Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Barack Obama is not a leftist

A friend of mine recently took the “Political Compass” test and posted the results on Facebook. If you don't know the test, it's available at The test's developers contend that political attitudes should be plotted, not on one axis, but two: a left-right economic axis and an up-down authoritarian-libertarian axis.

I took the test, and scored about where I thought I would. Then I noticed you could see a version of the chart showing the 2012 presidential candidates. Here it is:

Look at where all the minor candidates are, then look at Obama and Romney. Not much ideological space between them, is there? Is that really what we spent more than two years and $2 billion battling over? Yup.

I suspect a lot of people seeing this chart refuse to believe their eyes (and I do think I would move Obama and Romney a small amount farther apart), but fundamentally, it's accurate. In the fevered mind of the Republican Right, Obama is the Kenyan Muslim Socialist bent on destroying America. In actuality … well, here’s how Brad DeLong puts it:

I remember what policies Barack Obama has in fact pursued:
  • George H.W. Bush's tax policy.
  • Mitt Romney's health-care policy.
  • John McCain's climate-change policy.
  • George H.W. Bush's foreign policy.
  • Bill Clinton's spending policy.
  • Dwight Eisenhower's Federal Reserve policy.
  •  George W. Bush's education policy.
The idea that we ought to be willing to raise taxes when we find, as a society, that we are not willing to cut spending – is there a more bedrock, conservative, Republican principle than that? ... We could all write the speeches for Obama policy initiatives as rooted in conservative, Republican principles and rhetoric – indeed, some of us have. 
Indeed. For a sharp contrast, take a look at Green Party candidate Jill Stein’s policies as outlined on her website. Here’s a sampling:

  • Cut the bloated Pentagon budget by 50%.
  • Rewrite the entire tax code to be truly progressive with tax cuts for working families the poor and middle class and higher taxes for the richest Americans.
  • Ensure the right to accessible and affordable utilities – heat electricity phone internet and public transportation – through democratically run, publicly owned utilities that operate at cost, not for profit.
  •  Establish a 90% tax on bonuses for bailed out bankers.
  • Democratize monetary policy to bring about public control of the money supply and credit creation.
  • Provide tuition-free education from kindergarten through college.
  • Provide complete, affordable, quality health care for every American through an improved Medicare-for-all insurance program.
  • Impose an immediate moratorium on foreclosures and evictions.
  • Stop hydrofracking.
  • Repeal the Patriot Act.
  • Abolish the electoral college.
I can’t think of a Democrat now in office who wouldn’t run screaming in panic from that agenda. Can you?

Certainly, the Obama administration would have no part of it. Cut the Pentagon budget by 50%?! The Obama administration has wound down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan wars, but has indicated no interest in cuts beyond that. Stop fracking?! Obama has embraced fracking, to environmentalists' dismay. Repeal the Patriot Act?! The NSA has hoovered up virtually every phone call made in this country for years. And so on.

Millions of Americans think President Obama is a leftist. They have forgotten what leftism even looks like.

Update: Commenter "Flatlander" very reasonably asks: 
Could you please indicate how the presidential candidates were plotted? Did they answer these same quiz questions?
Here's how the folks answer that in their FAQ:

We rely on reports, parliamentary voting records, manifestos … and actions that speak much louder than words. It takes us a great deal longer than simply having the politician take the test — but it's also a far more accurate assessment. In our early experience, politicians taking the test often responded in ways that conflicted with their actions but conformed to the prevailing mood of the electorate.

You can also read their specific comments on Obama and Romney on this page. They certainly sound upset with Obama!  

1 comment:

  1. Could you please indicate how the presidential candidates were plotted? Did they answer these same quiz questions?