Liberalism Rising, and Obama Republicans

by: Matt Stoller

Thu Aug 09, 2007 at 11:11


To follow up on my post from last night, liberalism is getting stronger among base voters as well as politicians.

It's more antiwar than at any time since 1972. Support is growing for such traditionally liberal values as using the federal government to help the poor. And 40 percent of Democrats now call themselves liberal, the highest in more than three decades and twice the low-water mark recorded as the conservative Reagan revolution swept the country in the early 1980s...

The Democrats' shift to the left carries some risk, but probably much less than it would have in years past. That's because independent voters - the ones who swing back and forth and thus decide elections - also have turned against the war and in favor of many more liberal approaches to government...

Fewer than half of Democrats now agree with the adage that military strength is the best way to secure peace, a drop of 16 percentage points in the last decade, according to a series of polls by the Pew Research Center.

Independents also lost faith in the value of military strength over the same period, though their support dropped by only half as much as Democrats' did. Republicans' trust in military strength increased by 7 percentage points.

Another measure: The ranks of Democrats who think that the federal government should guarantee food and shelter to the needy rose by 12 percentage points in the last 10 years, outstripping rising support from independents and Republicans.

Then there's the eye-catching fact that 40 percent of Democrats in last year's elections called themselves liberal, according to the American National Election Studies, a research project supported by the National Science Foundation. That's the highest since the survey began in 1972.

The party also is turning against free trade, as Democrats in Congress put the brakes on new trade agreements out of fear that they're displacing too many American jobs and driving down wages and benefits.

While the hard core right-wing base is actually becoming more right-wing in the Republican Party, with even stronger support for military force, there is a part of the Republicans that can be peeled off through an appeal to culturally conservative rhetoric and a perceived anti-DC populism.  The Obama camp loves this statistic.

Giuliani's support, 10 percent, decreased by almost 8.5 percent. McCain's support has collapsed in Iowa. His support among registered Republicans dropped from 14.4 percent in March to 1.8 percent in July-August. UI political scientists note that McCain has been passed in popularity not only by former Sen. Fred Thompson, R-Tenn., who earned 5.2 percent support, but also by a Democratic challenger, Obama, who is supported by 6.7 percent of Republicans. No other candidate received more than 3 percent support.

Who are these Republicans?  I've heard anecdotally they exist, and there are stats like this.  The renewed liberal strength in the Democratic Party and among independents, along with a slice of Republicans, is a real realignment.  You all know that I don't trust Obama and think this could all evaporate pretty easily.  But that doesn't change that this is there for the taking.

Matt Stoller :: Liberalism Rising, and Obama Republicans

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My in -laws (0.00 / 0)
MY in-laws voted for Bush in 2004.  They've both said they won't vote for Hillary or Edwards, but they will vote for Obama, enthusiastically. 

Interestingly, my mother in law is from the south-- and grew up in a small southern town and certainly had experiences with racism-- one of her reasons for supporting Obama, simply, is that she says its time for an African American president.

I wonder how many other people have that thought?


quite a few (0.00 / 0)
with Hillary, there is a huge grassroots GOP sentiment of, "oh christ, here we go again."

Obama would be a pretty dramatic break from tradition, and he does not exude that "Not only am I so much smarter than you, but the second you turn your back I will shit on every promise I ever made to you" that HRC does.

I also think that a lot of the old-guard corporate establishment (as opposed to the hedgies) likes the idea of Hillary, because they know how easily she can be destroyed if she ever lives up to her penchant for betrayal. All it will take are a couple reruns of, "It's not my fault your business is undercapitalized."


[ Parent ]
I think the Obama Republican phenom (0.00 / 0)
is easy to explain. A lot of the baby boomer generation grew up in the 60s, were liberal, and then gradually turned conservative and the parties followed suit. however, as the parties moved to the right, the old 60s activists (including black activists) stayed to the left. so people like jesse jackson and al sharpton went on talking about liberal things and that scared, sorry to say, a lot of people. obama, as has been mentioned before, is not the black politician in the sharpton/jackson mold. he is the black politician in the tiger woods mold - the black guy in your neighborhood its "OK" to love even if you would never want a black guy dating your daughter. this sounds bad i know. but lets face it - he is not that black people, even conservatives, like to have black friends. basically, barack obama is the token black guy people (even republicans) want to like.

Or maybe people just like him. (4.00 / 1)
Maybe they like his one the hand, on the other hand style of discussing issues, even though it rubs some progressives the wrong way. Maybe his attempts at framing progressive policies and values in terms that are amenable to the right is working. Maybe it's charisma. Maybe they like his policies. Maybe they like his record.

I find the frequent attempts (not just on your part, I see it often) to explain away Obama's success using his race very jarring and frankly, kind of disturbing.


[ Parent ]
You cannot pretend (0.00 / 0)
like his race is not a factor here. That is like saying Hillary's gender is not an issue. I don't want to say they are novelty candidates but a certain aspect of their respective appeal is their background. Something like 63% of women support Hillary and while Obama hasnt gotten a lot of support from blacks yet (for the same reason I explained Republicans like him in reverse), they will soon probably realize that they should support him because he is the first black candidate to ever have a real shot at winning. Don't be disturbed by the truth.

[ Parent ]
That's not the truth, its your opinion. (0.00 / 0)
In the Pew poll, the latest poll I've seen that broke statistics down by gender, there was only a 6 point gap in male and female support for Clinton, and a 3 point gap in support for Obama (more women than men also supported Obama). Nothing like 63% of women support Clinton - according to that poll it was 38% in March, and it's 42% now, and the gender gap in support for Clinton is coming down. I know  that is not the entire universe of polls, but I've never seen a number like 60%. Statistically, I could make a much sounder case for Edwards' support being driven primarily by identity politics, since the gaps in his support between men and women, or between white voters and voters of color are much larger than they are for other candidates (and his supporters overwhelmingly white, male, and older, like him) . But of course, people freak out when you do that, and I can see why - there are a lot of reasons to support Edwards that aren't demographic in nature. However, it would be nice to see that courtesy extended to the other campaigns.

A certain part of every candidates appeal is his or her background - see 'son of a mill worker.' Right or wrong, I think voters try to understand a candidate by understanding his or her background, but background is a whole hell of a lot more complicated then race or gender. Point being, there are a million and one things to like or dislike about Obama and his race is just one of them.

Besides, since when are Republicans noted for their love of black candidates, safe or otherwise?


[ Parent ]
and there are black republicans (0.00 / 0)
many years ago I worked with them ... they proudly trace their R loyalty to "the party of Lincoln" and I suspect Obama would wrap up their votes easily since he does not exude partisanship.

the "party of Lincoln" (0.00 / 0)
died in 1908 when TR left office. blacks cannot make up any more than 2-3% of the national republican party today. does anyone have these figures?

[ Parent ]
Principles (0.00 / 0)
I think it is a matter of the principles Obama advocates.  In the same way he draws in new people he draws in a certain segment of Republicans who his principles appeal to.

And actually I would say for the same precise reason that he probably turns people like yourself off.  Culturally I think he is with the newer generation rather than the old one.  I've noticed certain cultural disconnects between myself and most bloggers I read. 


age is part of it (0.00 / 0)
Certainly you are younger than he is, but I am speaking more in broad generalizations about culture rather than age specifically.

Another part of it is a rural vs urban divide I think so it isn't just about age, but generally thats the way I view it where I live and on the internet in general.


[ Parent ]
My neighbor is an Obama Republican (0.00 / 0)
He's married and in his early 30's, highly professional and Asian.  He's been drifting though.  In 2006, he voted for a few Democrats down ticket.  I guess that is another reason to field good candidates across the board.  The vote for one Dem and it becomes easier and easier.

My mother is. (0.00 / 0)
The last Democratic presidential candidate she voted for was Carter. She is certainly an old-school Rockefeller Republican with a hint of Libertarianism. She has tended towards a more Democratic ticket, voting for Bredesen for Governor in Tennessee, and refusing to vote for Corker (though she didn't vote for Ford either). She loves Obama right now and hates the current Republican party (she states that it has "left her") and has noted that she will not vote for any of the current Republican hopefuls except if Romney suddenly transformed himself completely back into 1994 version.

She very well could be a prototype of the "Obama Republican". A person who likes Obama's rhetoric on politics (above-the-fray, anti-Washington) and really wants a fresh face in the White House. The only other candidate she likes is Biden, and that is only because he is moderate.


[ Parent ]
Question (0.00 / 0)
Matt Stoller, why don't you "trust Obama"?

Matt and Obama (4.00 / 1)
Matt, it's sad to see that your opinions about Obama have already hardened to the point where you can say "you don't trust Obama."  I'll be the first to admit he's been a work in progress, but that also implies he can improve.

Still, at least you admit where you're coming from.  If only Jerome Armstrong would do as much instead of his intellectually dishonest "critiques" of Obama.


still trustworthy (0.00 / 0)
What's the reason you don't trust Obama? Now I have a reason not to trust Jerome Armstrong. Unfortunate but its the truth.

Iowa is always a weird place (0.00 / 0)
Remember, this is the state that brought us Jim Leach.  A republican, but more liberal than a lot of Blue Dogs.  I know Democrats who were quite sad to see him go, because he was liberal on so many issues, because he was honorable, and because he was a geniunely good person, or so I'm told. 

Perhaps, with the Republicans working hard to out-crazy each other, Obama's appealing to the Jim Leach branch of the Iowa Republican Party.


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