ACTION ALERT: NYT Invents Left Extremists to Make ‘Moderation’ the Midterm Winner

Please tell the New York Times to explain how the Democrats cited in its November 14 piece qualify as “extremists.”

The post ACTION ALERT: NYT Invents Left Extremists to Make ‘Moderation’ the Midterm Winner appeared first on FAIR.

 

Election Focus 2022Of the many lessons to be learned from this year’s midterms, in which Democrats defied historical trends to largely hold off a GOP wave, the New York TimesJonathan Weisman and Katie Glueck  (11/14/22) singled out corporate media’s recurring favorite: Moderation won.

With the widespread losses suffered by extremist Republican candidates, it’s no surprise that journalists and pundits are reading lessons into that for the GOP. But in true Timesian fashion, Weisman and Glueck argued that it’s both extremes that voters rejected. “On the Right and Left, People Voted to Reject Extremists in Midterms,” announced the headline to their piece in the print edition.

‘Similar dynamic’

NYT: Extreme Candidates and Positions Came Back to Bite in Midterms

This New York Times article (11/14/22) started with a list of three “extreme candidates”—including Oregon’s Jamie McLeod-Skinner, who apparently made the list because she’s a “liberal Democrat.”

In a jarring lead, they laid out three examples of “extremism” losing: Adam Laxalt (running for Senate from Nevada) and Doug Mastriano (running for Pennsylvania governor), both GOP election deniers and abortion-rights opponents—and Jamie McLeod-Skinner, a Democratic House candidate in Oregon who was described by the local paper (Oregonian, 10/12/22) as someone whose “ability to target common objectives will be key for uniting constituents” in a diverse district.

Confused? Republicans, Weisman and Glueck went on,

received a sweeping rebuke from Americans who, for all the qualms polls show they have about Democratic governance, made clear they believe that the GOP has become unacceptably extreme.

But, they argued, “on a smaller scale, a similar dynamic could be discerned on the left,” where “Democratic primary voters chose more progressive nominees over moderates in a handful of House races,” and thereby lost seats “that could have helped preserve a narrow Democratic majority” in the House.

It’s a bizarre case of journalists prioritizing balance at all costs, which they can only achieve by not pointing to a single thing that might qualify the Democrats in question as “extremists.”

The piece described some of the actual extremism that voters apparently rejected on the right, including “embrace of Donald Trump’s lies about the 2020 election,” “a morass of conspiracy theories and far-right policy positions,” the “drive to ban abortions,” and “a drift away from fundamental rights and democracy itself”—not to mention “the bizarre claim, given credence by some Republican candidates, that children were going beyond gender and identifying as cats who needed litter boxes in classrooms.”

While most would accept that these are extremist positions, the reporters matched them on the left with mere labels (“from the liberal wing of their party,” an “ardent progressive”) and not a single policy position, statement or action. Apparently if you call a politician “progressive” at the Times, it’s meant to be understood that they’re extreme, with no further explanation required.

Who’s an ‘extremist’?

But let’s take a closer look at all of the “extremist” House Democratic candidates the Times offered as examples: McLeod-Skinner of Oregon, Michelle Vallejo of Texas and Christy Smith of California.

In her primary, McLeod-Skinner defeated incumbent Kurt Schrader, described by the Times as “moderate”—like “progressive,” a word not defined or substantiated by the reporters. How “moderate” is Schrader, exactly? After voting against the overwhelmingly popular American Rescue Plan, playing a key role in weakening the Democrats’ Build Back Better agenda, and calling the impeachment of Donald Trump for the January 6 insurrection a  “lynching,” Schrader lost the support of two-thirds of the Democratic county parties in his district, who accused him of voting in the interests of the industries that bankrolled him, not his constituents (Intercept, 3/24/22).

McLeod-Skinner herself ran with a populist approach and was embraced by progressives, but declined to accept the “progressive” label for herself (American Prospect, 11/7/22). In the Oregonian endorsement (10/12/22) noted above, the editors also wrote: “Her priorities are not partisan, but focused on people’s needs, she noted—rebuilding the economy, increasing the availability of housing and supporting working families.”

American Prospect: How Democrats Lost a House Seat in California

Christy Smith, one of the New York Times‘ Democratic “extreme candidates,” has now lost to an election-denying Trumpist three times; after her first loss, the American Prospect (5/18/20) noted that her “platform featured few of the progressive agenda items that excited voters.”

Christy Smith, perhaps the most baffling choice for the Times to include, is a former state assembly member characterized by the LA Times (5/16/22) as “a levelheaded centrist with years of relevant experience.” Smith’s district, long Republican, was won in 2018 by Democrat Katie Hill, who, running as a progressive, won by a 9-point margin (the kind of outcome that demonstrates the potential strength of a left-of-center platform even in a swing district). After Hill’s resignation, Smith lost the seat to her Republican opponent in a special election—running as what the American Prospect (5/18/20) described as a “safe centrist” with a “lack of motivating policy ambitions,” such as Hill’s support for Medicare for All. That the Times included Smith as an example of extremism run amok in the Democratic Party shows just how far it has to stretch to find balance in all things.

Smith won her primary against John Quaye Quartey, a former naval intelligence officer described by Weisberg and Glueck as what the veterans group VoteVets thought was a “dream candidate.” That “dream candidate,” a newcomer to both the area and politics, had the backing of some Washington Democrats, but netted just over 4,000 votes to Smith’s 34,000—which raises the questions of whose dreams such a candidate fulfills, and why the New York Times thinks he might have stood a better chance than Smith in the general election.

Michelle Vallejo, the sole example who did, in fact, embrace the progressive label, promoted as her top issues Medicare for All, a $15 minimum wage, abortion rights and investments in green energy jobs.

While those sorts of issues tend to be branded by corporate media as “far left” or “extreme,” they are quite popular among Democratic voters, and often more broadly as well (FAIR.org, 5/18/18). By trying to tell a story of voters rejecting extremism on both left and right, the Times puts such things as threatening democracy, engaging in conspiracy theories and supporting draconian abortion laws on the same footing as  seeking adequate representation for local interests and rights—and suggests that both are the kinds of things the parties would do well to avoid.

Progressive scapegoats

Nation: New York State Cost Democrats Control of Congress. Will Anyone Be Held Accountable?

The establishment Democrats who lost four seats in the New York Times‘ home state (The Nation, 11/15/22) did not figure into the paper’s analysis that the 2022 midterms were a victory for “moderation.”

The Times blamed these so-called progressive candidates for helping the party lose the House. But was it those Democrats’ policy positions that cost them their races? McLeod-Skinner, who refused to take corporate donations in her fight against a millionaire Republican, was abandoned by the national party and ended up being vastly outspent by her opponent (Intercept, 11/11/22)—yet still came within 3 percentage points of winning.

Vallejo was even more overwhelmingly outspent, and even more ignored by the national party, which focused its spending on defending the seat of the anti-abortion rights Democratic incumbent Henry Cuellar in the next district over (American Prospect, 10/28/22)—who, the Times crowed, “trounced” his own Republican opponent after narrowly escaping a primary challenge from progressive Jessica Cisneros.

And Smith? You guessed it, wildly outspent and left for dead by her party (Politico, 10/14/22).

Meanwhile, in perhaps the highest-profile win by a Democrat who defeated a more centrist primary opponent, John Fetterman (who bested centrist Conor Lamb in the primary) won his hard-fought Pennsylvania Senate race. The Times briefly noted Fetterman’s win as a counterexample and moved quickly on.

But of course left-of-center candidates weren’t the only ones to lose key House races for the Dems. In New York alone, the Democrats lost four House seats; none of the losing candidates were progressives. While court-ordered redistricting in New York left Democrats scrambling, it’s notable that the Times analysis didn’t mention the high-profile loss of New York representative, DCCC chair and quintessential “moderate” Sean Patrick Maloney.

After pushing out a progressive incumbent who had represented most of that district prior to redistricting, and defeating another popular progressive in the primary with the help of a 5-to-1 funding advantage and vicious attack ads (Intercept, 8/12/22), Maloney lost, despite the district voting for Biden in 2020 by more than 10 points, and despite the full backing—and funding—of the centrist wing of the party (Slate, 11/14/22).

What does Maloney’s loss say about voters’ “support for moderation”? Don’t ask Weisman and Glueck. Plenty of political observers had things to say about it (e.g., The Nation, 11/15/22), but the Times reporters only quoted centrist Democrats and organizations who supported their absurd argument.

ACTION:

Please tell the New York Times to explain how the Democrats cited in its November 14 piece qualify as “extremists.”

CONTACT:

Letters: letters@nytimes.com

Readers Center: Feedback

Twitter: @NYTimes

Please remember that respectful communication is the most effective. Feel free to leave a copy of your communication in the comments thread.

 

The post ACTION ALERT: NYT Invents Left Extremists to Make ‘Moderation’ the Midterm Winner appeared first on FAIR.


This content originally appeared on FAIR and was authored by Julie Hollar.


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