By Robert Kuttner
Our current political situation is unprecedented. The vast majority of Americans keep falling behind economically because of changes in society’s ground rules, while the rich get even richer — yet this situation doesn’t translate into a winning politics.
If anything, the right keeps gaining and the wealthy keep pulling away. How can this possibly be?
Let me suggest seven reasons:
Reason One. The Discrediting of Politics Itself. The Republican Party has devised a strategy of hamstringing government and making any remediation impossible.
Instead of the voters punishing Republicans, the result is cynicism and passivity, so the Republican strategy is vindicated and rewarded.
The media plays into this pattern by adopting a misleading narrative that makes the gridlock in Washington roughly the equal fault of both parties — with lazy phrases such as “Washington is broken,” or “politics is broken,” or “partisan bickering.” (Do a Google search of those clichés. It will make you sick.)
Eminent political scientists such as Jacob Hacker (Off-Center) and Thomas E. Mann and co-author Norman Ornstein, a self-described Republican (It’s Even Worse Than It Looks) have thoroughly debunked the premise of symmetrical blame. It’s Republicans who are the blockers. But these scholars and their evidence fail to alter the media storyline, and the damage has been done.
The very people who have given up on politics, and on Democrats as stewards of a social compact that helps regular working people, are precisely those regular working people — who see the Dream getting away from them and government not helping.