Kevin McCarthy reinforces a right-wing frame

The passage of the Civil Rights bill by the Iowa legislature is undoubtedly a victory for progressives.

I was very disappointed, though, when I opened up the Des Moines Register today and read the article on page 1 of the Metro section. Here’s the third paragraph:

“It is a historic vote,” said House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a Des Moines Democrat. “I also think it was a mainstream vote. This was not some sort of liberal social agenda. This is just saying that under housing and employment, people should not be discriminated based upon their real or perceived sexual orientation.”

What have Des Moines Register readers just learned?

1. the “liberal social agenda” is outside the mainstream

2. mainstream = good, “liberal social agenda” = not so good

3. even that Democratic guy is kind of embarrassed about the liberal social agenda

I understand what McCarthy was trying to say: this is not gay marriage, this is not even civil unions, this is no-brainer anti-discrimination protection. This should not be controversial.

But when Democratic Party leaders reinforce the idea that things supported by liberals are outside the mainstream, they are continuing the work of those like Newt Gingrich who have tried for decades to demonize liberals.

Imagine Chris Rants bragging about the passage of a bill by saying, “This was a mainstream vote. This was not some sort of conservative social agenda.”

That would never happen, because Republican leaders know better than to frame their party’s base as on the fringe of public opinion.

McCarthy could have said something along the lines of, “This was a mainstream vote. This reflects the growing consensus in the United States that it’s not ok to discriminate against someone because of their real or perceived sexual orientation.”

  • Great post

    We will always lose when are leaders speak in the language of our opponents.  McCarthy definitely needs a lesson on framing the issue or he needs to switch parties like Lieberman did.

    • our tent is getting tiny

      So a D frames the issue “wrong” and he needs to become an R? – While I agree with desmoinesdem’s analysis, it’s still just about rhetoric and framing. 

      • Personally, I don't think McCarthy meant to frame it wrong

        I think he meant to say what he did. McCarthy is very centrist and a former Liberman supporter.  McCarthy doesn’t want people to think Liberal views are mainstream, he wants people to think that Centrist and Republican-lite views are mainstream.

        • I agree that he wants to distance himself

          from the liberal wing of the party. He has never set out to be the hero of Iowa progressives.

          We can have a big tent, but I prefer centrists who don’t go out of their way to cut down liberals and liberalism when speaking to the media. This is why someone like Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska bothers me less than Joe Lieberman, who has a more liberal voting record but tends to repeat Republican frames when speaking to journalists.

  • Touche!

    Thanks for scolding anyone who doesn’t know that liberalism is good for America.

    BTW, Lieberman didn’t switch parties.  He lost the primary and created a ‘party’ of one so that he wouldn’t be a man without a party.

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