The Free Congress © Commentary:
I apologized to an important political figure in Washington last week on behalf of my profession. I started my professional life as a journalist. Later, when I came to Washington, it was to work with the media from the inside. Then throughout my career, which has included the initiation of eleven conservative institutions, I always considered myself a journalist. When, in 1980, we began to publish what is now Stu Rothenburg's Political Report, I insisted on journalistic standards. Former Speaker of the House, Tom Foley (D-WA.), called me once and said Stu had written the most objective report about his race that anyone in the media had written. He was shocked. How could a conservative think tank produce a balanced report on politics? It is because we set out to tell the truth. Even though I now am in my eleventh year of writing commentaries, I try to be balanced even when I strongly advocate a point of view.
The reason for my apology was that throughout this primary season we have been hearing about the record turnout of voters participating in Democrat caucuses and primaries. I bought the lie. The truth is that, except for Iowa and New Hampshire, there has not been any sort of record turnout for the Democrats.
Even in New Hampshire the vote was far less than what the Republicans had when they last had a contested primary in 2000. The Democrats this year had 219,787 votes in their primary. The GOP in 2000 had 239,523 votes. That 20,000 difference is major in a state the size of New Hampshire.
Let's examine the turnout in some of the other states which has gone absolutely unreported anywhere:
I could drone on and on but my apology was precisely for this point. Not only did the media outright misrepresent what was actually happening on the ground in these elections, but there was no context presented. It is true that in Iowa there was the largest turnout ever, about 122,000 Democrats compared with 85,000 Republicans in the celebrated Republican caucuses of 2000. And that point was pushed over and over again. Yet, Iowa is the ONLY state where the Democrat figures compare favorably not only with contests in 1988 and 1992 but with the Republican figure from 2000. In every other place the Democrat figures are down from previous years or, as in New Hampshire, still under-perform compared with GOP turnout in 2000. And as I mentioned, in states where there is actual registration, the Democrat performance was not impressive.
I say all of this not to be partisan. (Indeed, my commentary, which recently suggested that Democrats might win the Presidency, upset many in Republican circles.) I say this rather to call attention to the really shoddy reporting on the part of the national media. The Internet now gives all of us the opportunity to look up data easily and in one-tenth of one second. There is absolutely no excuse for not reporting things in context. And there certainly is no excuse for reporting that there is backbreaking record turnout when it is less than the last contested primary.
I suppose I will have to keep on apologizing for what I still consider to be my profession, but why folks? I know the national media tends to be lazy but this is absurd.
Paul Weyrich is Chairman and CEO of the Free Congress Foundation.
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