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When Dems Tout Newspaper Endorsements and “Fact Checks,” Are They Hurting Other Dems?

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What got me thinking about this question recently is several cases where a newspaper endorsement was touted by other Democrats, even as that same newspaper endorsed a Republican (e.g., John Vihstadt for Arlington County Board) for another office, dissed other Democrats (e.g., John Foust), etc. Same thing with the “fact checkers,” which are touted by Democratic candidates – in TV ads, mailers, etc. – when they go their way, but obviously not looked kindly upon when they bestow “Pinocchios” or “false” ratings on them. The question is, when Democrats tout newspaper endorsements or “fact checks” that go their way, are they helping themselves in the short-term at the expense of: a) their fellow Democrats in the short-term; b) themselves in the long-term; and/or c) their party in the long-term? Also, does this phenomenon fall into either the “Prisoner’s Dilemma” or “Tragedy of the Commons” paradigm? Here’s a synopsis of conversations I had with a national Democratic political operative and two Democratic committee chairs last night on this subject.

  • My question: “Doesn’t touting the endorsement increase its value, lend it credibility, etc., so then, when they endorse a Republican in the same or future election cycles, it’s hard to argue they’re idiots or whatever, because you just touted what an honor/privilege/etc. it was when they endorsed YOU? Is this similar to the ‘tragedy of the commons’ (‘individuals, acting independently and rationally according to each one’s self-interest, behave contrary to the whole group’s long-term best interests by depleting some common resource.’)?”
  • Response from Dem committee chair #1: “It’s very much that.”
  • Response from national Dem politico: “I don’t really sweat newspapers when it comes to that, in part because they just don’t have the influence they used to…We may be jaundiced because we’re in the backyard of the Washington Post, whose ed board long since lost the benefit of the doubt.” (I noted that Post editorial page editor Fred Hiatt prints climate science deniers, torture enthusiasts, etc., to which the national Dem politico responded, “**** that guy!”).
  • Response by Dem committee chair #2 to my comment  that the guy who makes the Post’s Virginia endorsements, Lee Hockstader, is “so horrible” — “Yes he is.” The biggest problem (among many other problems) with Hockstader, in my view: “He never attends any debates or comes to any events or interview the candidates most of the time or….anything, so why is he qualified to make endorsements?”
  • Comment from national Dem politico: “I don’t give the WaPo any benefit of the doubt. Fred Hiatt and all his minions can eat a bag of [redacted]…but I’d still rate the influence of the so-called fact checkers as far more poisonous.”
  • But here’s the conundrum, according to the national Dem politico: “political tacticians go for what works, or what they perceive to work.”
  • My response: “What I’m saying is that by acting in their own, narrow self interest, they do long-term damage while (they hope) furthering their narrow, short-term self interest. For instance, when the idiot Post endorses Republican John Vihstadt for Arlington County Board, it’s hard to blast them because another Dem is busy touting their endorsement by the same paper (actually, Lee Hockstader) — e.g., Gerry Connolly, Don Beyer — touting what a great honor it is, etc.”
  • Response by national Dem politico: “Sure – but it’s a collective action problem (you’re familiar w/ the prisoner’s dilemma, I take it)…and a tough one to solve in the heat of a campaign…And someone will always break ranks, because the American party system is organized as a loose network, not in top-down fashion.”
  • My response: “Right, but my point is, it’s doing long-term damage, because it puffs up these newspapers, gives them legitimacy which they most certainly do NOT deserve. For instance, the fact that the Post endorsement supposedly ‘worked for Creigh Deecds’ (whether it really did or not) puffs up Lee Hockstader/the Post’s importance, which hurts us when they endorse Republicans Frank Wolf, Tom Davis, John Vihstadt, whoever and/or say bad things about Democrats (e.g., John Foust).”
  • As for the “fact checkers,” my national Dem politico friend said, “I have no patience for bad actors – people who draw false equivalences in order to posture as somehow ‘above it all’…So Politifact, for instance, can suck my [redacted].”

Another recent example of what we’re talking about is the Denver Post’s endorsement of right wingnut U.S. Senate candidate Cory Gardner over Democratic U.S. Senator Mark Udall. The problem is, Democrats touted this paper’s endorsements of Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012, as well as of Mark Udall in 2008. To me, that may have helped specific Democratic candidates (including Mark Udall) in the short term, but in the long term, it only makes the Denver Post’s bat****-crazy endorsement of Gardner (over the same Udall they endorsed in 2008) more credible this year, hurting Udall’s chances of reelection this time around. See what I’m saying?

Finally, how about when Democrats actually tout endorsements from right-wing newspapers (or organizations) which deny (or express “skepticism” about) climate science,  endorse right-wing candidates (e.g., George Allen in 2006, Bob McDonnell in 2009), etc? Again, isn’t that just lending these newspapers/organizations legitimacy, treating them as if their opinion is something we should care about (when it clearly isn’t, based on their many past idiocies)? Unfortunately, I fear that this behavior – Democrats touting endorsements from newspaper editorial boards (or, in many cases, single individuals) who are most certainly not our friends, or positive ratings from flawed “fact checkers” (which soon enough will come back to bite us in the butt) – will continue, as campaigns look for any short-term advantage they can get, even if it does long-term damage to themselves, their fellow Democrats, or the party as a whole. Sigh…

  • Jim W

    Some subjects are better explored after the votes are counted and before the next round of candidates are chosen.  Please keep this one in the folder for future thoughts.

  • for being endorsed by the Post, which they claim is filled with  “upscale progressives” (see their email below). Which must be why the guy who makes these endorsements, Lee Hockstader, endorsed Tom Davis and Frank Wolf every time they ran, didn’t endorse at all in the Foust-Comstock race (even though Comstock’s a right-wing hardliner and Republican “attack dog”), just endorsed Republican John Vihstadt for Arlington County Board, etc, etc. Also, gotta love the Fairfax Republicans attacking Don Beyer’s experience, when if Don Beyer is one thing, it’s experienced! Crazy. As for Micah Edmond, he has some solid experience as “aid-de-camp for two senior generals and speechwriter for the Commandant of the Marine Corps” and a congressional staffer, but not even close to the vast array of experience Don Beyer has gathered over the years in the fields of business (last I checked, weren’t Republicans supposedly the ones who respected businesspeople and didn’t denigrate them, as they falsely accuse Democrats of doing?), government (two terms as Lt. Governor of Virginia; ambassador to Switzerland, a key intermediary with Iran and other important countries), etc, etc. Fortunately, Beyer should cruise to victory Tuesday evening, so this is all moot, except to illustrate how ridiculous Fairfax Republicans are…

    Unlike John Foust and Gerry Connolly, who as we have pointed out were either not endorsed by the Washington Post or damned with faint praise, Don Beyer has received the Post’s endorsement. But why?

    The Post’s begins with praise for Beyer’s knowledge of foreign affairs – which begs the question: where does Beyer stand on the rolling trainwreck that is the Obama foreign policy?

    In reality, of course, Beyer has no stand. He’s a car dealer who got rich, raised a lot of money for Barack Obama, and received his due reward. Nothing wrong with that. But with all due respect to the people of Liechtenstein, our relations with that country are of little consequence. And Switzerland is hardly tough duty. The Foreign Service professionals do all the heavy lifting, and Bern is not exactly at the center of our foreign policy. So while it’s nice to hang out at parties with a former ambassador, Wolf Blitzer won’t be asking Don Beyer for his views on ISIS, Ukraine, or the state of the EU any time soon.  

    On the domestic front, the Post praised Beyer’s commitment to “grappling with climate change.” This perfectly illustrates the problem with the Democratic Party today: polling shows that the economy, health care, terrorism, illegal immigration, and education are the top issues people care about. The federal government is failing to perform basic functions, but the Post endorses a man because he speaks passionately about climate change.

    The truth is that Don Beyer has nothing to offer but a reliable vote on the issues that the upscale progressives at the Post like to yammer about at cocktail parties. Which is, of course, the answer to our question.  The term “limousine liberal” is a bit dated, and in any case Volvo doesn’t make limousines. Maybe we should call him a “Prada Progressive.”

    Now, in fairness to the Post, they have acknowledged that Micah Edmond, our nominee, is an exceptional candidate. The Post even recognizes that Micah is “an impressively substantive candidate” with “a detailed command of the nation’s fiscal challenges” who “would make an effective lawmaker.” This one they got right.  And if you have heard Micah’s life story, you know that he knows just a little bit more about teen pregnancy and poverty than Don Beyer ever will. For more about Micah’s life story, please go here.

    It’s a shame that the Post never makes an endorsement without considering all the partisan angles. If they could, they would have to acknowledge that Edmond is the better candidate. But the people of the Eighth District don’t have to be so biased.   On Tuesday, vote for quality – vote for Micah Edmond.

  • loudoun independent

    A newspaper that endorsed Democrats 100% of the time would not be seen as credible.

    Same thing with the fact-checking series.

  • fendertweed

    to assume that anyone who doesn’t toe the line 100% of the time is stupid, venal, ignorant, etc.

    Yet that is the clear tone too often put across here.  It’s a fact that numerous Democrats and Independents supported and still support Vihstadt, for example.

    Yet he is still repeatedly called “Lyin’ Vihstadt” or some similar grade school pejorative here, rather than acknowledging that intelligent people of good will and good faith may actually differ on some substantive issues without being bamboozled or brainwashed by sinister forces, or being mentally deficient.

    This may be reflected in endorsements.  It’s easy to say the Post’s Va. endorsement writer is an idiot who doesn’t know anything about the campaign.  But it’s the same kind of petty crap that you/ we rail at the other side for and it serve no useful purpose to engage in it here, it just brings the conversation down several notches.

  • campaignman

    As you can see, the GOP is very effective at damning newspapers in the mainstream as liberal so that when they don’t get endorsed they can claim they are partisan, elitists and whatever else they think will stick.  

    Yet, when an editorial from that same paper says something good about a Republican, all of sudden the paper “got something right.”

    It is about time that Democrats started using the same approach. Let’s start attacking these newspapers for their conservative editorials and the fact that they suck up to power when editorials endorse incumbent Republicans or Republicans they expect to win.

    Attacking these media sources as conservative would allow Democrats to make the case that when they don’t win an endorsement it’s partisanship but, when they do, it really means something because they are otherwise against us.

    The DNC can help by calling out every conservative editorial in every major newspaper and branding that paper conservative as a result.

    Candidates must do the same.  Democrats must be prepared to hit back hard when editorials go against us, just the way the GOP has.

    For too long, we have unilaterally disarmed in this area.  It’s time for a change.

    In the case of John Foust’s race, he could have called out the Post as cowards.  The Post slammed Barbara Comstock in its editorial but didn’t endorse Foust.  Instead, Foust took another valid approach.  He is using the language of the Post editorial in an ad and ignoring that he wasn’t formally endorsed.

  • campaignman

    http://usliberals.about.com/od

    Demolishing the Myth of the Liberal Media

    By Jill Silos-Rooney, Ph.D.

    Conservatives in the United States love to claim that criticism of their policies and candidates should not be taken seriously because they come from the “liberal media.” They pose as victims of “gotcha journalism” that consistently portrays them inaccurately. Countless websites are dedicated to circulating this false construct, the most prominent including as Breitbart.com and Newsbusters, which is dedicated to “exposing and combating liberal media bias.”

    It’s a great sound bite: pithy, dramatic, providing an easy scapegoat and, most importantly, distracting attention from very legitimate discussions about the flaws of their positions. There’s just one problem: it’s a lie.

    Objective analysis demonstrates that there is little evidence of a pervasive liberal bias targeted specifically at conservatives. In fact, there is much evidence against that accusation. Larry Light, the former senior editor for investment at Forbes magazine, writes,

    “Regardless of its dubious merits, anti-media complaining is part of conservative orthodoxy. And it makes for very effective propaganda, relentlessly delivered, which has seeped into the popular culture — to the point that a Gallup survey last fall found that 46 percent of the American people think the media are biased toward the left (37 percent believe that news folk play it down the middle).”

    The Conservative Bias in Media

    Evidence suggests, though, that it’s liberals who should be worried, because conservatives clearly rule the airwaves. According to Talkers, the nation’s largest publication focusing on talk radio, the top five shows with the highest ratings on talk radio this month were all conservative: the programs hosted by Rush  Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Christian financial expert Dave Ramsay, Glenn Beck, and Michael Savage held the top five spots.

    Television news is similarly dominated by conservatives. Mediate reports, “the second quarter of 2014 is over, and the cable news ratings numbers are in, along with the requisite spin from the big three networks. The perennial leader Fox News reached a new milestone, clocking its 50th straight quarter and 150th straight month at #1.”

    FOX News is so pervasive it even has its own stores to promote its viewpoint.

    Are Journalists Biased to the Left?

    The right similarly contends that the news is controlled by liberal journalists, a claim supported by one Pew Research Foundation study that reported that more journalists identify as liberal than conservative. But as journalist Jeffrey A. Dvorkin argued on National Public Radio, that study is deeply flawed. He writes,

    “First, the poll never asks exactly how personal political attitudes impact on the ability of journalists to do their job. In that sense, I think the poll may be a disservice. It implies – but never explains how or if bias has an impact on journalism. The poll simply assumes – as conservatives constantly point out – that bias makes its way into the journalism… More importantly in my opinion, the poll never asks about the political leanings of the media owners, publishers and upper management of news organizations. It is arguable that their politics are more influential than their employees in choosing the direction of a news organization.”

    Interestingly, even if more journalists do have liberal political leanings, Media watchdog 4th Estate proves that it does not seem to make a difference when it comes to coverage of the news. The group,  which works “to replace anecdote and speculation about how the media covers important issues in our society with visual intelligence based on statistical analysis of the media, found that coverage of the 2012 election had a distinct conservative bias. In the 2012 election, Republicans were quoted in the media more than Democrats, at a rate of 59% compared to 41% for Democrats. They also found that there was 17% more negative coverage of President Obama than of conservative Republican candidate Mitt Romney.

    All of this proves that the ring wing accusation that the media has a liberal bias is nothing more than a myth – and a damaging one at that. The effect of these calculated and unsubstantiated claims is a damaging tendency to muzzle any actual debate. And that’s exactly what the conservatives want: no debate, no discussion, and no resistance to their agenda.