In vetting the part of the title to the left of the colon, I did a quick google search of the phrase “politics, perception and reality,” which yielded “about” 4,460 hits.
It’s a truism that in all areas of human endeavor, and maybe even more in early 21st century American politics, perception is not the same thing as reality. In many cases, it doesn’t even seem to come close to being an even somewhat faithful analog. But, turning to the part of this post’s title on the right side of the colon, are the Republicans and rightwingers more successful in messaging and, if so, why?
This is a long term project of mine and I don’t have any definitive answers at this point. And it’s not a question that really lends itself to final and definitive answers anyway. Still, it’s a question very much worth examining and doing so on a continuing basis.
Also, it’s not just a question about the strategies, tactics and relative effectiveness of the two parties’ propaganda efforts, but those of their constituents and allies as well, including various ostensibly independent news and media organizations.
My research centers on political discourse on the web and the literate practices of people engaging in such discourse individually, as part of groups, and on behalf of organizations and institutions. One obvious example is the teabaggers/tea partiers*, their influence on the Republican party and what I would contend is the complicity of Fox News.
I would also contend that, despite a very small number of progressives, the rest of the corporate media is structurally more in tune with rightwing/Republican policies and politics than the centrist/Democratic alternative. The asymmetry in that equation is deliberate: there hasn’t been a real leftwing/Democratic alliance in a very long time, if ever.
You could perhaps make a case about some of the anti war and pro civil rights work in the 60s, although I wouldn’t necessarily be so bold as to contend that civil rights is necessarily a leftwing agenda item. I realize that it has played out that way in American politics for at least several generations. Certainly, when fewer of “them” vote, it works to the advantage of rightwingers/Republicans. Also, the next contender, FDR’s New Deal reforms were actually quite centrist or at most center left in the politics of the time.
So, in short, I my argument is that there is a structural bias that favors rightwing/Republican policies and politics, which gives them an advantage in getting their message out and sustaining narratives that benefit them. However, I do not believe that exonerates the inability of Democrats, along with their erstwhile liberal and progressive constituents and allies, to formulate and disseminate effective messages and narratives.
It’s important to note that none of these coalitions, or their various components and subcomponents, are monolithic. In this post I have used “rightwing/Republican” as shorthand, but I realize that, as with their opponents, they do not make up a unified whole made up of completely like minded individuals.
*My preferred name is teabaggers. Despite protestations, this is the label they originally self applied. Liberals and progressives were quick to take advantage of the lack of cultural awareness of the “teabaggers.” After realizing their mistake, the wide assortment of groups and individuals who first proudly claimed this label began to refer to themselves as “tea partiers.” This is a very relevant example of the messaging battle and one that, I contend, shows that the rightwingers and Republicans are far from the messaging masters many are proclaiming them to be.