America Got a Little Less Liberal Last Year

Here’s a timely reminder from Gallup:

Since 2018, the country has moved slightly to the right. As you can see, 37 percent of Americans call themselves conservative, and if you add in the one-third of moderates who are also pretty reliable conservatives (even if they don’t admit it), about 47 percent of the country is conservative. This means that Republicans can rely on a strategy of appealing solely to conservatives and still have a pretty good chance of winning.

Democrats are in a far tougher position. Even if you add in the liberal fraction of moderates, only about 30 percent of Americans call themselves liberal. This means that if Democrats try to move left and appeal solely to liberals, they’re most likely doomed. This, not spinelessness, is the reason the Democratic Party spends so much time and energy trying to appeal to the center.

But here’s another chart that, if anything, paints an even grimmer picture:

After years of getting steadily more liberal, even Democrats themselves moved slightly to the right in 2019. A full half of them identify as conservative or moderate, up three points during a year consumed by Russia, Ukraine, and impeachment. This compares to only a quarter of Republicans who identify as liberal or moderate.

My guess is that practically every ranking Democrat in the country, from Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer on down, have these charts stapled to their mental foreheads. It may seem sometimes as if they hate activists—and maybe they do—but more likely it’s just that necessity forces them to work off a framework of knowledge that activists can choose to ignore if they want. It’s unlikely that will change until Bernie Sanders or someone like him proves that these surveys are wrong and America is ready to elect a real lefty. Until then, the Democratic leadership will stick to the facts as they know them.

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This feels like the most important fundraising drive since I've been CEO of Mother Jones, with staggeringly high stakes and so much uncertainty. In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," I try to unpack the reality we all face and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support Mother Jones’ nonprofit journalism: We need to raise $400,000 to help cover the vital reporting projects we have planned, and right now is no time to pull back.

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