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The Party That Cried Wolf: Why the Media Didn't Care About the Lame Duck

Why didn’t the neutral press buy the idea that the lame duck session was illegitimate?

It’s an idea that has surface appeal, I would think. Huge landslide: why should Democrats be allowed to exploit a Constitutional quirk to pass a large chunk of their now-discredited agenda? Jonathan Chait, for example, basically buys the idea. So why didn’t the neutral press, the Broders of the world, get all up in arms about the fraudulent lame duck session?

My guess? (And, yes, it’s only a guess). I suspect that the GOP cried wolf once too often. Democrats were ignoring the will of the voters by moving ahead with health care reform after the New Jersey and Virginia gubernatorial elections in November 2009; they were most certainly ignoring the will of the voters after Scott Brown was elected in January 2010. Then the Democrats, we were told, were abusing Congressional rules by using a perfectly ordinary procedure (reconciliation) to pass ACA. And, of course, that’s on top of the fringe stuff, the birthers and the ACORN theorists, who would have us believe that the 2008 election wasn’t on the level. 

I just wonder whether Republican spin just went one step too far, and it backfired to the extent that their plausible spin in this case was treated as partisan nonsense.

Granted, there are other reasons that the GOP spin might have failed to catch on this time around (the establishment press may just have liked the bills that were passing, for example). And it’s not as if there isn’t a case for lame duck legislating, beginning with the clear fact that it’s been part of the Constitutional plan from the beginning, for better or worse. Also, as always, I’m not at all that winning the spin war on this matters a whole lot.

Still, I’d be real interested in hearing some of the reporters from the neutral press talk about how and why they evaluated GOP process claims during the lame duck. From my subjective point of view, it sure seemed different than how they reacted earlier this year.