Going back to the days of Ronald Reagan, the Republicans have had a distinct advantage when it comes to messaging.
I believe there are a few prime reasons for this.
First of all, I operate under the premise that the news media is supposed to be an impartial reporter of fact. I do not believe that the media has to give equal time to both sides, especially if one side of an issue is completely insane. I believe that the primary role of the news media in any fair country is not to report both sides of an issue, but rather to report the facts as they exist.
Obviously, this isn't happening. The GOP has adopted a masterful strategy of "working the refs", repeating the "liberal media" lie over and over to the point where now some people actually believe it. So now what exists as the "mainstream" media really exists to serve center-right corporatist ends.
But for some, it's not enough. It's not enough that the media reports simply what's going on. Now, the media must craft a narrative to tell people how they should feel about it.
Those with a critical mind can see through the bullshit. Those who can't watch Fox News.
And this, in a small way, is a very good example of the importance of messaging. History has shown repeatedly that the Big Lie works. The more brazen the lie, the better and eventually, the more believable.
None of this would be possible if we had an objective media in this country. But once the right wing made it priority one to discredit the media by any means possible, it became easy to dismiss objective reporting on the problematic Republican policies as inherently biased.
This became the first big step to what we have today. Not just inside politics, but outside as well. The recent "vaccines cause autism" scare is a perfect example. Despite the report that the assertion that the MMR vaccine caused autism was "based not on bad science but on a deliberate fraud", roughly one in five Americans still believe that vaccines and autism are linked.
Today, we've got a vocal section of our population who base their economic worldview on Art Laffer's cocktail napkin doodle and their political worldview on Ayn Rand's book which can best be described as "sociopathic idealized nerds collapse society because they don't get enough hugs."
Perhaps one of the greatest quotes about Atlas Shrugged, from the above linked post:
All of this is fine, if one recognizes that the idealized world Ayn Rand has created to facilitate her wishful theorizing has no more logical connection to our real one than a world in which an author has imagined humanity ruled by intelligent cups of yogurt. This is most obviously revealed by the fact that in Ayn Rand's world, a man who self-righteously instigates the collapse of society, thereby inevitably killing millions if not billions of people, is portrayed as a messiah figure rather than as a genocidal prick, which is what he'd be anywhere else. Yes, he's a genocidal prick with excellent engineering skills. Good for him. He's still a genocidal prick.
The far-right's continued reliance on Laffer's cocktail napkin rather than the empirical evidence of the last 30 years of supply-side failure can be explained by the fact that the Republicans have stayed on message. Just ask anyone - even our Democratic president whether or not tax cuts create jobs. Most people, including President Obama, will say they do. Of course, it's utter bullshit, but hey, it's been repeated so much that the meme has become part of our national consciousness.
Add to this the new right's adoption of Atlas Shrugged as a sort of conservative manifesto, and we're left with a frightening situation. We have a Republican Party that bases its entire worldview on ideas that are only slightly more ridiculous than basing one's religious worldview on the writings of L. Ron Hubbard.
The Republicans have long held the advantage in the messaging war. Today we're seeing how dangerous letting that advantage stand has become. Progressives and Democrats must strike back with a unified, disciplined message that for once puts the right on the defensive.
Otherwise, the nation we all love may move as much to the right over the next 30 years as it has over the last 30.