In the days leading up to the government shutdown we were treated to no shortage of dire proclamations. The fact that the government would be defunded for an indeterminate period was akin to the nation devolving overnight to a dystopian landscape. If you listened intently to the hysterics our country would resemble the Y2K episode of “The Simpsons”, where the moment the clock ticked past midnight all mechanical functions would lose control, and jet airliners would fall from the sky like ripe apples.
When the vote failed to pass, and we crossed over into Saturday morning the news networks posted timer clocks onscreen when the shutdown commenced. They tried to intone how dire this all was, and how Trump, the GOP, and our divisive political climate were all to blame. Senator Chuck Schumer was given airtime to read his rebuke, labeling this as “The Trump Shutdown”. It was all following the pattern as the Republicans, regardless of who occupies the White House or controls Congress, are routinely blamed for these routine shutdowns.
GOP now labeling the likely partial government closing the “Schumer shutdown,” hoping that this time Republicans will not be blamed. Their challenge is that, no matter who deserved it, the public has always blamed the GOP for past shutdowns.
— Brit Hume (@brithume) January 19, 2018
Except this time it has not been an automatic blame. Despite many in the media framing, and displaying their clear favor of the Democrats’ position as being the moral choice, the general mood is that this is not a defacto GOP responsibility. CNN had to have been taken by surprise by its own poll showing more than half of Americans favored passing a spending bill over the Democrat demands to fix DACA. Many in the press and the general public are looking at this as a Democrat-generated vote leading to the shutdown. The New York Times was rather upfront in its assessment of what led to this.
Much of the federal government officially shut down early Saturday morning after Senate Democrats, showing remarkable solidarity in the face of a clear political danger, blocked consideration of a stopgap spending measure to keep the government operating.
Following suit the Associated Press was willing to cast the blame on Schumer and the Senate Democrats.
The Latest: Senate Democrats derail bill to avert shutdownhttps://t.co/bzIaGJOyQK
— AP Politics (@AP_Politics) January 20, 2018
So the question is, how did this messaging take root? The GOP has long struggled to get fair, balanced coverage of its policies in the media for generations. How is it the party has managed to actually get traction with its position? Instead of a single aspect there have been a number of factors that have helped out the GOP in pointing out the realities of this shutdown.
THE UN-UNIFIED MESSAGING
For the past week various members of the Republican party have delivered impactful messages regarding this budget vote. But rather than regurgitating the same script we have seen a variety of approaches in explaining the situation. Paul Ryan, after orchestrating a House bill to send to the Senate, gave a strong speech from the House floor that illustrated the hollow claims of the Democrats. Ryan noted that the Dems have asked for and already agreed to the elements in the House bill, and he stated clearly the Dems are currently voting against a bill that they effectively approved.
Mitch McConnell sent out a trenchant Tweet that showed how Dems favored a few hundred thousand illegals over the health and well being of millions of citizen children. And in the White House briefing room Mick Mulvaney has been a warrior by wielding cold hard facts that have properly framed the issue. His most damning detail was to state how DACA is not expiring for well over a month, yet Dems were more than willing to miss the funding deadline, over an issue that is a non-fiscal component.
These varied but fact-based messages have been effective and deliver more impact than mere talking points and stats. It has shown the debate to be a complexity and one that the GOP has well covered on multiple sides.
THE BARGAINING “CHIP”
The other contentious part of the shutdown debate has been the funding of the children’s health coverage. While there has been plenty of accusations the GOP has been “stripping” this program in the press the charges withered under facts. Jimmy Kimmel (the media’s latest celebrity to voice “America’s Conscience”) held his toddler son as he tried to imply Republicans were gutting the CHIP program, except his emotional plea unravelled under a core truth: The GOP was maintaining the program, and it was the Democrats who have been voting against it.
As this reality was pointed out some Democrats this week tried to imply the GOP was using the children’s insurance program as a brand new leveraging tool to make them look bad. Except the Democrat opposition vote has been taking place for months. It ultimately comes down to the reality Paul Ryan noted; the very issue Dems claim to be concerned with is in the spending bill already, but they are the ones blocking it.
NON-ARRIVAL OF DEMOCRATS’ DOOM
As the dire pronouncements about the shutdown are being delivered the intended phobias meant to be generated are not panning out in as dark a fashion as hoped for. Part of the reason is that all of the promised consequences (yes, people will be dying; yes – AGAIN!) have already been used on previous policies this year. The fact there has been no arrival of the promised genocide as a result of the US leaving the Paris Accord, Net Neutrality, repairing Obamacare, et al has not gone unnoticed.
Most recently the recently instituted tax cut was supposed to lead to all manner of disaster and bodies piling up in the streets. Instead, a wave of benefits have been witnessed, from job creation to the lowering of our utility bills, and that has delivered an unexpected consequence; many are willing to believe this administration knows what it is talking about on budget issues.
THE PROXIMITY TO OBAMA’S SHUTDOWN
One of the toughest selling points on how “horrible” the shutdown will be is that it has barely been 5 years since the shutdown during President Obama’s term, and that produces a memory. There was no catastrophic result, as prophesied this time around. Also, the hardships that do stand out from the Obama shutdown — forcing the closing of war memorials, and furloughed workers — are not going to take place this year.
Mick Mulvaney even declared they had steps in place to keep many governmental offices operating, revealing how Obama generated hardship during his lockout so the press had more ammunition to demonize Republicans. That accusatory arsenal is not available when the current administration is taking steps to actually help government workers during the shutdown.
MEDIA SELF-DEVALUED THEMSELVES
For over one year now (since the Presidential election) the media has become a petulant morass of hyper-partisan distemper in regards to President Trump. While our leader certainly gives them ample material the press has taken on an obsessive position in many ways. Case in point; in the days leading up to this shutdown our media did not busy themselves with the details and nuances behind the negotiations. The press who had lectured us not to condemn a President over consensual sex were too busy salivating over the details of a 7 year old interview with a porn star.
As a result, those outlets hurling charges and accusations at Trump and the Republicans are easily exposed as biased on the issue. The Jim Acostas in the press pool are being exposed as the partisan hacks that they are, and their narratives are being disassembled with dexterity in social media.
The result being seen this weekend should serve as a decent blueprint for the administration and the party going forward in the years ahead. While the press will consistently try to start fires (let alone be unwilling to carry Trump’s water) if a coordinated team effort is employed there is a chance of getting the messaging out to the public. Given the opponents no longer possess the same influence they once had the Republicans need to get their various staffs together to make this work.