By Larry Levine –
You’ll never see a headline reading: NO AIRPLANES CRASHED TODAY.
It’s not news. It happens almost every day and the definition of news is something new or different.
You’ll also never see a headline reading: REPUBLICANS IN CONGRESS OFFER NEW HEALTHCARE PROGRAM.
It’s not new or different. It happens every day.
Or: REPUBLICANS PRESENT BOLD NEW INFRASTRUCTURE PACKAGE.
Or: REPUBICANS CHAMPION CLIMATE CHANGE SOLUTIONS.
The list is virtually endless. If it doesn’t involve tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations, or some wedge social issue like attacks on asylum seekers, bans on abortion rights, limiting voting rights, or opposition to gun safety measures Republicans have little or no interest.
Yet a Gallup Poll released this week shows pluralities of Americans believe Republicans are a better bet when it comes to national security and economic prosperity. How can that happen? How can Republicans gain those positions while sitting on their hands doing nothing?
The answer lies in a series of headlines you actually will see or have seen.
Here’s a recent one: TALKS DRAG ON OVER BIDEN INFRASTRUCTURE PROPOSAL.
Another: DEMOCRTATIC PROGRESSIVES THREATEN TO BLOCK BIDEN PLAN.
Yet another: DEMOCRATS FACE SCALING BACK BIDEN’S SOCIAL SAFETY NET PLAN / options for major cuts to appease 2 centrists promise to upset others in the party.
And: BIDEN APPROVAL RATING DROPS AMONG DEMOCRATS AS INFRASTRUCTURE STALEMATE PERSISTS.
Former President Harry S Truman famously said of his Presidency, “The buck stops here.” President Joe Biden now faces that reality. While Republicans root for him to fail and factions in his own party act out a “my way or the highway” petulance, the public is left with a picture of Biden as a failure. That picture is painted not only by FOX News and other right-wing outlets. The headlines above all come from mainstream media outlets – the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, etc.
FACT: It’s Biden and the Democrats who are trying to craft legislation to deal with the nation’s infrastructure needs, boost education spending, cut the cost of prescription drugs, expand Medicare, restore some semblance of tax equity, battle COVID-19, and resolve a host of other issues.
FACT: No Republican in either house of the Congress – zero, zilch, nil – is willing to vote for any Biden legislation on any of these issues.
FACT: There are 48 Democrats, 2 independents and 50 Republicans in the U.S. Senate. You’ll see news coverage of how two Democratic Senators – Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kristen Sinema of Arizona are the problem for Biden. What you don’t see is the same level of coverage of how all 50 Republicans march lockstep in opposition to everything and anything the Biden administration puts forward and won’t engage in negotiations to reach compromise solutions. If just two of the 50 Senate Republicans were to grow a spine, Manchin and Sinema would be irrelevant.
Why do the media not focus on the obstructionism of the Republicans instead of the petulance of Mancin and Sinema? Because that’s not new or different, which makes it not news.
It’s the nature of the media beast. Conflict is news and the Democrats provide the only conflict in sight. Conflict is what draws readers to newspapers and eyeballs to the TV talking heads. The number of readers and eyeballs is what sets the rates at which advertising is sold, salaries are paid, and profits accumulated. The dark cloud of intransigent Republican do-nothingism is ever-present. It draws neither readers nor eyeballs. It isn’t new. It isn’t news.
As Biden’s poll numbers take the hit, analysts speculate about what it will mean for the 2022 mid-term elections. Will Biden’s failure cost the Democrats seats next year? That’s what they do – the pundits and columnists. They create a picture of failure and conflict and the speculate and pontificate about what it means.
In reality Biden and the Democratic Senate and Congressional candidates will have strong messages for voters next year.
They can start by labeling Republicans as the do-nithinig party. Nothing on health care. Nothing on the pandemic. Nothing on economic growth. Nothing on infrastructure. Nothing on anything other than saying “no” to anything the Biden administration puts forward.
Then the Democrats can contrast this with an impressive list of their accomplishments.
• The American Rescue Plan stimulated the economic recovery from the effects of the pandemic without a single Republican vote.
• Biden cancelled $5.8 billion worth of student loan debt for some 300,000 Americans.
• Biden raised the minimum wage to $15 an hour for federal contractors.
• Millions of direct stimulus deposits went to help Americans weather the economic turmoil of the pandemic.
• Food stamp benefits were increased to help needy families.
• Biden returned the U.S. to the Paris Climate Accord to further the fight against climate change.
• Biden directed $2.5 billion to address America’s mental illness and addiction crisis.
• On the COVID-19 issue Biden required all Head Start educators and federal executive branch employees to be vaccinated. He invoked the Defense Production Act to accelerate vaccine production. He ordered the Labor Department to require employers with more than 100 workers to ensure full vaccination and give workers time off to get vaccinated.
• And he ended the 20-year-long war in Afghanistan, evacuating more than 120,000 people from the country and saving the U.S. billions of dollars in additional costs for a war that couldn’t be won and never should have begun.
This is a scant sampling of an impressive and growing list of accomplishments Biden and Democratic congressional candidates can run on in 2022. While the pundits chatter about the Democrats’ intra-party squabbling over the final amount of an infrastructure bill, the fact remains a bill will pass. It will include a plethora of projects popular with voters across the country, and it will pass without a single Republican vote.
So, where does Biden’s polling problem lie? Is it weak messaging from the White House or is it the media acting as it always does or is it both?
While the messaging from congressional leaders can be muddled in attempts to placate factions in their respective houses, the Biden administration has been fairly strong in staying on message.
“We will get it done,” Biden said this week during a trip to Michigan to push for support for the Build Back Better legislation. He’s right and once it’s done the pundits and columnist will have to look elsewhere for conflict. They won’t find it by looking at Republicans. REPUBLICANS DO NOTHING is not a news story, not different.