Blog Julie Hollar

When Centrists Lose, Corporate Media Love to Blame the Left

Mass media lost no time in helping the right wing of the Democratic Party blame its left wing for poor election results.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez immediately fought the Democratic Party line about recent down ballot losses. [nrkbeta / CC BY-SA 2.0]

By Julie Hollar / FAIR

Joe Biden hadn’t even been declared the victor of the 2020 election before establishment Democrats, in the face of poorer-than-expected results in House and Senate races, began pointing fingers at the left—with corporate media giving them a major assist.

Democrats had been hoping for big wins on election night, with the possibility of winning not only the presidency but also the Senate, and increasing their majority in the House. But while Biden has come out on top, the party’s most optimistic outcome in the Senate would be a 50/50 split (if they win both Georgia runoff seats), giving them a majority with the vote of Vice President Kamala Harris. And rather than gaining in the House, Democrats lost several seats.

In the wake of these disappointments, the right wing of the party immediately blamed its left wing for the poor showing, airing their grievances in a private conference call among House Democrats that was leaked to reporters.

WaPo: Centrist House Democrats lash out at liberal colleagues, blame far-left views for costing the party seats

The Washington Post (11/5/20) says that “privately, Democrats…have said the answer is obvious” why House Democrats are having problems: “The party in recent years has moved further left.” But before “recent years”—before the 2018 election—the Democrats had been in the minority for eight years, and for 20 of the last 24 years.

In a write-up about the call, the Washington Post‘s Rachael Bade and Erica Werner (11/5/20) quoted and paraphrased 14 sources blaming those who “endorse far-left positions” for Democrats’ losses, counterbalanced by only four sources defending the left. All of the progressive sources were named; half of the establishment sources were either quoted anonymously or presented as unspecified “moderates”—or, twice, simply as “Democrats,” committing the exasperatingly common journalistic sleight-of-hand that erases progressive Democrats as legitimate members of their party.

In addition to quoting a handful of participants on the call, Bade and Werner interviewed numerous “moderates” for the article (“Several moderate Democrats said in interviews…”), but only managed to interview two progressives: Alexandra Rojas, head of the leftist PAC Justice Democrats, along with Rep. Jared Huffman, a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus—who took the side of the centrists.

Huffman’s contrary position, while perhaps surprising to some readers, and serving to portray the “centrist” view as even more of a consensus position, would have been less surprising to Bade, who had quoted Huffman just a few days earlier (11/1/20) about his opposition to leftists’ efforts to exert more influence within the party. In other words, the reporters appeared to seek out only one source who could have been expected to offer a forceful defense of bold leftist ideas, to balance a whole parade of attackers.

In its piece on the dust-up, in which “Democrats traded excuses, blame and prognostications,” the New York Times (11/5/20) quoted South Carolina Rep. James Clyburn, who “cautioned against running on ‘Medicare for all or defunding police or socialized medicine,’ adding that if Democrats pursued such policies, ‘we’re not going to win.’” What the article didn’t mention was that Clyburn has taken more money from the pharmaceutical industry in the past decade than any other member of the House or Senate (Post and Courier12/16/18).

The piece then quoted Rep. Marc Veasey, who “warned his fellow members against anti-fracking talk.” Veasey ranked fourth among House Democrats in taking oil and gas industry money in the 2020 election cycle, and got 70% of his total campaign contributions from PACs. (To put that into perspective, the two progressives quoted in the Times piece, Pramila Jayapal and Rashida Tlaib, got 13% and 3% of their campaign contributions from PACs, respectively.) Readers might have found such information useful in analyzing the motivations behind those quotes.

CNN: This Democratic congresswoman just spoke some hard truth to her party

CNN (11/6/20) spares its readers the “hard truth” that it’s passing on advice about how to talk about police killings from a former CIA operative.

CNN‘s Chris Cillizza (11/6/20) jumped into the fray as well, praising Rep. Abigail Spanberger, a former CIA official (another piece of relevant context not mentioned by Cillizza) who had some of the harshest words for progressives, for speaking “some hard truth to her party”–like, “We need to not ever use the words ‘socialist’ or ‘socialism’ ever again,” as if the McCarthy era had never ended (FAIR.org10/9/20).

After quoting Spanberger extensively and then printing some of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s rebuttal (“You can’t just tell the Black, brown and youth organizers riding in to save us every election to be quiet or not have their reps champion them when they need us”), Cillizza wrote:

What’s beyond debate is that Republican strategists took comments made by liberals within the Democratic Party and used them to blast everyone from Spanberger on down.

Though all of these pieces offered plenty of suggestions that the left wing’s vocal support for things like socialism, Medicare for All, the Green New Deal and defunding the police cost the party seats in 2020, they failed to provide any actual data that might have helped readers evaluate the veracity of those statements.

It’s an important point, because understanding Democrats’ lackluster performance should help guide their platform and messaging moving forward. But these articles aren’t shedding light on the data—perhaps because it would thoroughly undermine the anti-progressive framing.

NYT: Why Trump’s Efforts to Paint Biden as a Socialist Are Not Working

A pre-election piece in the New York Times (10/14/20) included a rare acknowledgment that “many of the plans favored by the most liberal wing of Democratic leaders remain popular with wide groups of voters.”

As the New York Times‘ Jim Tankersley (10/14/20) reported just last month in an unusually frank assessment of the popularity of left-wing ideas, the right’s wall-to-wall attempts to bring down Democrats with the “socialist” label haven’t been very effective, despite Cillizza’s suggestion to the contrary. That’s in part because Biden and other centrists deny them so forcefully, but in part because “many of the plans favored by the most liberal wing of Democratic leaders remain popular with wide groups of voters, polling shows.” Tankersley pointed to a recent Times poll that found 2 in 3 respondents support a wealth tax, 3 in 5 favor Medicare for All (including 2 of 3 independent voters), and even higher numbers support free college tuition.

The Green New Deal is likewise broadly popular: One poll specifically of swing House districts (YouGov/Data for Progress, 9/19) found that respondents supported the idea by a 13-point margin, 49% to 36%—even when informed that it will cost trillions of dollars.

And with some races still not called, it’s safe to say that Medicare for All and the Green New Deal didn’t sink the Dems. Ocasio-Cortez pointed out (Twitter11/7/20) that every Democratic co-sponsor of Medicare for All in a swing district won re-election. And Gizmodo‘s Brian Kahn (11/9/20) found that of 93 Democratic incumbents who co-sponsored the Green New Deal—including five in swing districts—only one lost their race.

Intercept: Biden Wins, but Now the Hard Part Begins

Intercept (11/6/20): “Democrats insisting that progressive issues are losing policies have yet to articulate what their winning agenda would be.”

On the question of calls to “defund the police,” it’s important to clarify—as did the Intercept (11/6/20), but none of these establishment media reports—that such calls grew out of the Black Lives Matter protests, not the platform of progressive congressmembers, and that that movement led to a massive spike in Democratic voter registration. In other words, without the movement that gave us the slogan “defund the police,” the Democrats would almost certainly have witnessed even greater losses– including, quite probably, the White House.

As the Intercept also pointed out, it appears likely that left-wing organizing in Minnesota, Michigan and Pennsylvania resulted in decisive Democratic gains in key cities and suburbs in those swing states. And Ocasio-Cortez named many other problems with the establishment’s campaign strategies, running from underinvestment in digital campaigning to a lack of a ground game to a lack of recognition of or outreach to communities of color.

Clearly the 2020 election contains many lessons for the 2022 midterms, but it’s unlikely the right conclusions will be drawn from the fact-free centrist narrative presented by corporate media.

16 comments

  1. Progressives, of which I am one, and I’m a 74 y/o white grandma, who lives in a rural midwest state, have to contend with not only the GOP and all that it involves, but also with the Corporate Dems and MSM and we know who they all work for! I am SO tired of the lies and damage that both parties and MSM are doing to this country and it’s progressive citizens.

  2. It is incomprehensible for anyone in a “representative democracy” (which the USA certainly is not) to accept that the views of progressive members of the Democratic Party are “far left”. The US population shows in polls it wants peace, fair treatment in courts, housing, education, health care but these are considered impossible by the leaders of the GOP and the Dems as their proponents are “unelectable”. What choice is this? The media almost all selectively report opinions which reflect their bias.
    Just today I was astonished to find here in all the French papers a ludicrous item from the NYT claiming (from Unnamed Intelligence Sources-of course) that an AlQaida leader was killed (three months ago!!) in Teheran by Israeli assassins on motorbikes. This is news?? from a reputed paper of record??? Spread to the world!!!

  3. farcical–there is no “left” in USA—aoc is a right wing sycophant that pretends she is not more corrupt than biden…already having siphoned more than 1 million in contributions to her boyfriend’s “consulting” agency

  4. In 2022 and 2024 is going to be the time to show the corporate neoliberal wing of the party what it looks like when the progressive wing of the party doesn’t show up for them and instead starts voting for People’s Party candidates. Good luck winning anything ever again without 40% of the party to blame for your shortcomings.

  5. Every House member that endorsed M4A and a GND won their re-elections EVEN IN RED DISTRICTS!!! All of the moderates that lost didn’t support either policy. Tell us again who is responsible for the dems pathetic showing in the election?

  6. The most commonly used Republican go-to attack lines on Biden and all Democrat candidates in 2020 was the socialist brand and the threat of the anti-police slogans used by the BLM movement and supported by progressive Democrats.

    While the incrimination from both centrist and progressive Democrats is counter productive at this point (there has been scarcely enough time to conduct any serious and comprehensive inquiry into the reason for the Democratic failure to gain ground in the House and Senate), the refusal of progressives to even acknowledge that their vocal socialist and anti-police advocacy might be detrimental to electoral efforts in a centrist-conservative environment is bizarre, to say the least, while their go-to explanation to Democrats’ failures – that they are not ideological enough and that they are not left enough – is outright delusional considering the regressive, repressive and re-visionary radicalized right that had taken over the GOP.

    1. LOL … Yea … well … “outright delusion” is in abundant supply on the American Left.

      O how it pleases the Enemy when people agree to take its puppet show seriously, writing these kind of detailed analyses to ‘prove’ what we ALL already know.

      Do you mean to tell me that US Mass Media are actually unfair and inaccurate? No … Why … You don’t say … We are certainly in FAIR’s debt for manning the wall for us so courageously. Thank you for keeping us informed with this crucial up to the minute news.

      FAIR is an anachronism. It was relevant in the 1980s, before the great centralization in ownership of Mass Media was licensed by Slick Willie’s signature on the Telecommunications Act of 1996. The only purpose it serves now is to lend credibility to a propaganda network. Gee … Do they think if they crybaby enough the Enemy will use its centrally owned Mass Media more fairly? … It’s a ridiculous notion. Does FAIR not understand how ridiculous its very name makes it sound? Fairness and Accuracy in US Propaganda? It only serves to try to make people believe that FAIR’s crybaby behavior can affect the behavior of US Mass Media.

      It makes about as much sense to talk about “fairness and accuracy” in the highly centralized US propaganda machine, as it does to talk about the fairness of the moral considerations practiced by the CIA in their rendition ‘black sites’ as they ‘interrogate’ people.

      1. “the Telecommunications Act of 1996” was introduced by a Republican (Larry Pressler (R-SD)), passed by a Republican majority Senate (81 for-18 against) and a Republican majority House (no opposition). So even if Clinton wanted he couldn’t have veto the bill since both houses had the 2/3 majority to override his veto.

        Like NAFTA, which Neo Progressive Super spreaders of BS like yourself always blame on Democrats despite the fact it was negotiated and signed by a Republican president and Republican Congress, the act 1996 was only signed by Bill Clinton, who could not have veto it even if he wanted to.

        Other than that, what the blip does the act has to do with a single word I said?

      2. Yea… Buddy boy … You better take a step back, jack. (Caliban is talkin’ t’ himself here).

        If this man was standin’ in front of me, I’d surely spit on his shoe, and smile, just t’ see what he’d do next.

        He is a complex man. He is strong. A man of substance. At least in spirit. Sometimes I almost can tolerate him, as if he is honest and has good intentions.

        But doesn’t it seem like everybody in the world is an idiot except him? You ever know anyone name ‘a Kaczinski?

        Ah yes … Poor Slick Willie, his hands were tied, were they? … Is THAT what yer sayin’ here, Ted, er, sorry, nHaramati? (C’mon, man… I’m just messin’ witcha’). The poor man was a hero of the Common People, was he? Fought tooth and nail against NAFTA, did he? He fought like a tiger against letting a handful of people own and control ALL our Mass Media. Hmm … I was there … I was watching … And I just don’t remember it happening that way.

        But you ‘a big boy, aintcha? You tough talk, sumgun … You gonna grab some ‘a your stinky and start slingin’ it, aincha? Right away you gotta start calling people names. (Please tell me you don’t practice conversations in front of your bedroom mirror).

        So … Tell us about your hero Slick Willie … You REALLY wanna talk about what that slick arky moonshiner boy did?

        C’mon … nHaramati … We could discuss these things like gentlemen … In fact, that would be Caliban’s preference.

  7. Extreme BLM and Antifa riots plus the de fund the police rhetoric hurt the left big time. Centrist knew this and that is why they are mad at the far left of the party. Americans are not interested in de funding the police they want reform and training. They want common sense and many people are worried and taxes, safety and the economy. They far left don’t easy fears or have a sound policy.

    1. Hey … Don’t be shy … Do these people look or behave like they care about ‘manners’? We can speak the truth, even if it hurts their poor little feelings. They don’t care about anyone’s feeling other than their own. Why should any care about theirs?

      These people are dingbat looney members of a ‘cult’. They believe things that to many kinda average people, like ole Caliban and folks I know, seem so dingbat looney that these people, these Bolshevik Marionettes, might actually become dangerous to public safety.

      Yea … well … If you want to join their exclusive club, you must recognize that there are 97 human genders, lest you injure the tender feelings of some of the people who have a seat at their table. And a high school age person who has a penis has a Constitutional RIGHT to shower naked side by side with young girls who have natural female genitals.

      You must also realize that the best way to fight hatred is with even more intense hatred. The best way to fight racism is with even more hatefully vicious racism.

      You must believe that the downtrodden from foreign countries should come to America in large numbers, and when American workers complain that these people are taking their jobs and lowering their wages, you must demonize them as evil racist Nazi white supremacist scum. Your heart must only bleed for people of color. Any white people doin’ poorly got it comin’ t’ ’em. (There are fracking TWICE as many poor white people in America as poor African Americans. TWICE!! (almost, not quite). And wouldn’t ya just know, the Police in America kill TWICE as many white people as African Americans.

      If you want to be on the Bolshevik Marionette Left, aka the ‘abolish the police’ Left), and you’re a white person, you must understand the pecking order. It’s their Official Hierarchy of Victimhood. A white woman will generally outrank any man ‘of color’, because women outrank men. And of course white men rank so far down that at meetings they’re expected to serve coffee and donuts, and clean up and turn out the lights.

      In their dreams they ‘see’ white men walked naked, in disgrace, like Queen Lanister, with buckets of ordure, buckets of raw pure stinking hatred, poured over their heads. They will not be happy until we have elected the first transgender president.

      You must believe that American women must not just hate their men, but that they must hate manhood itself. And they must teach little girls that they can grow up and be Wonder Woman, with skinny-sexy little arms, swinging a big BIG sword, wearing a cute skimpy little outfit.

      Anyway … I could go on and on. These poor folks are gone WAYY off the deep end. Folks is just folks. And people have always been susceptible to falling into ‘belief systems’, into cults.

      I feel real bad for these folks. But people do ‘wake up’ from belief systems.

      Deprogramming this dingbat Cult of Victimhood is a major priority. Ehh … Caliban thinks folks’ll come around.

      Anyway … These people have no manners. They think they know everything. They think they are right about everything. If you disagree with them, about anything, you become their enemy and will be summarily expelled and demonized.

      Caliban is NOT using ‘figures of speech’ here. I believe these poor people are not in their right minds. These Bolshevik Marionettes are dingbat nutso crazy. And they’ve proven they can be dangerous to citizens’ lives.

      But I think they’ll ‘wake up’. I think they’ll come to their senses.

  8. I Think Cortez, should leave the Democratic party, and create a third one with Bernie, to save usa, both existing democrats and republicans don’t work for the people, only for the filthy rich. :P:D

    1. GREAT idea. I been tellin’ that girl the same for awhile now. She looks at me real funny, but she seems to be getting the idea. She’s just a young girl, though. She’s not ‘ready’ yet. She has too much yet to learn. She would never succeed at this point.

      Bernie would NEVER do that. He’s a Sheepdog to the core of his Desire. It seems laughable to even think about ole Squinty M’Goo and political courage in the same sentence.

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