Friday, June 30, 2006

Rediscovering Liberalism in What's Really Important

The following chart comes from a recent survey completed by the Pew Research Center:

Democrat Top Three
1. Health Care
2. Education
3. Economy

Democrat Bottom Three
1. Gay marriage
2. Ending inheritance tax
3. Abortion


Republican Top Three
1. Terrorism
2. Economy
3. Education

Republican Bottom Three
1. Global warming
2. Environment
3. Government surveillance programs


Independent Top Three
1. Education
2. Health Care
3. Economy

Independent Bottom Three
1. Gay marriage
2. Abortion
3. Flag burning amendment

With the exception of terrorism, the other issues of high importance to voters this fall are hardly getting any meaningful coverage in the media and mainstream public discourse.

Conversely, lots of talk time is going to issues like flag burning, gay marriage, and ending the inheritance tax, which appear on the bottom of the importance list for most voters.

Part of this can be explained by the fact that Republicans control the federal government and merely raising issues in the form of constitutional amendments or legislative bills can set off a media firestorm on them. It's an all-out effort aimed at distraction in an election year where approval numbers for the top Republican in the country are at horribly low levels and the public is becoming increasingly aware of what little has been done on the domestic front to help the middle and lower classes over the past six years.

But it can't all be blamed on the GOP. After all, Dems have been doing backflips trying to find a position on Iraq that appeals to both each other and the public at large. Granted, formulating a position is necessary, but in doing so they have essentially handed the terms of the election year debate over to Republicans (in essence, the issue over Iraq is simple: Dems are for change, Repubs are for more of the same).

As long as the Dems are simply reacting to news rather than creating it they will continue to have no meaningful agenda.

And while it's tough to step out of the wave of pointless legislation coming out of the GOP distraction machine recently, the sooner the Dems start tackling the issues that are actually important to voters -- health care, education, and the economy -- the sooner they will be able to re-discover what liberalism is all about.


Blogger Schwarzmann said...

Great post. It's interesting to see the breakdown of what issues are of importance to whom.

The Democrats need to stop letting the Republicans frame the debate, define the terms, etc. And as you say, if Democrats begin to focus on things voters deem important, it will be a large step in the right direction.

June 30, 2006  
Blogger Seth Zlotocha said...

Thanks for your comment.

I agree the breakdown is interesting -- it's also encouraging to see how closely the Dem and Independent positions match-up. The election is ripe for the picking this year, the Dems just need to capitalize on the times.

June 30, 2006  
Blogger proletariat said...

I'd even take it farther, there seems to be core American issues that cross party lines including education, healthcare, economy, social security, and terrorism. I'd categorize them all National Security.

On these surveys I always list the economy first, but that choice has nothing in common with a conservative free marketer making the same choice.

It does tell us guns, gods, and gays which seems to be the staple of both political parties, is not the guiding force of many americans. It also shows us that those looking for third parties or independent voices continues to rise.

July 03, 2006  
Blogger Seth Zlotocha said...

Thanks for your comment, Nate.

You're right there is a big difference in the way people want these issues handled. I still think it's important for the Dems to hit the domestic issues hard. After six years of GOP rule, it's not hard to point out how lacking the Republican Party is on domestic issues (at least for anyone but the wealthy).

And the domestic sphere is also an area for the Dems to take back the word "liberal," which conservatives have successfuly transformed into a political curse word over the last few decades.

July 05, 2006  
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