Sunday, October 22, 2006

Is Doyle a centrist? How do you tell?

Today's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel exhibited the type of media bias that is far more prevalent than overt bias and planned agendas. The import of the headlines were that Jim Doyle is a centrist ("governs from the political middle") while Green is "in with his party" suggesting that he is somehow not in the political middle - wherever that is. Given that most people don't read news articles carefully and, even when they do, don't have much a frame of reference into which they can place what they read, this really winds up as a pro-Doyle spin. He's a moderate, it says, a reasonable man. It's not clear what Green is, but the clear implication is that it is something else.

The problem with this is not so much that it's unfair, but that it is contentless. It suggests a type of objective standards for politicians that just doesn't exist. Is Doyle a "centrist?" Left activists in the Democratic Party certainly think so. Conservatives certainly don't. As the article notes, he certainly could have governed from a more leftward position than he has, but he has also taken any number of positions that are well to the left of prevailing opinion, i.e., opposition to a property tax freeze, TABOR, voter ID, etc. Whether he is in the middle depends on who is looking and from where. In the newsroom, he may look like a centrist. From other places, he does not.

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