Conservatives are prone to lament a liberal bias in the media. There is another bias conservatives should play more careful attention to because it affects even the more relatively unbiased analysts and reporters that exist on television, radio, and in print. It is the “good government” bias.
The good government bias’s hallmark is the exasperated sigh of the Washington press corps longing for the “adults” to have an “adult conversation” and handle gridlocked issues in Washington as “adults in the room.” In other words, principles be damned, we need government to work. This is perhaps the most common press bias because it chooses to ignore or downplay real principled concerns in favor of practical, pragmatic, or “adult” solutions.
Republicans in Washington are scrambling trying to find a plan to stave off a government shutdown and reduct the debt to GDP ratio while looking like “adults” to placate a critical press. It won’t happen. The GOP is so fearful of a government shutdown and the media’s spin that the Democrats will be able to cajole them into doing less than they should.
One of the ideas making the rounds is Senator Bob Corker’s CrAP Act. The CrAP Act would restrain government growth at 23% of GDP, which is higher than historic norms even into the Bush Administration. Corker, through accounting sleight of hand, says it is really 20% of GDP, but that, like his Act, is crap.
It is, however, all done in the name of good government and bipartisanship in an effort to slow the growth of government without a government shutdown. Republicans need to understand that they will never ever win a PR battle on a government shutdown with the media, but they shouldn’t fear that. Winning a PR battle with the media is no longer necessary to win the hearts and minds of the American public.
But to understand why the GOP won’t win a PR battle is to understand how the Washington press works and is to understand precisely why the GOP so often comes off as the stupid party selling its soul for larger government.
One of the old sayings in Washington is that there are two parties — the stupid party and the evil party. Occasionally the stupid party and evil party will get together and do something that is both stupid and evil and it will be hailed as a bipartisan compromise. The media is complicit in this because just about every bipartisan compromise gets referred to as the adults coming together in a room.
The most recent conversation about the 2011 continuing resolution is a case in point. Analysts and reporters talked about the “far right” and the “far left” and how John Boehner and Barack Obama would have to overcome those extremes to find a bipartisan solution. The simpleness of the conversation ignored the very real concerns by both liberals and conservatives related to spending priorities and the size of government.
More troubling for conservatives, good government rarely, if ever, can also be limited government. Despite the federal constitution being a constitution of limit power for Washington, the nation has evolved to consider Washington the center of power. It is reflected in a class of political analyst and reporter in Washington who believes themselves to be covering the corridors of power. The conversation rarely occurs among the press corps that perhaps Washington should not be doing something or its power to act is limited. The very notion is silly in the twenty-first century despite what the Constitution may or may not say.
Consequently, instead of treating the concerns of those who want more limited government seriously, they are assigned the label of “far right” and definitionally excluded when mentioning “adults” having conversations to fix Washington. Should Washington’s power diminish, reporters’ access to power would diminish. Smaller government is a deal breaker for the Washington press corps.
This should not, however, matter to Republicans. A recent CBS News survey found that 70% of Americans oppose raising the debt ceiling even if it means higher interest rates. The vast majority of Republicans and Independent voters oppose raising the debt ceiling. Surprisingly, just under half of Democrats oppose raising the debt ceiling too. Meanwhile, any casual review of reporting on the debt ceiling will find that all the adults think the debt ceiling needs to be raised.
In essence, the media and the Democrats are both stuck in 1995 when the GOP lost the PR battle to a media highlighting boy scouts shut out of the National Air and Space Museum. But the public has moved on to recognize the problem. Likewise, the public’s trust of the media continues to fall to new lows.
The GOP should not be afraid of the media’s spin and bias on this because the public has largely tuned out the routine pooh-poohing and pining for adults by the media. Instead of worrying about PR, the GOP should worry about reducing the size and scope of the federal government, which more and more polls show Americans want.