Why Obama Looks Beyond The Left

Ronald Brownstein looks at the make up of Democratic voters and explains Why Obama Can’t Satisfy the Left:

Regardless of the merits of the left’s arguments on each of those individual debates, there’s a structural reason why Obama and Congressional Democrats may not prove as responsive to their demands as they hope. Liberals aren’t as big a component of the Democratic coalition as many of the Left’s leaders believe. Moderate voters are much more important to Democratic success than liberal voters. And liberals are also less important to Democrats than conservatives are to Republicans. That means liberals generally have less leverage than they recognize in these internal party arguments-and less leverage than conservatives can exert in internal struggles over the GOP’s direction. “Liberals are less central to the Democratic coalition than conservatives are to the Republican coalition,” says Andy Kohut, director of the non-partisan Pew Research Center for the People and the Press.

That contrast is apparent from two different angles: identification and behavior. In cumulative Pew data for 2008, Kohut says, only one-third of self-identified Democrats described themselves as liberals; the rest identified as moderates or conservatives. For Republicans the proportions were reversed: two-thirds of Republicans considered themselves conservatives, while only one-third identified as moderates or liberals. Gallup’s findings are similar: in their cumulative 2008 data, just 39% of self-identified Democrats described themselves as liberals, while 70% of Republicans identified as conservatives.

Looking at Obama’s actual vote in 2008 reinforces the story. According to the Edison/Mitofsky Election Day exit polls, liberals provided only 37% of Obama’s total votes. Moderates (50%) and conservatives (13%) provided far more. By contrast, conservatives provided almost three-fifths of John McCain’s votes, with moderates contributing only about one-third and liberals a negligible 5%.

The bottom line is that, compared to Republicans, Democrats are operating with a much more diverse electoral coalition-and one in which the party’s ideological vanguard plays a smaller role. That’s one reason why in a Pew post-election survey, nearly three-fifths of Democrats said they wanted the party to move in a more moderate (rather than liberal) direction, while three-fifths of Republicans said they wanted the party to move right. The parties “have a difference in our bases,” says Jim Kessler, vice president of Third Way, a group that works with centrist Democratic Senators. “Certainly the most loyal part of the Democratic base is going to be self-identified liberals, but numerically moderates are a bigger portion of the coalition, so there is going to be some tension.

There are limitations to any poll based upon self-identification. Many polls have showed large numbers of people who 1) do not identify themselves as liberals and 2) support liberal positions on the issues. There are also a variety of views held by self-identified liberals, making it possible for some liberals to be dissatisfied while Obama pleases other liberals.

Despite these limitations, the general argument still holds. The extremists dominate the Republican Party while those with relatively more moderate views dominate the Democratic Party. This is also a reason why Obama repeatedly reaches out to Republicans even if he fails to receive hardly any Republican support in Congress. There are many moderate and conservative voters who are voting Democratic at present but have voted at times in the past. Obama is most likely concerned with retaining their support as opposed to expecting a tremendous amount of support from Congressional Republicans.

Even if Obama has displeased liberals on some issues, after the previous eight years we are still seeng a considerable improvement. Actions by Obama include ending the ban on federal funding of embryonic stem cell research, planning to close Guantanamo, ending the raids on medicinal marijuana (giving him the benefit of the doubt until further information is available on today’s action), overturning the Bush conscience rules, overturning the Global Gag Order,  planning on leaving Iraq, and beginning work on expanding health care coverage. Hopefully as time goes on liberals can push Obama to reconsider some of his decisions regarding secrecy and terrorism.

DEA Raids Medical Marijuana Dispensary in San Francisco

This is certainly disappointing news coming so soon after we were assured the Obama administration was going to put an end to this:

Federal agents raided a medical marijuana dispensary in San Francisco Wednesday, a week after U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder signaled that the Obama administration would not prosecute distributors of pot used for medicinal purposes that operate under sanction of state law.

U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents raided Emmalyn’s California Cannabis Clinic at 1597 Howard St. in San Francisco’s South of Market district mid-afternoon.

They hauled out large plastic bins overflowing with marijuana plants and loaded several pickup trucks parked out front with grow lights and related equipment used to farm the plants indoors.

The dispensary had been operating with a temporary permit issued by the Department of Public Health.

“Based on our investigation, we believe there are not only violations of federal law, but state law as well,” DEA Special Agent in Charge Anthony Williams said in a prepared statement.

Williams, who runs the San Francisco field office that covers a territory stretching from Bakersfield to Redding, would not specify the alleged violations. The information was under court seal.

“As of now, we are prohibited from releasing further details of the case. Items of evidentiary value were seized and no arrests have been made,” Williams said.

A source in San Francisco city government who was informed about the raid said the DEA’s action appeared to be prompted by alleged financial improprieties related to the payment of sales taxes. DEA Special Agent Casey McEnry, spokeswoman for the local office, would not comment on that information.

Perhaps further information will show that this was consistent with Holder’s previous statements but this is still not a good sign.

Incidentally, this came on a day in which Obama had an online town hall which was dominated by questions about marijuana. This could be a sign of how much national interest there is in the topic, or a sign that NORML was successful in getting people to ask desired questions. Obama continued to express opposition to legalization of marijuana.