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DC Journalists Love GOP Obstructionists, But Americans Don’t

Ben Smith has an interesting article on how pollsters are finding that there is a pretty big gap between what DC journalists think Americans think, and what Americans actually think.

No better example of this can be found than the "winners" and "losers" that DC media are proclaiming in the wake of the passage of the stimulus bill, and what DailyKos/Research 2000 polling on the subject indicates.

DC opinion:  It’s good for the Republicans!

  • MSNBC’s First Read lists among its winners "the Republican Party (which demonstrated unity after its big losses in November), and No.2 House Republican Eric Cantor (who raised his profile during the debate)." Reid gets a win, Pelosi gets a loss.
  • Chris Cillizza also declares Eric Cantor a victor for maintaining party discipline (although he tags him a loser too for the AFSME ad).  Reid gets a "win" here too, and House Democrats are deemed losers, because "it appeared as though this was a Senate-run production."
  • Fox News unsurprisingly says "Republican lawmakers may turn out to be winners. Most of them voted against the package, and in their largely unified opposition, they found an issue to galvanize the party after two consecutive dispiriting electoral defeats."  Reid and Pelosi don’t exist.
  • Liz Sidoti also says the Republicans win:  "Adrift after back-to-back electoral losses, they found their voice against a Democratic speaker and an expanded majority. They held to the GOP‘s cornerstone of fiscal conservatism as they led the effort to define the package as too costly and too quick."  Likewise, Jon Boehner:  "He strengthened his hold on his job, keeping his rank-and-file united against the House version." Again, Reid gets a win.  She gives Pelosi and Mitch McConnell losses.

But according to Daily Kos polling, the change in public opinion from a poll taken from Feb. 2-5 to the latest one taken from Feb. 9-12 indicates that Pelosi, Reid and the Democratic Party have actually gone up in public approval — all had a net change of +2 points, while the Congressional Dems scored a +3.  Conversely, Republicans went down — the Republican Party had a net change of -2, while McConnell, Boehner and Congressional Republicans all had a loss of -3.

And if you go back to the beginning of the year and track how the public is viewing the political situation in Washington DC, the changes are even more dramatic:

Pelosi and the Democratic Party are the big winners, scoring a +5.  Congressional Dems score a +3, and Reid has actually lost two points.  

But contrary to beltway opinion, the Republicans are getting hammered.  While the Republican Party has only had a net change of -2, those directly involved in the stimulus battle are taking huge hits:  McConnell and Boehner at -11, and the Congressional Republicans who are getting such applause from the beltway denizens score a -10.

As Markos notes:

The supposedly hated "San Francisco Liberal" Nancy Pelosi not only has the only net-positive favorability rating of the bunch, but she has a net favorability advantage of 40 points over her hapless and clueless Republican counterpart. The 18-point gap in the net favorability ratings in the Senate leadership is less dramatic, but still significant. Especially since Democrats are stuck with the ineffective Harry Reid as their leader.

The "Reid wins, Pelosi loses" narrative only seems to stick with people who believe what Joe Lieberman thinks matters.

And what about those cherished "independents" that Davids Brooks and Broder always claim to speak for?  Congressional Republicans have only a 15% favorability rating, with a 70% disapproval rating. (You can find the crosstabs here.)  I eagerly await columns from both reflecting this irrefutable consensus that by anyone’s measure falls well outside the margin of error.

Jay Rosen and Glenn Greenwald were on Bill Moyers recently discussing just how skewed the perspective of Beltway journalists is, and how it affects the way in which they cover the Obama administration:

GLENN:  What the media wants to see is continuity, that he’s not threatening to their way of life and to their establishment, for the reason that we talked about before. That’s how he wins praise from them, is by showing that he isn’t going to change things fundamentally, and therefore, isn’t a threat to their system. . . .


JAY ROSEN: If you’re a career Washington reporter, how do you know that your knowledge is always going to be relevant throughout your career? Well, if politics is just an inside game, then you’re always on top of it. If all of a sudden, a new dynamic enters it, you may not have the knowledge you need to be the expert, to be the authority. And I think there’s a tendency for Washington journalists to see everything converging towards the political game that they are themselves masters of.

If you go back to the 2007 Iraq War funding battle, when the Senate put on a brief show about tying appropriations to troop withdrawal, there was no end to the concern trolling about the fact that Democrats would be viewed as "obstructionist" and suffer heavy electoral defeat in 2008 if they held together and tried to put the curbs on an extremely unpopular war.  That view was irrespective of political affiliation — Democratic pollster Doug Schoen completely misrepresented polling numbers in the wake of the Senate collapse to try and prove that the American public didn’t want Democrats to take on the war.  Nobody seems to have foreseen the emergence of a Democratic presidential candidate who would win in no small part based  on his opposition to that war.

DC lives in an economic bubble and remains largely insulated from the troubles hitting the rest of the country.  No matter who is in power, no matter who is on the receiving end of taxpayer largesse, the money finds its way there. Fairfax and Loudoun Counties in VA and Howard County MD (where lobbyists and contractor beneficiaries of the defense/homeland security boon of the past 8 years live) are the top three wealthiest counties in the country, and seven more DC suburbs chart in the top 20.  

The people who live in DC, who pretend to speak for the rest of the country, have no direct experience with what is happening there — and their attempts to handicap DC politics have more to do with the inside baseball games that seek to protect their own interests above all else.  The fact that three and a half million Americans will have jobs as a result of the passage of this bill, or that people who are unemployed or living on food stamps will continue to be able to eat, doesn’t seem to graze their analyses.

The American public looked at DC, they saw the Democrats trying to do something, and they liked what they saw.   People who are deeply worried about staying employed and taking care of their families do not seem to have the universal high regard for House Republicans who stood together to oppose helping them out that the DC establishment do.

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Jane Hamsher

Jane Hamsher

Jane is the founder of Her work has also appeared on the Huffington Post, Alternet and The American Prospect. She’s the author of the best selling book Killer Instinct and has produced such films Natural Born Killers and Permanent Midnight. She lives in Washington DC.
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