Jonah Goldberg

Yes, of course, elite journalists are lopsidedly liberal according to pretty much every survey done over the last 30 years. Just for a moment imagine if instead of fighting global warming, advancing embryonic stem cell research and imposing smoking bans, Schwarzenegger and Bloomberg were delivering one victory after another for conservatives and pro-lifers. Is there anyone who thinks Time magazine would hail them as "heroes"?

But, again, that misses an important point. Political journalists at major media outlets are biased in favor of a narrowly defined "progress." They think the government's job is to advance the great wheel of history forward. They're like business reporters covering any other company. Businesses need to put out products. Companies have Tickle Me Elmos and G.I. Joes with the kung fu grip. Government has legislation and regulation, and when government fails to deliver its products, elite journalists claim "the system is broken."

Even the vocabulary of media coverage is biased. Whenever government passes new legislation, we are told that America has taken a major step "forward." When it repeals legislation, we moved "backward." And when Washington doesn't churn out the latest "reform," it fails to make "progress." Indeed, the word "reform" is itself loaded, because it means both to change shape and to improve. But the press doesn't bother with these distinctions, so every "reform" is portrayed as an improvement.

Consider the recent failure to pass "comprehensive immigration reform." The bill's collapse, in the words of the Washington Post's Dan Balz, "represents a scathing indictment of the political culture of Washington" and "another example of a polarized political system in which the center could not hold." Fox's Chris Wallace, in an unusual panic, asked why Washington could get the Civil Rights Acts of the 1960s passed but couldn't get this done.

According to conventional analysis, such lamentations are entirely unbiased because they fret the failure of both Republicans and Democrats to get things done. But those aren't the relevant parties. The real parties in question are those who think passing a bill, any bill, is its own reward and those who do not.

For those of us who think the government that governs least, governs best, times are pretty good in Washington. For those who think the best politicians are the ones who most successfully impose their will on American society, times are depressing. Which is why reporters have to go on the road to find their "action heroes" these days.


Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the forthcoming book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
 
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