NY Times' Peters Plays Defense for Dems: Trump's 'False' Attacks on Green Deal, Abortion

April 14th, 2019 12:18 PM

In Saturday’s New York Times, political reporter Jeremy Peters tried to inoculate Democrats against supposedly “false” Republican attacks on the issues of abortion and socialized medicine., “G.O.P. Hones Blunt, Misleading Attacks on the Democrats.”

Republican leaders are sharpening and poll-testing lines of attack that portray Democratic policies on health care, the environment and abortion as far outside the norm, in hopes of arming President Trump with hyperbolic sound bites -- some of them false -- asserting that Democrats would cause long waits for doctors or make killing babies after birth legal.

The blunt messaging underscores one of the biggest challenges facing Democrats as they try to defeat the incumbent president: the need to define themselves and their ideas before Mr. Trump and his conservative allies do it for them.

“Far-reaching” is certainly one way of describing the proposal, so extreme that it didn’t garner a single vote, Democrat or Republican, when it was put up to vote in the Senate in March 2019, more of a wish list for the left than a serious environmental proposal (it didn’t even mention nuclear energy, but did wistfully yearn for the banning of air travel and cows):

The recent focus on health care and abortion follows well-coordinated attacks on policies like the Green New Deal, which reduced the far-reaching climate change proposal to a punch line with jokes about cow flatulence and putting farms out of business.

The Democrats’ perennial problem? They’re just too “nuanced.”

In a fight with Mr. Trump, they say, nuance is not usually the Democrats’ best weapon.

Some standard labeling slant appeared. The Times can’t just simply say “left-wing,” but must modify the potentially harmful label by saying “left-of-center.” Meanwhile conservatives are “conservative” and the right is simply “the right.”

“What our side has to understand is that to fight Trump it’s a battle for definition,” said Celinda Lake, a top Democratic pollster who has been working with left-of-center groups on a strategy to counter the messaging campaign from the right.

Peters gamely defended the extreme Green New Deal, from new liberal heroine Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

It is not clear whether any of the Republican messaging is having an impact on voters outside of the president’s so far unmovable base. But Ms. Lake said that as she surveyed likely 2020 swing voters, she was surprised to hear people in focus groups repeat false assertions made by the president and his allies -- that Democrats would end air travel in the United States and shut down dairy farms and beef production because of greenhouse gas emissions from cows.

“It’s amazing the number of people who would volunteer that,” she said. The actual language in the proposal calls for cleaner transportation and agriculture “as much as is technologically feasible.” The misperception about cows and airplanes originated with a now-retracted fact sheet published by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s office that contained an ironic aside about getting rid of “farting cows and airplanes.”

That “fact sheet,” characterized previously by the paper as “an early draft,” was backed by several Democratic candidates, also included phrases like a call for economic security for “all who are unable or unwilling to work.”

But [Trump] has occasionally made graphic and false claims that Democrats support legislation that would allow “executing babies AFTER birth,” as he said in a recent tweet.....

Which was a perfectly defensible summary of the comments by Virginia’s Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam.

The Centers for Disease Control says such late-term abortions are extremely rare. Only about 1.3 percent of abortions in the United States in 2015 were performed in or after the 21st week of pregnancy, the agency reported.

But that’s “extremely rare” only in context of the vast number of total abortions. While 1.3% may sound reassuring, it's only relative to the number of abortions performed in 2015. The raw figure was over 5,000 (check Table 7 here).

Peters was obliged to give some backhanded compliments to Republicans (and Fox News?) as being more informed about Democratic policy than Democrats.

Democrats’ own research has found this approach to be effective with the Republican base, which can be more aware of liberal policies like the Green New Deal than liberals are. When Global Strategy Group and GBA Strategies surveyed Fox News viewers last month, they found that Republicans who watch Fox are more than twice as likely as all other groups to have heard about the plan than Democrats.

Peters was previously terrified of Republican attempts to win an election in 2018, suggesting Trump was using a “political playbook of demonization” to pit “us vs. them” before the 2018 congressional elections.