Rise of the left?

 
 

With the wins in mayoral elections as well as a perceived win over the budget shutdown, Emmet Lyons asks whether we are seeing the end of American ultra-conservatism

Over the last three decades, the fiscal policies of both the Republican and Democrat parties have leaned to the right. The 1980 election of GOP candidate Ronald Reagan prompted a radical scaling back of government influence on the US economy.

Although the modern political era has been largely defined by a debate of Clintonism versus Reaganism, both administrations in many regards served a right wing economic agenda. In layman’s terms, the division of America’s political philosophies has been one of a right wing approach versus one of a centrist approach.

Although more regulatory in his approach, President Clinton operated within the landscape that President Reagan had created. Faith was placed in the individual as opposed to the collective.

Indeed, in his 1996 State of The Union address, President Clinton declared that the ‘era of big government is over.’ The direction of the United States was, and has since been, largely dictated by free market economics.

However, we are starting to see the landscape change in American politics. There is evidence to suggest that a stronger leftist stance is building momentum across the US. As is tradition, New York City leads the progressive charge.

Bill DeBlasio’s overwhelming mayoral election victory last November is a major buck in a recent trend in the Big Apple. Republican candidates Rudy Giuliani and three-term mayor Michael Bloomberg’s hard-nosed, business style of governance over the last two decades was put to task in the last election cycle resulting in a large leftward turn for the city.

Crucially, the DeBlasio campaign ran not on the typically moderate view from the DNC playbook, but on the rhetoric of disillusionment with income inequality, rising house prices, aggressive tactics and lack of affordable housing. In a city that gave birth to the ‘Occupy’ movement in recent years, the public decisively determined that another conservative mayor was not a viable option.

DeBlasio’s victory may come to serve as a symbolic victory for a turning tide in the U.S.; after all, the conservative G.O.P are in self-destruct mode. The Tea Party movement, which had proved so useful in Republicans gaining a House majority in the 2010 mid-term elections have in hindsight, undoubtedly, caused the party some lasting damage.

As a result of a Republican House majority represented by predominantly Tea Party candidates, little or no legislation has passed through Congress in the last four years. The anti-tax, small government mentality that has determined American legislation for the past three decades has become radicalised by these extreme right-wing politicians who now seek to block the Democrats and President Obama at every turn.

Deeply embedded partisanship has taken hold on Capitol Hill and compromise is now a dirty word. This extreme turn right has hurt the GOP in the polls. 2013 saw the 113th Congress become both the least productive and least popular in American history. Polls have shown that the American people lay the blame firmly at the feet of the House Republicans.

Constant attempts by House Republicans to repeal or defund President Obama’s signature law, the Affordable Care Act, last year highlighted both the Republican Party’s sharp turn to the extreme right and their growing irrelevance among the American public.

This is exemplified by the fact that the roots of the bill as a reform of US healthcare were initially proposed during the 1996 presidential election by Republican candidate Bob Dole.

The dogged attempts to repeal the law culminated in a nonsensical two week government shutdown last October. During this time, Gallup recorded a GOP approval rating of only 28%, the worst rating Gallup have ever recorded for a political party. Both the DNC and President Obama’s approval rating remained largely intact.

Studies of President Obama’s re-election in November 2012 suggest a change in the nation’s voting demographics, which can only serve to help a liberal agenda. President Obama’s large margin over GOP candidate Mitt Romney amongst non-white voters proved decisive to his election victory.

A coalition of college-educated women, Latinos and African-Americans was integral to President Obama’s re-election. With all three demographics growing, the future of the US electorate is leaning left.

The GOP message of conservatism is becoming increasingly antiquated as the US electorate changes. The Republican Party continues to completely rely on the white vote and this is not a viable option in a rapidly diversifying country.

Income inequality between the black and white middle-classes has developed as a direct result of the free market economics that remains integral to the GOP philosophy. An aggressive conservative stance on immigration has also isolated the country’s fastest growing demographic, the Latino community.

Equally, the House Republicans’ aggressive opposition to distribution of female contraception in the Affordable Care Act made a significant contribution to Obama’s large margin of victory amongst college-educated female voters.

Trends suggest that we are seeing the rise of a new liberalism in the US. Polls have shown that the most important voters for the future of the country are leaning left. As long as the GOP message remains so stale and outdated, ultra-conservatism in the US will continue to decline.

The Tea Party movement’s legacy may be a lasting damage that puts the final nail in the coffin of a Reagan style of governance. Obama’s re-election and DeBlasio’s victory in New York may well be symbolic of a country whose political direction is swiftly changing.

It may well be that the era of small government in America, if not over, is ending.

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