Opinion: Media’s Amnesic Biden-Blaming Abets Authoritarian Movement

I’m watching cable news the other day as a reporter talks to a man from Pennsylvania complaining about gas prices and rising prices generally. She asks him whom he holds responsible for these prices, and he responds, “I have to blame Joe.” He indicates that, at this point at least, he doesn’t plan to vote for Biden in the next election.

The reporting basically ends there, with commentary highlighting the threat inflation poses to Biden’s presidency and his re-election hopes as well as to Democrats’ chances to holding on to their tenuous control of the House and Senate in this November’s mid-terms.

What’s missing here is seemingly any effort report reality.  Yes, inflation is real, but Biden is not only not responsible for it, he also has a plan, the Build Back Better Plan, to address and lower key costs of living for the average American, which Republicans have blocked at every turn.

Now and then, admittedly, analysts do, after emphasizing and elaborating the troubles inflation poses for Biden, say softly out of the other sides of their mouths, almost as an aside or after-thought, that there’s not really much a president can do about inflation.  But there’s not much explanation of reality, no real effort to inform the American audience about what really causes inflation and, for that, matter, what would cure it.

Case in point: A few weeks ago I watched Joe Scarborough and John Heilemann on Morning Joe discuss how history shows that in moments of intense inflation in the U.S. economy, the incumbent President suffered, pointing to Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan as examples of presidents who unseated Democratic incumbents, benefiting from high inflation. Scarborough scoffed at Democrats who, in his mind, were not taking inflation seriously enough.

But then just this week on his show, Scarborough, with no trace of self-awareness regarding his previous ridiculous and obfuscating analysis, matter-of-factly pointed out, rather casually, that of course inflationary pressures were bound to occur because people spent less during the pandemic, meaning money is now flooding  the economy and the demands of American consumers are far out-stripping supply, given that production slowed during the pandemic and even now, as the pandemic persists, labor shortages are hobbling both the production and distribution of goods and services.

Overall, though, the tenor of media reporting on inflation suggestively blames Biden by largely tending to neglect to report on the real causes and economic dynamics of inflation, focusing almost singularly on political dynamics, which the coverage arguably does more to create rather than simply reflect. That is, the more the media reports on how inflation hurts Biden, the more suggestive becomes the narrative that he is to blame.

The upshot of such media coverage of inflation is the implication that somehow Republicans offer salutary alternative to Biden, a solution to the economic woes Americans are facing.

And it’s not in the coverage of inflation. The other day I saw Susan Page, Washington Bureau Chief for USA Today, offer her analysis of the polling that 68 percent of Americans believed the country had “pretty seriously gotten off on the wrong track.”  She opined, basically, that this poll spells bad news for Biden because, regardless of why they think America is on the wrong track, they tend to blame the party in charge and the president in office.

This kind of “analysis” or coverage that simply reports that people blame Biden for the country’s woes without attempting to inform Americans of the dynamics and causes of inflation, or to dig into what Americans really think is wrong, seems to bespeak a dangerous amnesia that could potentially hoodwink Americans into forgetting the four years of damage Trump wreaked on the lives of average Americans and believing that Republican authoritarianism somehow provides a workable alternative to Biden’s efforts to legitimately improve the lives of most Americans against intense Republican opposition.

Has the media, have Americans, forgotten that not one Republican voted to pass the American Rescue Act that provided much needed financial assistance for American families during the pandemic?

Have they forgotten or refused to see that it is Trump who downplayed the virulence of the pandemic, often treated it as a hoax, and his Republican lackeys who have continued to challenge vaccine mandates, often discrediting the vaccines themselves, leading to the emergence of variants that keep the virus spreading, enabling the pandemic to hurt an otherwise humming economy, causing labor shortages, disrupting the supply chain, and hence abetting inflation?

Have they forgotten that it was Biden and the Democrats who passed the child tax credit so many Americans had been receiving on a monthly basis through last December, decreasing child poverty by nearly half, until Republicans refused to support legislation to extend it?

While the Pennsylvania man I referenced above talked about for whom he would be voting, his comment begs the question of whether the media and Americans have forgotten about January 6 and the spate of voter suppression laws pushed and passed by Republican legislatures across the nation.

Without a doubt, I agree with the 68 percent of Americans who say that America is on the wrong track. But here’s why:

White supremacist groups are on the rise, emboldened by Republicans who refuse to hold them accountable.

The Republicans in league with Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema have effectively blocked legislation to restore voting rights, threatening American democracy and enabling authoritarianism and minority rule.  They have also blocked legislation that would address climate change; lower the costs of education, child care, and health care for Americans; provide paid family leave; extend the child tax credit; and more.

Is Biden really responsible for failing to unify America? For not passing legislation to make Americans’ lives more affordable and just plain better?

The Republicans have lain in the weeds, hiding in plain sight and remaining silent, simply obstructing, letting the media blame Biden and neglect the real causes of American discontent and crisis.

This amnesia threatens to push Americans back to the authoritarianism we so narrowly escaped–by a hair!–in the 2020 election.

We will lose our democracy and our well-being if we continue to ignore reality and forget our most recent history.