Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Why the Conservative Media got it wrong

Article first published as Why the Conservative Media Got it Wrong on Technorati.

If there was any question as to whether there is such a thing as a conservative media it was settled in the run-up to  the Presidential election.  From Forbes to the WashingtonTimes,  right-leaning  media outlets predicted a close but decisive win for Mitt Romney.

Their assertions were based almost entirely on the Romney campaign platform which focused on perceived weaknesses in the Obama presidency. Let's take a look at a few of them...

The weak Economy...

The argument ignores basic economics if not the calendar. 

For one thing, Economists of any stripe agree that it's impossible to completely recover from a worldwide economic recession (near depression) in less than four years.  It also ignores Wall Street, a favorite economic indicator of the media.

Speaking of Wall Street...

Throughout the Romney campaign President Obama was accused of being "Bad for Business"

On January 20th 2009 (Obama's Inauguration) the Dow Jones industrial average closed at 8279.63.  Election day 2012  found the close at 13245.68.

We all know that Wall Street isn't main street  but the media treats the securities markets as an economic barometer.  A 5000 point spread is hard to ignore.  A number conspicuously absent from the Republican campaigns.

Let's try another one...

Legislative gridlock that could only be resolved with a Romney presidency...

This one is pure fabrication unless the mere existence of the man is reason enough to despise him.  Remember Republican Senator Mitch McConnell's quote?

For the two years since the quote to the National Journal, McConnell has insisted he was taken out of context.  Considering the almost intractable ideologies we've seen in congress throughout the President's first term I'm not sure what other context would apply. 

Both parties were aware of the frustration of the electorate with approval ratings leading up to the election hovering at 17%, an historic low.  "My way or the highway" isn't compromise and even a casually informed voter knows that the President can only propose not write legislation.  After that he has to wait for something to come to his desk  to sign.  Misdirection and the fallacy of the straw man. 

Finally, the straw that was to break the back of any hope of  the President's reelection.
This one was more wishful thinking than calculated advantage...

Even in the face of reduced voting hours and recent challenges to early voting laws Obama voters turned out in force.   In many cases standing hours in line to cast their ballot.  Chants of "Let Us Vote" still ringing in the electorate's ears from the weekend before the election.

Whether or not voter suppression was going on, the suggestion alone was enough of a motivation to engage the ambivalent.

So how could conservative media get it so wrong? 

Three possible scenarios come to mind. 
·    The people writing this stuff are just pandering to their readers who are comprised largely of well heeled conservatives. 
·    They based their assumptions on campaign rhetoric without any fact checking.  The second Presidential debate should have discouraged that route.
·    They're just the media arm of the Republican party.

None are good options and all call into question the standards of the publication.  Popular media is no longer under any type of fairness doctrine, however,  short of libel.  That's allowed media outlets to safely engage in a political bias.    Nobody would confuse Fox News with Mother Jones for example. 

In the end I offer no cautionary admonition against such gaffs.  If anything this is simply an  example of media consumption (or creation) based on individual biases.  Most bias is usually based on at least some factual information even if it's of our own creation .