04/15/2011 10:01 pm ET | Updated Jun 15, 2011

Friday Talking Points [163] -- The Ads Just Write Themselves

Happy It's Supposed To Be Tax Day, everyone!

By a strange quirk in scheduling, your income taxes won't be due until Monday, but what I'm wondering is: where are the Tea Partiers? This is, after all, the Glorious Second Anniversary of the formation of what some called the "Taxed Enough Already" movement ("TEA" -- get it?), and yet I've heard of no plans for huge Tea Party rallies across America. The last time the Tea Partiers tried to turn out their numbers in force, a few weeks ago during the budget fights, they only managed a few hundred people (and even that's being generous) at the U.S. Capitol. From every shot I've seen of their rally, it seemed like there were more press in attendance than actual protesters. So perhaps the media is a bit shy about getting burned twice, which may be why I'm unaware of any plans this year for large demonstrations.

Which leads one to wonder: Has the Tea Party movement (to provide a horrendous metaphor mixup) jumped the shark? Time will tell, of course, but there are so many other newsworthy items crowding the past week that we've simply got to ask the question briefly, and then move on.

Something the media largely missed in the midst of multiple budgetary battles this week was the fact that this is what bipartisanship looks like. The media, at least the "serious" ones, residing either inside the Beltway or in lower Manhattan, have long made much sport out of decrying "partisanship" -- at least, when Democrats act like Democrats, at any rate. Politicians are supposed to "work together" in some Utopian dreamland, to "get serious things done." It sounds great in an editorial, and all of that.

But then, when it actually happens, the media doesn't even deign to notice it, because of the double game they love to play. Partisanship raises the emotion level. It gets people angry at each other. Conflict! And conflict is so much more entertaining to put on television than bipartisanship in any form. This allows the media to spout pious drivel ("Can't all the politicians just get along?") while at the same time they book the most partisan hacks they can, knowing they can be relied upon to scream at each other and (as a result) make it easier to sell lots of ad space.

But, with the divided government we now have, this is the only way anything is going to get done in the next two years. The 2011 budget compromise had plenty of things in it for both sides of the partisan divide to hate. In the House, Nancy Pelosi and Michele Bachmann both voted against it -- a rare occasion (to put it mildly) where these two were on the same side. Speaker John Boehner couldn't make good on his vow that he'd get 218 votes from the Republican side alone, and a whole bunch of Democrats had to vote for the bill to pass it (the Tea Party freshmen were divided -- some voted for it, some voted against).

The interesting thing to me, though, was the Senate. In most contentious legislative battles in Washington, the Senate vote is the important one (because it is usually harder to win, due to the filibuster). But this week, all attention was on the House. The Senate vote wasn't even close -- 81 to 19. Three Democrats voted with 16 Republicans against, but everyone else voted to pass the bill.

As I said, bipartisanship. I'm not saying it's a good thing or a bad thing, here, I'm just pointing out that it exists -- which is more than the mainstream media has done this week.

Speaking of other thing the mainstream media has been ignoring this week, here is the full text of President Obama's speech on the budget this week. It's a great speech, and I encourage Democrats who have become disillusioned with Obama to give it a read. Also -- are you ready for this? I mean, are you sitting down and everything? -- it was partisan. Gasp! It is, as many have pointed out, his first true campaign speech.

Republicans shifted into full-on whiny mode, immediately. How dare the president give a partisan speech on the budget, Medicare, the size of government, and... you know... all those other things that the two parties completely disagree upon! How dare he! Republicans were apparently expecting the president to throw his full support behind the Paul Ryan budget... or something. Which, of course, Republicans (with no sense of irony whatsoever) have been promoting every chance they get in the most stridently partisan tones they can muster.

It's as if they think only Republicans are allowed to be partisan, or something. Perhaps this is because the media fully supports such thinking, as evidenced by which side gets labeled "partisan" in pretty much every single debate.


Republicans in the House came roaring back today, and passed Paul Ryan's budget on almost-strict party lines (four Republicans voted with all the Democrats against it). Democrats everywhere should be down on their knees today in sheer gratitude. Harry Reid, if he is smart, will immediately introduce this measure -- with no modifications -- onto the Senate floor, in order to force all the Republicans in the Senate to vote on it. Get the votes on record, Harry! Do it as soon as humanly possible!

Because this budget is going to become an albatross around the Republican Party's collective neck in next year's campaign. All that needs to happen is for Democrats to get out there and explain what Ryan's budget means. As President Obama did so well this Wednesday. Absolutely hammer the fact that Medicare will soon become a voucher that doesn't cover the cost of medical insurance. Every third sentence out of every Democrat's mouth for the next six months should include the words "voucher" and "Medicare." I am not kidding. The public needs to be informed. Here's an example. If asked, "Senator, do you agree that the sky is blue?" a Democratic politician should respond with: "Well, I'm glad you asked me, because while the sky is blue for seniors today, under the Republican budget in ten years it will be dark indeed when they realize they're not going to get Medicare, but rather a voucher -- and if that voucher doesn't cover the costs, then Granny's got to pay, even if that means Granny winds up eating catfood as a result because that is all she can afford."

It's really not that tough. The ads just write themselves. But I'm getting ahead of myself here, as we're going to have lots of fun with the Republican budget in the talking points section. But first, let's get the weekly awards out of the way, shall we?


[Continue reading this full article at, complete with our weekly picks for the Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week and Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week awards. Then we end, as always, with our "talking points" section -- where we attempt to aid Democrats in framing their party's message to the public, in a compelling way.]


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