NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

In Politics, Ideas Matter More Than Money

August 25, 1999

Reporters and pundits are obsessed with campaign finance reform, believing that money is poisoning politics. They ignore the fact that in every election cycle there are candidates who lose to underfunded opponents.

And by ignoring the role of ideology, policies and issues in elections, they are able to maintain their virtual monopoly in deciding what the national agenda should be. Also, the focus on money makes it easier for them to mathematically determine who is up and who is down.

There is not one single conservative beat reporter covering national politics at any TV network or at any of the major national newspapers. There are a couple of conservative columnists like Robert Novak and Paul Gigot who cover national politics, but their work is automatically dismissed by beat reporters.

National political reporters don't even bother to deny they are overwhelmingly liberal anymore. Instead they argue that it doesn't affect their reporting. But even if one concedes that they strive for objectivity and accuracy, the liberal bias clearly impacts reporters' judgments.

The national media always label those on the right as conservative or ultra-conservative, while leftists are very rarely called liberal and never called ultra-liberal. To liberal reporters, liberal groups like the Brookings Institution define the mainstream. But just being a Republican is so far to the right of most reporters that mainstream conservatives appear to be radical right-wingers, indistinguishable from fascists.

Given this pervasive liberalism in the national press, it is clear that no conservative would ever get elected dog catcher if they had to depend on fair coverage. But the American people are far more conservative than most reporters, and conservatives can break through the liberal bias with paid advertising. That is why liberals are so intent on campaign finance reform.

Source: Bruce Bartlett, senior fellow, National Center for Policy Analysis, August 25, 1999.


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