A response to Dave Weigel

Matt K. Lewis Senior Contributor
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A post I penned yesterday about how Democrats are preemptively laying the groundwork to explain potential 2014 losses wasn’t terribly well received by Dave Weigel. The often-astute Slate reporter and blogger took umbrage at my suggestion the media was carrying liberal water, sniping: “If there was a meeting where the AP and NYT coordinated their coverage, I was not invited.”

Clearly I was mistaken, inasmuch as such overt coordination would have surely been announced on the JournoList. In any event, whether the media’s assistance in pre-framing potential 2014 losses is an act of collusion — or just a reflection of a liberal worldview — is largely a distinction without a difference.

The fact remains that we are seeing the emergence of an alternative liberal narrative that would taint 2014 Republican victories — and Democrats are exploiting these stories for political gain (yesterday, for example, the DNC held a “press conference call on the Sunday New York Times story detailing the Republican Party’s attempts to limit voting rights in specific states.”)

Now, rather than merely disagreeing with my point of view, Weigel accused me of bias — of “working the refs” — as if I were some sort partisan hack whose writing reeks of blind, partisan activism. (Clearly, I am in favor of suppressing minority voters — which is exactly why I have spent the last year advocating for immigration reform and a pathway to citizenship.)

In fact, it is the mainstream media who are presenting biased information here. For example, let’s consider the aforementioned New York Times front-page story, headlined: “New G.O.P. Bid to Limit Voting in Swing States.” The clear implication is that the GOP is working around the clock to disenfranchise African-American voters. And how are they hoping to achieve this sinister goal and prevail as victors in November? The GOP’s signature move  — the one cited by Weigel — is to limit early voting. (The other method is gerrymandering; I’ve already poked holes in that argument.)

Of course, there are two ways of explaining these positions, one much more cynical than the other. You might suggest it is a purely political calculation with the goal of suppressing African-American votes (I hope we would all agree that’s a horrible motivation that should not be condoned).

But what everyone — including Weigel — fails to mention, is the possibility that there are sincere and legitimate arguments for why early voting is a bad idea — based on its merits. This isn’t a secret. Plenty of serious and respected experts and commentators have made this point (see here, here, and here). So while there are two ways of explaining these efforts, guess which option the media chooses to believe…

Again, any effort to disenfranchise minority voters should rightly be viewed as evil. The problem is when media observers automatically assume only partisan motivations or (worse) signs of latent (or manifest) racism are to blame.

(Interestingly, conservative efforts to rein in the proliferation of early voting — or to ensure voter integrity is met, via requiring photo ID’s to be shown before voting — are portrayed as examples of voter suppression, and those of us who favor these reforms have our motives impugned. But does anyone ever question the partisan motives behind those people who want to increase early voting — or who oppose the showing of a photo ID at the polls?)

So what’s the point of all of this? This is just my prediction, mind you, but I’m sticking by it: Remember the interesting, but historically inaccurate, narrative President Obama recently injected into the bloodstream (without any correction by the mainstream media, I might add) that Democrats tend to “get clobbered” in midterms? If not, this was the gist of his explanation:

“During presidential elections, young people vote, women are more likely to vote, blacks, Hispanics more likely to vote. And suddenly a more representative cross-section of America gets out there and we do pretty well in presidential elections. But in midterms we get clobbered — either because we don’t think it’s important or we’ve become so discouraged about what’s happening in Washington that we think it’s not worth our while.”

Again, Obama was historically incorrect, but that hardly matters. If and when Republicans take the Senate in 2014, low minority turnout will be the explanation as we head into 2016 (clearly, it won’t be because liberalism has failed — or because ObamaCare is a disaster.)

Along those lines, I suspect, you will see plenty of media stories about how gerrymandering and voter suppression helped factor in to this decline in turnout. That will be the narrative — the story we tell each other about what happened in 2014. And 2016 will be all about beating this evil, racist, trend back.

It’s not just a “war on women” any more.