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While the Beltway press continues to wring its hands over the fact that President Joe Biden likely won't get any Republican support passing the massive, $1.9 trillion Covid relief bill now being readied in Congress, journalists are missing the bigger, more important story.
Instead of framing it around how Republicans are squaring off with the new Democratic president, the story ought to be about how the GOP, so driven to block Biden wins, remains so out of touch with its own voters who overwhelmingly back the Covid bill. At a time when the press is demanding Beltway "unity," Biden is actually producing it by championing a fervently, almost historically, popular piece of legislation.
Inside the Beltway, the bill is depicted as being divisive because virtually no Republicans will support it. That in turn is putting political pressure on the new Democratic president because he promised to bring the country together; he promised to craft bipartisan compromises, according to the preferred media narrative.
The press insists that Biden's welcome call for unity following a bloody insurrection inside the U.S. Capitol last month means that any policy push by him is divisive, because Republicans oppose it. But what's so often left out of the day-to-day coverage over the political jockeying surrounding the Covid bill is that the Republican Party remains out of step with its own voters, and it's Biden who has the pulse of the nation.
As is custom with the D.C. media, the entire onus of bipartisanship is placed on Democrats, who are responsible for breaking the Capitol fever, which is fueled by obstructionist Republicans. The GOP today is committed to uniformly opposing Biden, just as it was committed to opposing President Barack Obama. That's the real story of Covid relief politics, and how Republicans will soon have to go on the record opposing a bill that's overwhelmingly popular, even among Republican voters.
According a recent CBS News poll, a staggering 70 percent of Republicans support the Democratic Covid bill. That includes 66 percent of self-identified "conservatives" and 63 percent of Trump voters. In a separate Quinnipiac poll, 64 percent of Republicans said they support sending out $1,400 relief checks to American families. And a survey from The Hill found that 60 percent of Republicans are fine with Democrats using the reconciliation process to pass the Covid bill along party lines if necessary. (One in four Republicans think the Democratic stimulus bill is too small.)
The stunning dichotomy goes to the heart of an ongoing media failure in covering today's Republican Party — the press' refusal to accurately stress the party's deeply radical, obstruction tendencies. And how blocking Democratic legislation is the GOP's defining trait, regardless of what Republican voters nationwide think of the issue at hand.
If a strong majority of Republicans back the Democratic bill, that means it enjoys overpowering national support — 83 percent to be exact, according to the CBS poll. Think about that: The Covid relief bill represents the signature legislative priority of a brand new Democratic president, and during this era of supposedly iron-fisted political polarization, eight out of ten Americans hope Biden scores a win with the bill. That's almost unheard of. Especially for a social spending bill that is nearly unmatched in its size and magnitude.
For context, President Barack Obama passed two sweeping pieces of legislation in his first term, the sprawling government stimulus bill to help save the crumbling economy, and then Obamacare. The stimulus package was supported by 54 percent of Americans when it passed; Obamacare by 45 percent. Those two laws helped fuel the so-called "populist" Tea Party movement, which emerged to protest large government spending (when implemented by the first Black president). To date, there has been no organized opposition to the nearly $2 trillion Covid relief bill, and Fox News has no coherent opposition to the bill.
Actually, the entire GOP is not opposed to the Covid relief package, just those serving in Congress. As the Washington Post reported this week, Republican officials across the country at the state and local level urgently want the Democratic stimulus bill to become law:
To many Republicans at city halls and statehouses across the country, the relief package looks very different. Instead of the “blue-state bailout” derided by GOP lawmakers, Republican mayors and governors say they see badly needed federal aid to keep police on the beat, to prevent battered Main Street businesses from going under and to help care for the growing ranks of the homeless and the hungry.
The media loves to worship at the altar of unity when a Democrat sits in the Oval Office. They did with Obama, and then they hit the snooze button when Trump tried to take away healthcare from millions of Americans via a party-line vote, and rewrote U.S. tax laws the exact same way.
Republican voters across the country eagerly support Biden’s Covid relief bill. Today’s news coverage ought to revolve around why the GOP is so out of touch with its base.
🗞 GOOD STUFF:
When was the last time you heard good news about the journalism industry? Yesterday brought some when it was announced that there’s a deal in place for the Baltimore Sun to be purchased from the ailing Tribune Publishing company and owned by a nonprofit.
From the Sun:
Returning The Baltimore Sun to Maryland hands, the state’s largest newspaper and its affiliates are to be acquired by a nonprofit formed by businessman and philanthropist Stewart Bainum Jr. that would operate the media organization for the benefit of the community…“Returning The Capital and The Sun to local ownership will be good for the employees of the newspapers and good for the people of Anne Arundel County,” County Executive Steuart Pittman said Tuesday night. “Shifting from publishing for profit to publishing for community is something we can all celebrate.”
🎸 FUN STUFF — BECAUSE WE ALL NEED A BREAK
Kiwi Jr., "Maid Marian's Toast"
It's oddly reassuring to know that Seattle’s Sub Pop record label continues to sign great acts. The alternative outpost has been doing it since the late 1980s with seminal bands like Nirvana and Mud Honey.
Kiwi Jr., a Toronto four-piece, maintains that winning tradition with a new set of jangly, effervescent rock songs.
From Pitchfork's generous review of the band's truly stellar new album:
Cooler Returns, their first for Sub Pop, maintains the exuberant tempos and party sensibility, leaving a trail of red plastic cups in its wake even as it largely subs out electric guitars with acoustic ones, accompanying them with splashes of piano, organ, and harmonica. It’s an impatient, slacker-rock imagining of a folk album, Highway 61 Revisited by way of Harlem’s Hippies.
Now you've got something we want
It's the Twenties and you've got something we want
So you’ve made the decision to make the decision
Now spare us all from these half-assed revisions
You've got something we've always wanted
The work you do is really important to me but more to the point - is the press listening?
It's nauseating to see issues of national importance - like the 2009 Stimulus and now the Covid Relief bill - reduced to a partisan zero sum game. Even more nauseating is witnessing the media's failure to frame the issue as a matter of the government trying to perform a core duty (providing for the general welfare), and the Dems' maddening inability to speak with one voice. Republicans wreck the economy, and when Dems are elected to clean up the mess, Republicans do their best to make the clean up as hard as possible. The American people get screwed and the media focus is on the the GOP's admirable "hardball politics."