Over the weekend, there were five astroturf demonstrations in the U.S., calling for removal of COVID-19 based physical distancing measures. As you might imagine, our national political press corps provided important context and made it clear that these dingbats represent a small minority of Americans.
HAH! WE MAKE THE FUNNY! That’s not what happened at all (boldface mine):
Anxious for a political angle to the ongoing pandemic story and one that can produce instant conflict (as well as compelling pictures), the news media are showering attention on the small groups of GOP protesters who are angry about life-saving social distancing orders issued by governors to battle the Covid-19 pandemic. The right-wing, Fox News-fueled street actions come as polling confirms an overwhelming majority of Americans support the stay at home orders, designed to curb the pandemic’s growing death toll. Even when restrictions are lifted, most Americans say they’re not sure they’ll resume “normal activities” right away.
Proving once again that every Beltway news cycle revolves around the very simple question of, ‘What are Republicans angry about today?, the recent emergence of Trump-sanctioned protests has grabbed the media’s attention, even though some events are drawing modest crowds.
“More than a dozen protesters gathered near the governor’s mansion in Baton Rouge Friday calling for Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) to suspend measures designed to stop the spread of the coronavirus so people can go back to work,” the Washington Post reported over the weekend. [Emphasis added.] Meanwhile, the New York Times made sure to shine a bright spotlight on a Texas protest that attracted “more than 100 people.” The newspaper’s print headline claimed the event was indication that protests were “sweep[ing] nation.”
Most people understand that in a nation of nearly 330 million people, pro-Trump events that boast dozens of activists don’t qualify as major news. Yet news outlets seem to think small bands of angry conservatives must be treated as a big deal. The Times article completely misread the protests, suggesting they were representative of a widespread movement. (They’re not.)
The Democratic leadership doesn’t seem to realize they really only have two choices: either remain quiet and let conservatives exclusively drive the discourse (such as it is), or else they have to get in there, mix it up, and offer their own invective. The good news is that invective can be based in reality–when the president really is derelict in his duty, it’s not unethical or inappropriate to tell people that.
While the typical Democratic strategy is to sit back and hope people figure out that what the opposition has done is horrible, it’s silly to expect a profit-driven media ecosystem to do that (and how well has that worked by the way?). The media want to air ‘controversy’, so Democrats need to do the performative politics part better in order to draw attention to their message. It wouldn’t be hard to point out these are corporate-backed protests (and groups funded privately by Secretary DeVos are linked to these protests) that are unrepresentative of the will and good sense of the American people and that they represent a clear and present danger. Talk about how “human beings are being offered as a blood sacrifice to profit.”
Here’s the thing: nobody gives a shit what assholes with blogs–or Twitter feeds–think. The media will report invective from prominent political figures: just look at Sen. Lindsey Graham. Like it or not (ok, “not”), professional Democrats need to do their jobs here.
Because if professional Democrats don’t, more of us will die needlessly.