A little more McConnell

Chait also follows up on Yglesias’ post on McConnell (in the context of a nice post on why Daley should not be Obama’s new Chief of Staff) and, as usual, makes the point more clearly than me:

I’ve long thought this is McConnell’s key insight, his most important contribution to American politics. One historic restraint on Congressional partisanship has been the fear of appearing extreme or partisan — if we all oppose the president, the public will turn against us. McConnell understands that this fear, while not nonexistent, is overblown for two reasons. First, people hold presidents and not Congress responsible for outcomes. Second, voters — and especially swing voters — do not understand the ideological basis for disagreement. They believe that problems ought to be solved harmoniously, and that the lack of harmony signals the process has gone badly wrong. Put these two insights together, and you have a strategy for using obstruction as a powerful tool to lower presidential popularity.

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Why aren’t Democrats smarter?

So, the Times Caucus blog ran a story this morning about how Democrats are going to fight back hard against Republican’s (purely symbolic) attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act.  “Alright, about time!” I thought.  The article describes all the organizing and media efforts they are going to make, but I’m left very unimpressed:

“We will make clear to the American people, that as their first order of business, Republicans have decided not to focus on jobs and deficit reduction, but on re-litigating partisan battles — that, if successful, would eliminate help for our job-creating small business and explode the deficit,” said Hari Sevugan, a spokesman for the Democratic National Committee.

Seriously?  That’s the message?  How about focusing on all those people with pre-existing conditions who will lose insurance, seniors who will have to pay the Medicare donut hole, 23 year-olds with serious medical conditions kicked off their parents insurance.  It’s not complicated.  Okay, apparently, it’s not completely hopeless:

Paid television advertisements will be run “as warrants,” said one senior Democrat, who asked not to be named because he was not authorized to speak publicly about the program. Organizing for America, the president’s chief political apparatus, will host phone banks and will schedule events featuring people who would lose their benefits if the health care law were repealed.

But still, how do you not make Republicans taking health insurance away from sick people the theme of this counter-attack?  What do I know though, I’m just ensconced in an Ivory Tower (or, more accurately, one of the ugliest buildings on an otherwise fairly attractive campus).

Caldwell Hall

The real media bias

A great series of two pieces on NPR the past two days about media “bias.”  I especially loved, “American Media’s True Ideology? Avoiding One.” In fact, this is going straight into my readings for this semester’s Intro to American Government.   This slavish devotion to a non-existent objectivity leads news media to leave Americans less informed as they never get to the bottom of issues and insist on an even-handed reporting of “both sides” even when there are not.  Meanwhile, they spend far too much focus on “the game” of politics because you’re much less likely to be accused of bias when reporting poll results.

Conservatives have complained for years about what they see as a pervasive liberal sensibility in the media. This is different. Rosen says the “view from nowhere” too often limits political reporters to obsessing about winners and losers — who’s up or down — rather than the harder work of determining who’s telling the truth or the effects of the policies those politicians adopt.

The other part in the series explains how the British newspapers actually do a better job by being honest about where they are coming from.  It’s not all that dissimilar to the approach I like in the classroom:

“In Britain, we feel that it’s better to know where people are coming from and then to make up your own mind about what you think, because the truth is nobody can be completely impartial and objective,” Boles says. “I mean the idea [that] The New York Times doesn’t have a political point of view — it’s ridiculous. It does, but it twists itself into knots in an attempt to pretend that it doesn’t.”

There’s no point in pretending I don’t have a point of view.  Better my students know where I’m coming from so they can fairly evaluate what I have to say.

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