If there’s one thing we’ve learned over the years, it’s that the media is always going soft on conservatives.
We’ve already heard many theories to explain why America may not be voting for Democrats today. Some notions are less plausible than others, but one of the most far-fetched premises coagulating on the Left today maintains that Joni Ernst might win Iowa because of the preferable media coverage the conservative has gotten.
Among other positions, Ernst has accused Barack Obama of being an apathetic “dictator.” She’s isn’t crazy about the Department of Education or the EPA – a position that’s induced widespread pearl clutching. In 2012, at a National Rifle Association meeting, she made a completely rational statement – “I believe in the right to defend myself and my family: whether it’s from an intruder, or whether it’s from the government, should they decide that my rights are no longer important” – that liberals interpret to mean the candidate is prepared to shoot parliamentarians and tax collectors.
Whatever you make of her comments (which range from the conspiratorial to mostly innocuous), the Left seems to be under the impression that voters are clueless about them. The Nation asks: “Why the Media Are Ignoring the Dangerous Ideas of Joni Ernst and Other Extremists Now on the Cusp of Power.” David Roberts at Grist, without any irony, wonders why Ernst gets away with saying all this “crazy stuff”:
Press coverage of Ernst has been almost comically soft and friendly. The Washington Post assigned a style writer (?) to follow her on the trail, resulting in a portrait of Ernst as a “biscuit-baking, gun-shooting, twangy, twinkly farm girl.” (Seriously. I’m not making that up.) That roughly captures the tone of most mainstream media coverage.
Well, if the only story about Ernst was a Washington Post profile this might be a good point. But there’s been coverage of all alleged acts of fanaticism by nearly every major media organization covering politics. Moreover, ads, like the ones bankrolled by environmentalist groups, ensured that everyone in Iowa knows that Ernst wants to destroy the environment. What’s really the problem for the Left, it seems, is that journalists too often report what Republicans say rather than drill home how crazy Democrats think Republicans are.
Since it doesn’t take more than a Google query to find that the coverage of Ernst’s candidacy has been as thorough as any, the New Republic’s Alec MacGillis has come up with an iteration of the theory that circumvents this problem: “Joni Ernst Is Going to Win Because There’s No Local Journalism to Stop Her.”
MacGillis laments that local newspapers are shrinking their operations and no longer offering voters vital information. Well, shrinking newspapers are merely a reflection of the shrinking newspaper audiences. Most voters, one imagines, get their information online, on TV, on the radio, and elsewhere. A candidate can skip an important editorial board meeting and still be competitive in a state-wide election. You’ll get no argument from me about the plague of voter ignorance. But voters have access to more information than ever before. And that’s what seems to irk Democrats most as they romanticize the days when a few newspapers could divvy out information as editors saw fit.