The Huffington Post has put together a terrific collection of local news coverage of the sequester’s impact around the country — and contrasted it with Washington press coverage that treats the sequester mostly as political theatrics.
Definitely go watch the first video, a montage that creates a useful contrast: As Republican officials and D.C. commentators mock the White House for canceling tours, local TV stations are talking about lost jobs, local airport closings, and eliminated funding for public health, natural disaster relief, and hunger programs. The worst offender is probably Larry Kudlow, who smugly claims that the White House tour cancellation is “bush league” — a moment that is then followed by a local newscast about the possibility of rising unemployment causing rising need for food assistance.
HuffPo concludes: “The coverage was pretty consistent at the local level, revealing that viewers of these channels are getting a different story about the ramifications of the budget cuts than those simply consuming their news from cable television.”
There’s been a good deal of triumphalism among Republicans about the sequester of late, with many of them claiming the cuts are a “win” for them, and others pointing to Obama’s outreach to Republicans as proof that the White House is nervously recalibrating its strategy in response to his supposed slippage in the polls. Beltway press coverage — understandably — is heavily focused on the winners and losers of every micro news cycle and on whether the White House botched the theatrics of this battle (did Obama cry wolf?) by making a number of specific false sequester claims (which were rightly debunked by fact checkers).
But this local coverage tells a different story with a different emphasis. Real people around the country are beginning to tune into the possibility that these spending cuts could do real damage to their communities and to the country’s economic recovery.
It is certainly possible that Obama will take some of the blame for any damage the sequester does. But it’s also possible that Republicans could take more of the blame for it. It’s not inconceivable that the sequester will lead people to rethink the relationship between government spending and their own economic well being, and remind folks that when it comes to specific programs, suddenly they don’t hate government so much, after all. If so, it’s hard to see how being the austerity-only party (Republicans want to replace the sequester only with cuts elsewhere, and see the sequester as preferable to any compromise) and the party of crisis-to-crisis governing (another possible debt ceiling crisis looms next month) is sustainable over the long term.
At any rate, Dems hope that GOP attacks on the White House over the canceled tours will ultimately play badly for Republicans, coming across as frivolous and out of touch once the reality of the sequester really starts to bite.
What all this really underscores is that this is in many ways an unprecedented political situation, and it’s very hard to predict with any confidence how the politics of this are going to play out.