Mind over Matters

I’ve said on several occasions that I don’t care for Media Matters For America or their unofficial in-house blogger, Oliver Willis. Their mission statement is to expose and oppose conservative bias in the media — apparently, in hopes of protecting and preserving the overwhelming liberal media bias that they approve of.

My irritation with Oliver is, as I’ve stated before, is largely motivated by jealousy. I don’t envy his writing ability or traffic or readership (all of which I believe I have him thoroughly outclassed), but his employer. Or, at least, his employer’s attitude. Despite his frequent assertions of independence, Oliver still manages to post several times during the work day, frequently supporting his employer’s positions and citing their press releases.

But of course he is independent.

Regardless of that, on occasion Oliver and I have been civil. I visited him at his office one time, and it was a mostly cordial visit. (I’d have photos of Mr. Duckie in the Heart Of Darkness that is Media Matters, but my camera chose to go on the fritz that day in DC.)

That is to give a bit of context to the following.

A little while ago, one of Oliver’s colleagues at Media Matters — Justin Cole — thought it would be a good idea to add me to his mailing list of bloggers. I thought about excoriating him in a private e-mail, but thought better of it and sent Oliver off a little note, asking/suggesting that he might want to have a word with his colleague. It was not so much asking of a favor, but a courtesy in the spirit of civility.

Shoulda known better. Oliver blew me off.

The missive that really annoyed me to the point of not just ignoring it was Justin’s touting a study that Americans were not really as conservative as people thought, and were, in fact — gasp! — “liberal” and “progressive.”

A Fisking of Cole’s summary follows below.

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The Progressive Majority:
Why a Conservative America Is a Myth

Executive Summary

Conventional wisdom says that the American public is fundamentally conservative – hostile to government, in favor of unregulated markets, at peace with inequality, wanting a foreign policy based on the projection of military power, and traditional in its social values.

But as this report demonstrates, that picture is fundamentally false. Media perceptions and past Republican electoral successes notwithstanding, Americans are progressive across a wide range of controversial issues, and they’re growing more progressive all the time.

Gee, someone must have been watching “The Wizard Of Oz” recently, because that’s gotta be the most animated straw man since Ray Bolger. “Conservative” is considered synonymous with “hostile to government,” “at peace with inequality,” and “wanting a foreign policy based on the projection of military power” — each nicely separated by a more traditional conservative value. Nicely done, folks.

Note also the “Media perceptions and past Republican electoral successes notwithstanding.” It’s a cliche that “the only poll that matters is the one on Election Day,” but to Media Matters that seems to be the only one that DOESN’T count. Three of the last four presidents have been Republicans, and Democrats have won precisely three of the past 11 elections, going back to 1968. But that doesn’t really matter; what matters are these new surveys.

This report gathers together years of public opinion data from unimpeachably nonpartisan sources to show that on issue after issue, the majority of Americans hold progressive positions. And this is true not only of specific policy proposals, but of the fundamental perspectives and approaches that Americans bring to bear on issues.

Nor is the progressive majority merely a product of the current political moment. On a broad array of issues, particularly social issues, American opinion has grown more and more progressive over the past few decades. In contrast, it is difficult to find an issue on which the public has grown steadily more conservative over the last 10, 20, or 30 years.

You can trust OUR sources and polls and surveys, because we say they’re “unimpeachable.” And considering (speculation here, but one I’m feeling fairly comfortable on this one) their likely position on Bill Clinton’s impeachment (against it) and the potential impeachment of Bush/Cheney/Gonzales (for it) and (really speculating here) Alcee Hastings (forgive and forget — preferably as soon as possible), I guess they would be experts on impeachment.

The issues covered in this report include the following:

* The role of government – Americans support an active government that tackles problems, provides services, and aids those in need.

Gee, I didn’t know that conservatives didn’t like a government that tackled problems, provided servises, and aids those in need. I was under the impression that they liked those, too — they mainly quibble about which problems are really the responsibility of the federal government and which should be handled at a lower level of government, or not at all; provided only those services that it is Constitutionally authorized to do so and is the only body that can do so; and aids those in NEED, not those who simply prefer to depend on others to do what they should do for themselves. Thanks for clearing that up for me, Media Matters.

* The economy – Americans support increasing the minimum wage and strong unions, and believe the wealthy and corporations don’t pay their fair share of taxes.

Americans also support free ice cream and puppies. Oddly enough, union membership has been falling for years, and I nearly everyone thinks that the wrong people (them) pay too many taxes, while the right people (everyone else) don’t pay enough.

* Social issues – Americans support legal abortion and embryonic stem cell research; opinions on equal rights for women and gay Americans have grown dramatically more progressive in recent years.

Last time I checked, there were no restrictions on stem cell research — only on using federal funds (in other words, your and my money) for it. And the support for gay marriage is so overwhelmingly, popular, the Massachusetts legislature just voted for the umpteenth time to preserve the court-mandated institution of gay marriage and keep the people of Massachusetts from being able to vote in massive numbers to enshrine it into the law.

* Security – Americans support a progressive approach to national security, emphasizing strong alliances and diplomacy over the indiscriminate use of military force. On domestic security issues, progressive approaches to crime and gun control enjoy wide support.

Apparently, we’ve been “indiscriminately” using our military around the world. I was under the impression that they had gone only where ordered by the President and authorized by the Congress. Why didn’t anyone tell me that, when we weren’t looking, the Air Force was bombing Myanmar, the Navy was terrorizing the Galopagos Islands, the Army was tramping through Sierra Leone, and the Marine Corps had re-enacted the flag raising on Iwo Jima on the Eiffel Tower? Darn, you can’t take your eyes off them for a minute!

Oh, and the “progressive approaches to crime and gun control” seem to revolve around not sending criminals to jail and disarming everyone, in the hopes that the criminals and the law-abiding citizens would both give up their guns and everything would be just ducky and lovely and we’d all sing Kumbayah.

Oh, and that Second Amendment? Fugeddaboutit. Youse don’t needs ta protect yourself, dah government will do dat for ya. We promise.

* The environment – By enormous margins, Americans favor strong environmental protections, a core progressive belief.
* Energy – Americans support energy conservation and the development of alternative fuels.

I wonder if Media Matters has actually looked at who is considered the “good guys” and “bad guys” on environmentalism. Compare John Edwards and Al Gore, versus George W. Bush.

* Health care – Americans clearly favor universal coverage and are more than comfortable with government solutions to the health care problem.

America does NOT have a health care crisis. We have a health care FUNDING crisis, if anything. And all the rhetoric and blue-sky fantasy proposals and principles, can anyone cite a case when the government got involved in something, and it got CHEAPER? Hell, Hawaii passed price controls on gasoline a while ago, and ended up with some of the highest prices in the country.

In short, a look across the scope of American public opinion reveals a public that holds progressive positions and supports progressive solutions on economic issues, on social issues, on security issues – indeed, on nearly all the key issues confronting the country. For years, the conventional wisdom has maintained just the opposite, but the facts are impossible to ignore.

If that is what the American people want, then the American people are fools. But that is presuming that Media Matters is right — and I simply don’t trust them as far as I can throw them — and I got a bad back.

More importantly, when it comes down to matters of principle and personal convictions and beliefs, I don’t submit them to public approval and set aside my own opinions and judgments. I note what others say, and take them into account, but I make my own decisions.

I’m sorry, Justin, if that makes you uncomfortable. But I’ve tried the “follow the herd” approach in the past, and it just doesn’t work for me.

The Baucus-Grassley Bill