Breaking the mold

Posted: May 02, 2004 12:00 AM

Looks like I might have to turn in my membership in the ?vast right wing conspiracy.? After all, while I favor lower taxes, smaller government and the war in Iraq, I?m missing a key criterion. I don?t own any guns.

This failing became shockingly clear on April 26, when The Washington Post took an in-depth look at a ?typical? conservative. The story was part two of a series purporting to explain why Americans are so politically divided.

The Post?s typical ?red state? voter, Britton Stein, lives in Sugar Land, Texas, in House Majority Leader Tom DeLay?s district. He?s been happily married for 23 years and is raising three daughters.
Now, the checklist begins. Stein owns six guns. Has 20 crosses in his house. Plus, ?his truck is a Chevy. His beer is Bud Light. His savior is Jesus Christ,? the newspaper intoned. Set aside for a moment that his religious faith is treated as changeably as a common vehicle or brew. Is there a stereotype the newspaper missed?

Compare that with the ?typical? liberal family profiled on April 27. They live in San Francisco, in House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi?s district. But the stereotypes end there.

Tom and Maryanne Harrison have been married for 37 years. Both their children are planning weddings in the City by the Bay. But amazingly, in a city where 10 percent of the population is homosexual, neither child is gay. Plus, the parents are blue-collar workers and they attend church weekly.
This is the ?typical? liberal? Not according to the very same story.

?Blue America,? the Post reports, ?is where abortion is ultimately seen as a personal choice, faith is more often an individual expression than a collective one, and marriage is less a union of two genders than of two people.?

Indeed. So it makes no sense the paper profiled a family of Catholics (supposed to oppose abortion), who are regular churchgoers (express collective faith with fellow congregants) and proponents of traditional marriage (Maryanne and her daughter both consider marriage a ?sacrament?).

The Harrisons should have been excluded simply because they do go to church. After all, the ?typical? regular churchgoer is overwhelmingly likely to support conservative candidates.
According to a 2002 poll by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, 63 percent of people who attend services more than once a week vote Republican. Just 37 percent of regular attendees vote Democratic. Meanwhile, 62 percent of those who attend services once a year or never vote Democrat, while 38 of these voters are Republicans.

Of course, if the Post could find a ?typical? red state voter who fit so many stereotypical traits, it ought to have been able to find a ?typical? blue stater who did, as well. So the question is, did it really try?

Maybe they could have spoken to a limousine liberal from the Upper East Side -- someone who wonders ?How could George W. Bush have been elected? Nobody I know voted for him!? Or an anti-war activist who marches for every cause that comes down the pike. There must have been at least one such liberal here in D.C. for the pro-abortion rally that took place the weekend before this story ran.

In the series, Stein and his conservative family come off looking good. He reads every morning -- bonus points for that. And on the issue of homosexual rights, Stein sounds at least as open-minded as the ?blue state? representative.

?My attitude toward them is I really don?t care,? he told the paper. ?Would it change how I feel about someone? I don?t think so.? In other words, live and let live. Hardly the draconian response the conservative stereotype seems to demand.

Compare that with Maryanne Harrison. When asked how she?d react if her son told her he was homosexual, she claimed she?d be supportive. ?Gay people, they don?t pick an easy road,? she said. ?But if it was his calling, I wouldn?t stand in his way.? 

Pick a road? Hardly the full-throated positive response one would expect from a typical liberal.

When all?s said and done, this series is just another example of big-media bias. The elites see liberals as normal people, friendly people, people they?d want to have dinner with. Meanwhile, they see conservatives as some strange species from somewhere ?out there.? People they?ve never met.
People they wouldn?t want to meet.

Of course, in the real world, conservatives are no more identical than liberals are. We differ on many issues, and some of us are even so nice, you wouldn?t mind having a conversation with us.

The Post?s bias is wrong. But it is predictable. That?s what?s typical.