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Conservatives Aren't Like Normal Americans, But The Media Won't Admit That
The Right Is Weird
The mainstream media in America is addicted to telling a very specific story about America that distorts the reality of where the country stands in 2023.
This includes but is not limited to outlets like the Associated Press, New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, ABC/CBS/NBC News, which have the widest reach and influence (as does Fox News, but that is a propaganda arm of the Republican Party).
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In the language of these outlets, America is always a very “narrowly divided” nation. This adopts the frame of reference for our modern times that is supposed to distinguish now from the before times, the pre-Reagan era of purported “consensus.” According to this approach, the Republican and Democratic parties are always operating on a 50-50 razor’s edge, with issue after issue sitting right smack dab in the middle of the conservative point of view and the liberal stance.
But this is absolutely nonsensical and a huge lie.
The reality, when you take even the quickest look at a host of issues in public polling, is that conservatives generally exist in a version of the world very different from the one inhabited by a majority of normal Americans. It’s not that America is really some radical socialist left paradise, but generally speaking there is a broad consensus of understanding along the spectrum of center-left moderation to progressive viewpoints, and then off to the side are the frankly bizarre views of conservatives.
Look at this recent Gallup poll on same-sex marriage, for instance. Overall, 71% of Americans support it. We have seen steady gains over a thirty-year period in favor of it. But the one group resistant to it are “religious” conservatives. The normalcy is in favor of equal marriage, the weirdness is opposition to it.
But when this issue is covered, even now, you don’t get that sense from the mainstream press. When Republicans are campaigning against gay and trans rights, they are operating from a position of fringe extremism.
Fox News spends days and days, working from the playbook of the Nazi movement, attempting to demonize transgender people and whip up hatred among the right so Republicans get votes. The network and the rest of the right-wing media, working in concert with Republican elected officials, attacks the concept of Pride month and fearmongers about anodyne things like rainbows at the local Target, Pride flags at the White House, and comes up with nonsense like the existence of a “gay mafia.”
If the mainstream press was being honest with its viewers and readers, they would operate on the premise that the Republican Party is amplifying fringe, weird, beliefs that are aberrations from normal thought. A party captured by outliers, spouting bizarre language and crazed slogans. Basically a movement of weirdos from city hall meetings being represented by one of America’s two major parties.
What compounds this problem is that in its effort to insist that “both sides” are in the pocket of identically extremist ideologies, the press accepts the premise that Democrats are under similar capture.
But this is absolutely false. Look at who the Democratic Party picks as its leaders and the kind of message they have embraced for decades: Joe Biden, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and John Kerry are for better or worse all center-left pragmatists. They aren’t like their Republican counterparts, figures like Mitt Romney who bragged that he was “severely conservative,” or John McCain who put scare quotes around “health of the mother” provisions for abortion rights that a consensus of Americans have long supported. And most Americans certainly do not share the beliefs of Donald Trump that a radical “deep state” has infiltrated leading American institutions like the CIA and FBI.
As any leftist and even some liberals will tell you to their dismay, the Democratic Party is about as normal as it gets.
The mainstream press avoids telling the truth about this disparity in large part because the right is very good at giving them grief for doing so. A journalist who admits that the conservative movement stands in a fringe universe of its own making, away from the moderate-to-liberal consensus, risks inviting a torrent of harassing emails and phone calls. To acknowledge reality is to poke a bear, so I believe far too many mainstream journalists adopt the “pox on all the houses,” or “both sides” point of view.
This doesn’t serve the public well. It gives people a distorted view of what is really going on and it misinforms millions of voters. Far too many Americans, after decades of this kind of coverage, falsely believe the notion that “both sides” operate in a “narrowly divided” world. It inoculates conservative extremism, because no matter how closely the bulk of the right hugs onto bizarre narratives, they are assured that the left will be portrayed as an equal counterweight, and often as even further outside reality than they are.
As is often the case, the public is ahead of the press on this. Since 1988, the Republican Party has received a grand total of one plurality in a national election. Democrats received the most votes in 1992 and 1996, along with majorities in 2000, 2008, 2012, 2016, and 2020. 2004 is the only year when a Republican presidential nominee got most of the votes.
That is a hell of a streak, but you would never glean that information from how issues are covered. Yes, some of that I would argue is the fault of Democrats, who perpetually act like it is 1984 and that they are outliers in a nation of Reagan voters, but really it’s a media “both sides” catastrophe.
The press should accurately reflect the reality of this country. Conservatism holds fringe beliefs, from opposition to equal LGBTQ rights, opposition to immigration reform, opposition to gun safety regulations, opposition to increased taxation on the wealthy and more spending on social programs, and on and on. The right’s support for crooked politicians like Trump also sets them apart from the consensus, who has backed candidates like Biden, Obama and Hillary Clinton.
On topic after topic its normal Americans over here and weird conservatism over there. The coverage should reflect this, at least if honesty truly mattered.
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