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Propaganda works

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There’s plenty of fodder for all you doom junkies in Thomas Edsall’s latest curation of survey data regarding the political landscape, which reveals some rather amazing opinions among the Democratic party’s core constituencies:

From Nov. 5 through Nov. 11, Democracy Corps, a Democratic advisory group founded by Stan Greenberg and James Carville, surveyed 2,500 voters in presidential and senate battleground states as well as competitive House Districts.

In an email, Greenberg summarized the results: “This is grim.”

The study, Greenberg said, found that, collectively, voters in the Democratic base of “Blacks, Hispanics, Asians, LGBTQ+ community, Gen Z, millennials, unmarried and college women give Trump higher approval ratings than Biden.”

On 32 different subjects ranging from abortion to China, the Democracy Corps survey asked voters to choose which would be better, “Biden and the Democrats” or “Trump and the Republicans.”

Biden and the Democrats led on six: women’s rights (ahead by 17 points), climate change (15 points), addressing racial inequality (10 points), health care (3 points), the president will not be an autocrat (plus 2) and protecting Democracy (plus 1). There was a tie on making democracy more secure.

Trump and the Republicans held leads on the remaining subjects, including being for working people (a 7-point advantage), standing up to elites (8 points), being able to get things done for the American people (12 points), feeling safe (12 points) and keeping wages and salaries up with the cost of living (17 points).

In the case of issues that traditionally favor Republicans, Trump and his allies held commanding leads: patriotism (11 points), crime (17 points), immigration (20 points) and border security (22 points).

Particularly worrisome for Democrats, who plan to demonize Trump as a threat to democracy, are the advantages Trump and Republicans have on opposing extremism (3 points), getting beyond the chaos (6 points) and protecting the Constitution (8 points).

To those LGMers who are of the view that all surveys and polls of voter sentiment are meaningless by definition, this view has been noted and need not be repeated, at least not 300 times in the same thread. (Edsall’s roundup also features some much more positive data for the glass half full crowd).

Anyway, those of us who consider this kind of information meaningful to some extent will wonder how all this has happened. Another passage from Edsall’s article points toward the answer:

Jacob Hacker, a political scientist at Yale, contended that the view of Biden and the Democratic Party as elitist and weak on the very values that were Democratic strengths in the past lacks foundation in practice. Instead, the adverse portrait of the Democrats represents a major success on the part of right-wing media — and a complicit mainstream media — in creating a false picture of the party.

In a forthcoming paper, “Bridging the Blue Divide: The Democrats’ New Metro Coalition and the Unexpected Prominence of Redistribution,” Hacker said he and three colleagues found that

Democrats have not changed their orientation nearly as much as critics of the party argue. In particular, the party has not shifted its emphasis from economic to social/identity issues, nor has it moderated its economic positions overall. Instead, it has placed a high priority on an ambitious economic program that involves a wider range of policy aims and instruments than in the past (including industrial policy and pro-labor initiatives as well as social and health policies and public investments) as well as levels of public spending that dwarf those contemplated by party elites in at least a half century.

Why then, Hacker asks, is “the Democratic Party widely perceived to have abandoned pocketbook politics in favor of identity politics?”

His answer:

Conservative media have relentlessly focused on this critique and there’s strong evidence that media framing shapes how voters view the parties. Indeed, the role of the media in shaping the negative current climate — including more mainstream sources — should not be neglected. The obsessions of right-wing media with the “wokeness” of the Democratic Party seeps into the broader media coverage, and mainstream sources focus on criticisms of the Democrats, in part to uphold their nonpartisan ideal.

We laugh at all the stories about how that Oberlin sophomore complaining about the cafeteria food is at the vanguard of left wing totalitarianism, but Rupert Murdoch etl. al. are immensely rich and powerful because this stuff works, especially in a media culture in which “both sides” is a default template that’s almost impossible to escape.

Finding ways to fight back is one of the key functions of criticism at the present time.

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