Washington Post/ABC poll asks a question from an alternate universe

A Republican majority in either house of Congress would bring legislating in Washington to a convulsive halt, and empower extremist committee chairman to launch inquisitions the likes of which would make Benghazi look like a baby shower.

They’ve said as much themselves.

Today’s GOP is not the pre-Trump (or pre-McConnell) GOP. It is single-mindedly devoted to destruction of the Democratic agenda and the Democratic president. Its leaders don’t compromise. They have no legislative agenda beyond obstruction. Their goal is complete control of the government and, quite possibly, permanent minority rule.

Given the extremism of today’s GOP, it was shocking to see the latest Washington Post/ABC News poll ask about the midterms in the most reality-denying, normalizing way you could possibly imagine:

Would you rather see the next Congress controlled by the (Republicans, to act as a  check on Biden), or controlled by the (Democrats, to support Biden’s agenda)?

Suggesting that a Republican majority would be a “check” on Biden is sort of like saying a nuclear bomb would be a “check” on population growth. In both cases, these “checks” are indiscriminate and fatal. And both assertions are wildly understated.

This could almost have been a Republican “push poll,” with the pollster’s goal to encourage voting for toxic extremism in the name of restoring balance.

Now, one could argue that the question is useful for comparison purposes, since it was asked at least three times in the past, of Trump. And, indeed, the comparison is sobering. The numbers weren’t that different when things were flipped the other way.

But accepting it as an accurate description of where we stand? In an article for a major, respected news organization? Who would do that?

The answer, sadly, is Dan Balz, who had the lead byline on the Post’s poll story. He wrote, with nary a caveat:

Asked whether they would prefer the next Congress to be in the hands of Republicans acting as a check against the president or in Democratic hands to support Biden’s priorities, 50 percent of adults say they would rather have Republicans in charge on Capitol Hill while 40 percent prefer the Democrats.

Like this was just any other midterm! As if the modern Republican Party hadn’t been taken over by its authoritarian, white nationalist, race-baiting, violence-inciting, shameless, and unhinged base.

Loyal readers of Press Watch will know by now to beware the Dan Balz byline, because what follows is likely to be a toxic spew of both-siderism rooted in a catechism of immaculate polarization (no one is responsible; it just happened.)

Once a reliable conduit of this town’s conventional wisdom, he now writes sweeping, above-the-fray dispatches from an alternate universe where Republican congressional leaders are people like Howard Baker and Gerald Ford, not Mitch McConnell and Kevin McCarthy.

The other awful thing about the Post/ABC poll was that it represented a huge missed opportunity.

Polling is a marvelous way of unraveling mysteries, if you ask the right questions.

We already know, for instance, that people are feeling negatively about the economy despite the fact that it’s mostly booming. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen a variation on the headline: “The economy is strong but voters aren’t feeling it. That’s bad for Biden.

A good poll would ask: Why? Is it because of their personal experience? Or it because of what they hear and read on the news?

Is it all about inflation? How much have they experienced themselves? Or is it what they’ve heard and read on the news?

Then I would ask what is turning out to be the most important question of all: What is your main source of news?

I would get specific, because while the main distinction is obviously between actual news sources and purveyors of propaganda and disinformation, there’s also a surprisingly big difference in the tone of economic coverage between, say, the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post. (The former is way more positive about the economy than the latter.)

The crosstabs would be epic.

A good poll, in short, would explore the media’s own culpability in creating this funk about the economy, despite the fact that the Biden presidency has seen record job gains, declining unemployment, robust wage gains especially for low-income workers, and GDP growth not seen in decades.

But then again, maybe the media organizations that pay for these polls don’t want to know the answer.


  1. Nailed it. Corporate media, supposedly “left-wing” or “liberal” ones like NYT and WaPo included, are going all-out to put Republicans back in the Congressional driver’s seat, because, corporations.

    Jeff Bezos is not a fire-breathing liberal. He’s a billionaire with a vested interest in NOT letting Joe Biden fulfill his campaign promises. The Post has turned into an almost unrecognizable caricature of itself under his ownership.

    Independent voices like yours, nonprofit media like Mother Jones, and grass-roots citizen journalism is the only thing that can keep us informed in this Propaganda Age.

  2. I don’t think Bezos dictates what WaPo publishes. There’s no indication of it anywhere, and let’s not blame the poor reporting of not only WaPo but most of the mainstream media on him. Besides, why would pessimistic reporting on the economy be a good thing for Bezos, anyway? When people worry about the economy, they stop spending.

    US media loves to report on bad news more than good, especially when it concerns a Democratic president most of them see as having been elected as the anti-Trump and who isn’t as much fun to cover as Donald Trump. The press also is keenly aware of its power to create news, by fomenting a take on reality that stands to benefit them. Ruining a presidency falls under that power, and they’re doing it.


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