Monday, March 01, 2004

Jonathan Chait Discovers Liberal Bias 

The New Republic's Jonathan Chait discovers liberal bias in the form of media coverage of the Hate Amendment (nomenclature used by convention at G&G). He's probably right, but I think there's more to it than that (which I'll discuss below). The nut graphs:
The operating premise of these articles, and most reporting on this topic, is that only the most partisan element of Bush's base supports the amendment. Now, I should say right here that I believe that gays should have the right to marry and I find the amendment morally abhorrent. But I'm far less confident than the press that most people share my view.


Bush's support for the amendment hurts him among libertarians. But it helps him among cultural traditionalists--giving the president a way to lure blue-collar Democrats alienated by his unpopular economic policies. My understanding of the current political landscape suggests that more of the available swing voters fall into the latter category than the former. (A good guide to the composition of the electorate can be found in Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg's new book, The Two Americas.)

Why do reporters assume that the amendment is a fringe concern? Perhaps because nearly all live in big cities, among educated, relatively affluent peers, who hold liberal views on social matters. In Washington and New York, gay marriage is an utterly mainstream proposition. Unfortunately, in most of the country, it's not.
Like I said, he's probably right. But I want to point to an underlying theme of this article; one that we've here at G&G have sought to uncover since Day 1. Chait, along with TNR colleague Michelle Cottle, are perfect examples of "fraidy cat liberals" who say, "Oh, I agree with X, but 'America' won't, so let's fight against it.'" Exhibit A was Dean; this is a new (or not-so-new) example. I love gay marriage, but I'm afraid of it, so let's just talk out of both sides of our mouth and hope it goes away. Kerry is doing this, and it sucks, not least because, well, you ain't gonna out-gay bait George W. Bush. So it's not even good politics, in my mind, and it's certainly immoral and unprincipled.

Also, I stated that Chait is probably right about the bias, at least in part. On this issue, I don't mind it, because I liken it to saying "In 1963 the media was pro-civil rights act." Well, if they were, good for them. But, I think this issue has to do with more than "bias." I think the media like this issue because it's, well, easy. The sides are easy, the talking points are easy. You don't need to understand the difference between "average jobs" and "total jobs" at the heart of the 2.6 vs. 3.4 million new jobs prediction. You don't have to understand the legislative history of the Taft-Hartley Act. You just have to know (a) a gay person and (b) a married person in order to develop an understanding. So, this issue is an example of liberal bias, but is a more profound example of laziness bias.

Note to readers from Big Media: I hope this doesn't sound too harsh. I don't mean it to be. I mean, I think budgets are hard, too.
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