Reflections on a crazy week

By Amanda Marcotte
Saturday, January 31, 2009 0:25 EDT
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Boy, this last week really drove home what it’s going to be like for the netroots now that Democrats are finally in charge. I, for one, am feeling really good about it. The mainstream media has shifted right back into the zone they were in when Clinton was President, which is to assist the right in doing whatever it takes to obstruct and bully the Democrats, which was frustrating but also means that the liberal blogosphere will have no problem whatsoever determining what we’re going to do now. We can safely put to rest concerns that we won’t have any work to do without the immediate motivation of Republicans running the government, in no small part because Republicans are still, sadly, running the show, especially when it comes to media. And pushing back against the mendacious media that strives to keep Democrats from ever doing a good thing for fear that Limbaugh will scold them for “bias” (which he’s going to do anyway) is something the liberal blogosphere excels at.

This uproar over the inclusion of expanded family planning services in the economic stimulus package was, beyond anything else, a signal that despite the severity of our times, Republicans are willing to use the silliest of premises to create obstacles for Democrats, and worse, the mainstream media will lap it up without question. Only a crazy fringe of Americans believes any of the notions entertained as serious arguments on the cable news networks. Ideas that usually dwell on fringe websites run by crazy Christians who sleep with stuffed fetuses were being treated as legit ideas on cable TV, including the idea that voluntary family planning was indistinguishable from mandatory infertility, and pointed credulity at the idea that any woman might have a legitimate reason not to give birth at any point in time. The news media ate up the idea that contraception services could easily be separated from all other health care, including gynecological health care, for no other reason than they bought into the fringe notion that there’s automatically something seedy about women who use contraception. Racist and sexist dog whistles dominated the media debate over this, in a repeat of the concern trolling of welfare in the media that led to Clinton’s welfare “reform” debacle.

But the game is different this time, because in the Clinton era, there were two kinds of media—right wing media and mainstream media that lived in terror of right wing media. Also, a smattering of liberal sources that were easy to dismiss as fringe. But now all of us who were impotently standing by in the past have a major vehicle to show that we’re out here, and we’re strong in numbers and we’re not afraid to push for what’s right. Is that enough to change the game? I think, upon reflection, that it is. I think that the addition of all these new voices to the cacophony meant that the economic stimulus bill wasn’t nearly as devastated as it could have been when the media was able to tell a false story pitting “average” Americans (all right wingers, in their view) against the evil liberal elite. A lot was changed, but I can’t help but think it would have been worse if Democrats didn’t have the netroots sending the message that we’ve got their back. On the birth control thing, it’s almost assured now that it’s going to pass as a separate bill. Would it have quietly died without the pressure emanating from the netroots? I think that it might have. Spineless Democrats are a major issue, and we’ve got a big job ahead of us when it comes to stiffening those spines. Will it matter? Maybe, maybe not. But couldn’t hurt to try.

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
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