What Do Facts Have To Do With It?

Jonathan Bernstein frets needlessly about the unpopularity of the Republican Party’s positions:

New polling research out late last week shows exactly the mess that Republicans have made for themselves on taxes. … The dilemma for Republican politicians here is clear: their primary voters are pushing them into a position on taxes which embraces a version of fairness that few outside the GOP base share. … Repeat across enough issues, and you wind up with a Mitt Romney, backing his way into a presidential nomination of party that doesn’t really like him very much while at the same time taking positions that could hurt him in November. For Republicans, there doesn’t appear to be any easy solution.

So what?

People lead busy lives, and they don’t all pay super close attention to politicians’ positions. As folks point out in Bernstein’s comments, the Bush tax cuts were dishonestly sold as mostly going to the middle class. ED Kain recently noted that even though people like every part of the ACA except the mandate– which is what makes it work– they’re about evenly divided on whether they want it repealed. He went on:

a steady diet of death panels and threats about tax-hikes has everyone much more frightened than they would otherwise be about a bill that basically just opens up non-employer-based insurance exchanges so that people have just a tiny bit more access to reliable healthcare than they did before. It’s neither a panacea or a government take over. It’s just sort of a step in the right direction and a step in the wrong direction all at the same time, and better – certainly – than doing nothing.

The ACA hurts Obama in swing states, even if people like the bill in pieces; but as James Joyner notes, if Romney gets the GOP nod it may be a moot point anyways.

I don’t agree that a Romney nomination would neutralize ACA hatred, for the reasons articulated a while back by… Jonathan Bernstein:

Republican voters strongly oppose Obamacare, but they don’t care very much about the ACA. They strongly oppose the health care plan that Barack Obama and Nancy Peloci and Harry Reid crammed through Congress against the will of the American people, and they think it’s an unconstitutional power grab that amounts to a government takeover that’s going to bankrupt the nation by cutting Medicare and death panels and all. But they don’t know or care anything about the exchanges, or the cost-cutting efforts, or most of the rest of it.

And that being the case, the similarities between the Massachusetts plan and ACA are pretty much irrelevant — what matters is whether the Massachusetts plan is similar to Obamacare (that is, to a government takeover supported by Barack Obama with death panels and the rest). And it’s not all that hard for Romney to deflect that, at least for those who are open to his candidacy otherwise. Because, of course, Romney can claim that he’s 100% against Obamacare and 100% for fully repealing it, and mumble mumble jargon jargon it’s totally different from what he was up to when he was governor. …

We recently noted that 80 percent of economists thought that the 2009 stimulus boosted employment by the end of 2010; 4 percent disagreed. By a margin of 46 to 12, with 27 percent still uncertain, economists agreed that the stimulus was cost-effective. But every Republican constantly lies, repeating the mantra that the stimulus was a failure and a waste. The result:

A new Pew poll finds 41 percent of Americans disapprove of the 2009 stimulus while 37 percent approve. In 2010, a CNN poll found three quarters of the public felt most of the stimulus was wasted and did not help the economy. Later in 2010 a Rasmussen poll found 56 percent opposed to any suggestion of a second stimulus.

It works the same way in any context: Republicans lie constantly about public policy; the media is terrible at reporting the news, privileging balance over accuracy, so people get the impression that both sides must have a point, and that the truth must be in the middle.

(In reality, of course, as on the size of the stimulus, the public option, and the invasion of Iraq, the truth is all too often to the left of both parties).

Bernstein offers no evidence to support the assertion that the popularity of a politician has much to do with the popularity (much less merit) of his policies.

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