The New Iron Curtain

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Democratic Party, News Media

Joan Walsh complains that it isn’t true Clinton didn’t have policy ideas that would have helped working women. “Clinton proposed steep tax hikes for the rich, to pay for things like paid family leave and tuition-free college, a precisely redistributionist approach,” Walsh wrote.

I know she did. But I’m the sort of politics nerd who actually goes to candidates’ websites and reads them. I can assure you that hardly any voters in Missouri heard anything about Clinton’s paid family leave and other proposals.

Clinton could have run television ads here talking about what she wanted to do for working people. Instead, she ran ads letting us know that Donald Trump ties are made in China. I saw that one multiple times.

It might have helped if the debates had been a little more focused on issues instead of gotchas, but as I wrote a couple of days ago, Clinton doesn’t know how to frame arguments in language that a red stater could understand. The kind of shorthand or boilerplate language Democrats in blue states use with each other is alien in these here parts. So when Clinton in the debates talked about investing in the middle class, I knew what she meant. But that’s a meaningless phrase to red state folks. They have no grounding in what that might actually mean, because such things are never talked about here.

I don’t know how much more I can emphasize that if you live in a red state, and you are not the sort of person who enjoys reading newspapers from around the world through the Internet, you don’t hear liberal/progressive perspectives on anything. You will not have heard them since the Lyndon Johnson Administration, frankly, meaning that if you haven’t yet achieved Geezerhood you may not know there ever were liberal/progressive arguments for anything. All you know is that “libtards” like raising taxes, just because, and like big government programs, just because.

And, again, if you were watching this election from a red state or district, and all you knew about Hillary Clinton was what you saw on the television and in social media, you wouldn’t have liked her, either, regardless of how racist or sexist you might or might not have been.

I don’t know that all the small-town newspapers and red state television and radio stations are owned by wingnuts, but I suspect most of them learned a long time ago to be cautious about how they handle political news. As their marketing areas got redder and redder, too anti-conservative a message, or even coverage that too vigorously questioned the Right’s hegemony, could have cost them their business.

That leaves us with the national television news, which is mostly worthless. I know a lot of people blame the loss of the Fairness Doctrine for this, but IMO what really killed it were decisions made, many years ago, to consolidate news and entertainment programming. News departments used to be entirely separate from entertainment and were run by senior news people who were serious about, you know, news. Now news departments are considered part of entertainment and are managed by the same people who thought spinning the Geico Cavemen into a sitcom was a great idea.

See also Allan Chernoff, Blame the Rise of Trump on the Failure of Network News.

So if there’s one thing I wish I could get across to the Democrats in the Beltway, it’s that they’re going to have to make an extraordinary effort to break through the iron curtain of disinformation in red states. A couple of rallies and some meh campaign ads won’t cut it. They need to begin a barrage of progressive policy arguments in these states. They should drop pamphlets from airplanes, if that’s what it takes. And they need to begin it now, before the next election campaigns begin.

Walsh ends by issuing some snarky “apologies,” ending with “I apologize for thinking that the country was ready to elect a woman president.” Well, they might be ready to elect a woman president; they just weren’t ready to elect Hillary Clinton.

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12 Comments

11 Comments

  1. c u n d gulag  •  Nov 15, 2016 @5:24 pm

    If Republicans ran a female version of t-RUMP, she would have won, too.

    Having lived in 3 towns in NC in the 00’s, I can attest to the newspaper coverage. When I lived in Chapel Hill, we had the Raleign Observer – it was then owned Knight Ridder – it was an EXCELLENT newspaper. I covered the run-up to the Iraq War much better than the NYT’s and WaPo. It didn’t depend on inside sources and NY and DC cocktail circuit chatter. It investigated, and talked to people lower down in the food chaing, so they gave a much truer version of what was going on. The paper is now owned byMclatchy, and it’s still excellent.
    When I lived in Southern Pines and Fayetteville, the Fayetteville paper was more prevalent. Oy. Aweful. The Editorial and Op-ed pages were conservative beyond belief.
    And if you drove around the state like I did for my job, and only had an AM/FM radio in your car, good luck finding anything but Rush, Sean, Savage, and lesser loons. NPR was almost impossibe to find. I had to get satellite radio to get Air America, which I loved.
    When I drove to/through other states, like SC, VA, MD, Western PA, the car radio only had collection of conservative bile.
    And to further piss-off the rural white folks in those states, there were a lot of Spanish-speaking radio stations across the AM/FM dial.

    I’m old school, so I blame the problem on the lack of a Fairness Doctrine, and that ALL of the TV news shows – network and cable – are more entertainment than information. No more loss-leader for the news leading into the entertainment programming on the networks. And as for cable news channels, it’s one, two, or more people screaming at or talking ove one another.
    Policies? Ho-hum…
    OPINIONS ROCK!!!
    We are so totally screwed…

  2. Bill  •  Nov 15, 2016 @7:38 pm

    Most of what I’ve heard Keith Ellison say has been reasonably well thought out. The problem is, within the iron curtain he’d be too easily tarred as a Muslim Terrorist Sympathizer never to be trusted. He’s way too ahead of his time. Dems have to do better than this.

    They must wait until after he’s starred in a successful reality TV show.

  3. bernie  •  Nov 15, 2016 @10:13 pm

    “So if there’s one thing I wish I could get across to the Democrats in the Beltway, it’s that they’re going to have to make an extraordinary effort to break through the iron curtain of disinformation in red states.”

    Good luck on any hope getting through to Democrats in the Beltway.  If I could get through to them I would suggest they consider how good of a job you and the commenters on this blog do for those behind the iron curtain of misinformation, disinformation, and just a total lack of an effective vote.  We have to live vicariously watching others being cared about and courted while we know good and well that we will be taken for granted by one party and ignored by the other.  Since our ideas do not fit we face much social isolation.  You give us fine quality issue presentations and  inspired and entertaining commentary.  We can benefit by a larger group of people who can find, sort through, and provide some level of good critical thinking to what is not easily available to us. We can share snips and quips with likeminded souls.  You give those beltway Democrats  much also.  Without you. their incessant requests for contributions might just go ignored.  If we are lucky enough to spare a bit to contribute, we know this is the only vote we will ever have that will count at all.  The great people of this blog make writing that check to support progressive ideas much easier.  Thanks.

  4. vagabonde  •  Nov 16, 2016 @1:16 am

    Your post is spot on. I live in a red state and can say that between Fox News and reading the ultra-conservative Marietta Daily Journal, most white people around here never look for progressive news unless they would search the internet. I usually read the French press (in French) then the UK, Canadian, Australian, some Italian newspapers. I have a list I use (not on a daily basis, of course) but also some francophone press like in Algeria, Tunisia and some other African countries. India also has good commentaries. I found that even the New York Times has been biased against France (mostly during the Iraq war) and did not translate accurately. I think that if pamphlets were thrown from aircraft as you suggest, people here may not take the trouble to read them – reading is not done much around here, most independent bookstores have gone out of business. I think the best bet for the progressives for the next presidential run would be to get a well-known celebrity, TV or movie, man or woman, but a celebrity – maybe even a country singer, why not – but a popular one. That would be the ticket as they say, don’t you think?

  5. KC  •  Nov 16, 2016 @2:31 am

    It’s not just Democrats in the beltway, but Democrats online. Right now, I feel like anyone slightly to right of Bernie is going to be kicked out of the party sometimes. Thomas Frank has got things all figured out, though he’s got some real blind spots to his narrative.

    Fact is, if we are going to get a Democrat elected to Congress in my district, that person is unlikely to be near to Bernie’s ideal. They’d likely be one of the assholes who insisted the ACA not include a public option because of the word “public.” Is the progressive tent big enough for those folks anymore? Or do we lose another big one then start reopening the DLC? Serious questions there, but I agree Democrats have to deny that red state barrier.

  6. elkern  •  Nov 16, 2016 @10:42 am

    Your excellent insight has made a daily reader of me, Maha – thanks again.

    And this problem (lack of Left Voices in Red States) is daunting. Changing that will be slow – and won’t even start until Progressives/Democrats focus on it, which hasn’t happened yet.

    It will also be expensive, and the Left is woefully short on long-term funding. We all sent Bernie (and his protégés) $27, but we need is $27 per month/person for a decade, SPENT WISELY, to build a progressive information infrastructure.

    So, first, we need small groups of smart, competent people grounded in the Real World to design some structures to plan and then manage it. The Right started it’s comeback in the 1960’s by creating Think-Tanks, like Heritage, CEI, Cato, etc, which honed their message and helped design the coalitions which have taken over our country.

    It will be harder to do that from the Left, because our priorities are more diverse, and our money won’t come from one roomful of millionaires.

  7. Iain  •  Nov 16, 2016 @11:48 am

    So when Clinton in the debates talked about investing in the middle class, I knew what she meant. But that’s a meaningless phrase to red state folks. They have no grounding in what that might actually mean, because such things are never talked about here.

    So what kind of pithy phrase would sum up that idea in a way that red state folks would understand?

    (To be honest, I’m not sure that I understand what she meant by it. If she’s just talking about education I doubt that would go over well, and frankly there’s no reason it should: that’s a wholly inadequate response to a very big problem.)

  8. Viking Kitten  •  Nov 16, 2016 @12:08 pm

    This doesn’t change your main point in any way, but I’d quibble that it’s not so much “red states” as it is “rural areas,” in *every* state.

    Also, I think any project like this needs to be undertaken with the understanding up front that it isn’t going to work on the first election cycle, or second, or maybe even the tenth. The Right spent 40 years on their project of turning rural America hostile to government and liberal points of view. It’s going to take years to un-do it, if it can be done at all, in time to still have a country worth saving.

  9. maha  •  Nov 16, 2016 @3:17 pm

    //This doesn’t change your main point in any way, but I’d quibble that it’s not so much “red states” as it is “rural areas,” in *every* state.// Well, red states are mostly states in which there are more people living in rural areas than urban areas. So, yeah. Cities haven’t done that badly with globalization, and the blue coastal states probably have been hurt less than others, also. It’s the one-industry communities that got clobbered.

  10. Tom_b  •  Nov 16, 2016 @12:42 pm

    Of interest (and I’ve been saying this for months):

    https://newrepublic.com/article/138787/obama-can-put-merrick-garland-supreme-court

  11. Billikin  •  Nov 26, 2016 @8:43 pm

    I rather expect that Hillary Clinton does know how to frame arguments in terms that a red stater would understand. After all, she was the First Lady of Arkansas, and earlier in life she actually campaigned for Goldwater. (!) If she did not aim her remarks at them, it was by choice. They are not her kind of people.

    One reason Romney lost in 2012 was his “47%” remark. If Clinton loses this election — it’s not over yet! — I think that one reason will be her “deplorables” remark. That’s a four syllable word even Rednecks understand.

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