Monday, January 17, 2011

Cracking the Disinformation Apparatus

One of the frustrating dimensions of the health care debate was the perception that opposition to health reform was mostly a product of media manipulation. Bill Clinton had campaigned on health reform in 1992 but was stymied as the bill moved through the legislative process because a wave of attack ads made the legislation impossible. By the time the insurance companies got done with their campaign, Harry and Louise were better known than Bill and Hillary

Health care reform was an even bigger part of Obama's 2008 campaign, but so was the effort of the conservative media apparatus to manipulate popular opinion against health care reform. The villification of Obama as a socialist, fascist, etc., the "death panels" scare, the disinformation about the relationship between reform legislation and the deficit made the legislation so unpopular that a majority of the population wanted to see health reform repealed even before the legislation was fully implemented.

But the 2010 election is over and the conservative disinformation apparatus is no longer united. As a result, opposition to health care reform is beginning to diminish. According to an AP/GfK poll, about 41% of the population supports health care reform while 40% oppose. Of that 40%, a certain percentage would have opposed the Obama legislation because they don't think it went far enough. I wish the Obama administration and Congressional Democrats had gotten the public option myself.

Moreover, support for repealing the legislation has dropped significantly.

As for repeal, only about one in four say they want to do away with the law completely. Among Republicans support for repeal has dropped sharply, from 61 percent after the elections to 49 percent now.
The movement to repeal health reform was a kind of speculative media bubble. Once the forces that created the bubble were no longer synchronized, support for repeal pretty much dissolved.

What were the forces that created the anti-reform bubble? There were several. In my opinion, the root of the anti-reform bubble was the wave of white conservative revulsion over electing a black Democrat for president. Conservatives might have revolted over any Democrat, but the fact that Obama is black and so much of conservatism is invested in feeding racial animosities made the election of Obama particularly revolting to the right.

Republican politicians, lobbying groups, and the conservative media apparatus fed the beast of Obama villification in various ways. Republican consultants and lobbying groups bankrolled the Tea Party movement, Obama was regularly villified as a socialist, fascist, and Nazi in the conservative media, Republican politicians sought to undercut any attempt by Obama to act presidential (i.e., the controversy over Obama's address to school children).

And it worked.

Republicans scored a big win in the 2010 mid-term elections.

But once the Republicans got control of the House, the forces that created the anti-health bubble began to dissolve. The Republican leadership began to compromise with the Democrats on tax cuts for the wealthy and moderate Republicans pealed off to support the repeal of Don't Ask/Don't Tell and funding for 9-11 first responders. Once Mitch McConnell, John Boehner and other Republicans split off somewhat from Jim DeMint and the Tea Party activists, the conservative media began to split as well. Instead of continuing the non-stop villification of Obama and the Democrats, Fox and other right-wing sources have had to slow down and parse out the compromises.

And that took the wind out of the conservative apparatus.

No comments: