At The Atlantic,
For those interested enough in the 2014 elections to read stories about them in the premier newspapers of our time, The Washington Post and The New York Times, you would know about the bios of Ernst and Cotton, two prize GOP recruits this election cycle. But you would be likely clueless about the wacky or extreme things they have said....Why? Here's
A Nexis search shows that the Post has had four references to Ernst and Agenda 21 -- all by Greg Sargent on his blog from the left, The Plum Line, and none on the news pages of the paper. But there have been dozens of references to Braley's spat over the neighbor's chickens, including a front-page story. The New York Times had zero references to Ernst and Agenda 21, but seven, including in a Gail Collins column, to Braley and chickens. The Post did have a fact-check column by Glenn Kessler devoted to the Cotton claims on Mexican drug lords and ISIS terrorists -- Cotton did not fare well -- but no news stories. The Times did not mention it at all.
The most common press narrative for elections this year is to contrast them with the 2010 and 2012 campaigns. Back then, the GOP "establishment" lost control of its nominating process, ended up with a group of extreme Senate candidates who said wacky things -- Todd Akin, Richard Mourdock, Sharron Angle -- and snatched defeat from the jaws of victory in races that should have been slam dunks. Now the opposite has happened: The establishment has fought back and won, vanquishing the Tea Party and picking top-flight candidates who are disciplined and mainstream, dramatically unlike Akin and Angle.I think it's that, but I think there's more going on as well. It's also that the press agrees with the GOP (and much of the public) that Barack Obama is a terrible president who needs to be punished. Journalist resent Obama because he hasn't always been nice to them (why weren't they allowed to watch him play golf with Tiger Woods?). He hasn't been the guy they thought he was in 2008, the the cool, hipster bro capable of solving all of America's problems without breaking a sweat. He let them down, so no matter what it does to the country, they're going to put the boot in as he gets stomped. Plus, they've already got a crush on a whole new crop of dreamboat frat boys -- Rand, Jeb, Christie, Ryan. And besides, if they're nasty toward the Democrats, maybe right-wingers will stop denouncing them as "the liberal media." So what if that's never happened before? It could totally happen now, right?
It is a great narrative, a wonderful organizing theme. But any evidence that contradicts or clouds the narrative devalues it, which is perhaps why evidence to the contrary tends to be downplayed or ignored. Meantime, stories that show personal gaffes or bonehead moves by the opponents of these new, attractive mainstream candidates, fit that narrative and are highlighted.
What's happening now is the result of journalists settling on a story they like about Republicans -- but it also reflects a story they like about Obama, which is that he's getting what's coming to him.