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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

How to Demolish GOP Propaganda 101

Jonathan Chait’s post “Popularity Contest” at The New Republic gives GOP myth-mongers (especially Krauthammer) a proper shredding, and provides progressive bloggers with an excellent template for doing the same in the bargain.
Chait riffs on an ad placed in TNR by conservative American Future Fund (AFF) urging moderate Democrats to ditch health care reform, with the headline “THE LOSERS OF 1994 … THANKS TO HEALTH CARE!” and featuring photos of Dems who lost their seats in that year. Says Chait, who deliciously bites the advertising hand that feeds him:

I hesitate to impugn the intellectual integrity of any of the good folks who purchase space in this magazine in order to share their concerns about public policy. Yet I cannot help but wonder if AFF has truly proffered this advice in good faith…Democrats did not lose their seats in 1994 because they enacted health care reform. They failed to enact, or even vote on, health care reform. So it’s hard to see why…letting health care reform die an ignominious death is an attractive strategy for the majority party.

Chait concedes that “narrow, but stable majorities disapprove” of President Obama’s health care plan, but “The problem with this gauge is that it lumps together Obama’s critics from the right with those from the left” and health care reform in general “actually remains quite popular.” Further, says Chait:

…One recent poll asks whether the Democratic plans create too much government involvement, the right amount, or not enough. Too much gets 42 percent, the right amount 34 percent, and not enough 21 percent. Another question shows that only 28 percent of Americans think the bill goes too far in expanding coverage to the uninsured, 33 percent say it expands coverage the right amount, and 35 percent say it does not go far enough. In both cases, majorities of the public either support Obama’s approach or wish it went further.
Moreover, a clear majority of Americans say that they want the Democrats to pass a health care bill with a public option, even if this means it would get no GOP votes–a striking result, given the misty-eyed sentiment Americans generally display toward bipartisanship in all its forms.

“Vulnerable congressional Democrats may have individual interests in establishing their moderate bona fides by challenging their party leadership,” argues Chait. “But they have a far stronger collective interest in passing a bill.”
Chait quotes a Wall St. Journal editorial, which says “Democrats know this legislation is … possible only because of temporary liberal majorities,” then counters “…Obama out-polled his opponent by eight-and-a-half million votes, a margin that exceeded Bush’s 2000 popular-vote edge by, oh, roughly nine million votes.”
Chait then asks, “Shouldn’t Obama’s actual election count for more than two low-turnout gubernatorial races? Oh no. The off-year elections prove Obama’s presidency is a fluke.” Chait also quotes WaPo columnist Charles Krauthammer:

2008 was a historical anomaly. A uniquely charismatic candidate was running at a time of deep war weariness, with an intensely unpopular Republican president, against a politically incompetent opponent, amid the greatest financial collapse since the Great Depression.,,The return to the norm is happening now.

Chait responds,

Got that? The normal state of affairs is an odd-year, low-turnout election occurring in just two states, which have voted against the incumbent party for the past 20 years, with no national candidates on the ballot, and with double-digit unemployment. That’s a perfectly calibrated measure of public preference on national issues. But Obama’s election was an accident.
…But, if Americans were recoiling at Obama’s liberalism, rather than lashing out at the poor economy, you’d expect to see the Democratic Party losing favor and the GOP regaining it. In fact, the opposite remains true. (A recent poll had the Dems’ favorable rating at 53-41, and the Republicans’ at 36-54.) Given the circumstances, the striking fact about the political landscape is how little has changed since November 2008.
..But 2009 isn’t a debacle, and it won’t be unless Democrats get bluffed into making it one.

All of which adds up to a gratifying example of a conservative organization purchasing space for a propaganda screed in a magazine, which elicits a response in the same magazine that leaves their pitch more discredited than before.

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