from the finger-on-the-pulse-of-the-nation dept
You might recall that John Oliver bit years ago about how Americans fall asleep when they hear the word “infrastructure.” We’ll obsess for hours over Elon Musk showmanship, or the innovative potential of NFTs, but the U.S. press in particular falls into a lazy stupor any time actual, essential infrastructure is mentioned. It’s a problem for a species facing an historic climate destabilization that heavily targets… infrastructure.
Anyway, here’s the bit if you missed it:
When you actually ask U.S. consumers if infrastructure is important, a huge majority of them will concede that it is. But despite the U.S. Congress passing the massive Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act late last year, an alarming number of Americans don’t actually know it even exists.
According to a recent Democratic research memo and survey, an amazing 76 percent of U.S. likely voters don’t know the infrastructure bill even passed:
Quite simply, voters do not know the bill was passed. While voters express high levels of support for the deal once they hear about it, only 24% of voters think the bill is law. Meanwhile, a plurality (37%) says they “don’t know” the status of the bill, 30% say “it is still being worked on in Congress but isn’t law yet,” and 9% believe it is not being worked on in Congress and will not be passed.
There are countless reasons for this. One being, of course, that there’s a lot going on. Another being that we’ve based truth and news on a massive, ad-driven infotainment system that prioritizes gibberish and controversy over substance. It’s kind of hard to get the public interested in unsexy but important things when we’re flooding their brains with crypto-hype and Kardashian dance offs.
But Democratic messaging, as the link above hints at, also sucks. The bill includes a massive $65 billion on broadband. Instead of exploiting a bipartisan hatred of US cable monopolies to excite voters, the DNC issued a lot of vague, nebulous, snooze-inducing rhetoric about “bridging the digital divide,” because, like the GOP, the party has a weird aversion to acknowledging that telecom monopolies exist and are harmful.
This focus on how the bill would expand broadband access primarily to folks who don’t have it (as opposed to boosting competition and improving broadband for everybody) left folks with the belief that the bill was largely about helping somebody else, not them:
There is a key distinction between providing access to clean water and internet and providing improvements to existing services. Democrats tend to focus on providing access to basic services, and this law does great work in those areas. But just as most Americans had health insurance when we debated the ACA, most Americans have access to drinkable water and decent internet and perceive conversations about access to be directed to someone else.
Some of this goes well beyond messaging. Making it clear that infrastructure money could be used to challenge widely disliked companies like Comcast and AT&T would not only offend politically powerful campaign contributors, it would anger companies we’ve effectively bone grafted to both the U.S. intelligence and law enforcement apparatus, and you simply can’t have that.
As a result you got this timid messaging about the broadband digital divide that made it sound like this money was all being thrown at somebody else, far away and well around the next bend.
The survey showcases that there’s a ton of stuff in the infrastructure bill that the public widely approves of (better drinking water, less potholes, jobs, economic improvements), that were similarly poorly messaged. And there’s ample opportunity to attack politicians that generally oppose all of this stuff (then, in some cases, turn around and take credit for it on a town by town level) that aren’t being taken advantage of.