FAIR courageously looks into the heart of our infotainment media, finds an article in the New York Times (of course) written by Jonathan Martin (of course) called “Some Democrats Look to Push Party Away From Center,” and dares to ask, “What the hell do you mean by ‘center’?”
One of the most important tenets of corporate political journalism is the elevation of the “center” as the ideal. Partisanship, which implies disagreement and/or strongly held views, is often seen as one of the big problems in Washington. And the way this message is communicated is often by pundits and journalists advocating for the Democratic Party to “move to the center”–which is, of course, moving to the right.
One problem with this worldview is that is that the “center” doesn’t actually mean what one might think it means–especially in the context of the political views of the American public.
Whatever, hippie, you and your patchouli-scented “directions” mean nothing to Jonathan Martin. He worked at Politico, OK? So I think he knows a little something about how US America is supposed to work, like such as?
There are two parties, duh, and they disagree on stuff, and reporters instinctively know that the smrt thing to do would be whatever is in between them. It’s called the First Amendment, “man.” Your dumb public opinion thingies are Dumb, like all polls (just ask Dylan Byers who is also very smrt because he writes for Politico also, too!), so what difference does it make to Media Man that the DC “Centrist” position on student loans, Medicare and Social Security, and bank reform are all severely to the right of what most Americans support? There are two political parties, ergo the “center” must be between them. That’s just math! When did what the people want start mattering in Amercia, anyway?
On an array of issues, the “center” in Washington politics is actually well to the right of the “center” of American public opinion. Journalism that made this clear would be much more helpful.
Yes but that would also require “effort,” and would risk accusations that journalists are “biased.” It is much easier and safer to just average out the positions of the two parties and slap a centrist label on it, even if that makes literally no sense. I mean, what’s the centrist position on whether to go to war or not? Or any either/or issue, for that matter?
Besides, if you read Martin’s article, you’ll note that it’s not as simple as all that. You really can’t just look at the two parties and then declare the center to be in the middle. Sometimes you also have to strawman one of the parties to help the narrative work better:
“We’ve got to embrace changes to cherished priorities so that they work better in this new age,” Mr. Obama said of his party. “We can’t just — Democrats can’t just stand pat and just defend whatever government is doing.”
Matt Bennett, a co-founder of the moderate Third Way, said such a statement would shape the coming Democratic conversation.
“There will be a debate about where our priorities should be,” said Mr. Bennett, who added that the left was “starting to rev up their engines” for the debate. “On the center-left, the argument we’re making is that you can’t have robust investment spending on things like education and roads and have unfettered, skyrocketing growth in entitlement programs.”
Quick, guess whether Jonathan Martin actually spoke with an actual liberal who “defend[ed] whatever government is doing” or who wasn’t concerned about “unfettered, skyrocketing growth in entitlement programs”. Your choices are: you get no choices. For bonus points, guess whether Martin talked to somebody who could explain to him, and his readers, that Social Security and Medicare costs aren’t “skyrocketing” (or that the problem is really with Medicare and is about our grossly overpriced health system, not Medicare itself)? No, don’t guess; this game is depressing me.
The Cult of the Center moves ever onward, undeterred by reality or public opinion. It exists to give credibility to the continual rightward lurch of our national politics. The lunatic right fringe is the vanguard; their job is to look crazy and take the fall for it to keep pushing the farthest reaches of our political discourse further right, while our media establishment follows along behind, caricaturing the left and then proposing the Reasonable Center as the alternative to both sides, which are always equally extreme because the narrative demands it. The fact that the “Reasonable Center” in this system keeps moving further right, tracking the movement of the fringe, well, that’s the point.