Republicans are absolutely convinced the Dem strategy of tying GOP Senate candidates to the Koch brothers is born of desperation and certain to fail. I don’t know whether the Dem strategy will “work.” People may not vote on who is bankrolling all those ads, and at any rate the fundamental underlying situation Dems face may prove too difficult for this approach or anything else they try to overcome.
But the substance of the debate over the Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity’s millions in anti-Obamacare ads matters, since they could help decide Senate control.
We now have a new report that lays bare the goal of these ads in a remarkably unvarnished way.
The New York Times takes a hard look at the real goal of the AFP strategy and whom it is designed to benefit. Previously, AFP’s stated aim had been nothing more than repealing Obamacare. But the Times notes that these ads are really about turning people against government as a positive agent of change for ordinary Americans:
Officials of the organization say their effort is not confined to hammering away at President Obama’s Affordable Care Act.. They are also trying to present the law as a case study in government ineptitude to change the way voters think about the role of government for years to come.
“We have a broader cautionary tale,” said Tim Phillips, the president of Americans for Prosperity. “The president’s out there touting billions of dollars on climate change. We want Americans to think about what they promised with the last social welfare boondoggle and look at what the actual result is.”
Leaders of the effort say it has great appeal to the businessmen and businesswomen who finance the operation and who believe that excess regulation and taxation are harming their enterprises and threatening the future of the country. The Kochs, with billions in holdings in energy, transportation and manufacturing, have a significant interest in seeing that future government regulation is limited.
This is exactly the case Dems are making against the AFP’s attacks. The real purpose of the Dem strategy is to create a framework for a broader argument about the true goals and priorities of the actual GOP policy agenda. It’s about tapping into a sense that the economy is rigged against ordinary Americans, and in favor of the one percent, and dramatizing that the GOP’s economic agenda would preserve that status quo, blocking any government policies designed to address stagnant mobility and soaring inequality. Or that, as Jonathan Chait puts it, the GOP has “built a policy agenda around plutocracy,” and its primary “organizing purpose is to safeguard the economic interests of the very rich.”
Dems are also trying to draw attention to local examples of Koch activism or financial interests in particular states, where they have immediacy for voters, all of which Brian Beutler details right here.
AFP’s ads, at bottom, are about making the key Senate races all about Obama. The goal is to channel people’s economic anxieties into votes to oust incumbent Dems. The tales featuring emotional Obamacare victims are designed to focus generalized anguish over the sputtering economy on #Obummer Big Gubmint. The only way to get relief is to sweep out Dems who continue to enable the hated president’s agenda.
But to tell this larger story, AFP has had to hype, distort, or even manufacture the individual chapters. The ad’s tales have been found to be misleading, incomplete, or played by actors. Indeed, as AFP’s ads have come under scrutiny, the Obamacare victimization storyline has shriveled away. One recent spot attacking Senator Mark Pryor presents only the notification of a canceled plan as the hardship endured, even though cancellation of Arkansas plans has been deferred for years. And a new AFP ad attacking Dem Senators actually moves away from personal anecdotes and instead makes the broad claim that “millions are paying more and getting less” under Obamacare. Even that general assertion has now been debunked as “false.”
If the Times report is right, the Dem argument — that the hyping of all these alleged Obamacare victims is about furthering an anti-government, anti-tax, anti-regulatory agenda designed to protect the bottom line of the very wealthy — is entirely accurate. Sure, the Times notes that those bankrolling the campaign also worry that “excess regulation and taxation” are “threatening the future of the country.” But good luck persuading ordinary Americans that what’s good for the Koch brothers is good for them and America.