Many pundits and politicians on the right keep repeating that "America is still a center-right" nation. They use as evidence:
the number of self-identified "Conservatives" (34%) in the last election versus "liberals" (22%).
the fact that most people on the left don't want to be called "liberals" but rather "progressives"
that President-elect Obama ran on cutting taxes for the middle-class
...and so on.
Yet the facts are:
Obama was attacked as a socialist and he won an electoral landslide. I don't believe in socialism because it doesn't work. I dont' think Obama does either. But clearly a center-right country wouldn't vote for a candidate who could be credibly (if falsely) accused of being a socialist.
Both parties have accepted a big government role in solving America's problems. Regardless of the issue, both sides assume the government should act more than not. Whether it is hurricane relief, economic stimulus, a healthcare crisis, or whater; Republicans and Democrats believe in "we the people through our government" which is the foundation of liberalism.
Also, on the cultural front we as a nation accept over a million abortions each year and the political debate is focused on tangential issues such as parental notification (I support), banning certain late-term procedures (I disagree). The basic first trimester abortion right is really not debated. In addition the steady march of gay rights (I'm opposed) is not being halted. Even though most states have passed bans on same sex marriage, along the way the voters and the intellectual thinkers have granted many of the underlying points. So that where ten years ago civil unions was the far out leftist position. Today it is refused by the left as "separate and unequal".
If you look at the various issues and pick one side or the other, it is clear we are a center-left country overall:
military - We are basically conserative in wanting a big military, and projecting strength to deter attacks.
abortion rights - no one advocates a ban on abortions through the Supreme Court or even nationwide through Congress (I'm 100% pro-choice), but rather repealing Roe v Wade and let each state decide. It's clear most states would be pro-choice.
Federal spending- increases every year no matter who is in charge. The Republicans from 1994 - 2000 tried to reduce the rates of increase, but not actually cut government spending. As a country we want the government the solve many problems, this means more spending. At some point it has to level off or go down, but even then it still will be liberal, just not as much so.
Guns - we are pretty conservative on guns and generally against gun control. Though some common sense regulations (I support) could pass with a majority of peoples' support, the intensity on the issue is totally with the supporters of gun rights.
Affirmative Action- while people don't like the concept of preferences, and want everyone to be judged on the merits, the fact is both political parties believe in "diversity", "identity politics", and the concept of "merit" without recognizing the political realities is not alive. This means that every governmental group is carefully put together with gender, racial, and other modes of diversity. Democrats have won on this issue. So much so that Affirmative Action in a legal sense is on it's way out.
Public Schools are run as very liberal enterprises. I disagree with this and think we need more freedom and less government.
It's clear that we are a center-left country overall. Not completely but more so than the Right. So whereas it is much more popular to call yourself a "conservative" than a "liberal", it is actually liberals that have won the day more often than not.