msnbc | January 27, 2013
>> we are now one full week into president obama 's second term, and a theme already seems to be emerging from republicans, including john boehner . it's that the president is on a mission to annihilate the gop and push a far left agenda, and they point to his inaugural speech as evidence where the president said things like, well, this.
>> preserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires collective action, medicare and medicaid and social security . these things do not sap our nation. they strengthen us. we will respond to the threat of climate change . our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law.
>> joining me now bill schneider , resident fellow third way, washington think tank and tara mcguinnes senior vice president of communications at the center for american progress . hello to both of you.
>> hey, thanks for having us.
>> bill, let's start with the speech. not just conservatives here who say that it was progressive. salon.com calling it the most liberal speech of obama's presidency. did the president miss a chance here to reach out to republicans, bill schneider ?
>> i don't think he was trying to do that. he was trying to basically stay -- say that he believes that government can do a lot of good and just about every issue that you quoted the president on is something that most americans believe. he was saying the era of reaganism is over. president reagan said taxing power of government should not be used to regulate the economy or bring about social change but we do that all the time and the president was defending government.
>> tara , a lot of people have been pointing out lately this a majority of the country supports things like same-sex marriage, higher taxes on the rich, want to preserve medicare at all costs, but i want to show you a gallup poll from the past summer. found that 46% of americans say that they are actually conservative on economic issues. 32% say they are moderate and just 20% say they are liberal on economic issues. when it comes to social issues, 38% say they are conservative and 31% moderate and 28% liberal and these are the numbers. has america really become as liberal as some democrats would like to believe, and is this evidence to the contrary?
>> i think have you to look closer at the issues. when people put themselves into a category as progressive or conservative or liberal, you miss out on figuring out that actually people don't fall into categories. some people who are for marriage equality might consider themselves to be conservative if you gave them that choice, but they are for people having the freedom in their own lives to do things, so i think when you look down the issues though about whether you think the government should do more to make our country more equal for the very wealth and the very poor, you look at the issues, on issue by issue, the public really lines up with the president, you know. i think the president put himself squarely with we the people. he said it over five times in the speech, and so these categories aren't as telling as where people are when it comes to some of these core questions of climate change or equality and what that means now.
>> bill, not to dwell on just the speech here, but do you think that 10, 15, 20 years from now when folks are poring over the actual text of the speech that they will in fact compare it to reagan's speech in 1980 , that they will look at the speech as the president acting sort of an impetus to a seismic shift in this country?
>> well, it depends on what happens in the next couple of decades. the reagan speech set the nation's agenda for the next 32 years. even chin kline affirmed it when he said in his state of the union speech in 1996 that the era of big government is over. reaganism ruled for a long time. the country was very strongly anti-government. obama's presiding over the arrival of a new coalition. democrats have carried the popular vote in five out of the last six presidential elections. now, if democrats move into power and begin to build a new majority as republicans did for 30 some years, then, yes, historians will look at this speech as setting the agenda.
>> tara , historically labor unions have been a part of the aforementioned coalition by bill schneider there, but there's some new numbers on union membership in this country. i want to put those up here. 11.3% of the workforce now belongs to a uniion. that's the lowest figure in 97 years. in recent decade we've seen a widening gap between the rich and the poor in this country perhaps because of these numbers. when it comes to labor, it does appear that progressives are losing ground, no?
>> yeah. hey, labor has been under attack from some very aggressive forces for the past 30 years. when it comes to union membership , progressives are losing ground. when it comes to the ideas that labor has fought for and in fact there is a direct correlation between the average wage of americans and the strength of unions in the united states , having unions helps lift wages for all people, and at core of that argument i don't think that's looting ground. i think across the board, you know, left and right, people are worried about our squeezed middle class , and unions have been a big part of that story.
>> bill schneider third way and tara mcguinnes, center for american progress , thank you for joining me.