Yesterday’s big Pew poll found that in various ways, the public is heaping more blame for the government paralysis in Washington on Republicans than on Democrats. Timothy Noah makes an important point about this:
The really interesting finding is that the public does not accept the “objective” message spoon-fed by the press that both sides are equally at fault. Instead, it (accurately) assigns most of the blame to the Republican party. Forty percent say Republican leaders are more to blame, as against a mere 23 percent who say Democratic leaders are more to blame. A larger proportion blames the GOP than blame both parties (32 percent). And among independents, 38 percent say Republicans are more to blame, against 15 percent who say Democrats are.
So much for the hack story line that partisanship and political games-playing is paralyzing Washington. Partisanship and political games-playing by Republicans is paralyzing Washington.
I continue to insist that the really perverse thing about this is that it very well may not matter that the public has figured this out — that Republicans may benefit politically from blocking policies that the public supports. The danger is that voters will conclude that Obama’s failure to get his policies passed in spite of determined and political GOP opposition shows he’s too weak or ineffective to fix the economy. I’ve already documented cases here and here of voters who are tempted to think this way.
This dynamic, too, is the result of an epic media fail. Specifically, many news outlets don’t seem to want to convey clearly to readers that Republicans are employing an unprecedented amount of filibustering as an across the board political strategy. News consumers aren’t being told clearly that Republicans have effectively turned the Senate into a non-majority-rule chamber on, well, everything, or that there’s pretty clear evidence at this point (see McConnell, Mitch) that they’ve deliberately adopted this strategy of obstructionism to damage Obama politically. And so voters who aren’t schooled in the niceties of Senate procedure may be concluding that Republicans are more to blame for the gridlock, but they may chalk it up to politics as usual and blame Obama for failing to break through it.
It’s nice to see that voters aren’t buying the false equivalences and the fake “both sides do it” even-handedness that the press feeds them daily, but it remains to be seen whether it will matter.