AMAC Exclusive – By Shane Harris
According to a CBS News poll released last week, just 10% of Americans say they know “a lot” about the contents of Biden’s spending plan, and 57% say they don’t know anything about the multi-trillion dollar proposal. Those results are hardly surprising given that a final version of the legislation does not yet exist, and even Congressional Democrats can’t agree on what should be included. However, instead of revamping their own messaging efforts around just what exactly is in the bill (or, perhaps more logically, questioning if the legislation is even any good to begin with) leading Democrats have suddenly turned on their most trusted ally of all – the media – and blamed them for not doing a better job of messaging their plan to the public.
Shortly after the release of the CBS poll, a reporter questioned House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on if she thought Democrats needed “to do a better job at messaging” on the $3.5 trillion reconciliation package and asked, “Going forward, how do you sell this?” In response, Pelosi scolded the media representatives present, saying, “You all could do a better job of selling this, to be frank.”
After Pelosi was done lecturing, she added, “Whether [the American people] know it or not, they overwhelmingly support it [the legislation].” It was an astonishing statement from one of the most powerful people in the country. In effect, Pelosi doesn’t think it matters whether people consciously support the Democrat spending blowout; what matters is whether they subconsciously support it, and here Pelosi is saying she knows very well that the American people subconsciously support her bill. Once again, Pelosi is asking the public to “just trust her,” a request that is reminiscent of her infamous comment on Obamacare that “We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it.”
Not to be outdone, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, the lead architect of most of the spending plan, issued his own statement calling it “absurd” that so many people don’t know what’s in the bill, lambasting the press and saying that “the mainstream media has done an exceptionally poor job in covering what actually is in the legislation.” He further complained that there has been “very limited coverage as to what the provisions of the bill are.”
Mr. Sanders may have a point, although not the one he thinks. By and large, the liberal media has steered clear of discussing the specifics of the legislation. However, the media’s unwavering allegiance to the Democratic Party, and particularly the progressive movement, in recent years suggests that the nature of the coverage is no accident, much less some nefarious scheme to sink the spending plan.
On the contrary, everything the media has done thus far suggests that they are just as committed to passing the plan as any progressive Democrat in Congress. For starters, although it may not be as often or deceptive as Pelosi and Sanders want, many outlets have highlighted some of the seemingly popular provisions in the bill, such as two “free” years of community college and universal pre-K education. Thankfully for Democrats, what most mainstream outlets actually don’t report on is the true cost of such programs and the likely net negative effect on the economy.
Additionally, when the White House began making the ridiculous claim that the $3.5 trillion plan would actually cost “zero dollars,” the supposedly neutral “fact-checkers” quickly rushed to Biden’s aid, with the Washington Post only calling the claim “misleading,” and PolitiFact arguing that what Biden was actually talking about was the national debt, which the bill “could add zero to” as long as several unlikely economic events occur simultaneously.
The media have also parroted Democratic talking points on the bill in public polling questions, part of a thinly-veiled attempt to create the illusion of broad public support while also, as Pelosi asked, “selling” the legislation to respondents. For example, a Quinnipiac poll conducted July 27-August 2, which found that 62% of Americans supported the plan, framed the legislation by asking if people “support or oppose a $3.5 trillion spending bill on social programs such as child care, education, family tax breaks and expanding Medicare for seniors.” A Monmouth University poll that described the legislation as “a plan to expand access to healthcare and child care, and provide paid leave and college tuition support” found a nearly identical level of support at 63%.
For all of their flaws, the corporate media giants aren’t stupid. By and large, they hold far more radical views than the majority of Americans, and would love nothing more than to see Biden’s agenda passed. But they seem to understand what Biden, Pelosi, Sanders, and other Democrat leaders do not: Democrats don’t have a messaging problem, they have a substance problem.
In fact, mainstream media outlets have practically begged Democrats to give them something better to sell, or at least to do a better job of messaging themselves. Democratic strategist and former Clinton adviser James Carville, for example, recently chided Democrats on MSNBC, saying that “they didn’t get out in the country enough, they didn’t sell it enough.” New York Times op-ed columnist Thomas Friedman has also blasted Democrats for how “poorly” they’ve sold Biden’s agenda. It’s clear from such comments that corporate media voices and Democratic establishment types are tired of being dumped on by Democrat lawmakers for what they feel is an exceedingly difficult if not impossible task in selling Biden’s agenda to the public. They desperately want to convince the public to support the bill, but Democrats are giving them little to work with.
Which raises another important point – the media appears to understand better than elected Democrats that if people truly understood the full scope of the legislation, they would be shocked at just how involved Democrats want the federal government to be in the lives of ordinary Americans, and the plan would likely fail. Biden has already been forced to modify one proposal that would have required banks to report all transactions of $600 or more to the IRS after public backlash. Other provisions like making community college tuition-free for two years have also reportedly been axed. A pattern looks to be emerging where every specific measure in the legislation that makes headlines is opposed by broad swaths of the public – hardly a ringing endorsement for the overall bill.
It’s no wonder then that the liberal media is reluctant to report on the specifics of the bill any further. Every time they do, it becomes less popular. There thus appears to be a very simple roadmap for creating opposition to Biden’s plan: just tell people what’s in it.