This will be a disappointment for the political reporters always looking to gawk at “hot Dem-on-Dem” action or what Rep. Donna Edwards, D-Md., at the Take Back the American Dream conference this week called a “progressive food fight,” but the straw poll taken at that conference shows there’s not a lot of daylight between progressive activists and the president on his jobs agenda.
The message to President Obama: When you’re boldly leading the fight for the needs of working-class and middle-class people, progressive grassroots activists will have your back.
Sixty-five percent of the people who participated in the straw poll said they “strongly favored” the American Jobs Act that President Obama sent to Congress. That is the case even though a higher percentage, 78 percent, agreed that the plan was “too small.”
There was also broad support for the kind of forceful approach that President Obama took in his news conference today toward Congress and opponents of his jobs plan. Sixty-five percent of participants either strongly or moderately agreed with the statement that with regard to the jobs bill “the President should NOT compromise on his policy positions, even if that means that his jobs proposals will not pass.” And 89 percent said, “I want Washington to focus more on creating jobs even if that means more spending in the short term.”
Likewise, 64 percent said they opposed any changes to Social Security or Medicare.
There is a strong political warning for President Obama and the Democratic Party in these poll results. When asked if they would consider voting for a third-party candidate in the next election, 34 percent said they would. And 42 percent agreed that there is a need “to build an independent movement to challenge the influence of big money and conservative ideas in both parties.”
In their own analysis of the results, pollster Robert Greenberg and Robert Borosage conclude that “these progressives are concerned that the Democrats’ agenda has not been big enough or implemented fast enough to meet the moment. Given the reality of the economy (90 percent give the economy a cool rating), progressives would like to see a stronger, more activist and progressive agenda from Washington.”
This is of course not a scientific poll, but it is reasonable to conclude that the straw poll demonstrates that elected officials and candidates who champion that agenda will find enthusiastic allies among the kind of people who were at the heart of the get-out-the-vote efforts for President Obama and the Democrats in 2008. Compromisers and backroom deal-makers prepared to trade away the basic economic concerns of working- and middle-class people need not apply.