You see it on Fox News, the Drudge Report, Breitbart… You hear it on Rush Limbaugh and all the guys who sound like Rush Limbaugh.
Republicans in Congress pick up the message, nearly word for word, and soon it spills into network news for a “bombshell report.” Next thing you know, mendacious Mitt is on CBS This Morning saying that the president was “dishonest,” moments after the former GOP nominee for president admitted that his entire stand on immigration was a sham.
It’s moments like this that the right-wing attack machine lives for.
This is exactly why former TV producer and Nixon operative Roger Ailes created a nationwide “conservative” news network. This is why right-wing “think tanks” spend millions creating and disseminating talking points. This is how Republicans won a massive landslide in 2010, as America was in the midst of a Great Recession, two wars and record deficits—all things a Republican president had led us into.
President Obama handed Republicans a gift in the form of a promise that could not be kept. While the line, “If you like your plan, you can keep it” is technically true and is still valid for 95 percent of Americans with insurance, it was proven a “lie” by the right-wing media using a mountain of cancelation notices as evidence.
The truth about these cancelations is astoundingly complex.
Private insurers often made the notices seem more dire in order to try to push their customers into more expensive plans. Most of the millions who got them will end up in plans just as good as or better than what they had before. Many will pay less. All will be accepted into some plan if they want one. This wasn’t true of the pre-Affordable Care Act (ACA) world, where millions had their insurance canceled each year and millions more couldn’t get coverage at all because of the discrimination against people with pre-existing conditions. And all of the troubles were multiplied exponentially by the disastrous launch of Healthcare.gov, eliminating any hope that the negative stories might be balanced by the more than 25 million Americans who will get partially or fully subsidized health insurance.
The right-wing media, of course, had no interest in the vagaries of the cancelations. They had a “lie” and suddenly President Obama had a “Katrina.”
There are two examples of the right-wing attack machine in action that can give us a preview of how this will play out.
The worst-case scenario for Democrats, recently, was the stimulus. Before it even became law, conservative operatives trumped up examples of “wasteful spending” that they said would be a part of the bill. “A private listserv served as the stimulus wing of the ‘vast right-wing conspiracy,’ injecting Republican talking points into the media bloodstream,” Mike Grunwald wrote in his book The New New Deal.