NEW YORK TIMES REPORTER FINDS A STORY HE LIKES -- NEVER MIND THE FACTS
You might not be seeing a lot of evidence of this yet, but there's a very strong likelihood that, as the year progresses, mainstream political journalists will settle on what Bob Somerby famously called "a story they like" -- a story that offers a comforting narrative, facts be damned. The story will be that the Republican Party almost went over the edge with all that tea party craziness, but cooler heads prevailed: the "moderate" Mitt Romney won the presidential nomination and teabag-friendly presidential candidates (Bachmann, Perry, Gingrich, Santorum) were rejected. The GOP is now safe as houses!
In a front-page New York Times story today, Michael Cooper asserts that the GOP appears to have gotten all that crazy stuff out of its system at the state level:
Second Year In, Republican Governors Moderate Tone
A year after a coterie of new Republican governors swept into the statehouses and put in place aggressive agendas to cut spending and curb union powers, sparking strong backlashes in many places, many of them are adopting decidedly more moderate tones as they begin their sophomore year in office.
... many of the new Republican governors who swept into office last year, taking aim at collective bargaining rights, are striking less confrontational notes as they begin the new year, at least judging by what they have been saying in their State of the State addresses.
But there are a few problems with Cooper's narrative -- as he himself notes:
Of course, governors do not always propose their toughest measures in their annual speeches to lawmakers. Last year, [Governor Scott] Walker of Wisconsin used his State of the State address to call on government workers to contribute more to their pension plans; he did not mention his plan to curb collective bargaining rights until later.
Oh yeah -- that.
To be sure, some governors -- both first-termers and veterans -- are still proposing measures that are sure to cause controversy this year.
Gov. Sam Brownback of Kansas, a Republican, proposed a major overhaul of the state's tax system that would lower tax rates but eliminate deductions and credits -- including popular ones, like deductions for mortgage interest and charitable contributions and tax credits for poor families....
And more laws that aim to curb the power of unions are being pursued in a number of states this year.
Unions and Democrats were thrown on the defensive this year in Indiana when [Governor Mitch] Daniels, serving in his second -- and last -- term, switched course and decided to support a bill to ban union contracts from requiring nonunion members to pay union dues....
In South Carolina, a right-to-work state whose unemployment rate remained at 9.5 percent in December, above the national average, Gov. Nikki R. Haley, a Republican beginning her second year in office, took a hard line on unions in her address to the Legislature. "I love that we are one of the least unionized states in the country," she said, calling it "an economic development tool unlike any other." She pledged to "make the unions understand full well that they are not needed, not wanted and not welcome in the state of South Carolina."
Teacher tenure continues to be a flashpoint in many states. The governors of New Jersey, South Dakota and Virginia all used their speeches this year to call for abolishing or weakening it....
But hey -- apart from all that, the GOP is really, really mellowing!
Except that's not true. Cooper doesn't even mention what's going on in Republican-dominated states with regard to abortion and reproductive rights. Here's a sample of January headlines from Google News:
Abortion Ban to Be Proposed in Kansas Legislature
Abortion Bills Fill Desks in Virginia Capitol
Florida Lawmakers Push Again to Restrict Abortions
New Hampshire Considers Defunding Planned Parenthood, Weakening Domestic Violence Laws
But that's not how the press wants to cover the GOP in the year of the Romney-Obama race. That's not how the press ever wants to cover the GOP -- the press never wants to acknowledge the party's extremism. The press wants to say that the party is fine, our two-party system is fine, and anything intemperate that Republicans have ever done is anomalous, and unrepresentative of the fine folks all insider journalists meet at cocktail parties. So we get stories like Cooper's.
(X-posted at Booman Tribune.)