Nov
24
2008

The Post and the 'Center-Right' Con Game

Under the headline "Pollsters Debate America's Political Realignment," the Washington Post's Robert Kaiser tries to weigh the arguments about the political makeup of the United States in light of the 2008 election. But Kaiser's rendition of this debate only serves to confuse matters.

There are basically two sides to this clash: those who say the country is still "center-right," politically speaking, and those who think the country is moving in a more progressive direction. Kaiser seems aware that the latter group is probably more correct, but tries to undercut this conclusion:

The election results, the exit polls and the polling since Election Day all provide evidence for the liberals' refutation of this conventional wisdom, but the argument is complicated by the fact that it is conducted by ideological commentators and concerns a country that has never been very ideological.

It's not unusual that liberal commentators might try to make this argument; why this is a problem is not clear.

Kaiser gets some credit for discussing the problems of relying on exit polling about how voters categorize themselves (as liberal, conservative or moderate). Since these reponses are often cited by the "center-right" crowd (because more voters say they are "conservative" than "liberal"), he's pointing to one more weakness in their argument.

But Kaiser still doesn't want to render judgment. He writes:

Whatever the appropriate label, substantial majorities of the voters of 2008 want the war in Iraq to end as soon as possible. Large majorities favor affordable health insurance for everyone, a fairer distribution of wealth and income, and higher taxes on the rich. They want to preserve traditional Social Security. They want more effective government regulation of the financial sector.

Really now–how hard would it be to characterize a voter who wants to withdraw from Iraq, raise taxes on the wealthy and provide healthcare for all? Kaiser seems to need the argument to remain cloudy– he summons up one polling question to shore up the idea that things are still unsettled:

The same exit poll also asked which of two statements respondents agreed with: "On healthcare, we need to act boldly to address the problems" or "On healthcare, we need to act step-by-step to address the problems." Forty-six percent agreed with the first statement, but 50 percent endorsed the second.

Such flashes of native caution or conservatism are common.

That response seems to say less about "flashes of native caution or conservatism," and more about a confusingly worded survey question– especially since it's so out of line with other polling on the same issue.

In a sense, the debate about the "center-right" or "center-left" America has to remain unsettled in the corporate media. If it weren't, people might catch on to the fact that much of the media leans to the right on these core issues.

About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.