The danger of validating GOP talking points on the deficit

Greg Sargent over at the Washington Post has an excellent post about the larger implications of the White House having caved on GOP demands to roll back anti-smog regulations:

Now Bruce Bartlett has a good post spelling this out. He seizes on Obama’s decision to withdraw an Environmental Protection Agency regulation that’s widely supported by scientists, and argues that it validates the conservative frame that regulation is a drag on the economy.

In a particularly good line, Bartlett adds the crucial point that the public can’t be blamed for internalizing the conservative worldview, given that liberal economics has been entirely marginalized from our political conversation:

In a courtroom, justice requires that both sides be equally well represented. If one doesn’t do its job properly, the jury cannot be blamed for a wrong result. If Democrats are going to accept Republican premises, they shouldn’t be surprised if a majority of people eventually conclude that Republicans ought to be in charge of government policy.

Atrios also puts the point really well, noting that by validating the GOP view that deficits must be dealt with right way, Dems are not neutralizing the issue, but are actually making voters think Republicans are right about what’s important:

The problem that arises is that if you start beating the deficit drum, then you haven’t made voters “trust you” on the deficit, you’ve made the case to voters that they should elect the Republicans who will be better on this very important issue … If you make the case that Republican issues are important, you’re making the case for … Republicans.

As it happens, this point is supported by the political science literature, which endorses a venerable concept known as “agenda setting.” The more the public hears about the importance of an issue, the more the public thinks it’s important. And it’s also supported by polling, which has found that during all the deficit and austerity chatter we’ve also seen a substantial swing in support for the GOP idea that spending cuts will create jobs.

To paraphrase Atrios, if a Democrat is going to adopt Republican memes, you can’t blame the public for voting for the people best able to implement those memes, Republicans themselves.  Let’s face it – if the public really wants to cut the budget and get rid of all those pesky regulations that are supposedly “killing jobs,” then a Republican is going to take a much more extensive swipe at both than Barack Obama ever would.

Also, Greg’s last paragraph about “agenda setting” is particularly important.  It’s what Republicans do, they talk a point to death, then talk about it some more.  It’s what Democrats do NOT do (Democrats think that if they issue one press release, or give one speech, that this constitutes a full-blown PR campaign – it doesn’t).


Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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