Progressives continue to lament that President Obama has betrayed them by abandoning the agenda of change for which he was elected. Yet, even as Obama moves further to the right, he is characterized as a Marxist and Socialist by mainstream Republicans without any pushback from the press.
The problem here is the failure to communicate. Even though Obama’s (and the Democrats') accomplishments in his first sixteen months are not trivial, this administration is invariably portrayed as unable to accomplish any sort of agenda.
Helped along by the fact that they have their own propaganda arms in Fox News and right-wing hate radio, Republicans have always been more adept at persuading people to their point of view. Even though today’s complex problems require us to implement complex solutions, Republicans more than ever understand that the American public responds to jingoistic sound bites. As columnist Bob Herbert points out, the United States ranks a dismal twelfth in the percentage of students who receive college degrees. No wonder there’s so little critical thinking in our political discourse. That’s why the GOP coins phrases like “right-to-life” and “Patriot Act” – phrases that evoke positive thoughts even though their underlying actions are detrimental and in some cases, unconstitutional.
Republican buffoons exemplified by the likes of Michele Bachman, Louis Gohmert, Sarah Palin, John Boehner, Rush Limbaugh and others dominate the airwaves because their catchy one-liners resonate with the masses, even though they are not providing meaningful solutions to the nation’s problems. Democrats, on the other hand, understand that well thought-out solutions are required to extricate ourselves from the damage wrought upon this nation over the last decade, and with the exception of Congressman Anthony Weiner (who speaks truth to power), tend to be more methodical and rational in their approach. That’s why Democrats tend to fight among themselves – “the devil is in the details” – while Republicans just march in lock step to drink their Kool Aid.
This is a difficult problem for the Democrats to overcome. With the preposterous Supreme Court decision in the Citizens United case, the primarily Republican-leaning corporations and their Tea Party doppelgängers have almost unlimited funds to ram their slogans down the throats of the American public.
So what should the Democrats do to get their message across? Should they emulate the Republicans and boil everything down to sound bites and misleading monikers? Or should they get their message across by trying to educate the American public on nuances and details of important issues? In today’s world, catchy slogans always trump better policies. Oy.