An unstated but obvious unofficial policy of the New York Times is to undercut the Democratic Party in news stories, even as it pretends to support virtually all of the positions that Democrats hold in its editorials.
The game this year consists of using the heavily-charged word “socialist” as much as possible to describe the more left-leaning Democrats while playing up a supposed generational divide between more progressive millennials and their centrist-leaning elders. As we will see, it’s a completely false narrative meant to suppress the Democratic vote and drive independents to hold their nose and vote for Trump’s-boot-licking Republicans. (Begging the question: Is that “boot” or “bootie” to which servile GOP candidates have placed their puckered lips.)
This Sunday’s Times followed this false narrative to a tee. Both the front page lead story and the lead story of the national news page focused exclusively on the divide between mainstream Democrats and the charismatic Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other progressives who have won primaries. Both articles stress that Ocasio-Cortez, Bernie Sanders and others call themselves democratic socialists; sometimes the articles sometimes drop the “democratic.”
The problem is the Times never defines what a democratic socialist is and what democratic socialism stands for.
“Socialism,” of course has long been a dirty word in the United States invoking totalitarianism and complete social control to the right-wing and to the many centrists brainwashed by decades of fear of the Soviet Union’s corrupt and autocratic version of socialism. Right-wingers have long labeled such government programs as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and food stamps as “socialist” in hopes of convincing the public that because socialism was bad, so were these programs. They’ve labelled regulatory efforts as socialist. Their arguments would fail miserably unless the public accepted the premise that socialism was evil.
Which of course, it’s not. Historically, socialism referred to the government collectively owning and administering the means of production and distribution of goods. But in the real world, there’s a vast continuum of government intervention and control. Europe provides a number of models of democratic socialism: governments addressing social challenges such as health care, retirement and education; unions having a greater say in the management of companies or in the development of national industrial policy; greater regulation of businesses to protect the environment or consumers or set standards of employment and wages. The European democracies, Japan, Canada, and—let’s face it—even the United States all have mixed economies that graft various socialist solutions onto private enterprise and the free market.
By not getting into any of what constitutes democratic socialism, the Times let’s stand the decades of fear-mongering rightwing demonization of the word “socialism.”
Moreover, the Times attempts to exaggerate the differences between more centrist and more leftist Democrats by never talking about what those differences are. The headline of one of the articles says “Democrats Are Bracing for a Progressive Storm Brewing Far to the Left.” The articles quote a number of Democrats suggesting that extreme differences exist between mainstream Democrats and the candidates subscribing to “hard-left ideology.”
Yet in the two articles, which stretch across more than two pages of text and photographs, only three times does the Times mention what position any Democrat has on any issue. A phrase of text and a photo caption point out that Ben Jealous, running for governor in Maryland, is in favor of single payer health care. The other reference is this weird sentence referring to voters in Republican districts: “Across most of the approximately 60 Republican-held districts that Democrats are contesting, primary voters have chosen candidates who seem to embody change — many of them women and minorities — but who have not necessarily endorsed positions like single-payer health care and abolishing the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency.” The only way to understand that sentence in the context of the article is to assume that single-payer and a desire to dismantle ICE are extremist positions with which mainstream Dems disagree.
The Times never mentions what the differences between the “far left” and the rest of the party are, never does an issue-by-issue comparison. And there’s a good reason for it. There are few real differences, and those that exist are quibbles, at best. While I’m quite confident that large numbers of Democrats do not want to see ICE abolished, virtually all want to see it reformed. Surveys suggest that most Dems like the single-payer concept when presented to them as “Medicare for all.”
Now let’s look at the large number of issues that the Times doesn’t mention. Surveys tell us that that virtually all Democrats:
- Want to raise the minimum wage. The quibble in the past election cycle was that Bernie wanted to raise it to $15 right away, whereas Hillary wanted to do so over a period of time.
- Want more government support of public education, especially higher education.
- Think the tax package passed late last year was a giveaway to the rich and want to raise taxes on the wealthy and corporations.
- Want to give the Dreamers a path to citizenship and help refugees seeking asylum in the United States.
- Are against the dismantling of regulations that protect the environment and consumers.
- Support a woman’s right to an abortion and fear that Roe v. Wade may be overturned.
- Support the Mueller investigation and want to prosecute any American who collaborated with the Russians to fix the election in favor of any candidate.
Most of all, virtually every Democrat wants to rein in Donald Trump by electing a Congress that is not afraid to overrule his actions with legislation and make certain that his appointees are competent and not irrational ideologues or thieving cronies.
As we have seen, all Democrats pretty much share the same basic views, especially when contrasted with the Trumpublicans. The only way to conceal this underlying unity, however, is not to mention or talk about issues, something that the Times news staff has proven itself quite capable of doing.