According to recent polling, 68 percent of Americans believe the country has “pretty seriously gotten off on the wrong track.”
Tune into your major news outlet, and chances are the political “reporting” will weave a narrative, rooted in historical political “analysis,” that such polling figures are rather foreboding for Biden’s presidency and certainly for Democrats’ prospects in this year’s mid-term elections.
This media-driven narrative, though, isn’t news and isn’t reporting. It’s a prediction that threatens to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Even worse, this narrative itself forwards, and is founded on, a bedrock of gross misinformation.
The dominant misinformation pervading what is becoming a dangerously bedrock narrative is that Biden is the cause and not the cure for the ills and angst Americans perceive as plaguing their lives.
Here’s a chief and illuminating example of what I’m talking about.
Earlier this month, the Supreme Court struck down the Biden administration’s mandate, a workplace rule issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), requiring companies with 100 or more employees to ensure their employees are vaccinated, wear masks, or test negative on a weekly basis.
Let’s put the magnitude of this decision, a major counterforce to Biden’s governing made by a formidable decision-making, indeed ruling, body that plays a significant role in determining how we in the nation are governed. It may be these nine individuals fulfill a rather outsized role, as appointed rather than elected rule-makers, in making decisions for some 350 million of us.
Polling shows that the COVID-19 pandemic is a chief concern among Americans and that 44 percent of Americans believe the Biden administration is doing a poor job of handling the pandemic.
Interestingly enough, 58 percent of Americans believe it is a “top priority” for congress to spur economic recovery by providing stimulus and relief.
So what’s the problem with media reporting I’m pointing out here?
Well, instead of simply reporting what Americans believe, which is a kind of truth certainly of import and worth knowing, the media can also fill in the larger contextual reality and truth.
What is this truth? Well, one part of it is that in fact the Biden administration, and Democrats for that matter, are trying to manage the pandemic through all the means we know work to curb its transmission and mutation and to mitigate its impact and virulence by insisting on vaccination, mask-wearing, and testing.
Honestly, dear media, what else can he do? What would you have him do?
Congressional Republicans remain largely silent, vociferate against vaccination and mask mandates, or continue to insist the COVID pandemic is a hoax and Dr. Fauci is evil.
The Supreme Court, as mentioned, effectively stripped a federal agency of its congressionally-endowed authority to do its job, with the conservative majority writing in its unsigned opinion:
“Although Congress has indisputably given OSHA the power to regulate occupational dangers, it has not given that agency the power to regulate public health more broadly. Requiring the vaccination of 84 million Americans, selected simply because they work for employers with more than 100 employees, certainly falls in the latter category.”
The liberal justices excoriated their conservative counterparts for, unlike the experts at OSHA,”lacking any knowledge of how to safeguard workplaces” and being “insulated from responsibility for any damage it causes.” They continued, emphasizing how these Republican-appointed ideologues were in fact undermining the national effort to manage the pandemic and protect American lives, writing in their dissent:
“In the face of a still-raging pandemic, this court tells the agency charged with protecting worker safety that it may not do so in all the workplaces needed. As disease and death continue to mount, this court tells the agency that it cannot respond in the most effective way possible. Without legal basis, the court usurps a decision that rightfully belongs to others. It undercuts the capacity of the responsible federal officials, acting well within the scope of their authority, to protect American workers from grave danger.”
The media could report the truth that while polls may show Americans hold Biden accountable for not managing the pandemic effectively, it is of course other forces like congressional Republicans and conservative Supreme Court Justices who are in fact the real obstacles to ending the pandemic.
It’s not rocket science; it’s simply basic science and common-sense public policy, which is what Biden pointed out in his comments on the Supreme Court decision:
“I am disappointed that the Supreme Court has chosen to block common-sense life-saving requirements for employees at large businesses that were grounded squarely in both science and the law.”
And we also know that, while Americans blame Biden for his handling of what is an incredibly successful economy, the key to full recovery, to dealing with supply chain disruptions, and addressing labor shortages is precisely to get the pandemic under control.
Indeed, just last Friday CBS reported that a record 9 million Americans were out sick and missing work because of COVID.
This shortage of workers makes it hard for products to be manufactured, transported, and distributed. It’s that simple. Republican obstructionism and Supreme Court decisions made by the conservative majority are what has fueled the pandemic and thrown a wrench into an otherwise humming economy.
It wouldn’t be hard for the media to report this factual context to qualify the extent to which Americans’ beliefs as captured in polls are not in line with reality. In fact, this should be a primary objective of the media in this age of misinformation.
And of course, while Americans are concerned about the government providing economic relief and stimulus, it is an obvious and paramount fact that no Republicans supported the American Rescue Act or the child tax credit that helped so many Americans weather the pandemic’s economic storm.
The way the media tends to slant the story, somehow Republican leadership is the cure for the suffering of Americans, and they have forgotten the four years of Trump’s and Republicans’ rule.
While Biden is trying to fix problems and steer the ship of state in the right direction, these substantial Republican counterforces continue to undermine the U.S. economy and put Americans’ lives and health at risk.
Tim Libretti is a professor of U.S. literature and culture at a state university in Chicago. A long-time progressive voice, he has published many academic and journalistic articles on culture, class, race, gender, and politics, for which he has received awards from the Working Class Studies Association, the International Labor Communications Association, the National Federation of Press Women, and the Illinois Woman’s Press Association.