Gov. Scott Walker (R, Wisconsin) and the Washington Post's institutional bias.

You’ve no doubt already heard that Scott Walker is, yea, indeed, running for President – with a hundred ‘Throne of Skulls’ jokes already blossoming on Twitter* – but I don’t want to hit that.  I want to hit a problem that I have with the Washington Post’s reporting on the subject.  This passage, in particular:


[Scott Walker’s] decision to take on public employee unions in Wisconsin in early 2009 created huge protests around the state Capitol building in Madison and left the state deeply polarized around his leadership…. That anger resulted in a recall election in 2012, which Walker survived. He went on to win his reelection campaign last November by a comfortable margin, and his three victories in four years have made him a hero among many conservatives.

Bolding mine.  Here’s the thing.  In the 2012 recall election, Scott Walker beat Tom Barrett, 53/46. According to the Washington Post, that’s ‘surviving.’ And in the 2014 general election Scott Walker beat Mary Burke, 52/47.  According to the, erm, Washington Post, that’s ‘comfortable.’  Presumably the Washington Post would also concede that Scott Walker’s 2010 general election 52/46 win over Barrett was also ‘comfortable?’ …The point is, strictly speaking either all three elections were won by ‘comfortable’ margins, or none of them were. Particularly since Walker did better in the recall than in the general elections, if only by a hair.


And that’s media bias in action.  It might even be unconscious media bias, at that.  Here is the basic reality of the Wisconsin public union fight: from beginning to ignominious end Democratic and progressive activists conducted themselves as if they were spoiled, vicious children.  The electorate spanked them for it: there is no credible way that any anti-Walker fanatic can presume to speak for Wisconsin. Wisconsin refused to let the anti-Walker fanatics win.  It’s not that Scott Walker was the hero of that particular story (although most conservatives would happily call him one) as he was the protagonist.  Walker, from start to finish, had all the agency in that conflict. Scott Walker did not ‘survive’ his recall election. He smashed the recall movement to the floor and walked away, whistling.

But apparently the Washington Post’s editorial staff don’t want to present that in those terms – and that’s going to be a perennial problem for our eventual candidate, whoever he or she might be**.  It is a natural thing to want to present both your victories and defeats in the best possible light. I do it myself. But I flatter myself that I wouldn’t try to pretend that the (technically) best election result in a field of three was actually unambiguously the worst. Perhaps I’m wrong: perhaps I would have flunked that particular character test.  Pretty obvious that the Washington Post already has flunked it, though…


Moe Lane (crosspost)

*And, obviously, on this site.  Image via Shutterstock.

**I like Scott Walker, like his record, and thought that he gave a good speech just now. But it’s only January of 2015. Let’s see how he does in the primary scrum first. No coronations: we call ourselves Republicans for a reason.


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