Media Meme “Government is Broken” Benefits Party of No
The most recent narrative being spun by the media is that Americans think “government is broken.” If government is broken, it must be someone’s fault. Fault implies drama. Drama implies ratings. Ratings imply ad dollars.
I’m deeply suspicious of memes like this, because when I first started hearing it, it was Republicans who were using it. And of course, that made sense. They know that the uninformed public and the “independents” are more likely to split blame 50-50 for any problems in government. And they know that the media won’t waste time informing the people of the truth, because policies and votes are boring and don’t sell. So if Republicans cause 90 percent of the problems, they come out ahead with only 50% of the blame.
Sure, the Party of No is at fault, but whose image is tarnished in the end? I bet you can imagine where this is going.
American’s place blame for partisanship on the GOP according to a recent CNN poll:
“Two-thirds of Americans think that the Republicans in Congress are not doing enough to cooperate with President Obama and sixty–seven percent of respondents say the GOP is not doing enough to cooperate with the White House, up 6 points from last April.”
But wait! Here comes the blow. You knew this was too good to be true:
“Americans appear split on whether the president is doing enough to reach out to Republicans, with 52 percent saying Obama is not doing enough to cooperate with the GOP, while 47 percent say he is doing enough to reach across the political aisle. The 52 percent who say the president’s not doing enough to encourage bipartisanship is up 16 points from last April.”
Remember two years ago when this same Republican strategy of “block and blame” drove the narrative of a “do-nothing Congress”? In January 2007, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell announced he would be insisting on a 60-vote supermajority, rather than a simple 50-vote majority, for getting bills through the Senate. So, Republicans announced their strategy for obstructionism, implemented it, and then blamed the Democrats for it. Republicans successfully introduced and implanted the Meme of the “the Do Nothing Congress”, wherein all fingers are pointed at the Democrats.
And the American people, right, left and center, jumped on that meme wagon and drove her home. There’s nothing we like more in America than jingoistic blame; aka the red meat for the people. Some of the hardest drivers of the “Do Nothing Congress” meme came from the left. There’s nothing we won’t do to assist our corporate masters in sticking it to us, after all.
The New Meme: “Government is broken”.
Whose government is it? Why, it’s the Democrats’ government! It’s Barack Obama’s government!
I think you can see where we’re goin’ here.
CNN interpreted the poll to mean: “Americans feel the ball is in the Democrats’ court….They may not be held responsible for the problem, but since they are in charge of the government, Americans appear to think they are responsible for the solution.”
Of course we do. And the Democrats are ultimately responsible for solving the problem of the gridlock. But Democrats can’t force Republicans to work together to solve the country’s problems, and frankly, this meme only reinforces the illogical idea the Democrats have power over Republicans. Blaming Democrat for GOP obstructionism is ridiculous. That’s like blaming a domestic violence victim for the abuser’s behavior.
Democrats have control over their own behavior, and their only choice right now is to overcome the GOP obstructionism using any legal means necessary.
If the solution is to start issuing signing statements and using reconciliation, will the media report the context and history of GOP threatened filibusters accurately or will they carry water for the Republicans, accusing the Democrats of going “nuclear” on the GOP? Oh, sorry, that’s nu-ku-lear.
Democrats need to find a way to get around the GOP obstructionism and still maintain their core values of democracy. And they need to learn how to sell their values to the media. It shouldn’t be hard to do; the Democratic platform is based on the core principles of our nation.
Welcome to the New Meme, just like the Old Meme.