Among the dumber tweets on the internet this week was one by New York Times reporter Shane Goldmacher, in which he blurted out his thoughts on a TV campaign ad by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
“Not your typical fall pivot to the middle here,” said Goldmacher, who, like virtually everyone else in the national media, is under the delusion that he actually knows where the political center is.
That he doesn’t have the faintest clue is made plain by the fact that the ad he was commenting on wasn’t even political. It was a spoof on the “Top Gun” movie (instead, “Top Gov”) featuring clips of DeSantis’s many confrontations with reporters.
Contrary to what people like Goldmacher believe, voters aren’t as concerned about the media being treated sweetly as the media are. If anything, voters often like it when they’re not.
But as far as actual policy goes, DeSantis is literally the middle. His approval rating is two points higher than his disapproval, according to a recent University of North Florida poll. Majorities of Floridians supported what has arguably been DeSantis’s most controversial decision: signing into law a bill that restricted elementary teachers from instructing children on sexual identity. (Nearly half of even Democrats supported it.) DeSantis has consistently received majority approval ratings on his administration’s Covid response and its handling of the state’s economy.
The only major policy issue where DeSantis might be outside Florida’s mainstream is in his advocacy for the new law that restricts abortions after 15 weeks of fetal development (Abortion bias in particular, however, tends to skew polling heavily against pro-lifers). One University of North Florida poll found 57 percent of state voters opposed the measure. Not exactly a blowout.
Yet a news article in the New York Times just this week described DeSantis as “contrarian” and “polarizing.” The paper called his political agenda “strident” and “hard-right.” And, naturally, the Times faulted DeSantis for “stoking cultural issues.”
This is like when the media referred to every single thing Donald Trump said during the 2016 campaign as “extreme,” which quickly became a synonym for “popular with a majority of Republicans and independents.” Trump’s proposed “ban” on Muslims entering the U.S. was indisputably his most brazen declaration of the election season. So “extreme” was Trump’s call for a ban on noncitizen Muslims that a YouGov poll found that more than half of Americans supported it. Among just independent voters, support was at an astounding 62 percent.
Even in politics, the “middle” should be an easy space to identify. But the media never have any idea where it is.