A huge obstacle to progress in this country is that most voters are oblivious to the sophistication of the right-wing message machine -- and even when you point it out, they pooh-pooh it, saying they're too smart to be manipulated like that! Sigh.
October 27, 2011

A huge obstacle to progress in this country is that most voters are oblivious to the sophistication of the right-wing message machine -- and even when you point it out, they pooh-pooh it, saying they're too smart to be manipulated like that! Sigh. [via]

Karl Rove’s organization American Crossroads, which functions as a kind of privately run Republican Party organization, has a memo laying out how the party ought to oppose President Obama’s jobs bill. It’s a telling window into the contours of the jobs debate. The specifics of Obama’s proposal are all highly popular, and the Republican challenge is to oppose it anyway. The memo offers a fascinating look at the mechanisms of political spin in general, and the particular dilemma of the Republican Party as it blocks economic action in the face of crisis.

The key fact to understand about the bill, delicately left unmentioned by the American Crossroads memo, is that Americans want to do all the things Obama proposes. By a twenty-point margin, they favor funding new road construction and a payroll tax cut. By a 30-point margin, they agree with higher taxes on the rich to cut the long-term deficit. They supporthelping stave off layoffs of police officers, firefighters, and teachers by a 50-point margin. How do you fight that?

You redefine the issue as a generalization. People don’t like firing police officers and teachers? Fine, just call them “union workers”:

Similarly, 70% of respondents initially favor Obama’s proposal to “give billions to states to stop layoffs of teachers and firefighters.” But when the same idea is described as “giv[ing] billions to states to keep government union workers on the payroll,” 52% turn against the idea.

Likewise, people may like payroll tax cuts and spending money to build roads, but they don’t like “stimulus”:

Fully 64% of respondents, including 70% of ticket-splitters, agree that: “The new stimulus bill is nearly identical to President Obama’s first stimulus, which spent $830 billion, yet the unemployment rate went up, so we don’t need to waste even more money.”

You can see the method here. Most people pay little attention to policy details. The logic that Obama passed a stimulus and the economy still stinks, therefore the stimulus failed, is highly intuitive. Arguments that the stimulus prevented a deeper crisis are not.

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