Three Reasons Liberals Lack Traction With Voters, Despite Conservative Failures

AP Photo/M. Spencer Green, File

In this March 18, 2014 file photo, voters cast their ballots in the Illinois primary in Hinsdale, Ill.

Today’s conservatives have a problem. The middle class is increasingly anxious about its economic prospects, and with good reason. Inflation-adjusted earnings have declined for most people since 2000, long before the collapse of 2008. Young adults face more than $1.2 trillion in college debt, declining entry-level salaries, high costs of housing and childrearing, and dwindling employer health and pension benefits. 
With new public attention being paid to inequality of income and wealth, these concerns don’t exactly play to conservative strength. The era since 1981 has been one of turning away from public remediation, toward tax cuts, limited social spending, deregulation, and privatization. None of this worked well, except for the very top. For everyone else, the shift to conservative policies generated more economic insecurity. The remedies are those of liberals’. So what’s a conservative to do? 
A good illustration of how the right is responding is a manifesto titled Room to Grow: Conservative Reforms for a Limited Government and a Thriving Middle Class. The document is a series of essays written by people who profess to be intellectually serious, “reform conservatives,” as a credulous press calls them. 
Room to Grow is published by the YG Network, which stands for “Young Guns.” The manifesto acknowledges as Young Guns founders House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan, House Republican Whip Kevin McCarthy, and former Majority Leader Eric Cantor, a trinity that suggests the limits of reform. 
The editors and writers include such middle-aged guns as Peter Wehner, former head of George W. Bush’s in-house White House think tank; Yuval Levin, founding editor of the journal National Affairs; Scott Winship of the Manhattan Institute, and National Review’s Ramesh Ponnuru. 
At least these conservatives admit Republicans have a problem. The document begins by candidly stating the plight of the middle class and the challenges facing the right. “Sixty-two percent of those in the middle class say the Republican Party favors the rich while 16 percent say the Democratic Party favors the rich,” Wehner writes. “Americans do not have a sense that conservatives offer them a better shot at success and security than liberals.” 
Well, yes. But the remedies the young guns offer are mostly the same old stuff—more tax cuts, tax credits for everything from health insurance to education, more deregulation, more vouchers, more cuts in social supports. To help the long-term unemployed, they propose a temporary reduced minimum wage. 
To read this manifesto, you would think liberals had been in charge since 1981 and that the woes of the middle class had not worsened during an era of conservative dominance. Where the document offers genuinely new stuff, it can be out of touch bordering on creepy.
For example, the authors, proposing cuts in social insurance, write that “Social Security and Medicare have ‘crowded out’ the traditional incentive to raise children as a protection against poverty in old age. Today, most workers can reasonably foresee getting enough support from the public retirement system to stay out of poverty when they get older, making it less likely that they will have to call on direct aid—either in cash or in kind—from their own children.” In other words, if only the government did not provide so much help, people would have more kids, who would support their parents in old age. So let’s go back to the 19th century. 
Are the authors aware that the median Social Security check is only about $14,000 a year, pretty bare subsistence? With young adults suffering downward mobility, are these Young Guns serious about adding burdens of supporting aging parents as well as raising young children? No wonder voters are skeptical. 
If conservatives offer little that’s credible to the anxious middle class, why aren’t liberals just trouncing them? 
First, the right has been so successful at blocking liberal initiatives to deliver tangible help that the middle class is not sure which party to trust. 
Second, compromises like the Affordable Care Act that do make it through Congress are hobbled by a costly and complex role for commercial middlemen—and seem to represent government inefficiency. 
And third, the details are wonky. This exercise is more about slogans and headlines. Only a tiny fraction of voters will notice the holes in the specifics. So despite such empty rhetoric, Republicans are poised to win the midterm elections. 
So what’s a liberal to do? 
As the party that considers itself responsible stewards of government, Democrats are reluctant to offer proposals that stand no immediate chance of passage. The liberal imagination has been stunted by decades of conservative obstruction and has lost its power to inspire. Most of what ails the middle class requires far more robust policies than are currently in mainstream debate. Liberals should say what they are really for. They might even win more followers. 


6 years of Obama, a Democratic controlled Senate, and what do we have to show for it. The biggest drop in income for average working Americans under any President since the Great Depression. The worst recovery in history, and the lowest percentage of Americans in the workforce in 36 years. And Obama and the Democrats achieved that disastrous record while engaging in the most massive bout of corrupt spending in history, and running up more DEBT than any other President in history. The liberal dream seems to be making all Americans equally poor and stuck on welfare, Obamastamps, and totally dependent on the Government/Obamacare for their very health, and we've seen how well Government healthcare has worked out for our Veterans while Obama's been in office? The country has a good taste of what liberals do! Now we just have to pray we survive it.

There is so much that is factually wrong with your post that I don't even know where to begin:
1. A Senate majority that is not filibuster proof by the minority party essentially means nothing when you have a party (i.e., the GOP) that is determined to be obstructionist. This is simply how our form of government works and is crucial to understanding the current climate.
2. Healthcare for our veterans has been on the decline for years, especially given the number of returning service members from Iraq and Afghanistan (that the prior administration did not plan for and Congress won't budget for).
3. Real wages for middle and working class families has been on the decline since the 1970s. This is fact - the jobs that have been created since the economic downturn are low paying service sector jobs. Should the President start hiring more? Where are all of the fabulous "job creators" that we as a country can't tax b/c they won't create jobs (which they aren't doing anyway)?
4. Corruption - really? Dick Cheney. Do some research.
5. Spending? Really, thanks to the 2010 elections and Obama's tendency to listen to the austerity hawks (and the inability to get anything passed in Congress), public sector spending has been on the decline. Most reputable economist have stated, repeatedly, that the 2009/2010 stimulus was INSUFFICIENT. Furthermore, there is little to no evidence of fraud from that stimulus plan.

This is just basic information that any person who professes to be informed about the current state of the country should know (or, could find out with minimal effort).

1. You can be as determined as you want, but when one party has 60 seats there is nothing the other party can do. Even if they got on a bus and went out of town (like in Wisconsin) that still cannot stop any legislation.
2. Our veterans have top-notch health care. It is the bureaucratic waiting lists and the pressure to reduce costs that has killed our veterans, Yet YOU hold this up as a model for the rest of us.
3. Real wages have declined because employers have seen a steep rise in regulatory costs during that time period. All you have to do is count the number of employees in accounting, human resources and legal as an example. Where does the money come from to pay for all that non-productive labor?
4. Dick Cheney? Harry Reid is a better example.
5. Name one government agency -- except for the inspector generals -- that have had a reduction in any subsequent fiscal year budget. Just one.

Of course the stimulus was insufficient -- after the Democrats got their cut, there was nothing left. Just like the $160 billion Veterans Administration budget.

Thanks for the basic information. Which poses a riddle: can a person be so informed that he knows he is not informed?

1. Are you saying that the Democrats had a 60 seat majority? No, the Democrats never had more than a 58 seat majority in 2009. It happened that 2 independents voted with the Democrats most of the time but the Democrats only had a possibility of 60 votes for less than 5 months in Obama's 6 years and that was in 2009. And do you think all the Blue Dogs were down the line voters, no they weren't.

2. The VA is a model we should move toward. Just released is a report that stated "For the fifth time in a row, the United States has been ranked last in a prominent think tank’s review of industrialized nation’s health care systems." and “The claim that the United States has ‘the best health care system in the world’ is clearly not true,” the report authors conclude. " See:

As someone posted USA! USA! we're number eleven.

3. This is ridiculous. From the end of WWII to the 1970's, productivity increased and wages increased at about the same rate. Since the late 1970's productivity continued to rise but wages stagnated except for the top which has seen their incomes sky rocket. This is fact. Using the 'regulatory cost' canard is standard RW playbook stuff.

4. Corruption? In the first couple of years of the Iraq war, "The US flew nearly $12bn in shrink-wrapped $100 bills into Iraq, then distributed the cash with no proper control over who was receiving it and how it was being spent." That's corruption. Dick Cheney and the "Halliburton" exemption ironed out to keep impact of 'fracking' on our water supplies unregulated under the Clean Water Act. That's corruption. Dick Cheney developing our energy policy in secret and without disclosure. That corruption.

5. You do know that for the first time during a recession that the number of public workers (State, Federal and Local) has gone down. During Reagan's or Bush's recession, they increased public employment as a method of reducing the impact of the recession. Something the Republicans supported until Obama.

And what do you mean about 'after the Democrats got their cut"? 1/3 of the stimulus package was the largest middle class tax cut ever. Have you ever looked at to see where the money was spent. See:

While your there, go to the map and put in your zipcode and see how the Stimulus helped where you live. Name me one other spending bill where you can do that.

"While your there, go to the map and put in your zipcode and see how the Stimulus helped where you live. Name me one other spending bill where you can do that."

You can't be serious! That website was the butt of jokes when it came out...fathom districts and zip codes.

Barry and the Ds just throw some money at a D-supporting IT contractor to throw up a website. Hey, at least the Ds where making out on the stimulas. DC suburbs are now the richest in the country.

"For the fifth time in a row, the United States has been ranked last in a prominent think tank’s review of industrialized nation’s health care systems." and “The claim that the United States has ‘the best health care system in the world’ is clearly not true,” the report authors conclude.

That's just awesome! As an MD, MPH who has worked overseas, I'm always curious where such claims come from. I would note, the UK is #1 according to "The Commonwealth Fund". Wow- by that logic, people are "flocking to the UK" for it's superior care. Only they are not. Nobody is flying to London to get their liver transplant because "the Commonwealth Fund" says the UK is #1 . Also, the wealthy in the UK don't use the NHS, they use the private system. Only the poor use the NHS, I'm told.

How did they determine these "ranks" - by "surveys" of "patients" and "doctors". Hardly rigorous epidemiology. The Commonwealth Fund is a privately controlled (read political) organization. Agenda laden crappy science, that would never make the Journal of Epidemiology....

And the VA model Daniel780101 thinks we "should move toward"- oh yes, we know about the problems there. Dan's been guzzling the Ezra Klein kook-aid....

"Healthcare for our veterans has been on the decline for years, especially given the number of returning service members from Iraq and Afghanistan (that the prior administration did not plan for and Congress won't budget for"

You're so ideological, this is easy. One, the OEF/OIF veterans are for the most part not in the VHA system. It way to early to say they are overwhelming the VA. The reason is that they are young and don't use the VHA yet. The PROBLEM is the older generation, specifically the last of the draftee and Vietnam era veterans, they are all in their 50-60s, prime healthcare use because that when health issues begin in men. You will notice all those dead veterans were waiting for oncologist, chemo, radiology etc not some 29 year old Iraq veteran waiting for basic care. Can't blame Bush.

If you like blaming Republicans you can keep blaming Republicans. Period.

What's laughable is that liberals continually point out that Republican positions are diametrically opposed to theirs, and are then simultaneously surprised that Republican opposed to liberal policies.

Either you can lead a nation, or you can't. Obama can't. Obama can't sway Republicans, Obama couldn't sway the Taliban to accept 4 instead of 5, Obama couldn't sway Maliki to push for a Force Agreement, couldn't sway Putin to stay out of the Ukraine, etc., etc., etc..

It's not that Republicans are opposed to liberal positions, though of course they are. It's that they oppose their own positions as soon as Obama or other Democrats take them up. There's a difference between obstruction in the service of principled differences of opinion, and obstruction in the service of obstruction.

If Obama were to resign the presidency tomorrow, the right would be screaming that he was just trying to steal the great Richard Nixon's thunder. And they'd accuse Biden of treason for failing to resign along with him.

Obstructed by The People. The People who duly elect their representatives. The People who duly elected Republican's to obstruct the progressive agenda.

It would never occur to the author that 6 years of liberal policies have brought nothing but disaster on all fronts. Of course conservatives oppose you -because you are wrong and have been proven wrong. Give it up.

Sorry, sir, you democrats own this disaster of a presidency. The 'obstruction' going on is one that we republican voters want, otherwise, it would be worse than it is. BTW, it's not obstructionism to vote the wishes of your constituents. The only way to stop this steady slide into debt, and the loss of the middle class is to NEVER vote for a candidate with a D behind their name. It's very simple, you don't even need to teach college to know this.

Typical comment from a crackpot right-winger.

The prez has been in control of everything with an IRON fist since 2008. President Obama earned the lowest approval rating of his presidency in the ABC/Washington Post political poll of May29,2014. Only 41 percent approve of Obama - the lowest rating since his previous low of 42 percent in November 2013 during the Obamacare website disaster. O control ain't exactly working very well is it? Good jobs still stuck, cost per ounce for food is way up, disposable income, the $ that buys cars/homes/big ticket stuff is going to get hammered by the BIG new deductibles for the ACA, out of pocket $5-6,000 and family $12,7000, whatever you call it. And in the next 18 months and even people who have nice jobs are going to see big rises in their h-care because ALL plans will be required to meet ACA standards that mean govt. specifications, which is everything. Not to mention the 40% TAX on Cadillac health plans on top of the above deductibles that will be a lot more than what they were paying. O was pres when USA got its 1st debt downgrade EVER and with adding $8 trillion to national debt and with RECORD income tax revenues for almost every month of this year and we still run deficits big time. When the 2nd debt downgrade happens things will get real hairy people. And the liberals will get hurt by that also. Stand by, the Ozero ride is just getting up to speed and will hammer USA as never before. If today is better I don’t want to see a year from now.
Today we find that federal tax revenue is at a record level, $1,934,919,000,000, according to the Monthly Treasury Statement. In May alone, the federal government ran a deficit of $130 billion--bringing in $200 billion in revenue while spending $330 billion. Federal tax revenues for fiscal 2014 set RECORDS through February, through March, through Tax Day, April 15, and through April, and still deficits plague the nation and stifle growth which can only be bad for the economy and the future of our kids and grand-kids.

Fact is, liberal ideas never work at the voting booth. During the 2008 campaign, candidate Obama was the only one to invoke the name of Ronald Reagan. Hillary Clinton, in a recent interview, did her best Reagan by stating that all boats need to rise. Joe Manchin shoots a rifle during an televised ad, and John Kerry inquires where one goes to get a hunting license. Now, senate Democrats up for reelection are voting against Obama's nominees and policies (that's why he needs a pen and phone) and openly running away from ObamaCare. And not one of them is pressing the need for gun control.

So why do Democrats act like conservatives in the months before an election if indeed the whole country is itching for what Obama has wrought?

The key takeaway in this article is at the end. Liberals have been bashed for so long for being reasonable and progressive that many are afraid to hope they can actually get what they want. But if you don't ask, you'll never get it. Be brave and get some like minds to help. Being laughed at and ridiculed won't kill you and it might do some good. If you are that afraid to speak out, maybe somebody else will and you can just fade away.

"So what’s a liberal to do?

As the party that considers itself responsible stewards of government, Democrats are reluctant to offer proposals that stand no immediate chance of passage. The liberal imagination has been stunted by decades of conservative obstruction and has lost its power to inspire. Most of what ails the middle class requires far more robust policies than are currently in mainstream debate. Liberals should say what they are really for. They might even win more followers."

Democrats have been a disaster for this country on every front. The facts do not lie. It's very, very simple - if you want to be able to craft a better life for yourself and your family - and what human being on the planet does not? - you cannot vote for a Democrat for anything, ever. They speak as if they're reasonable, but they all follow the radical left in lockstep. The radical left has never had a successful reign. It inevitably leaves misery, poverty, and oppression in it's wake.

Liberalism has been stunted by the American people who remember the economic ruin of the 1970's wrought by the misnamed Great Society of the Democrats who controlled Congress for a continuous two-decade span from the late 60's through the early 80's.

The American voters historical memory of liberalisms catastrophic economic failures stunted it and thank goodness.

And now that memory has been refreshed by Obamacare.

By "decades of conservative obstruction," do you mean "decades of conservative efforts to keep the Left from bankrupting the country?"

No, Henry that's not what I mean. The deficit has actually decreased since 2009.

No, Henry that's not what I mean. The deficit has actually decreased since 2009.

No, Henry that's not what I mean. The deficit has actually decreased since 2009.

The GOP's job is to destroy Obamunism by any means necessary. Too many GOP's do not understand what their job is. Like Cantor, McCain, Graham.

Dream on, Mr. Kuttner!!

The mid-term wave is coming ....I wonder what all the Dems will say the morning after it breaks on their heads.753

Reading your comments, all you right wingers, one would think this country was swimming in prosperity in 2008, and then Obama came and ruined everything. In case you don't remember the stock market CRASHED in 2008. I suppose you can rewrite history and say Obama was president of the time. That would be a fascinating historical novel, I bet. But its not true. What about the decline of the middle class in the Bush years when Republicans had total control of the government? Don't want to talk about it? I can't blame you. If I was a Republican, I'd be too embarrassed to get out of bed in the morning. You can continue your make believe story or you could face the reality that Obama won twice because conservatives have FAILED.

Liberals lose because they are afraid to really embrace a full solid liberal agenda.
(1) They refuse to regulate Wall Street Banks because they want corporate donations.
(2) They are afraid of the NRA and won't pass even the most modest gun controls and tell constituents that they don't need guns.
(3) They support uniwse military interventions because they are afraid of being labeled weak.
(4) They are too fastidious to get in the gutter and truly fight to expose conservative lies.
They believe incorrectly that they can reach the American public with reason and gentle sarcasm

I am a liberal, or was at one time. Liberals like to say that they help working people. This was true back in 1983 or so. Not since. The Democrats want to give amnesty to 11 million illegals. This is going to make the jobs of 11 million Americans vanish. Obama just gave work permits to 100,000 H-1B spouses. This is going to cost the jobs of 100,000 Americans. Democrats help business owners by vastly increasing the cheap labor supply. The cheap labor supply, otherwise known as American voters, wants jobs for THEMSELVES not a bunch of flea bitten illegal scum. And that, folks, is what's the matter with Kansas. Help workers, not illegals.

Do you know what skills potato farmers have? The ability to bend over and pull a root out of the ground. That is the sum total of it.

And yet millions of flea bitten Irish, speaking a strange dialect and with no money, came over to the States and contributed to a massive boom in the economy. And it's not just the Irish. Every single wave of immigration in the history of North America has multiplied the number of jobs available for everyone. Skilled, unskilled, it makes no difference, immigration has always meant more jobs, not less. Some pointed headed economist at the University of Chicago has a theory that says the evidence can't be true. But I'm guessing you aren't the guy who tends to listen to pointy headed UofC professors.

It's all in the messaging. Liberals offer reasoned solutions based on a basically egalitarian worldview. They usually appeal to the emotions of compassion and inclusiveness.

Conservatives, otoh, offer a plethora of fearsome, despicable enemies who must be vanquished if life is ever to be good (or good again). According to conservatives, "we" are under attack, the enemy is at the gate, we must fight with all we've got to destroy the enemy before they destroy us. Conservatives tell their readers/viewers/listeners that they are naturally superior to outsiders and must do everything they can to maintain their superior status or else they and their children will slip down and be overrun by the inferior outsiders.

Liberals speak in measured terms employing either linear reasoning, logic, scientific findings and statistics -- which they consider intellectually persuasive -- or compassion-based injunctions, which they consider morally persuasive.

Conservatives speak with great urgency, employing narrative, anecdote, character analysis (usually character assassination and mind-reading), and predictions. They appeal to the emotions.

For example, liberals will cite statistics and trends to support the proposition that school shootings could be reduced by requiring background checks of those who wish to purchase firearms. Conservatives will explain that liberals (or Obama) want to take all your guns away in order to render you defenseless in the face of fearsome neighborhood marauders or a totalitarian-style government -- and that background checks are merely a duplicitous first step in taking away your guns.

The liberal message is boring; the conservative message is riveting. The liberal message seeks to protect the interests of all; the conservative message seeks to protect YOUR interests. The liberal message assumes all are equally deserving; the conservative message says that YOU are the deserving one.

As the past two elections show, the sensible, hopeful liberal message is not a total loser, but as most message boards suggest, the emotional, adrenal-pumping conservative message is extremely motivating and can provide a reason for getting up in the morning.

Faith in government plummeted during the W. administration and has bounced along ever since, therefore it can't be the ACA holding back liberals. For a more accurate diagnosis as well as an answer to the call for a liberal agenda, check out my post here:

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