Here are a few mainstream media rules of thumb: Minority Democrats in public office are inspirational role models. Minority Republicans in public office are embarrassing sellouts.
Minority Democrat politicians are principled. Minority Republican politicians are misguided.
Minority Democrat politicians represent the hopes and dreams of all Americans. Minority Republican politicians are traitors to their "communities." These rules are unwritten, of course, but the minority politician double standard is glaringly obvious in the national media fawning over newly elected U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill.
After Obama's Democratic National Convention address this summer, The New York Times exulted: "As Quickly as Overnight, a New Democratic Star Is Born." A headline in the Christian Science Monitor echoed: "A Star is Born." USA Today panted: "Rising star brings Democrats to their feet." NBC's Andrea Mitchell enthused: "I think the real breakout tonight is Obama. I mean Teresa is a fascinating story, but Obama is a rock star!" And Newsweek's Howard Fineman proclaimed: "He is the best argument for the American dream that's around in politics."
Obama's personal story is certainly impressive. The biracial Obama is son of a Kenyan immigrant and a rarely mentioned white mother (who raised him after his father ditched the family and returned to Africa when Obama was 2). A civil rights lawyer, Obama skyrocketed in the Democratic ranks from Illinois state senator to U.S. senator in just a few short years. He has been blessed with good looks, good luck, polished speaking skills and prodigious fund-raising abilities. After his historic election victory, he appeared on NBC's "Meet the Press," ABC's "This Week," and a slew of cable and local news shows. His autobiography, "Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance," was a recent best-seller, and he has now signed with D.C. "superagent" Robert Barnett for future lucrative book deals.
Obama isn't the only example of "the American dream that's around in politics," however. At least two other noteworthy minority politicians won unprecedented election victories last week. But you won't hear Andrea Mitchell or Howard Fineman swooning over their success stories -- because these invisible American Dream candidates belong to the wrong party and believe all the wrong things.
Republican Van Tran, a Vietnamese-American, is a staunch defender of the Second Amendment, immigration enforcement, traditional marriage, tax cuts, the war in Iraq and the sanctity of life. He is also a self-described "Reagan kid" and an outspoken anti-communist who escaped his native land when he was 10. He has been targeted for his views and carries a concealed weapon to protect himself. Tran was elected to the California State assembly and is the first Vietnamese-American to serve in the statehouse.
Republican Bobby Jindal, 33-year-old son of Indian immigrants, was elected to Congress with a whopping 78 percent of the vote in his Louisiana district. A pro-life Catholic, Rhodes Scholar, free-market health policy guru, reform-minded college administrator and Bush adviser, Jindal bounced back from a close gubernatorial loss to become the first Indian-American in Congress since 1956. He raised so much money for his campaign that he showered $25,000 of it on the Republican National Committee, $12,500 on the Louisiana Republican Party, and an estimated $125,000 on 45 Republican candidates around the country.
Tran and Jindal are remarkable rising stars, but as New York Times editorial writer Adam Cohen seemed to suggest in a derisive profile of Jindal, minority conservatives are regarded by the mainstream media elite as "freakish" -- no matter how impressive their resumes or resounding their electoral victories or moving their personal stories are.
Doubt that such media bias exists? The next time "objective" journalists gush about Democratic Sen.-elect Obama, drop them a note and ask them to name a single minority Republican public official (besides pro-choice, pro-affirmative action, dovish Colin Powell) that they truly admire.
Don't expect a reply.