How many times since the November election—and really before that—have you heard a Republican say that “the American people want” everything from smaller government, less spending, lower taxes, a reduced deficit? They say it at press conference, at congressional hearings, on the cable talk shows, and the phrase makes it into plenty of print stories.
It reinforces that Republican reputation for message discipline. They all say it. Members of the House and Senate, governors, state legislators, think tankers. They are better trained than monkeys. And if you say it often enough, American start to believe it.
Well, Democrats, at the very least learn from the best. Start saying it, but with a different ending. The fact is Americans don’t necessarily want smaller government, less spending, etc. Yes, they want smaller deficits, but you can get at that, of course, in two ways—cut spending or raise taxes.
And the fact is, Americans don’t want to cut much spending when you get down to specifics, as the Pew Research Center poll of last week revealed, not that it was much of a secret. Americans are always wanting a free lunch. (More on the Pew survey in a future post.)
But the phrase is effective because it positions the speaker as a servant of the public.
I can understand why, given the contradictory polling on this issue, some journalists don’t challenge a GOPer for saying that “the American people want.” After all, most of them are simply stenographers.
But last night,I heard a newly elected GOP senator repeat the line several times—on The Last Word on MSNBC. Why wasn’t Lawrence O’Donnell challenging him on his contention that 70 percent of American want to cut spending? It would have been easy to counter what he said by using the Pew data that shows not a single category of spending garners a majority of Americans saying they want to cut it.
So MSNBC, do your job. And Dems, do your job and repeat after me (again using the Pew survey as your source):
The American people don’t want us to cut spending on education, veterans benefits, healthcare, Medicare, crime fighting, energy and a lot more programs. They want us to keep spending the same or more in an overwhelming number of areas. It’s only the Republicans who want us to go backward with inferior schools, clog roads and expensive energy. The American people want a strong, vital America to pass down to their children. That’s what the American people want.