Folks like Noam Chomsky, Paul Street and others have been pointing this out and it is worth repeating: Americans are progressive socially, politically and economically.
The elitist line that people are stupid or are a herd is worth looking into. And the best place to start is with opinion polls.
Considering our governments policies, statements on issues from nuclear weapons, war, healthcare and social security, and how the corporate media largely parrots them under the false notion of "objectivity" it is remarkable that the American public has vastly different views that are more in line with progressive values.
I find this significant when considering alternatives to Capitalism. Michael Albert and Robin Hahnel devised Participatory Economics (PARECON) as a response to Margaret Thatcher’s claim that "there is no alternative" to capitalism.
They set out to identify the core values of Capitalism and how they negatively effect society and then proceed to build new economic institutions around five core values to counter the ills of capitalism:
Some say that this is wishful dreaming. That achieving such a thing is impossible.
I don’t want to debate the merits of PARECON. Michael Albert and others are doing well enough.
What I aim to do is demonstrate that Americans already express many of the core progressive values that underline PARECON to show that not only is there an alternative but that achieving it is possible.
According to a WorldPublicOpinion.Org poll carried out on January 18-27 2008, 94% feel "Leaders should pay attention to the views of the people as they make decisions."
With that said let’s look at a wide range of views that the American population holds.
According to a NBC News/Wall Street Journal Poll conducted by the polling organizations of Peter Hart (D) and Neil Newhouse (R) June 6-9, 2008 71% of Americans say we are on the wrong track while only 16% feel we are moving in the right direction.
In a December 2006 Pew poll 68% disagreed with the notion that we should go it alone. A clear majority support multilateral efforts.
In a July 2006 Chicago Council poll, 76% felt that "the US is playing the role of world policeman more than it should be."
In the February 2008 a World Public Opinion poll 68% felt positive about the UN taking a more powerful role in world affairs.
In the July 2006 Chicago Council poll, 71% favored US participation in the International Criminal Court.
The Democratic Representative from Ohio, Dennis Kucinich – one of the most progressive politicians in Congress – just introduced a bill to impeach President George W. Bush. One of the reasons for opposing the measure cited by the Republicans was that it was a waste of time during a period of real issues.
According to a CBS poll conducted between May 30- June 3, 2008 42% of Americans want troops out in less than a year. 21% said between 1-2 years and 20% said as long as it takes.
According to a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation Poll conducted between April 28-30, 2008 68% of Americans said they oppose the war while only 30% said they favor it.
Also, according to another CNN/Opinion Research Corporation Poll that was carried out on June 4-5, 2008 the most important issues determining how Americans would vote was the economy (42%), War in Iraq (24%), Health care (12%), Terrorism (11%), Illegal Immigration (8%) and other and unsure both received 1% each.
In other words, next to the economy – which the war is seriously impacting negatively – the War in Iraq is one of the most important issues voters are considering.
One might wonder how holding our president accountable for his crimes is not a real issue, especially when considering Bush’s unpopularity and the pervasive opposition to the war in Iraq. And since most Americans consider the economy to be the main issue it also doesn’t make sense why impeachment isn’t being more strongly considered since the war has negatively impacted the economy by being a factor in rising gas prices (something a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation Poll in June 4-5, 2008 revealed that 24% say is in a state of crisis and another 59% say is a major problem) and how it has resulted in a cut in social programs and distracts money that could be spent on other programs like alternative energy sources, health care, social security and education.
In an Associated Press/Ipsos poll conducted by Ipsos-Public Affairs from March 21-23, 2005 66% said "No countries should be allowed to have nuclear weapons" while only 13% said "Only the United States and its allies should be allowed to have nuclear weapons."
In a Program on International Policy Attitudes/Knowledge Networks Poll March 16-22, 2004 a clear majority of Americans supported treaties banning nuclear weapon test explosions worldwide (87%), all use of land mines (83%) and all chemical and biological weapons (92%).
A Quinnipiac University Poll that was carried out on May 8-12, 2008 showed that 75% disapprove of how Bush is handling the economy.
So what are some more of the economic views of Americans?
According to the most recent Gallop poll 81% of Americans hold negative views on the economy. And 68% feel major corporations should have "less influence" (a statistic that has consistently risen since 2001 when 52% felt they should have less influence).
As of 2006, and according to a Gallup poll, 73% said big business has too much influence over Bush’s policy decisions.
In July 2002 Americans were asked what they felt were the most important reasons for the state of the economy and 49% said "Greed and corruption among corporate executives" was a major reason.
And as for labor unions, a Gallup Poll that was carried out from August 13-16, 2007 shows that 60% approve of labor unions and that a slight majority (35%) would like to see them have more influence.
Even in terms of environmentalism most Americans hold progressive views.
According to a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation Poll June 4-5, 2008 on Global Warming 54% said Global Warming is a fact and is largely caused by Cars, Industry, while 22% said it was a fact cause by natural factors and only 23% said it was an unproven theory.
In the same poll Americans were told, "One plan to reduce global warming would have the government set a limit on the amount of those emissions that companies could produce each year. Companies that exceed that limit would face fines or higher taxes, but they could avoid those penalties by paying money to other companies that produced fewer emissions than allowed. Would you favor or oppose this proposal?" The results show that 52% supported while 45% opposed.
And a The Harris Poll conducted Oct. 16-23, 2007 asked, "Do you think there is too much, too little, or about the right amount of government regulation and involvement in the area of environmental protection?" Not so astonishingly 53% said too little, 21% said too much and another 21% said about right.
As noted above, most Americans believe gas prices are out of control and according to a Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg Poll July 28-Aug. 1, 2006 52% feels the government should invest into alternative energy sources like solar and wind power, while only 20% feel we should relax drilling standards. This shows that most Americans consider environmental degradation when considering how best to address our energy problems.
While most Americans believe Social Security is in trouble (30% say it’s a crisis, 36% say its in serious trouble and 26% say its in some trouble) most opposed Bush’s efforts to modify it (60%).
A CBS News/New York Times Poll in June 2005 found 63% support raising the cap on how much of ones income is taxed in order to preserve social security.
In the same poll 80% say the government should be responsible "to provide a decent standard of living for the elderly."
Another recent CBS News/New York Times poll found that 64% government should guarantee health insurance for all.
And according to a CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll June 21-23, 2002 54% say the government should spend more on education.
So, let’s get this straight:
- Most feel our opinions need to not only be heard but be the basis of social, political and economic policies
- By big majorities most Americans oppose our political and economic leaders.
- Most feel big business has too much influence over economic policies while most feel labor unions don’t have enough.
- Most feel we should not police the world and that the UN should take a leading role in world affairs.
- Most oppose the War in Iraq and want us to leave within a year.
- Most support increased spending on social programs and in fact most feel that social and economic issues are more important than terrorism or illegal immigration.
- Most feel we are not doing enough to resolve the environmental problems we face.
A new and better world is most certainly possible. The desire and support is there. It is simply up to us on the Left to tap into this reservoir of hope to make it happen.
GET EDUCATED! GET ORGANIZED! GET ACTIVE!