A Law of Political Physics

Sir Isaac Newton’s third law of motion holds: “Whenever one object exerts a force on a second object, the second object exerts an equal and opposite force on the first.” An example cited by NASA is that “the motion of a jet engine produces thrust and hot exhaust gases flow out the back of the engine, and a thrusting force is produced in the opposite direction.”

Speaking of hot air, I’ve found that swamp critters up excrement creek without a paddle constantly use political rhetoric that exaggerates, misleads, massages, and above all repeats their message ad nauseum. When reality threatens to creep in and ruin your political goals, push back even harder, with an unequal and opposite reaction.

Case in point: the Democrats’ messaging around their “Inflation Reduction Act.” The corporate left-wing media has been filled with reports that the $485 billion package, along with abortion and “Orange Man Bad,” has not only salvaged Democratic hopes for the midterm elections, but sent them soaring. The new law will allegedly be offset with $790 billion of additional revenue and savings over a decade by raising corporate taxes. Yes, only in the swamp can spending almost half-a-trillion dollars be considered “savings.”

But, like the law’s deceitful title, this, too, is part and parcel of the Democrats’ unequal, opposite reaction to political reality. Aiming to fire up the base and sway enough independents, the Democrats hope their messaging will overcome their dismal performance and produce an electoral victory that retains their control of both the U.S. House and Senate. 

It will be a tough row to hoe. According to the Wall Street Journal’s reporting on the Inflation [Production] Act, a recent poll finds Biden underwater with a job rating of 45 percent approving and 54 percent disapproving. On the specific issues, his numbers are equally disheartening; handling inflation and rising costs (39-59 percent); securing the border (34-57 percent); and fighting crime (35-52 percent).

In one area Biden is doing well: lowering drug prices (54-32 percent). Ostensibly, successfully capping prescription drug costs and allowing the government to negotiate drug prices to lower them are part of the new law. This puts in play our law of political physics:  how to properly message the small thing you’ve done that people actually like so they forget all the big things you’ve done that they hate?

Unwittingly, the Wall Street Journal poll provides a vivid example: The poll of “1,313 registered voters . . . conducted Aug. 17-25, 2022 by cellphone, landline and text-to-web (with a) margin of error was 2.7 percentage points” found that

41% of voters favor the new law and 38% oppose it, with 20% saying they didn’t know enough about the plan. Those views were largely split along party lines, with 78% of Democrats favoring the law and 77% of Republicans opposing it. Independents were divided, with 35% in favor and 35% opposed.

In a deeply divided nation, this makes sense. Biden’s party likes it; the opposing party does not; leaning independents tilt toward their predispositions; and pure independents want more information. What follows however, is heavy political messaging:

When told about components of the law, including its ability to allow Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices and expand domestic energy sources, 51% of the poll’s respondents said they favored the plan, 33% said they opposed it and 15% said they were unsure. The biggest shift in support was with swing voters—people who didn’t identify as Democrat or Republican—suggesting Mr. Biden has an opportunity with that group.

Thus, we see a textbook example of political messaging producing the desired unequal opposite reaction to the legislative action taken. 

Omitting or downplaying the unpleasant aspects of the new law, such as tax hikes that will be passed on to consumers, 87,000 new Internal Revenue Service agents, the lack of a prohibition on audits of people earning under $400,000, etc., will artificially lower opposition to the bill. 

Repeat ad nauseum the flattering narrative, diminish or ignore entirely all other aspects of the legislation, usually with the indulgent assistance of the corporate media, and—cowabunga!—a “blue wave” is born.

Still, best not to bust out one’s surfboard, just yet. For the biggest omissions and obstacles to the Democrats retaining control of Congress still remain. While the poll was taken after the Dobbs decision, which showed an increase in pro-abortion voters’ intensity, it was largely finished before Biden’s arbitrary partial cancellation of student loan debts and his odd, dark speech denouncing half the country as a threat. Further, the economic picture remains grim, and Biden’s approval rating, generally, and on the aforementioned issues (save prescription drugs), specifically, remain at levels that historically tend to produce “wave elections” for the opposing party.

At this juncture, the GOP capturing one or both chambers of Congress isn’t a certainty, but it is a distinct possibility. If there is a confluence of scientific and political physics, and a “red wave” manifests itself as the electorate’s equal and opposite reaction to Biden and the abysmal performance of his lackey Democratic Congress, no doubt Sir Isaac would approve.

About Thaddeus G. McCotter

An American Greatness contributor, the Hon. Thaddeus G. McCotter (M.C., Ret.) represented Michigan’s 11th Congressional district from 2003 to 2012 and served as Chair of the Republican House Policy Committee. Not a lobbyist, he is a frequent public speaker and moderator for public policy seminars, and a Monday co-host of the "John Batchelor Show" among sundry media appearances.

Photo: iStock/GETTY IMAGES

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