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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Time for a Day of Message Discipline?

Greg Sargent’s ‘Plum Line’ post, “GOP blocks small business bill. Who will get the blame?” at the WaPo should be required reading for all Dem elected officials, their staffers and campaign workers. Here’s what Sargent has to say about how important legislative votes are too often reported and received:

…No matter how many times Dems scream about GOP obstructionism, the jury is out on whether Republicans will take any of the blame for its consequences. Dems run the place, and the public may tune out any argument over Senate procedure as so much Beltway white noise.
The latest: In the Senate today, Republicans blocked a bill to create a $30 billion fund to enable community banks to boost lending to small businesses. Republicans decried the move as another bailout, and it’s now unlikely that it will pass before Congress goes home for vacation in August, with little in the way of jobs bills under its belt.
So how will this story play?…

I won’t quote the graph from the AP story Sargent provides as exhibit “A.” You’ve seen it before in many previous incarnations. The general gist is that ‘gee wiz, those ineffectual Democrats failed to pass something again,’ giving the Republicans a largely free ride. The rest of the AP story Sargent didn’t quote prattles on in similar vein, at one point attempting to make Mitch McConnell sound like the voice of reason and humanitarian concern. Yet another classic example of lazy, gullible or GOP-biased reportage. As Sargent asks,

…Is this how the story will be understood by the American people? Very possible…Republicans claimed Dems blocked votes on the amendments they wanted. Dems countered that they agreed to votes on the GOP amendments, only to have the GOP demand more votes. Get what’s happening here? The larger story is all getting subsumed in a bunch of Beltway white noise.

Call it the ‘White Noise Strategy.” The GOP has been deploying it with impressive results for decades. Sargent quotes a statement from White House spokesman Robert Gibbs, the usual complaint about the Republicans playing politics and how the President will not be distracted — all well and good.
But what’s really needed here is a day of Democratic outrage, making the Republicans eat their numerous statements about small business being ‘the engine of job-creation.’ It should be a day when all Democratic elected officials, from city council members to Obama, get loud on one single message and refuse to talk about anything else. And that message should be fiercely-stated outrage, including displays of raw anger in press conferences, interviews, talk shows and statements, at denying small businesses the help they need to start hiring again. That would be a day that resonates with millions of small business women and men, as well as the unemployed and everyone who has the brains to understand that this is the kind of stimulus that makes sense. Then when October rolls around, remind them again and again about the day of outrage in political ads and a YouTube email campaign.
Small business job-creation is a hugely-important priority for economic recovery. The Republicans have squashed it for now. But there is a choice: Let the white noise prevail again — or get fierce.

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