Jeff Cohen Media Criticism Norman Solomon

What the New York Times Really Means When It Calls for “Moderate Policies”

The paper of record's call for Democrats to "return" to "moderate policies" essentially means they don't want them to challenge oligarchy — among other things.
[samchills / CC BY 2.0]

By Norman Solomon and Jeff Cohen

A few days after the Nov. 2 election, the New York Times published a vehement editorial calling for the Democratic Party to adopt “moderate” positions and avoid seeking “progressive policies at the expense of bipartisan ideas.” It was a statement by the Times editorial board, which the newspaper describes as “a group of opinion journalists whose views are informed by expertise, research, debate and certain longstanding values.”

The editorial certainly reflected “longstanding values” — since the Times has recycled them for decades in its relentless attacks on the progressive wing of the Democratic Party.

**  The Times editorial board began its polemic by calling for the party to “return” to “moderate policies.”

Translation: Stick to corporate-friendly policies of the sort that we applauded during 16 years of the Clinton and Obama presidencies.

**  While scolding “a national Democratic Party that talks up progressive policies at the expense of bipartisan ideas,” the editorial warned against “becoming a marginal Democratic Party appealing only to the left.”

Translation: The Biden administration should reach across the aisle even more solicitously to the leadership of an obstructionist, largely racist, largely climate-change-denying, Trump-cultish Republican Party.

**  The election results “are a sign that significant parts of the electorate are feeling leery of a sharp leftward push in the party, including on priorities like Build Back Better, which have some strong provisions and some discretionary ones driving up the price tag.”

Translation: Although poll after poll shows that the Build Back Better agenda is popular with the broad public, especially increased taxation on wealthy and corporate elites to pay for it, we need to characterize the plan as part of “a sharp leftward push.”

**  “The concerns of more centrist Americans about a rush to spend taxpayer money, a rush to grow the government, should not be dismissed.”

Translation: While we don’t object to the ongoing “rush to spend taxpayer money” on the military, and we did not editorialize against the bloated Pentagon budget, we oppose efforts to “grow the government” too much for such purposes as healthcare, childcare, education, housing and mitigating the climate crisis.

**  “Mr. Biden did not win the Democratic primary because he promised a progressive revolution. There were plenty of other candidates doing that. He captured the nomination — and the presidency — because he promised an exhausted nation a return to sanity, decency and competence.”

Translation: No need to fret about the anti-democratic power of great wealth and corporate monopolies. We liked the status quo before the Trump presidency, and that’s more or less what we want now.

**  “‘Nobody elected him to be F.D.R.,’ Representative Abigail Spanberger, a moderate Democrat from Virginia, told the Times after Tuesday’s drubbing.”

Translation: Spanberger, a former CIA case officer and current member of the corporate Blue Dog Coalition in Congress, is our kind of Democrat.

**  “Democrats should work to implement policies to help the American people.”

Translation: Democrats should work to implement policies to help the American people but not go overboard by helping them too much. We sometimes write editorials bemoaning the vast income inequality in this country, but we don’t want the government to do much to reduce it.

**  “Congress should focus on what is possible, not what would be possible if Joe Manchin, Kyrsten Sinema and — frankly — a host of lesser-known Democratic moderates who haven’t had to vote on policies they might oppose were not in office.”

Translation: We editorialize about social justice, but we don’t want structural changes and substantial new government policies that could bring it much closer. We editorialize about the climate crisis, but not in favor of government actions anywhere near commensurate with the crisis. Our type of tepid liberalism is an approach that won’t be a bottom-line threat to the Times owners and big advertisers — and won’t diminish the leverage and holdings of wealthy elites, including the New York Times Company’s chairman A.G. Sulzberger and the company’s board of directors. We want change, but not too much!

**  “Democrats agree about far more than they disagree about. But it doesn’t look that way to voters after months and months of intraparty squabbling. Time to focus on — and pass — policies with broad support.”

Translation: Although progressives are fighting for programs that actually do have broad public support, we’ll keep declaring those programs don’t have broad public support. Progressives should give up and surrender to the corporate forces we like to call “moderate.”


Norman Solomon is the national director of and the author of many books including War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death. He was a Bernie Sanders delegate from California to the 2016 and 2020 Democratic National Conventions. Solomon is the founder and executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy.

Jeff Cohen is an activist, author and co-founder of He was an associate professor of journalism and the director of the Park Center for Independent Media at Ithaca College, and founder of the media watch group FAIR. In 2002-2003, he was a producer and pundit at MSNBC. He is the author of Cable News Confidential: My Misadventures in Corporate Media


  1. How the NYT can say that the Democratic Party would become “a…marginal party appealing only to the left” when the majority of Americans, including those who identify themselves as Republicans, want those very progressive policies, I can’t fathom.
    Moreover, 50% of American voters now identify themselves as “independents” and the “policies” of the Democratic Party (which seem to consist of one item: “I’m not him”) are why.

    1. DNC™ LLC is of, for & about 9.9% yuppies exclusively from a Creative Class™ media perspective. “Our” party is now a wholly owned subsidiary of a multinational corp. contracted to CRUSH anything remotely resembling Democratic candidates, policy, participation or representation of working class constituents, any say, solidarity or recourse to fair and equitable distribution of wealth, influence or legislation. Their party’s only done this, since Andy Jackson stole Cherokee slaves; the sneering, senile zombie kleptocrats simply can’t even be bothered to hide their corruption, any more.

    2. Well I certainly would not call The New York Times the peoples paper. They support in their editorial policys the continuation of a system that is failing. I have not seen them oppose any of our various wars amd interventions.They certainly have not endorsed the programs asked for by the majority of the people and the squad.They are not advocating for an end to fracking which will destroy everyone but the oil pigs

    3. “How” is because the NYT is propaganda in service of the ruling class, not news. Same as all other mainstream & establishment media, except that the NYT has a massive amount of influence among politicians in D.C.

      Likewise, the Democratic Party represents the liberal faction of the ruling class (in high school around 1970, we were taught the liberal faction of corporate America). Nothing new about any of this, it’s just getting increasingly worse as time goes on.

    4. It’s called “gaslighting”. They lie incessantly to convince you that you’d have to be mentally ill to disagree with their worldview, and since NYT is the “trusted common sense authority” many people are convinced. As someone who has done lots of door to door canvassing and phone banking I can tell you it works.

  2. The New York Times, or perhaps I should say the failing New York Times, should stick to its knitting – concealing the nefarious acts of the government. Their advice to the Democratic Party is all wet. The Party has misplaced its reason for existence, and failed to provide governance leadership. If they cannot sell parental leave to strapped young workers, if they cannot sell expanded Medicare coverage to over-65s with poor hearing and vision, etc., then they have failed to be an alternate to the Republican party, they have failed to offer the country authentic leadership. They have failed to appeal to the Left at all.

  3. Thank you Norman and Jeff for outing the corporate media in league with the corporate elites! The New York Times never a genuine friend to the ordinary working people of America is truly the extremist. The American people at the grassroots have made there position clear they want a more equitable tax system meaning tax the rich fairly and do away with billionaires and their obscene wealth, do away with corporate welfare and help ordinary people, end forever war, cut the Pentagon budget. However, the New York Times and ilk will continue their support for the war machine and total destruction of the planet regardless of the wishes of the American people or humanity itself. Meanwhile, America as a failed state will continue the race to the bottom and few will mourn its passing!

  4. For most of my adult life, I considered the NYT the most responsible newspaper in the US….Was it ever such or was I kidding myself all along?

    1. You were kidding yourself about the NYT being responsible, but don’t fret, you’ve got lots of company on that falsehood, with people that should know better STILL drinking the Kool-aid. Everyone should know by now that the Democratic party honchos will NEVER allow progressives to have much say in the shit show of American politics.

  5. I hear crickets from all three of my “sendees”:
    Robert Scheer
    Chris Hedges
    Paul Jay

    All avoiding the Clampdown Mandate issue.

    Guess what gentlemen:: the Republican Tide will “soon shake
    Your windows and rattle your walls, ‘cuz the times ..they are

    Where have you gone progressive left?

    1. It didn’t go anywhere because it never was at all. Just smoke and mirrors…..

      1. The NYT doesn’t even support journalism in principle….If it did, their “reporters” would be screaming out like crazy against the torture of Julian Assange.

  6. The “Democratic Party” does not want to improve life for the majority of the population. Check out the figures from the election of Obama, where he had control of WH, House, Senate and spent two years pandering to the Repubs who hated him, passed no laws to help his supporters (and anyone to his left, ie a lot) and then lost seats every election until the end of his term, and everyone was shocked the Repubs and Trump won , exactly five years ago.

    1. Precisely – I blame the Ds, not the Russians, nor FB nor certainly not Jill Stein, for Trump’s election – and they are on a course to handing Congress to the Rs in ’22, and, good grief, to Trump in ’24

      1. tRUMP in 24′. The best things from such a result will be the end of Covid and climate change, both considered a hoax from our wanna be king. They’ll be gone in a jiffy — like magic ! /s

  7. The New York Times is the “Press Agent of Record” for Wall Street, multinational corporations, the military-industrial-complex, the medical-insurance-complex, Big Pharma, Silicon Valley, and the prison-industrial-complex. It’s the “authoritative” journal for US elites, and the prosecutor of America’s working class.

  8. Good piece!

    ” …the editorial warned against ‘becoming a marginal Democratic Party appealing only to the left’ ”
    The DP has not appealed to anyone even marginally “on the Left” for quite some time – they get votes only because D voters have become convinced that they are a “lesser” of 2 evils – and that they have nowhere else to go, as the Ds keep telling them, even as they put “poison pills” in “Help Voters” acts to make it all but impossible for any challengers to get their foot in the door, on a debate stage, or name on a ballot ..

  9. The Democratic Party has been crap ever since it stole the vice presidential nomination from Henry Wallace in 1944. That was before I was born. But when I was able to vote for the first time, the Democratic Party made sure that George McGovern — the only Democratic Party candidate in my lifetime to win the nomination who was worth voting for — didn’t win the presidency by refusing to support him. That was the first and last time that I voted for a Democrat.

    The New York Times is just part of the massive U.S. propaganda machine. That paper has even been caught having CIA operatives, disguised as reporters, write columns for it. It’s total BS like all of the mainstream, corporate, and establishment media. But don’t underestimate its power. It’s not call the U.S. newspaper of record for nothing, and the politicians in Congress and their staffs read and pay attention to it. Hard to say how much difference that makes, but it certainly makes some.

  10. The Media Beat duo ride again! Since discovering them in the early 90’s, Cohen and Solomon have been consistently on target. It’s a shame these decades have seen inequality and corruption explode in ways barely imaginable back then. It’s clear that, whatever ills our precious press renegades expose, words are not enough of a remedy. It’s a shame that those in power want it this way.

  11. Well I certainly would not call The New York Times the peoples paper. They support in their editorial policys the continuation of a system that is failing. I have not seen them oppose any of our various wars amd interventions.They certainly have not endorsed the programs asked for by the majority of the people and the squad.They are not advocating for an end to fracking which will destroy everyone but the oil pigs

  12. “Polls show….” Such pronouncement should always be met with distrust of yet more “lies, damned lies, and statistics” (Twain). Polls, and the polling industry, are not funded by and for ‘the people’ whom they ostensibly represent, but by much the same corporate interests who own and control both mainstream and alternative media sources and both U$ capitalist parties for purposes of population management.

    Ever since Gallup, they have served as forerunners of the data-mining that now registers our every market move and matter of public opinion, weaving us into a worldwide web of growing global governance. Typically submerged in reports of their results as here, the forgotten if not forbidden facts of how polls are constructed and conducted to produce those results are by themselves grounds for recognizing polling as means in the manufacture of consent, or dissent, which forms the raison d’etre of propaganda.

    It’s become cliche to say the majority of Americans (working class people) favor more progressive policies (representing our common interests) than either (ruling class) party promotes. Hardly examined in the never-ending assault of poll reports is why this rarely if ever translates into any actual impact upon policy, notwithstanding all the feeble revisionist exercises pretending to indicate how ‘our representatives’ have taken popular positions into account – beyond accounting for what the interests of profit and power can get away with.

    The sleight of hand at work in this progressive positioning on the political landscape involves customary criticism of establishment by alternative press riding its coattails and championing in the name of ‘the people’ policy which ultimately benefits ruling class interests. If we got past the advertising slogans and sound bites selling us policy like Build Back Better, we’d see this latest new deal, or steal, leaves the bizzness-as-usual racket of fine print, extenuating circumstances, unforeseeable implications, and responsibility of implementation once again in the hands of our masters and their appointed functionaries, as in media and political spectacle and weapons of mass distraction, who serve as our managers.

    Within the present historical context of the war on/of bioterror, Build Back Better is the new (ab)normal’s neoliberal front for advancing destabilization of the old (ab)normal initiated by prison-condition lockdowns and other protocols of disaster capitalism, not public health. As shock doctrine does its work, crisis-created opportunity to administer socio-economic revolution in the forces and relations of production is enabled.

    Universal, permanent ‘vaccination’ with genetically modifying, digitizing agents internally colonizes human livestock. Vaccine and immunity passes become gateways for central bank digital currency and social credit scores reducing human labor to slavery under algorithmic rule determining our access to resources. Climate control necessities level human life to the lowest common denominators of survival under austerity. These are just some of the dystopian features of the Brave New World Order, as transnational capital attempts to impose absolute debt bondage and global governance beyond what was already built under the structural adjustment plans of the past half century of neoliberalism.

    As sponsored by WEF elites, Build Back Better can be found on the lying lips of heads of state and other psycho sock puppets across the world who are no less demented than Manchurian president Biden in overseeing our demise, including through the divide-and-conquer ruses of forced and false choices like establishment and progressive police states. To meet this moment when profound paradigms of existence on earth are in motion, we need equally revolutionary movement capable of challenging the war being waged against us. Left-right, black-and-white pseudo-options of political possibility need to be jettisoned in favor of formation of a new body politic, new power of the people to make our own history and way upon the earth, free of the machinations of the “masters of mankind” (Adam Smith) and living with justice in the unity of equals.

  13. The speed at which “conventional wisdom” coalesced around The NY Times’ perspective tells me that – just like the Oligarchs said they would vote for Trump over Sanders – there were many in the Democratic Party who were anticipating the Virginia loss. They were even blaming the progressive BEFORE that election.

    Biden is intentionally letting those folks run the Country, because they reflect his Neoliberal corporate worldviews.

  14. Many of my friends (they do exist) think I’m a loony since I have been calling
    the NYT a “fascist rag” for the last 20 years. There’s no doubt that I am a loony,
    but this ain’t the reason why.

  15. Just say the Dem’s are two-faced flipflopping fascists along with the New York Time’s and the Republican party. Pure p.r. propaganda is their language and must be because immature, insecure narcissistic mindsets have no understanding of their own dignity they share with everyone and every living being so they fantasize about a world of fake honor, wealth and power they are a part of. Hey, why not make it a superpower. Lol. Truly, this is a great weakness. Real honor, wealth and power are within us all and make us strong together and valuable to each other. We are learning beings meant to personally develop and mature from using a narcissistic mindset to a compassionate one. Hate, violence and even the NYT’s bullshit calls for moderation are just signs of immaturity, insecurity and a weak need to get back to living in a fantasy. No matter if we are talking about an empire, mass shooters, the military, street gangs, bankers, mobsters, police officers, CEO’s, politicians, the intelligence services, or Jeffrey Epstein, the immature narcissistic mindset in us all will lie, cover up and try to control perceptions of whatever insecure fantasy is imagined and without real dignity extreme acts of moderation are desperately needed and even tantrums of narcissistic rage and honor killings.

  16. In urban areas that include large numbers of wealthy liberals, such as, New York City and the bay area of California most of these wealthy self identified liberals are pro-immigration, pro-inclusion, anti-racist, but very libertarian when it comes to increased taxes or regulating rents (many become landlords to participate in the bloated house and apartment markets in their local areas).

    These people are the ones that the NY Times advocate. They are the ones that pay to get access through the NY Times paywall. They are successful professionals, not billionaires, but multi-millionaires, and are well within the 1%.

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