Saturday, August 23, 2008

As Democrats Gather, Liberal Positions Gaining In Popularity

By Steven Thomma | McClatchy Newspapers

DENVER — As they meet for their national convention Monday through Thursday, Democrats are poised to shift their party's course — and the country's.

They're turning to the left — deeply against the war in Iraq, ready to use tax policy to take from the rich and give to the poor and middle class, and growing hungry, after years of centrist politics, for big-government solutions, such as a health-care overhaul, to steer the nation through a time of sweeping economic change.

They are, in short, more liberal than at any time in a generation and eager to end the Reagan era, which dominated not just the other party, but also their own, for nearly three decades.

"Every generation . . . there are changes in people's relationship with government," said Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y. This, he said, is such a time.

The shift of the party also reflects a change in much of the population — evidenced in the policy positions advocated by rank-and-file voters as well as the party's presumptive presidential nominee, Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois.

What changed? Several things:
  • The Iraq war lasted longer, cost more lives and money, and proved deeply unpopular. A few years ago, Obama was a rare voice in the party opposing the war; today he's one of a chorus.
  • Anxiety about a slowing economy resurrected fears about American jobs and paychecks in the global economy.
  • Promises to change trade deals such as the North American Free Trade Agreement punctuated the [2008] Democratic primaries.
  • Obama promises a dramatically different tax policy, one that would raise taxes on the wealthy, cut taxes for the middle class and offer new "refundable" tax credits to the working poor that would wipe out tax liabilities and deliver anything left over in the form of checks.
  • Obama also wants to tax oil companies and use the money to give checks to the poor to pay for high fuel costs, or anything else.
  • Many Americans recoiled at the weak federal government response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
  • Republican George W. Bush turned into one of the most unpopular presidents in modern history.
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