Democrats suffered a shellacking in the 2014 election. One small but significant silver lining is that identifying who’s in charge of the legislative branch will be very easy for the next two years. Make no mistake: We have a Republican Congress.
Last year, many voters would have gladly voted to punish the horrible do-nothing 113th Congress. Gallup and other polls found that Americans loathed the House and Senate; only about 15 percent approved of the job Congress was doing while nearly 80 percent disapproved. But voters had no idea which party was responsible for congressional dysfunction.
There are two reasons for that.
First, the mainstream media can’t bring itself to point out that since Obama became president, Republicans have obstructed congressional action to an unprecedented degree. In 2012, mainstream commentators Tom Mann and Norm Ornstein pointed out that “the core of the problem lies with the Republican Party,” a fact that everyone in Washington knows. But average voters don’t know because of the American media’s flawed “both sides are to blame” narrative. It’s a limitation of the media’s aspiration for ‘objectivity,’ and it’s ruthlessly exploited by Republicans. There’s almost nothing we can do about it. (For a good example, see Dana Milbank’s “Good riddance to the worst Congress ever” in The Washington Post.)
But the other reason is that persuadable voters simply didn’t know who controlled Congress. Rasmussen and Pew Research polls showed that more than 60 percent were not aware which party controlled the U.S. House or Senate. And as a practical matter, the situation is even worse because persuadable voters are much more ignorant than Republican or Democratic base voters about which party has the majority. Swing voters had no idea which candidates to hold responsible for congressional failure.
Everything is simple now – we have a Republican Congress. Significantly, the mainstream media doesn’t seem to have a problem calling it the “Republican Congress,” (see e.g. The Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, New York Magazine—even Fox News). Nor should we.
It is now the job for all progressives to hammer home this fact, to make sure that every voter understands that the Republicans are now solely responsible for Congress. Because they’re going to hate this Republican Congress. It will be the worst in memory, both for siding with the rich against the rest of us and for obstructing every step that the president will try to take.
Saying “Republican Congress” will strike persuadable voters the way “death tax” does; it’s a fusion of two words they already find unpleasant into one extremely negative phrase. This is no trick of wordplay (like “compassionate conservative” was); it is truthful, educational and persuasive.
Progressives have an opportunity between now and 2016 to relentlessly drive home how poor a job the Republican Congress is doing. Next year’s voters can’t get rid of the “Congress” part of that phrase, but they may decide they’ve had more than enough of the “Republican” part.