An Old Friend Returns

Yes, it's the return of the Conservative Media Bias meme! As I wrote on January 20th of this year, in the immediate wake of Scott Brown's win in Massachusetts:

[Howard] Fineman, and the rest of the newly hyperpartisan and opinion-dominated Newsweek (not to mention the advisors that President Obama keeps even closer at hand) are just bitter that the right has any megaphone at all.

And if their recent victories continue, someone on the far left is bound to dredge up Al Gore’s loony Frankfurt School-style “conservative media bias” trope from 2002.

And here we go!

Noel Sheppard of Newsbusters spots Frank Rich claiming, as Noel paraphrases, "The Left Doesn't Have As Strong A Media Megaphone As The Right:"

New York Times columnist Frank Rich has said some astonishingly stupid things throughout his career, but a comment in Sunday's "The Bipartisanship Racket" might get on his top ten list.In the eyes of this liberal writer working for the most powerful liberal newspaper in the country, the Left in this nation doesn't have as strong a media megaphone as the Right:

Beltway conventional wisdom is equally responsible for another myth promoted by No Labels: that the Move On left and the Tea Party right are equal contributors to America’s “hyperpartisanship.” In the real world, no one could seriously believe that activists on the left have the sway over Democratic leaders, starting with President Obama, that the Tea Party has over the G.O.P. Nor, with all due respect to MSNBC, does the left have a media megaphone to match the Tea Party’s alliance with the Murdoch empire, as led by Fox News, and the megastars of talk radio.

So, in Rich's view, the impact on political thought in this nation by Fox and the conservative talk radio hosts is greater than the combined influence of ABC, AP, CBS, CNN, HBO, HLN, Hollywood movies, MSNBC, NBC, Newsweek, New York magazine, NPR, PBS, Reuters, Showtime, the Boston Globe, the Los Angeles, the Miami Herald, the New York Times, the New Yorker, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Washington Post, Time magazine, and USA Today.

What's even more hysterical about this distorted view of the world is the number of liberal media members that share it.

As Jonah Goldberg wrote in 2005:

Liberals have been suffering from conservative envy for several years now. Oh, they don’t envy us our evil ways, our penchant for extreme cruelty or the fact that we smell like cabbage. They envy us our toys and success.

The liberal Center for American Progress was founded explicitly to be the Left’s answer to the conservative Heritage Foundation. The lefty radio network, “Air America,” was launched to copy the success of Rush Limbaugh & Co. Today, deep-pocketed liberals are scrambling to copy conservative foundations, even though liberal foundations have always had more money.

Most conservatives I know snicker at all this. It’s not that talk radio, think tanks, and foundations haven’t been essential to the rise of American conservatism in the last five decades. They have been (see my colleague John Miller’s excellent new book, A Gift of Freedom: How the John M. Olin Foundation Changed America, for a window into that effort). But liberals are emphasizing hardware because they don’t want to question the validity of their very outdated software.

Look, conservatives would love to switch places with liberals. We’d get the universities, Hollywood, the Rockefeller, Ford, Carnegie and Pew Foundations, the Sierra Club, Greenpeace, the New York Times, National Public Radio, Time, Newsweek, The New Yorker, CBS, including 60 Minutes and Dan Rather’s thousand-fingers massage chair, and so forth. Liberals, meanwhile, would get the Washington Times and Fox News, along with a few conservative foundations. I guess National Review and The New Republic would switch offices, which is fine by me. It’d make my commute easier.

And that sort of makes the point: Not only does the Left have better stuff, but even if that weren’t the case, the Left’s problem isn’t a lack of mechanisms to “get their message out.” Megaphones matter, but not as much as what you say into them.

By 2008 and 2009, leftwing journalists working in old media were utterly obsessed with their counterparts on the right and their influence on readers that they created several embarrassing conspiracy theories on the now-infamous JournoList. These included threatening to smear random conservative pundits as racists, and as we mentioned in this post, comparing free-market laissez-faire Tea Partiers with Nazi Germany, one of the ultimate totalitarian governments in history, dreaming of the FCC shutting down Fox News, and taking pleasure in seeing Rush Limbaugh's death.

But then, the left can never admit that their message or policies are wrong for America -- or that their century-old worldview and playbook is looking utterly exhausted in the 21st century. Or as Michael Barone writes today, "Reid and Pelosi finally get mugged by public opinion:"

Eleven months ago, after the Massachusetts Senate election, I was convinced that Democrats could not jam their health care bill through because voters had so clearly demanded they not do so. But Pelosi proved more determined and resourceful than I had imagined, and found enough House Democrats who were willing to risk electoral defeat to achieve what Democrats proclaimed was an historic accomplishment.

Pelosi and Obama predicted that Obamacare would become more popular as voters learned more about it. Those predictions were based on the theory that in times of economic distress Americans would be more supportive of or amenable to big government policies.

That theory has been disproved about as conclusively as any theory can be in the real world, and most of the Democrats who provided the key votes for Obamacare were defeated on Election Day.

Democratic congressional leaders did take note of the unpopularity of their policies when they chose not to pass budget resolutions last spring. Presumably they did so because they would have had a hard time rounding up the votes for the high spending and large deficits that would have ensued.

But had the House and Senate passed a budget resolution, Democrats might have been able to pass their preferred tax policy, raising taxes on high earners, under the budget reconciliation process. So the House vote Thursday night was a delayed consequence of the public's long-apparent rejection of their policies.

Candidate Obama told Joe the Plumber that he wanted to "spread the wealth around." November's vote, presaged by more than a year of polls, was, as political scientist James Ceasar has written, "the Great Repudiation" of that policy.

Republicans, having succeeded in holding down tax rates, clearly have a mandate to hack away at spending and to defund and derail Obamacare, which is at or near new lows in the ABC/Washington Post and Rasmussen polls. And there does seem an opening, as Clinton White House staffer William Galston argues, for a 1986-style tax reform that eliminates tax preferences and cuts tax rates.

How effectively the 112th Congress will respond is unclear. But the outgoing 111th Congress, despite its big Democratic majorities, responded pretty clearly Thursday night.

And now old media is responding, true to form.