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In Support of Progressive Change


As 2014 gets going, it’s revealing to see current public opinion and notice how Capitol Hill apparently pays more attention to Congress’ wealthy patrons than everyday Americans.

On a range of issues, people are more progressive than Democrats, much less Republicans, and arguably more sensible on Main Street than Wall Street, according to poll after poll.

It’s not just that 73% of us say that this Congress, the 113th, has done nothing to address the country's problems, according to a CNN/ORC poll released Dec. 26, nor that a whopping 39% percent feel negatively toward the Democratic Party and 48% feel negatively toward the GOP.

Americans have shifted opinions to ones of greater tolerance, compassion and common sense than the men and women elected to represent us in Washington.

People dislike the no-compromise Republican mindset that opposes almost any proposal or idea that President Obama has. And Americans’ opinions defy conservative assertions that 1) the Obama administration has “overreached,” 2) that liberals’ have demonstrated that their “wielding of power” since 2008 shows that they’re inept, or 3) that Obama is progressive at all, anyway – at least compared to most people.

Columnist George Will recently commented that progressives express “condescension toward the public” (which sure seems like the pot calling the kettle black, as my Mom used to say). But since elected officials are not acting on the wishes of their constituents – a majority of whom clearly express progressive preferences – the condescension looks to be coming from the oligarchy running government, from corporate-cozy Democrats to the Tea Party and the mainstream Republicans who bow to that extreme.

Here are eight areas of American public opinion, according to the Pew Research Center, and seven of them sound like planks from the Green Party or what the late liberal U.S. Sen. Paul Wellstone called “the democratic wing of the Democratic Party.”

* 83% of Americans say that “we should pay less attention to problems overseas and concentrate on problems here at home.”

* 71% favor raising the federal minimum wage to $9 an hour.

* 51% say same-sex marriage is OK (42% oppose it).

* 74% believe immigration policy needs at least major changes (while only 21% think it works pretty well and needs just minor changes).

* 50% say it is more important to control gun ownership than to protect the right of Americans to own guns (48%)

* 60% think the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade ruling legalizing abortion should stand, even though about a third of that number believes it is morally wrong. (The poll shows that 29% believe Roe v. Wade should be overturned.

* For the first time, a majority of Americans (52%) thinks marijuana use should be legalized.

* But, 77% of all registered voters support requirements to show “official photo ID before they vote,” which is an exclusionary practice that could keep some U.S. citizens from casting ballots. However, the question did not detail what “official” ID means or that some old people, young people and others may have difficulty acquiring new IDs.  

Such opinions underscore that we should give each other more credit than Senators, Representatives and the President do;

we should insist policies more clearly reflect our preferences, not just those of the NRA, Goldman Sachs or the Koch Brothers;

we should require people who claim to represent us to do so or retire from public office; or

vote out representatives who really represent bigots, war profiteers and the rest of the elite.

Contact Bill at; his twice-weekly columns are archived at

The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of Tri States Public Radio or Western Illinois University.