Liberals are the largest group of registered voters. The most recent Pew Research poll on political preference indicates that 16 percent of registered voters are “solid Liberals” who support “across-the-board Liberal positions.” (This compares with 11 percent of registered voters who are “Staunch Conservatives” labeled as “Highly engaged Tea Party supporters.”)
The Democratic Party has millions more potential voters than does the Republican Party. Pew Research reports that supporters of the Democratic Party are 40 percent of registered voters: solid Liberals — 16 percent, “Hard-pressed Democrats” — 15 percent, and “New Coalition Democrats” — 9 percent. In contrast, Republicans are 25 percent of registered voters: the Tea Party radicals plus 14 percent who are “Main Street Republicans. The Pew poll sees the 2011 US political world as 40 percent Democratic, 35 percent Independent, and 25 percent Democratic. Moreover, 14 percent of Independents are characterized as “Post Moderns,” “Moderates, but Liberal on social issues.” Liberals should be able to mobilize a majority of registered voters — Democrats plus Postmodern Independents.
Liberals believe the US economy should work for everyone, not just millionaires and billionaires. Our challenge is to get this message across to American voters.
The 2012 election will feature two dramatically different narratives. The Republican message is: “Government is the problem. Reduce taxes and government and the economy will magically blossom.” Liberals need a strong counter message, such as that of Van Jones’ Rebuild the Dream movement. Rebuild the Dream proposes a new social contract with 10 elements: Invest in America’s infrastructure. Create 21st-Century energy jobs. Invest in public education. Offer Medicare for all. Make work pay. Secure Social Security. Return to fairer tax rates. End the wars and invest at home. Tax Wall Street speculation. Strengthen democracy — by ensuring fair elections.
Liberals care about the welfare of average Americans and staunch conservatives do not. Recently, activist Carl Pope compared Tea Party radicals to the Taliban, “… just as the Taliban, when they took over Afghanistan in 1994, had an agenda entirely disconnected from the welfare of the average Afghan, the dominant strand of conservative thinking in Washington today couldn’t care less what happens to the average American.”
Liberals believe America’s strength is its diversity: E Pluribus Unum, “Out of many, one.” We believe in justice and fair treatment for all Americans, regardless of race, ethnicity, sexual preference, or religious affiliation. That differentiates Liberals from staunch conservatives — who are Christian and White — and means that we can form alliances with many groups.
The Pew Research poll notes a fundamental difference between “solid Liberals” and the other two groups that lean Democratic — “Hard-pressed Democrats” and “New coalition Democrats”: “both of these last two groups are highly religious and socially conservative.” To the extent that cultural issues — such as abortion and homosexuality — dominate political discourse, these groups can be peeled away from the Democratic bloc to vote Republican. In his classic, What’s the Matter With Kansas? journalist Tom Frank detailed how Republicans redirect economic discontent to explosive cultural issues. In 2012, “moral purity” will be a major Republican theme — particularly if messianic Texas Governor Rick Perry becomes the GOP candidate. The Liberal challenge is to ensure that jobs and economic fairness become the dominant political themes, not “How can we make the US a Christian nation?”
Liberals believe in holding politicians accountable, starting with President Obama. Recently labor organizer Amy Dean observed, “[In 2012] Our role cannot once again be to simply elect the lesser of two evils. It must instead be demanding — as a condition of our enthusiasm, our financial donations and our ground forces in any campaign — a massive investment in jobs.” As the largest group of registered voters, it’s time for Liberals to use our strength to get tough with President Obama and other Democratic politicians.
In summary, Liberals are the largest group of registered voters. In 2012 we should be able to mobilize a strong majority of voters. Liberals have a strong message: we believe the US economy should work for everyone; we care about the welfare of average Americans. We believe America’s strength is its diversity; we believe in justice and fair treatment for all Americans. These are hard times, but there’s too much at stake for Liberals to wallow in discontent.