Friday, October 09, 2009

Journalism Should Own Its Liberal Bias

And then manage it, challenge it, and account for it

An important first step is to abandon the notion, popularized by Thomas Frank in What’s the Matter with Kansas?, that white working class voters are suckers, willing to cast ballots against their economic interests because corporations and evangelical Christians have scared the bejesus out of them with phony issues like gay marriage, abortion, government takeover of the healthcare system, and distribution of condoms in the schools.

These voters are not stupid. Unlike upscale youngsters in Cambridge, the Upper West Side, and Berkeley, who are equipped financially and psychologically to go with the sexual flow, the children of folks casting ballots for Republicans often get into big trouble when they get pregnant (see, Sarah Palin’s daughter) or tell their teacher to go to hell. To many of their parents, the school system has no business handing out condoms, in effect encouraging early sex. The overwhelming majority of Republican voters already have health insurance and they have genuine concerns about the damage to that coverage that government might do. These are people who arguably lose some of what they have when resources are redistributed under policies mandating, for example, affirmative action and busing. The mindset that perceives these voters as dumb jerks is what permitted a reporter and a series of Washington Post editors to let a description of evangelical Christians as “largely poor, uneducated and easy to command” go unquestioned into a front-page story.

It's easier to dismiss disagreeing opinions if you first marginalize and stereotype dissenters.