The focus of their distress is none other than Obama, who many left-leaning Democrats fear will go too far in reaching an accord with Republicans on the “fiscal cliff.” Liberal groups are gearing up media campaigns aimed at pressuring Obama and congressional Democrats to hold the line on proposed GOP cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and other entitlement programs.
One of the first salvos came Tuesday, when a coalition of labor unions announced new television ads demanding that Democrats focus on job creation and not yield to Republican austerity demands. Prominent liberals such as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) and Sen. Patty Murray (Wash.) have also signaled that Democrats are prepared to allow automatic spending cuts and tax hikes to take effect if there is no agreement to raise tax rates on the rich.
The moves follow an election night filled with major victories and moments of pure schadenfreude for liberals, such as an on-air meltdown by GOP political mastermind Karl Rove when Fox News called the race for Obama. Democrats have watched with glee as Republicans squabble over the meaning of the election results, including sharp criticism of Mitt Romney and a wide-ranging debate over how to broaden the party’s appeal.
Exit polls showed that 25 percent of voters identified themselves as liberal, up from 22 percent in 2008 and 17 percent in 1984, the year Ronald Reagan was re-elected on his “morning in America” message.
Demographic shifts, coupled with Obama’s campaign message of collective responsibility and economic fairness, boosted the resurgence. Some of the nation’s fastest growing groups are also being increasingly drawn to the liberal brand, including Hispanics, college graduates and the non-religious.
“President Obama has arguably created a genuine realignment at the national level that could continue to shape American politics for years to come,” wrote Ruy Teixeira and John Halpin, political scientists at the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank.
Democrats who once avoided the liberal label also embraced it this year. Forty-six percent of Democrats identified as liberals, up from 39 percent in 2004. Organized labor reaffirmed its power as a ground-level political force, playing a crucial role in delivering Ohio to Obama. Shortly after the election, Pelosi — adored by liberals for her strategic and fundraising prowess —announced that she would stay on as the leader of House Democrats.
Progressives were especially heartened by the results in Maryland, Maine and Washington state, where voters legalized same-sex marriage. In Minnesota, a constitutional amendment defining marriage as exclusively between a man and woman was defeated. Nine states now allow gay marriage; three others recognize same-sex unions performed in other jurisdictions.