Is the United States Still a Center-right Nation?
“A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist as a permanent form of government until the majority discovers it can vote itself largess out of the public treasury. After that, the majority always votes for the candidate promising the most benefits with the result the democracy collapses because of the lose of fiscal policy ensuing, always to be followed by a dictatorship, then a monarchy.”
(Peterson, E. T. 9 December, 1951, “The Hard Core of Freedom,” The Daily Oklahoman, quoting Alexander Fraser Tyler.
The quotation is often misattributed to Alexis de Toqueville.)
For many years the Conservative Movement has claimed that the United States is a “Center-right” country. Meaning that on a world-wide scale, compared at least to other nations, the majority of the American people were conservative in their political beliefs. The “Center-right” orientation included that Americans believed in Capitalism, and that they tended to have traditional values which included organized religion and a belief in God, as opposed to being liberal in their political beliefs, and believing in Socialism and Humanism.
But is the United States still a “Center-right” nation? After one of the most spectacular victories of the Republican/Conservative/Tea Party movement in the history of modern electoral politics there remain important questions. Was this a victory for the productive classes/center-right in America or simply the last gasp before the beginning of the realization on the part of the electorate that it could vote itself more benefits that would have to be paid for by progressively higher taxes? Taxes that are essentially wealth transfers from the productive members of the society to the non-productive members: essentially a progression toward Socialism.
While the election was a tremendous victory for conservatives, the victory was not complete. There are areas of hope for the Liberals. California overwhelmingly elected Liberals on the state level. The country’s largest state, with over 10 percent of the nation’s population and a failing economy that by itself is the eighth largest economy in the world, elected Liberals to the highest offices, promising everything to everybody. Republican candidates spent millions in failed efforts against their successful Democratic opponents.
In New York, Maryland and Connecticut, three of the wealthiest states in the Union, Democrats fared extremely well in state-wide elections, often beating their Republican opponents by wide margins. In Connecticut, the Republican candidate for the open US Senate seat spent more than ten times the amount as her Democratic opponent and yet lost the election by a fairly wide margin.
Toward the end of the campaign, President Obama was able to rally the Democratic base in some of the key districts to save certain important candidates including Harry Reid of Nevada. Nevada is a state with the highest foreclosure rate in the nation and one of the highest unemployment rates. Yet, Harry Reid, Majority Leader of the US Senate, in the face of these horrible conditions, was able to achieve reelection. He was able to do so because the Democratic base was activated and President Obama was able to help him do that. With the possible exception of Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid may be the most unpopular politician in the United States, yet he was able to be reelected with the help of the Democratic establishment and by making promises to his constituents that will be almost impossible to keep like the “Dream Act.”
In South Carolina, arguably the most conservative state in the United States, Alvin Greene, the official democratic candidate for the US Senate, who was the surprise winner of the Democratic primary, was denied any support from the party in the general election. This was at least partially because of a general discharge from the armed forces and a current pornography charge. Mr. Greene was unable to raise the five-thousand dollars necessary to require him to have to file a financial report with the South Carolina State Election Board, but was still able to get 28.2 percent of the vote. This probably represents the party-line vote for the Democratic Party in South Carolina. As there was a third candidate in the race, Senator DeMint, certainly a leader of the conservative wing of the Republicans, received only 62.4 percent of the vote.
Today, many Americans receive largess from the government in a variety of ways from food stamps to government pensions, to medical care. It is well over sixty percent of the population of the country. Many of these benefits have been earned over the years as they include Social Security, Railroad Pensions, and other benefits, but many of them have not. Each of these programs has a political constituency. Seniors want to protect Social Security; low income parents defend Head Start; Veterans need support for the VA. They all cost money. They all want, many need, and some actually deserve more. There are other fine causes the government does not fund which it could, that, in turn, would add more people to the roles receiving public largess and create additional constituencies for those programs.
Nationally, the popular vote was not an overwhelming victory for the Republicans. The GOP did not receive over fifty percent of the vote caste in the election, but only 49.3 percent. The Democrats obtained 45.1 percent: a 4.2 percent national margin of victory in an election where the Republican/ Conservative/Tea Partiers had all the momentum on their side is not impressive. In 2012, when the two major political parties square-off for the House of Representative, one-third of the US Senate, and the Presidency, the results of the election could be very different. While the 2010 election was very intensive on the part of the political Right, and many conservatives voted, brought out, at least partially by the Tea Party, only about 71 million people voted. In the 2008 election, 128.3 million people voted with the Democrats receiving 52.9 percent of the vote to the Republicans 45.7, and the Democrats did not have the advantage of Presidential incumbancy.
Only five incumbent Presidents have lost since 1900: Taft; Hoover; Ford; Carter; and Bush (1); 28 elections with 29 coming up. They were all Republicans except Carter. Taft and Bush(1) lost in three-way elections. Hoover was defeated by the Great Depression as much as by FDR. Ford was the only President in the history of the country who was appointed as Vice President and became President after Nixon resigned. He carried Watergate into the election as well as his decision to pardon former President Nixon. Finally, Carter faced a terrible economy with record high interest rates, a serious primary challenge from Ted Kennedy, the Iranian Hostage Crisis that was covered every night in the news and a failed rescue attempt.
The incumbents that have won have included McKinley; Roosevelt; Wilson; Coolidge; FDR; Truman; Eisenhower; Johnson; Nixon; Reagan; Clinton and Bush(2). Open elections resulted in Taft; Harding; Hoover; Eisenhower; Kennedy; Nixon; Bush(1); Bush(2); and Obama.
The next election is going to be a much better test of the direction the United States is going to follow and it would seem that the Democrats will have the historic advantage of the incumbency. The Republican/ Conservative/Tea Party movement will have to work much harder in the next election to counter this historic advantage of Presidential incumbency as there will be no guarantee of a challenge to President Obama from his political left or a Watergate-like scandal to help Republicans in the next election.
The election of 2012 will be a true referendum on the future of the United States. Will the country continue to be a “Center-right” nation, a nation where Capitalism will be the economic model or will Socialism replace it? Will the number of people receiving some sort of largess from the government continue to increase or will that number decline? Will the traditional values of American society reassert themselves or will the people of the United States forsake the ideals of the Founding Fathers that made the country into “The last great hope of mankind”? Will America continue to be the kind of country that Ronald Reagan called “That shinning city on a hill!” A country where the ideal of “American Exceptionalism” actually means something. Not a country that is just one among many, but one that is different, apart, exceptional. Where people can pursue their dreams and where they want to come, not just for themselves, but for their children and their grandchildren.