According to Pew, the so-called progressive left makes up only 6% of the American population and 12% of the Democratic Party. This small group is overwhelmingly white (nearly 70%), young and highly educated. They are also extremely engaged politically, voting and donating to candidates at a higher rate than almost any other political grouping. And they are overrepresented in many key positions of influence, including academia, media, Hollywood and, increasingly, corporate America.
The far left’s agenda does not poll well. On issues such as “defund the police” and “open the borders,” most Americans are not buying what the left is selling. Seventy-five percent of the far left thinks other countries are better than America. Fewer than a quarter of all Americans share that view. Sixty percent of the far left wants leaders who identify as socialists. Again, less than a quarter of the general population share that view. Sixty-two percent of the far left feels that success in life is predetermined — yet another view shared by less than a quarter of all Americans. Similarly, the vast majority of the so-called progressive left sees America as fundamentally racist, a distinctly minority view among the general American population.
Another area of emphasis for the progressives is the LGBTQ agenda. American views on homosexuality have been trending in the direction of tolerance and acceptance for many years. Only 20 years ago, Americans were nearly evenly split on the question of whether homosexuality should be accepted or discouraged by society. Today, the split is 72% in favor of acceptance, with only 21% still favoring discouragement.
Today’s flashpoint, which has come to a head with Florida’s new parental rights bill, is over teachers’ roles in discussing gender identity with very young children. There has been lots of misinformation, so it’s important at the outset to understand exactly what Florida did. Their law says: “Classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur in kindergarten through third grade or in a manner that is not age appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.”
This does not seem crazy on its face. Polling firm Public Opinion Strategies presented the Florida bill language directly to voters and found that it was supported by a more than 2-to-1 margin by all Americans. When broken down by political grouping, the language was supported overwhelmingly, even by Democrats and Biden voters.
None of this is surprising. We are talking about really young kids: below third grade. Putting gender issues aside, most parents would prefer to keep teachers out of teaching about sex altogether for students in this age group. This is supposed to be up to the family.
This is where the American left’s dominance in academia, media and Hollywood comes into play. Florida’s relatively innocuous language, supported by the vast majority of Americans, has been presented as a “don’t say gay” restriction. There is no broad market on the left or the right for being mean to gay people. “Don’t say gay” sounds really mean. Never mind that the bill in Florida doesn’t even mention the word “gay” or that the bill is pinned directly to “age appropriateness.” Once it’s viewed broadly as a restriction on even mentioning the word “gay,” views change completely.
This is how a tiny number of Americans with extreme views but an outsized role in influential positions can move the needle on policy. Once people understand the actual policies promoted by the far left, they almost always don’t like them. The problem is the far left is very good at marketing radical ideas to make them sound benign. Given the whacky nature of many of the ideas themselves, this is no easy feat. The task is easier, though, when the left gets a willing assist from the major media, Hollywood and corporate America. The left is so good at marketing their policies that even many on the right join in. Calling the Florida legislation “don’t say gay” is not accurate, but that hasn’t stopped nearly every major conservative news outlet in America from using the same designation.
There are lessons for conservatives in all this. Whether its demonizing and defunding police, opening borders or using schools to push a social agenda on very young children, the radical left’s aggressive agenda is not even close to broadly popular. The fact that this tiny minority has such a hold over the Democratic Party provides conservatives with an amazing opportunity, especially with many minority and immigrant populations. These groups have traditionally been part of the liberal coalition, but they do not identify with hard-left social policy.
America’s demographics are changing. If Republicans want a chance at majority status, they have to erode the Democrats’ monopoly on the minority and immigrant vote. The far left is opening the door. There are only two big steps needed. First, for Republican politicians to win these groups over, they need to start trying more. As obvious as this is, to date the Republican Party’s outreach to minority and immigrant populations has been abysmal. Second, they need to learn the lessons from the Florida bill. Protecting very young kids from sexual discussions in schools is a mainstream position. Being mean to gay people is not. Florida’s bill is the former. Allowing it to be portrayed as the latter was a huge unforced error.
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