The Boring Centrist Confessions of a Radical Progressive

I, along with much of FDL, am often painted by both the media and the Obama administration as on the outer-left-wing of political thought—a group of progressive extremists well outside the mainstream.

The reality is both far more boring and sad. Recent polling has caused me to go issue by issue to examine public support for the reforms I care most about. I found almost all of them have extremely broad popular support with the American people. In the traditional sense of the word, my brand of radical progressivism is boringly centrist.

Deficit Reduction

On the issue of deficit reduction, I strongly oppose cuts to Social Security and changes to Medicare that hurt senior citizens instead of negotiating better rates from providers. My top-two fixes to the deficit are a more progressive income tax and cutting defense spending.

Progressive income tax – Vanity Fair/60 Minutes found 61 percent think the first step to reducing the deficit should be taxing the rich, 20 percent felt it should be defense cuts, and only 3 percent feel the way to trim the deficit is to cut Social Security.

No cuts to Social Security – A GfK Roper poll for AARP found that 85 percent of Americans oppose cutting Social Security to reduce the deficit. Similarly, a Gallup poll found that requiring richer Americans to pay Social Security taxes on all wages was by far the most popular way to “fix” the system.


Afghanistan – It is not just some left-wing fringe but the entire country that has turned against the war in Afghanistan that we have been waging for nearly a decade. According to new a CNN poll 63 percent of Americans now oppose this war.


Auditing the Federal Reserve – A remarkably centrist issue that only the banksters seems to oppose. A Rasmussen poll found an overwhelming 79 percent in support of regular audits.

Health Care

Ideally, I wanted to see the nation adopt a Medicare-for-All program which was declared too radical to even debate by President Obama and top congressional Democrats. I was willing to compromise for a public option with strong cost controls.

Medicare for All – According to a July 2009 Kaiser Family Foundation poll (PDF) this proposal was favored by roughly 50 to 58 percent of Americans. A solid centrist majority for a position declared “too radical” and “extremist.”

Public option – A public option, my compromise position on health care, still polled at super-majority 60 percent support in a December 2009 Reuters poll, despite a hundred million dollar campaign against it.

Drug re-importation – In 2005, the Kaiser Family Foundation found an amazing 77 percent supported drug re-importation, and it still was not included in the new health care law.

Political Reform

Reduce gerrymandering – Last year, California and Florida voters approved anti-gerrymandering ballot initiatives with over 60 percent support.

Reducing corporate spending on elections – According to the Washington Post, I fall right in line with the remarkable 80 percent who opposed the Supreme Court’s ruling overturning limits on corporate campaign spending, and I’m clearly with the 72 percent who want the limits re-instated. I also feel as 77 percent of the country does that corporate election spending is effectively an attempt to bribe politicians.

Gay Rights

Ending “Don’t ask, don’t tell” – With 75 percent support for allowing homosexuals to openly serve in the military, this position couldn’t be more mainstream.

Gay marriage – This is one of the few positions I hold strongly that lacks super-majority support, but it is hardly fringe. A CNN poll found 49 percent in support, a Pew poll found 42 percent support, and a Washington Post poll found 47 percent support.

Marijuana Reform

Medical marijuana – Despite only a handful of members of Congress willing to publicly support medical marijuana, it polls better than almost any other undecided issue in politics. An ABC News poll found an overwhelming 81 percent supported legalizing marijuana for medical use. That makes it one of the most centrist issues in modern politics.

Marijuana legalization – Like gay marriage, marijuana legalization is probably the only other big issue I strongly advocate for that currently does not have popular support well above the 50-percent mark. Yet, like gay marriage, the polls show it is hardly fringe, with support for it just under a majority. According to the latest Gallup poll, 46 percent of Americans support legalization while 50 percent oppose.

Other Issues

There are many smaller issues I advocate for that probably don’t have majority support, like instant run-off voting, switching states to unicameral legislatures, using “all-payer” on the new health care exchanges, officially putting the Fed entirely under government control, and increasing the size of the House of Representatives. But, I suspect that is mainly due to them being fairly arcane issues with little public understanding. While they probably lack broad support, I suspect also lack much opposition.

It is possible that there is some big issues on which my positions are truly radical, by which I mean only 25 percent of the country agrees with me, but I frankly can’t think of them.

Despite being dismissed as an extremist left-winger by even this Democratic administration, there is hardly an important issue I support that doesn’t have fairly strong popular support. The few that do lack majority support, like gay marriage and marijuana legalization, just barely miss the mark.

The boring truth is this radical progressive’s beliefs almost all fall right inline with the broad center of regular working class Americas. The sad thing is how successfully this combination of truly mainstream centrist positions have been depicted as fringe leftism.

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