Despite the apparent Democratic capture of both houses of Congress and a gain of six governorships in the November 7 midterm elections, The Washington Post's lead article about election results asserts that the United States is "a nation that leans slightly right of center."
The Post didn't offer a single example of an issue on which the nation "leans slightly the right of center," nor did it offer any examples to support its assertion that "the Democrats' victory was built on the back of more centrist candidates," or any frame of reference for what "centrist" means.
For the record, here's what happened last night in the nation that, according to the Post, "leans slightly right of center":
- Democrats gained control of the House of Representatives, picking up at least 27 seats in the process.
- Democrats apparently gained control of the Senate by defeating six Republican incumbents -- winning in Pennsylvania, Virginia, Montana, Ohio, Rhode Island, and Missouri.
- Democrats gained six governorships, bringing their total to 28. Democrats now hold governorships in New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Arizona, New Mexico, Oregon, Wyoming, Montana, and Arkansas, among other states.
- South Dakota voters rejected a sweeping ban on abortion; California and Oregon rejected parental notification laws.
- Six states voted on initiatives to raise the minimum wage; all six passed.
- Missouri voters passed a ballot initiative in support of stem cell research.
Though the Post didn't tell readers what the phrase "more centrist candidates" means, it is worth noting that the vast majority of policy proposals and issue positions backed by most national Democratic leaders enjoys the support of at least a plurality of Americans. As Media Matters for America explained last week, many of them have overwhelming public support:
- Raise the minimum wage for the first time since 1997: The current federal minimum wage of $5.15 an hour means that a person working five days a week, 52 weeks a year would earn a mere $10,712 a year. Republicans have refused to raise the minimum wage without including massive tax breaks for the rich. According to a recent Gallup poll (subscription required), 86 percent of Americans would approve of such an increase of the minimum wage.
- Extend health coverage to the uninsured: Gallup found that 79 percent would approve of such legislation.
- Allow the purchase of imported prescription drugs, which are often cheaper: According to Gallup, 72 percent of Americans would approve.
- Implement the recommendations of the 9-11 Commission: According to Gallup, 62 percent of Americans would approve.
Though it went unstated, the Post may have been referring instead to "litmus test" issues like abortion and gun control. But even on those hot-button issues, polling shows that the progressive position is more popular with voters than the conservative position. For example:
- Support for reproductive rights is the majority position in America. A Newsweek poll conducted in late October found that 53 percent of Americans said they sympathize with the "pro-choice" position; only 39 percent described themselves as sympathetic to the "right-to-life" position.
- Support for reasonable gun-safety laws is the majority position in America. Though PollingReport.com lists no polls about gun control conducted since 2004, it shows that the Gallup poll has consistently found support for "more strict" gun laws to be in the mid-50s to high-60s going back to 1990. Those who think laws should be "less strict" have not exceeded 12 percent in any Gallup poll in that time.
- A majority of Americans favor legal recognition of gay and lesbian relationships.