Wednesday, March 10, 2021


The COVID relief bill has now passed both houses of Congress, without a single Republican vote. It's popular with Democrats, independents, and at least some Republicans.

Jonathan Chait notes that economists like it, too:
... economists overwhelmingly predict that effect will be positive. Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal have increased their 2021 growth forecasts by a full point, to 5.95 percent.... They are calculating that quickly restoring full employment will bring rapid wage gains to working-class Americans and produce a wide array of spill-off social benefits.
Chait is baffled by the GOP response to the bill.
The Republican decision to vote against Biden in unison, without building much of a case against his bill, seems like the worst of all possible worlds. They are setting themselves against a bill that enjoys sky-high levels of support from both economic experts and a large chunk of their own base.
But the messaging arm of the GOP -- otherwise known as Fox News -- tells us that Republicans plan to just keep making the case against the bill.
With the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill passed by the House on Wednesday and headed to President Biden’s desk, the legislative battle over the massive measure is ending -- but the PR and political fights are only beginning....

As Fox News first reported on Sunday, the independent non-profit conservative advocacy group, American Action Network, has already placed ads in 11 congressional districts now held by House Democrats targeting the COVID package. The spots slam the legislation as House Speaker "Nancy Pelosi's liberal stimulus."

Veteran Republican pollster Tony Fabrizio tells Fox News that when it comes to the political impact of the COVID package, "the devil’s in the details." "When the fine print finally catches up with them, the American people are going to realize it wasn’t such a great deal," emphasized Fabrizio....

Fabrizio argued that "only 10, 11% of the money actually goes to fighting COVID. The rest of the money goes to a whole bunch of other things, like bailing out states and bailing out cities and pension funds, money that has nothing to do with direct COVID relief."

... Fabrizio noted that this bill "is more of a bailout for big cities and bloated government than it is anything else."
I know -- this is the same messaging the Republicans were doing, in a muted way (compared to their usual braying), while the bill was making its way through Congress. It didn't work then, and I'm not sure it will work any better in the future.

But I guess their plan is to work harder at discrediting it than Democrats will work at boasting about it. And I can see how they might manage that.

If there's any unrest in any city between now and the midterms, they'll say that a Democrat Party giveaway to radical socialist cities and Antifa/Black Lives Matter layabouts paid for it. If there's a controversial play somewhere in America or Drag Queen Story Hours start up again in libraries, that'll be blamed on the stimulus. In other words, if anything whatsoever offends conservatives in the next twenty months, they'll tie it back to this bill.

This will be meant to persuade Republicans and Republican-leaning swing voters, not normal people.

Alternately, the bill might succeed spectacularly. By 2022, it could be widely acknowledged that it's morning in America and life is good again.

In which case, I assume the right-wing media will tell the conservative audience that the reason is that Trump vaccines restored the Trump economy, making the entire recovery a Trump triumph.

Right-wingers will actually believe that. Will anyone else? Probably not. But your Trumpist relatives are very unlikely to tell you next year, "I thought Biden would be a terrible president, but he's done a pretty good job."

The GOP voter base will never give Democrats credit for anything and will forgive Republicans anything except collaboration. The party seems to believe that as a result of gerrymandering, the rural skew of the Senate, and the courts' tolerance of Democratic vote suppression, it doesn't need any other voters, and it will never lose the base as long as the base is sufficiently angry at Democrats and liberalism. So what's the point of voting for a popular Democratic bill? It's much easier use the GOP information bubble to tell the base that the bill was bad. Say that often enough and the apparent risk of voting against it might magically disappear for Republicans. That's the bet, at least.

No comments: