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October 06, 2011 08:34 PM UTC

Years of Smear Make Weird Things Happen

  • by: Colorado Pols

A report in The Hill this morning got us thinking:

Criticism of the president has long been a staple of politics, but experts say lawmakers are becoming more extreme in their rebukes of the commander in chief.

White House scholars say that although every president has suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous barbs, it has not historically been members of Congress hurling them. But more lawmakers are now doing so, and that has diminished the office of the presidency, historians say…

This summer, during the debt-ceiling debate, Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.) said he did not want to be associated with Obama.

“It is like touching a tar baby and you get it – you’re stuck, and you’re part of the problem now,” he said.

Lamborn subsequently issued a statement saying he simply meant to refer to a sticky situation and that he had sent an apology to the president…

And how does this “hostile moment,” this “mean as it’s ever been” political era, reflect on the presidency, the Congress and the nation?

“It’s a disturbing trend, which degrades democracy and a political process that was designed to bring out our best, not our worst,” Widmer said. “By dissing the president, they are dissing the presidency. And by extension, our country. It’s embarrassing.”

We’ve been thinking lately about the difference between the types of attacks leveled against Presidents going back in our nation’s history, versus the 24/7/365 onslaught of highly personal attacks from media-savvy conservatives endured by President Barack Obama since taking office in January of 2009. This story in The Hill points out some particularly nasty smear campaigns in American history, but notes correctly that the penetration of mass media has completely changed the distribution of these messages. A 24-hour internet and social media-driven news cycle has allowed a drumbeat of attacks against Obama that just wasn’t possible before–witnessed by and participated in by millions instead of a tiny political class.

As the Washington Post reports, this is having very unusual, perhaps even cognitively dissonant effects–where Obama is personaly unpopular, but his actual proposals enjoy broad support.

You can’t get 75 percent of people to agree to much of anything these days.

But according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, 75 percent of Americans agree that millionaires should have their taxes raised. This is the crux of President Obama’s tax policy and perhaps the best-known aspect of the jobs plan he has put before Congress.

But when voters are asked whether they support the president’s jobs plan, support drops to 52 percent. And when they are asked who they trust more to deal with the operative issue here – taxes – Republicans have a seven-point advantage on Obama, 46 percent to 39 percent. That’s actually a reversal of April, when more Americans trusted Obama (47 percent) than Republicans (42 percent) on taxes.

So if Obama’s idea on taxes is so popular and Republicans are fighting against it, why have people moved towards the GOP on taxes?

It’s all about branding…

Got that? 75% of Americans want the very thing Republicans are steadfastly refusing to budge on, that is raise taxes in high income households, but those same Americans say they trust Republicans more on taxes than they do Obama. If you itemize what is proposed in Obama’s American Jobs Act, respondents support it overwhelmingly. But as soon as you put Obama’s name on it, support plunges. You’ll recall that this was the same situation with health care reform, where the provisions of the bill were popular but “Obamacare” was panned.

And then you realize it: the years-long campaign to personally alienate Obama from the American public has succeeded. It overcomes the rational arguments against it, shifting overwhelming support away from issues simply by invoking his name.

How do you deal with a situation where 75% of the public agrees with you and disagrees with your opponents, but says in the same breath they trust your opponents to deal with the issue better? How do you pass the agenda that 75% of the public says they want when the same public hands their support to people who will never give them what they want? We don’t claim to have the answer to that contradiction, but when they talked above about this state of affairs being “degrading to democracy,” we definitely see what they mean.

And it’s not like this is a particularly good situation for Republicans, who, once you get past an historically successful personal character assassination of Obama, have totally failed to win the public over to their agenda based on these same poll results. If we don’t know exactly how Obama should extricate himself from this situation, we surely don’t know what Republicans would do if they achieve another victory at the polls in 2012, then face a public 75% opposed to their agenda.

But we really don’t think they care right now. Today, cognitive dissonance is winning elections.


12 thoughts on “Years of Smear Make Weird Things Happen

  1. Back in the Reagan era, majorities would poll against his policies but for him.  They didn’t know what his policies were.  They just knew they liked the Morning in America guy and liked the most common soundbites associated with him.  Dems need to pick a couple of very attractive and aggressive soundbite talking points to push and push them in every media available or people will continue to just assume that what they want to get the economy going must be in the GOP plan because everybody “knows” the GOP is the successful capitalism party. Never mind the economy has almost always done much better over modern history under Dem administrations and congresses.  

    1. Americans may tell a pollster they are desirous of crass class warfare, but they understand in the back of their minds that it won’t work in America. The people liberals want to vilify and tax are the ones who employ Americans.

      So it’s possible that Americans will say they support taxing people OTHER than themselves, but still trust Republicans more on fiscal policy. What that tells you that even though Democrat propaganda is very deeply entrenched (kinda the reverse of this blog’s attempted point), Americans know better when it comes time to actually put somebody in charge.

      I didn’t like it when H.W. Bush raised taxes, but at least I knew he was doing it reluctantly. That’s a big difference right there. Obama’s stated goal is to “spread the wealth around.”

      1. Oh yes, the American public is completely absorbed by complex analyses of issues. It’s about as complex as who is more successful at selling a brand.

        Look at you.  You know right off who is right and who is wrong, what is fair and unfair criticism, what is PC silliness and what is justified righteous indignation just by checking for the R or the D with the name or the policy or the complaint.  If what was R last week becomes D this week, that’s all you need to know to switch from “for it” to “against it”.

        If the latest news about the Koch brothers was given to you with the name “Soros” substituted for “Koch”, that’s all it would take to get a completely opposite reaction from you, never mind analyzing the alleged “feelings” of HW Bush and Obama for some excuse.  Yeah, real complex. Just like you.  

      2. That, in a nutshell, is your problem.  No one is vilifying the rich.  Everyone says good for them, as long as they earned their money fair and square.  (News flash: not all do.)

        But, it is fair to tax the rich since they are paying the lowest rates in history.

        Watch your spewing, GOoP.  It exposes your fallacies.

        1. at the Clinton tax rates. Poor old rich Kenyon Martin just had to take a bath on his Greenwood Village house, lost more than a third. Carmelo took a worse one, lost half on the home he paid 12 million for. The same story is being played out all over the highest end neighborhoods.  

          Back in the Clinton era, they’d have been paying a little more in taxes but probably selling for a third more after several years in a multi-million dollar home, not less. So forcing them to go back to those not at all dark days is vilifying them?  

        2. In another forum with a Tea Party type who went off on Obama “vilifying the rich” and then praising Steve Jobs.

          We’re not vilifying the rich – we’re noting that they’re paying the lowest average and marginal tax rates since at least 1960, have an increasing wealth and income gap that rivals the 1920s, and that perhaps we need to swing the tax needle back up a bit since we’re in such a nasty financial shape as a country.

  2. I think Pols is the only one dealing with the question. All your readers just enjoy attacking me. That’s fine I guess, but it doesn’t help the liberal Democrat cause.

    But would anybody like to opine why this poll says what it says?

    1. but I will say that you will experience continual scorn and derision here on Pols if you insist on posting shit that is so mind numbingly stupid. If that makes you a victim in your book that just makes you even more pathetic.


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