Careful, Michael, Your Biases Are Showing

Michael Shear with the Washington Post has written a story describing how Virginia Republicans are split on the meaning of Jerry Kilgore’s loss. The differences he describes are real enough, and there’s nothing objectionable about the main thrust of his story. But his use of language is revealing.

— “The party’s true-blue foot soldiers, bloggers and activists … had vocally urged Kilgore to be more doctrinaire about taxes, abortion, guns and gays.” Doctrinaire? Oh, really? In other words, when conservatives urge candidates to hew to principles, they’re doctrinaire. What do we call the moderates when they hew to their principles? Are they, too, “doctrinaire,” or merely “unprincipled”?

— “Phillip Rodokanakis , the head of an anti-tax group called the Virginia Club for Growth….” Anti-tax? As in, opposed to taxes generally? Might not anti-tax increase be more appropriate? As in, opposed to raising taxes?

— “Gilmore’s insistence on cutting the car tax crashed headfirst into the desire for investment among leading Republican senators.” Ah, so increased government spending and taxes by “moderates” becomes “investment.” It’s as if they weren’t calling for increased spending and taxes at all.

— “In the wake of Kilgore’s loss and the defeat of several arch-conservative legislative candidates last month, the pro-investment wing of the Republican Party is offering a different lesson for the future.” Here we get a two-fer. Shear contrasts “arch-conservative” candidates to the “pro-investment” wing of the Republican Party. He neglects to explain what the “pro-investment” wing of the Party wants to “invest” in. Presumably, he is referring to “investing” in massive highway and transit projects. By implication, those who favor alternative strategies — reforming land use, implementing asset-management programs at VDOT, promoting telework, synchronizing stoplights, instituting demand-management programs — are against “investment.”

— “Several moderate Republicans are hoping the lesson for their party is that being extremist doesn’t win legislative elections.” So, opposing tax and spending increases makes a candidate an “extremist,” does it? Tsk! Tsk! Michael, you need to be more careful!

Share this article


(comments below)


(comments below)


16 responses to “Careful, Michael, Your Biases Are Showing”

  1. Anonymous Avatar

    Awwww…Come on….You’re “counting how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.”Quibble…quibble…quibble…Spliting hairs to infinity.

    Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you.

  2. James Atticus Bowden Avatar
    James Atticus Bowden

    Ah, nothing like the smell of extremism in the morning to get going. Blogging from the Left Coast here on business.

    I love it when Conservatives are called extremists. It is almost as good as the first side to call the other ‘Hitler’ or ‘Nazi’.

    It’s WaPo, so what do you expect?

    It would be fun to be able to publish a paper with edits like you made right in the copy to show as written and as translated into real English.

  3. I just love this! Every time the Republicans lose–whether it’s by shooting themselves in the foot or not—the whinning begins.

    “It isn’t us” or “It’s the ‘ultra leftist press’” (Whoops–“ultra leftist”? We hear that a lot). It goes on and on.

    Don’t worry fellows….You’ll be okay when the swelling goes down.

  4. Anonymous Avatar

    “What do we call the moderates when they hew to their principles? Are they, too, “doctrinaire,” or merely “unprincipled”?”

    It’s difficult to be doctrinaire when the only principle running through your movement is pragmatism.

  5. Waldo Jaquith Avatar
    Waldo Jaquith

    Anti-tax? As in, opposed to taxes generally? Might not anti-tax increase be more appropriate?

    Your objection is interesting to me, because I was thinking about this last night.

    I’ve noticed that some Republican candidates and office-holders proudly wear the label of “anti-tax.” It occurred to me that, while this looks insane to me, perhaps their polling has shown that this is something that constituents respond to positively. “Anti-tax,” I can imagine some thinking, “that’s great — I hate taxes!” I wondered whether reporters didn’t have an obligation to use another term, one that takes into account these individuals’ attitudes on the topic of spending, or something that didn’t play into their hands.

    So I’m really surprised to see you objecting to the use of the term “anti-tax,” given that it was just yesterday that I realized that the use of this term may well be deliberately on the part of politicians who believe that it’s a proud label. It wouldn’t occur to me to read the phrase “anti-tax” in a newspaper article and conclude that the author was showing a bias. Quite to the contrary, I would conclude that the author was unwittingly playing into the hands of free-lunchers.

    I’m not saying that I’m right or that you’re wrong, just that it’s curious that we’ve each come to the opposite conclusion based on the same evidence. 🙂

  6. Jim Bacon Avatar

    Waldo, you raise a good point. Many in the “anti-tax” movement do wear the label proudly. If the people in the “anti-tax” movement thought about it, however, 99 percent of them would say that “anti-tax” mischaracterizes their position — and does so negatively. Being against all taxes is a pretty extreme position.

    I have urged the “anti-tax” crowd to embrace the descriptor “low tax” instead.

    Insofar as conservatives accept the “anti-tax” label, however, it’s unfair to accuse journalists like Mike Shear for being biased by applying it. So, I’ll let him off the hook for that particular characterization…. But not the others!

  7. Terry M. Avatar

    from Encarta:
    1. rule or principle: a rule or principle that forms the basis of a belief, theory, or policy

    2. ideas taught as truth: a body of ideas, particularly in religion, taught to people as truthful or correct

    doctrinaire: determined to use a specific theory or method and refusing to accept that there might be a better approach

    Sounds like faithfully adhering to principles would rightly be called doctrinaire.

    So really, what’s the problem? It’s only negatively connotated if you choose to believe it that way.

  8. Jim Bacon Avatar

    Terry M., “doctrinaire” in common political usage implies a rigidity and inflexibility of belief –often in defiance of the evidence. It is applied mainly to conservatives. How often have you heard the term “doctrinaire liberal”? Based on my personal experiences, I would say that liberals are every bit as rigid in their beliefs as conservatives. But conservatives aren’t in the dominant-media position to apply the labels.

  9. Lord Beaverbrook Avatar
    Lord Beaverbrook

    “…conservatives aren’t in the dominant-media position to apply the labels.”

    Gosh, he’s obviously never heard of the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Winchester Star,Wall Street Journal, Harrisonburg News Record, Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and the rest of the “talk radio” crew,or even (dare I say) Bacon’s Rebellion.

    Oh well, “Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder” in this case.

  10. I was not at the Republican retreat, and did not see a schedule of who spoke, but as far as I can tell none of the folks often referred to as “moderates” or “pro-investment” spoke at the event.

    Were they left out on purpose? Did they choose not to attend?

    If the “pro-investment” Republican legislators have an agenda will they receive any help from the “party” in forwarding that agenda?

    Assuming they don’t, what does this say about the state of the party?

    If they in fact did speak at the event what did they say?

  11. James Atticus Bowden Avatar
    James Atticus Bowden

    Moderado: The moderates/pro-investment/pro-tax/RINOs didn’t show up at the Advance because they don’t need the Party except for the legal entre to get nominated. They choose not to attend. They raise a lot more money for their own campaigns and those of their buddies (Leadership Fund) than the RPV raises and hands out.

  12. AWCheney Avatar

    “I have urged the “anti-tax” crowd to embrace the descriptor “low tax” instead.”

    What in the world is wrong with the moniker “fiscal conservative?” We’ve used that for decades, denoting conservatives who believe in lowering taxes in proportion to cuts in spending/waste (you might say, “balancing the checkbook”). I find it rather odd that any time someone suggests such a rational approach nowadays they are called “pragmatists,” and therefore “moderates.” It should not be viewed as ONLY a tax issue; it’s a spending issue as well.

  13. Terry M. Avatar

    Jim, you’ll get no denial from me that liberals can’t be doctrinaire…I know many that are. However, the problem with liberalism in that fashion is that there is so much to be doctrinaire about that I think it very hard to get to a core set of principles that all liberals actually agree on.

    In any event, I don’t see “doctrinaire” as being a pejorative. Whether or not one takes offense to the use of that term is one’s own choice.

  14. Anonymous Avatar

    Can anyone please explain why the most vocal anti-taxers are usually federal government workers, retirees, or contractors? Am I missing something????

  15. James Atticus Bowden Avatar
    James Atticus Bowden

    Anon: Federal government workers, retirees (especially military) and contractors may be anti-tax, anti-bigger government, anti-socialism because familiarity breeds contempt – and children.

  16. somepoorslob Avatar

    Desire for “investment” among leading Republican senators?!?!?

    Talk about fluf.

Leave a Reply