Washington Post Presents Democrats, Republicans As They Are, Tim Graham Objects

Tim Graham, today, makes an effort at taking issue with a pair of Washington Post articles detailing the evolution of the respective platforms of the Democratic and Republican parties over the last 52 years but though he puts on the standard Newsbusters show of being Angry And Offended by them, he doesn’t offer any real basis for this reaction.

The core of his complaint is that Marc Fisher, who authored both articles, gave disparate treatment to the evolution of the two platforms:

But last Wednesday’s piece on the GOP was headlined “Over the past half-century, a strong shift to to the right.” And for the Democrats, a strong shift to the left since 1960? The headline today was “In search of a balance between ideals and realities.” (bolding by Graham)

Has there been any “strong shift to the left” by the Democrats though? The idea forms the core of Graham’s objection but Fisher’s article on the Democrats does a fairly solid job of debunking this notion, showing how the party has shifted back and forth between liberal and more conservative language on issues over the years. By contrast, Fisher writes, Republicans “moved in fairly linear fashion to ever-more conservative stances” on a broad range of issues. Both the Fisher articles offer a broad overview of the evolution of the two parties but to support his own premise about a sharp Democratic turn to the left, Graham singles out only a few right-wing hot-button issues: abortion, gay marriage, “bringing ‘undocumented immigrants out of the shadows.’”

After mentioning that last one, Graham doesn’t touch it again, from which we can assume Newsbusters readers are simply supposed to understand that brown-looking foreigners with funny accents but without proper paperwork are supposed to be regarded with contempt by anyone except extremist liberals.

Fisher detailed the Democratic evolution on the issue of abortion rights; the party has always supported them, but, consistent with the back-and-forth evolution Fisher documents (and that Graham is challenging), has sometimes included language acknowledging it’s a difficult ethical issue for some and at other times hasn’t. The present party platform’s position on the issue isn’t a majority one in the U.S. but it’s much closer to the view of most Americans than the Republican platform, which calls for a “human life” amendment to the constitution itself, one that would ban all abortions under every circumstance, along with in vitro procedures for the infertile, embryonic stem-cell research, most contraceptives (if given the reading the reactionaries behind the proposal prefer) and would, in effect, require a federal murder investigation of every reported miscarriage. A view so extreme that even Republicans reject it by overwhelmingly margins,[1] yet it has been included in the party platform for 28 years.[2]

Graham singles out “gay issues” as an area where, he complains, Fisher’s “contrast is especially egregious.” He asserts the Democrats, this year, “lurch left” on such issues, and quotes Fisher’s handling of this:

This year’s plank breaks little new ground, although for the first time, its support for legalizing same-sex marriage is definitive and clear, and it commits to combating anti-gay activity around the world.

This burns Graham’s eyes! “When the Democrats embrace a new extreme, it’s ‘definitive and clear,’” he whines. The Democrats were hardly embracing any “new extreme” on this issue though, or any extreme at all. Polling has shown majority public support for gay marriage for a couple years now; for at least eight, overwhelming majorities–including overwhelming majorities of Republicans–have supported some form of legal recognition for homosexual relationships. The Democrats’ position isn’t some strong turn to the left; it reflects the mainstream view within the U.S. It isn’t “extreme” but Graham complains that while Fisher doesn’t falsely present it as such, Fisher notes that the Republican platform position against gay marriage “grows longer and more strident every four years” after 1992. If there’s any way in which this is unfair, Graham makes no case for it.

Graham, in fact, makes absolutely no case for any strong Democratic turn to the left and in essence, his complaint seems to be that Fisher presented the Democratic party as it is, rather than as the extremist caricature Graham wants it to be. The handful of issues he mentions support Fisher’s thesis that Republicans have more-or-less consistently become more conservative while Democrats have evolved much less evenly. Though Graham doesn’t seem to realize it, his last objection to Fisher also reinforces that thesis. Fisher had noted that the 2008 Democratic platform had” the strongest statement on civil liberties since the ’70s.” Graham interjects:

Fisher ignores that Democrats promised to close Guantanamo in 2008, and walked back from that in the 2012 platform, and doesn’t notice, as leftists have, that there’s no explicit reference in the new platform to Obama’s use of drone strikes to kill suspected terrorists. We don’t torture terror suspects, we kill them without interrogation? Fisher, like the rest of the media, doesn’t notice Obama has been very forceful in using “inherent” presidential power.

Even if Fisher ignores it, what this shows is, once again, that Democrats moved to the left then moved to the right. Just as Fisher said they do.

–j.

[1] An effort to implement such an amendment via a ballot initiative in one of the most conservative states in the U.S. (Mississippi) went down in flames by double-digits earlier this year.

[2] Update (Thurs., 6 Sept.) – And, consistent with Fisher’s narrative about the party moving ever further rightward, this year’s platform includes, for the first time, language about abortion being bad for women’s “health and well-being.” This is an allusion to well-circulated–and patently false–right-wing claims about abortion causing cancer, infertility and mental illness.

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