There’s More To Life Than Messaging

by Brien Jackson

I confess, I’m pretty stupified by this:

At a time of increasing debate over the optimal relationship between government and business in the U.S., new Gallup polling shows that 57% of Americans are worried that there will be too much government regulation of business, while 37% worry that there will not be enough. Half of Americans believe the government should become less involved in regulating and controlling business, with 24% saying the government should become more involved and 23% saying things are about right.

My guess is that the results would change drastically if the generic “business” was replaced with “banks,” but anyway, there you go. Americans are skeptical of “government regulations.” Digby, in keeping with a general trend among some netroots bloggers to imagine that everything is about messaging, and a specific trend of her’s to argue that progressive politicians don’t make an explicit case for progressive beliefs, calls this “an epic failue of liberal politics.” But is it, or is it a success of conservative messaging?

At least since the late 1970’s, American conservative messaging has been based on two basic tactics; blatantly lying about things, and crafting talking points that drastically over-simplify issues to easy-to-remember, but highy inaccurate, dogma. In the case of regulations, the conservative line is pretty simple; regulations are bad, always in all places. What is the progressive line supposed to be in contrast? More regulations are always awesome? That’s ridiculous. As both Atrios and Yglesias point out, there really are bad regulations on business out there, mostly at the state and municipal level. Further, most local governments impose land use regulations that are bad for progressive goals, by limiting the amount of density that can grow in an area, leading to inefficient energy use, poor conditions for mass transit to grow, and adverse environmental consequences. These are all places where we really do need to deregulate, or at least re-regulate in a more intelligent way.

The problem progressive messaging has is pretty simple; progressives are still largely attached to reality, and still mostly trying to act like adults. They’re more comfortable handling nuance than conservatives, as opposed to constructing a religious like dogma to fit an entire worldview into. That makes it incredibly difficult to use rhetoric to change the way people respond to polls like this, unless Digby wants progressives to go all in with their own lies and over-simplified talking points, hoping they win out. Which I suppose they could do, but where does that leave us? With both sides living in their own personal reality, with their own religious-like views, talking in dogmatic, over-simplified absolutisms?