What Does The Public Hear?

I have a post up at the brand-new Commonweal Institute Blog. The post is titled What Does The Public Hear?
A CNN poll this week shows that, as CNN worded it,

“…most Americans still agree with the bedrock conservative premise that, as the Gipper put it, “government is not the answer to our problems — government is the problem.”

From the CNN story:

“Queried about their views on the role of government, 54 percent of the 1,013 adults polled said they thought it was trying to do too many things that should be left to individuals and businesses. Only 37 percent said they thought the government should do more to solve the country’s problems.”

Let me ask a different question: How many Americans do you think have been exposed to the other side of the story? We hear, over and over, that government is bad, that it is inefficient, that it sucks up our tax dollars and harms the economy, that it messes up everything it gets involved in, and negative point after negative point. And we hear, over and over, that regulation of business is bad and “private sector solutions” are good, efficient, and are exposed to a hundred other positive images and messages along those lines.

Marketing works. When you hear something repeated, it sinks into the brain. Americans have had the benefit of hearing the arguments for reducing taxes and reducing government repeated to them for decades now, and of course the CNN poll demonstrates that the message has sunk in.
But how many Americans have heard the case made that government is good for them, protects them, acts in their interests, etc.? How many Americans have ever even heard the positive case made for the underpinnings of our government — democracy and community? When was the last time you heard that one-person-one-vote is better for people than one-dollar-one-vote, or that sticking together and standing up for each other is better for people than the conservative vision of everyone being on their own and in it only for themselves? And what do you think the country could be like if more Americans were exposed to those ideas?
CNN’s poll doesn’t demonstrate that the conservative anti-government message is right, only that it has been repeated without the other side being represented to the public. And that is what the Commonweal Institute is about — reaching the public with the other side of the story.

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