I found a blog, there, from poster Ironman, about Rep. Chris Murphy, the Democratic congressman from Connecticut's 5th district. Posted yesterday, it advises people to "be pragmatic tomorrow--remove a radical from CT 5." Campaigns produce a lot of hyperbolic rhetoric, of course, and maybe it's best to chalk IM's words up to the feverish emotions of the moment and leave it at that, but something made me want to offer a few comments on it. Probably the fact that it's so perfectly emblematic of the very wrongheaded "thinking" of a lot of the contemporary American right.
IM's premise is that Murphy is some sort of wild-eyed lefty radical who is misrepresenting himself in his reelection bid:
"Chris Murphy's closing argument in his flagging bid for re-election is that he represents the 'pragmatic center' of American politics.His first example:
"I call B.S. on this. Let's count the ways Murphy is far to the Left in American politics--even beyond the usual Nancy Pelosi foot soldier."
"Murphy is one of the most vocal opponents of the use of warrantless wiretaps to obtain information to thwart terrorist threats... [D]o we want to hamstring the people who keep us safe? Murphy evidently does."Is this evidence of Murphy's radicalism?
Well, it should be said, right up front, that Bush's NSA wiretapping program was completely illegal--a blatantly criminal enterprise that was explicitly forbidden by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which had been on the books for decades, so IM's premise, that standing against government surveillance conducted with blatant criminality makes one some sort of radical, is, to put it as kindly as possible, shaky (another depressing sign of creeping fascism on the right).
What did the public think about Bush's criminal enterprise? In the immediate aftermath of the story breaking, the U.S. was almost equally divided. Polling showed that slim majorities either supported or opposed it based on the wording of the poll question, the more accurate wording producing stronger opposition than support. Murphy's "radical" opposition to it was in line with that of half the public.
That was just after the story broke.
As time went by, public opinion shifted strongly against the Bush administration on this matter. By Oct. 2007, a Mehlman Group poll found that 61% said the government should have to get a warrant before conducting this sort of surveillance; only 35% supported the Bush position. By Jan. 2008, another Mehlman Group poll asked the same question; 63% said the government should have to get a warrant (55% said they believed this "strongly"), with only 33% supporting the Bush position (24% "strongly"). By Feb. 2009, just after the beginning of Murphy's current term in office, 63% of respondents were telling Gallup they favored an investigation into the matter, including 77% of Democrats, 64% of independents, and even 41% of Republicans. Murphy's "radical" view, which IM says puts him "far to the Left in American politics," is, in fact, that of an overwhelming majority of the public--of Democrats, of independents, and of nearly half of the Republicans.
"Worse still, he favored letting the telecom firms that assisted the War on Terror face ruinous lawsuits from lefty lawyers "The telecom firms in question "assisted the War on Terror" by illegally turning over private information on their clients to the Bush administration. They weren't ordered by a court to do so--Bush wanted it, and they just handed it over. Bush sought a bill granting these companies a blanket immunity from any legal action their enraged clients may bring against them. Murphy opposed this immunity.
Evidence of Murphy radicalism? Hardly. In that same Mehlman Group poll referenced above, 57% opposed granting immunity; 45% "strongly" opposed it. Only 33% supported it (22% "strongly"). The opposition to immunity cut across all political lines--liberals opposed it by 64%, moderates by 58%, and even 50% of conservatives opposed it.
So, again, IM is describing Murphy as a "radical" and "far to the Left in American politics" based on his holding the same views that are also broadly and overwhelmingly held by the public.
It's also worth, again, noting IM's premise in using this example; that Murphy is some sort of extreme lefty based on Murphy's opposition to blatant lawbreaking by the telecoms, turning over private information on the public to the government.
"Murphy is also one of the firmest opponents of keeping the detention facility at Gitmo open."The public has been strongly divided on this question. In Jan. 2009, 53% told the ABC News/Washington Post poll they thought the U.S. should close the facility, with 42% supporting keeping it open. A CBS News/New York Times poll three months later showed an almost-even split--47% should continue to operate, while 44% said to close the prison. An AP/Roper poll two months later showed the public evenly split on the question--47% approved of Obama's then-goal to close the facility within a year, while 47% opposed it. Again, Murphy's view seems in line with about half of the public.
Unfortunately, this matter has been subject to a great deal of right-wing fear-mongering. The far right expended a great deal of effort telling the public that closing the facility would mean al Qaida prisoners would be dropped in their back yards, and when poll questions include nods toward this, NIMBYist sentiment kicks in. A USA Today/Gallup poll from May 2009, for example, asked, "Suppose the prison at Guantanamo Bay is closed. Would you favor or oppose moving some of those prisoners to a prison in your state?" 74% were opposed, with only 23% in favor. The results are usually less dramatic (around a 60/40 split), but large majorities do oppose closing the facility if the prisoners end up in their back yards, so on this matter, Murphy can be said to be out of sync with most people, if one doesn't control for NIMBYism.
"Chris Murphy has a problem with the health care bill. He doesn't think it went far enough. He is a strong supporter of the public option."As was most of the public throughout the health-care debate. In a Time magazine poll from July, 2009, 56% supported the public option, 36% opposed. In a CNN/Opinion Research poll from Aug., 2009, 55% favored the public option, 41% opposed. In a Kaiser Family Foundation poll from Sept. 2009, 57% supported a public option, only 37% opposed. In a Quinnipiac poll from Oct. 2009, 61% supported the public option, only 34% opposed. In a CBS News/New York Times poll from Dec., 2009, 59% supported the public option, with only 29% opposed. This poll broke down the results by party, and found that support included 80% of Democrats, 59% of independents, and even 33% of Republicans.
So, again, Murphy is tagged as a lefty radical for being in line with most of the public.
And that's the whole of IM's substantive case against Murphy. He whines about Murphy attended a gathering of internet liberals, misrepresents a comment Murphy made to MSNBC [*], and concludes that "there are none [Democrats] more deserving of defeat than Connecticut's Chris Murphy."
It's clear IM doesn't like Murphy's politics, and, for whatever reason, he seems to personally despise the man, but he utterly fails to prove his premise that Murphy is some sort of "radical" who "is far to the Left in American politics." From IM's description, in fact, Murphy appears to be exactly what IM quotes him as calling himself, a representative of "the 'pragmatic center' of American politics." That IM sees this as "radical" says everything about himself, and nothing about Chris Murphy.
[*] IM's version:
"He [Murphy] told MSMBC that after he and his colleagues got past the voters in November they would return with 'steel in their spine' ready to cast more tough votes against the wishes of their constituents."The actual comment, in context:
"Giving an upbeat scenario for Election Day, Murphy said, 'When we retain the House, some members are going to come back with some extra steel in their spines, having cast some tough votes and having survived what’s likely the toughest election of their career.'"[NOTE: The polls I cited but to which I don't link come from Pollingreport.com]