I am dismayed by the number of house seats that fell to Republicans in yesterday’s election, and a little surprised. Although I study the impact of propaganda every day, it still befuddles me whenever I see people falling for a line of hooey, even if it is fed to them in large doses day after day, by the news media.
And make no mistake about it: the single largest factor contributing to Republicans recapturing the House of Representatives so emphatically is the mainstream news media, which for the past 18 months have told the story of national issues and the election campaign completely from the Republican point of view.
Here are some specific actions that the mainstream news media took to help Republicans, all of them documented in the OpEdge entries over the past year and a half:
- Reported on health care reform and other issues from the Republican point of view. Let’s take healthcare reform as an example: the news media did not clearly explain what the legislation would do; reported false information about death panels and loss of benefits; highlighted side shows such as covering abortions; defined the terms of the debate in ways that would help the Republicans; and did not educate citizens on the degree of private sector involvement in current government healthcare programs.
- Gave more coverage to right-wing rallies and widely reported the outlandish estimates for these affairs, while providing minimum coverage to rallies of progressives and Democrats.
- Focused coverage on right-wing anger, e.g., at healthcare reform, and not on left-wing anger, e.g., that reform did not go far enough.
- Played into the short-term thinking that gave Republicans a free pass for 8 years of destructive policies, but blamed our economic woes on less than 2 years of Obama rule.
- Covered only the Republican primaries in national news, virtually ignoring all Democratic races. For some reason, national media could find not one Democratic primary race that had any national significance or unusual angle.
- Gave much more extensive coverage to the Republican candidates during the election season, especially in human interest stories.
What the news media couldn’t do is prettify the extremist statements of the most prominent Tea Party candidates. I have identified 10 Tea partiers who received extensive coverage in national news media and strong backing from Sarah Palin. Their record: 3-7, with all the women going down to defeat. For Republicans, though, it’s a little better, since one of the Tea Party’s “Big 10” lost to a Republican.
Here’s the tally:
Angle/Senator Nevada – LOSE
Fiorina/Senator California – LOSE
McMahon/Senator Connecticut – LOSE
Miller/Senator Alaska – LOSE to Republican Murkowski
O’Donnell/Senator Maryland – LOSE
Paladino/Governor New York – LOSE
Paul/Senator Kentucky – WIN
Rubio/Senator Florida – WIN
Toomey/Senator Pennsylvania – WIN
Whitman/Governor California – LOSE
The less extremist Republicans who did win are still to the right of where most voters stand on particular issues, such as specific clauses in healthcare reform, the need to provide continuing unemployment benefits and the role of government in repairing our frayed infrastructure. But the Republicans did not win on issues; they won on a big-picture message: The Democrats made the recession worse than it could have been by expanding government interference in the economy.
For those who are blaming the Democrats for failure to make their basic messages—and there are many on both sides of the aisle making that claim—I respond: isn’t it the mainstream news media that rejected the Democrats’ basic messages? Of course it is. The messages that the recession would have been worse without government intervention and that we need more financial regulation were fine and accurate. They would have resonated with voters if allowed to get through to them. Instead, the news media preferred to present unmitigated anger and frustration, proposing in the commentary that these emotions were only bubbling up on the right.