Monday, November 13, 2006

Why the narrative matters

I have written quite a bit in the last few days about the framing of the Democratic victory and my own frustration with the way the media has handled it, the reason for my continued posting on the matter is that how the story is told will dictate what legislation gets passed and the level of opposition the left can offer.

When the victory is presented as the triumph of centrism, the logical conclusion is that the Democratic party should not rock the boat and instead should maintain the status quo. Yet, when viewed as a victory for populist economic policy and solid resistance to Bush foreign policy, the Democrats have a lot more leeway to aggressively push their legislative agenda.

I believe (and many others do to- one particularly good example) that the latter is true. If you look at the margins of victory for Congress and Governors on a national scale, you see something quite startling. The Democrats won big:

Races for Governor nationwide: D- 53.5% R- 42.7%
Races for Senate nationwide: D- 55% R- 42.4%
Races for House nationwide: D- 53.3% R-44.5% (does not include uncontested races)

Put into perspective, this is about the margin of victory seen in the 1988 Presidential election (53.4%R to 45.6%D), is more than the difference seen in the Republican Revolution of 1994 (51.5%R to 44.7%D) and is much more than the difference seen in the latest Presidential election (50.7%R to 48.3%D). Unfortunately, you are not going to see this discussed in the popular press. Instead you get this:
The November 21, 1994, edition of Time magazine -- published following that year's congressional elections, in which Republicans gained control of the House of Representatives and the Senate -- featured the headline "G.O.P. Stampede: A Special Report" on the cover, and featured a graphic of an elephant trampling a donkey.

The November 20 edition of Time -- published following the 2006 congressional elections, in which Democrats gained control of the House of Representatives and the Senate -- features the headline "Special Report: The Midterms," and features as the cover story "Why the center is the new place to be," by columnist Joe Klein, with a graphic of a Venn diagram.
And this:
The American people, as politicians like to say, spoke last week - and spoke in no uncertain terms. The 2006 vote does not suggest an eagerness for a sharp left turn. It seems, rather, to be a plea for a shift from the hard right of the neoconservatives to the center represented by the old man in Houston [President George H. W. Bush].
It just goes to show that the press corps that runs Washington cannot possibly think outside of its own incestuous conventional wisdom. I wish I could be proved wrong about this, yet these are people that think Thomas Friedman is a genius. So, my advice...don't hold your breath.

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