Posted on Wednesday, November 19, 2008
One of the Republican right’s most successful inventions has been
liberal media bias. Even as the “mainstream” press has trended
rightward, the liberal-bias trope has had two big advantages in keeping
the party faithful, well, faithful. First, it allowed devotees to reject
any and all information at odds with GOP dogma. Second, it preserved the
sense of victimization essential to the right-wing world view. In
reality, the Washington political media have been functionally
pro-Republican for years. The so-called Gang of 500 long ago abandoned
journalistic ethics for those of the entertainment industry. They’re
celebrities, and as such would-be insiders and front-runners. Liberal
media? During the Clinton administration, this cohort flogged the
make-believe Whitewater scandal for years. They went hysterical over
Bill Clinton’s sexual sins and sustained false derogatory stories about
Al Gore during the 2000 election (invented the Internet, “Love Story,”
etc.). After that, the nation’s premier newspapers, specifically The New
York Times and The Washington Post, got suckered into running
single-source, frontpage propaganda about Saddam Hussein’s nonexistent
weapons of mass destruction. The embedded mainstream media treated the
subsequent invasion of Iraq as the world’s biggest Boy Scout jamboree
until chaos in Baghdad became impossible to ignore.
So was it shocking after Barack Obama’s election to find pundits on TV
with warnings such as that America remains a conservative country and he
must “discipline" the “ardent activists” who elected him by engaging
“interests that usually ally with Republicans”? That was the estimable
Ron Brownstein’s advice on MSNBC.
Newsweek editor Jon Meacham cautioned that despite Obama’s win, “we’re
still a center-right nation.” On CNN, the network that conservatives
view with horror, correspondent John King allowed that “the electorate
voted for Barack Obama, but still perceives him to be a liberal.”
Having made “inroads in communities that not too long ago voted
Republican,” King said, “the last thing you want to do if you want to
keep them four years from now is to alienate them with a liberal
Did Obama get largely favorable press coverage during the campaign? He
did. Largely, I think, because he was so clearly winning. Undying
Clinton hatred also played a part during the primaries. My friend Bob
Somerby of the Daily Howler Web site is only half-joking when he says
the Gang of 500 finally found something they cared about: their own
So should Obama heed them now? Not if he wants to be a successful
president. Arguing over meaningless phrases like “center-right” vs.
“center-left” would be foolish. While much of the electorate may be
uneasy about what they’ve been taught liberals think about symbolic
social issues like abortion, guns and gay marriage, strong majorities
agree with Democratic approaches on more concrete matters.
Never mind that Democrats have won the popular vote in four out of the
last five presidential elections. A recent CNN/Opinion Research Corp.
poll showed that “59 percent of those questioned think that Democratic
control of both the executive and legislative branches will be good for
the country.” Only 38 percent disagree. The rejection of George W. Bush
and Bushism could hardly be clearer.
Joshua Holland compiled additional data in a Nov. 10 posting at
alternet. org. On issue after bread-and-butter issue, he found, “a
significant majority of the electorate fully supports the center-left
agenda advanced by the liberal wing of today’s Democratic Party.” Among
the items cited:
Americans support an increased minimum wage by a ratio of 4-to-1.
According to a Gallup Poll, 5 percent think corporate taxes are too
high, 71 percent think they’re too low.
84 percent favor stricter pollution limits and tax credits for
alternative energy development.
Expanding public works projects, probably the single most useful thing
Obama could do to stimulate the economy, is favored by 82 percent.
Further, according to an ABC News/ Washington Post poll conducted last
June, Americans favored “providing health care coverage for all
Americans, even if it means raising taxes” by more than 2-to-1. A
Quinnipiac University survey found that 61 percent agree that it’s “the
government’s responsibility to make sure that everyone in the United
States has adequate health care.” Just 35 percent disagreed. On foreign
policy and national security issues, there’s similar support for
Democratic ideas. According to a survey by Foreign Affairs magazine,
voters asked to rank strategies for making the nation safer chose
improving intelligence (63 percent) and less dependence on foreign
energy (55 percent). For all the Beltway chatter about confronting Iran,
only 17 percent favored “attacking countries that develop weapons of
mass destruction.” In short, if Obama ignores the gasbags and leads,
Americans will follow.
—–––––•–––––—Free-lance columnist Gene Lyons is a Little Rock author and
recipient of the National Magazine Award.