They’re Not Listening

Today’s Washington Post talks about the politics of the deficit. Voters trust Bush and the Republicans on the economy more than the Democrats, even after it is explained that the deficit has soared, unemployment is up, the economy has collapsed, etc.

A poll for the Democratic Leadership Council this spring by Mark Penn dramatically illustrates Dowd’s point. Voters trusted Bush over congressional Democrats, 47 to 40 percent, to handle the economy. Penn then went for the jugular: “Before President Bush took office, the country was experiencing the fastest economic growth, the first budget surplus in a generation and the lowest unemployment in history. Since President Bush took office, the economy has entered a recession, the trillion-dollar surplus is now a serious deficit and 1.4 million people have lost their jobs,” his poll states, before again asking who voters trust.

And again, Bush came out on top, 46 to 44 percent.

Said Democratic pollster Anna Greenberg: “People are confused by what the deficit is, what the debt is. The numbers are of such magnitude that they’re hard to comprehend. As an issue, it’s incredibly complicated.”

I think they’re not listening. I think “we” – moderates and progressives – underestimate just how many people are listening to Rush Limbaugh. It doesn’t matter what the facts are. If Rush says it’s Clinton’s fault, about half the people in this country are going to repeat that.

Illustrating my point is a line in today’s New York Times article, The Selling of America, Bush Style.

The idea that advertising could “sway the ideas of whole populations, change their habits of life, create belief, practically universal in any policy or idea” …

Democrats aren’t going to get their message across until they are ready to start doing what it takes to counter the right-wing message machine. Yesterday I wrote about Democrats needing to push to bring back the Fairness Doctrine. AM radio has become a 24/7 advertisement for the Republican Party. Equally important, moderate and progressive foundations must start funding organizations that counter the Heritage Foundation, Cato Institute, American Enterprise Institute and other parts of the right-wing web.