NYT on Dems, Tea Parties and ‘Social Issues’

Jodi Jacobson from RH Reality Check joins CounterSpin this week to talk about the media’s decision to let Tea Party activists define their movement as one that doesn’t focus on red meat “social issues.” As Jacobson argues, that distinction doesn’t really square with the far-right views espoused by leading Tea Party Republican candidates.

The New York Times (10/7/10) offered a fresh example of this kind of reporting, in a piece by Kirk Johnson headlined “Democrats in Tight Races Put Focus on Abortion Rights.” Johnson notes the perilsof this strategy:

The Democratic strategy is at least drawing the attention of voters. But it comes with a risk, too: Does selling the idea that Republican fiscal warriors are social zealots in disguise send a shiver of fear down voters’ spines, or make Democrats look like they are avoiding the subject on most voters’ minds?

The premise seems to be that because Tea Party Republicans insist that they really care about the deficit, it would be unwise to talk about anything else that these candidates believe that might give some voters pause. It’s a bizarre standard. And let’s not forget Johnson’s suggestion that being a “fiscal warrior” is “the subject on most voters’ minds.” The media have been telling us this for quite some time–the voters-care-about-the-deficit mantra.The Times recently changed its tune on this somewhat, notingthat in their most recent poll “the deficit barely registers as a topic of concern when survey respondents were asked to volunteer their worries.” That was two weeks ago. Now, somehow, fighting deficits is back to being “the subject on most voters’ minds.”

About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.