From the Left: A Deafening Silence
The punditocracy in our country has been so one-sided for so long that we hardly notice the routine tilt anymore. It seems, like mosquitoes in Summer, to be the natural order of things.Sometimes, however, a political moment of unusual clarity reveals the profound imbalance that's been there all along.Tune into TV pundit programs or radio talkshows, or read an op-ed page these days, and you'll behold vociferous attacks echoing against conservative Republican leaders. But the verbal onslaught isn't coming from the left; it's coming from the voices who've reigned loudest for years in media commentary -- the hordes of right-wing pundits.On television, commentators like George Will ridicule Republican leaders as timid moderates and insinuate that Newt Gingrich may actually be America's "most powerful liberal." In syndicated columns, rightists like Cal Thomas bellow that Gingrich, Orrin Hatch and other top Republicans are abandoning conservative principles.On talk radio, you hear a deafening roar of attacks on Republicans as cowardly moderates and sell-outs; host Michael Reagan recently announced on his talkshow that he was leaving the GOP because of its "retreat" from "conservative values and beliefs."This barrage should remind us that dozens of America's most prominent pundits - folks like Will, Thomas, Pat Buchanan, Bob Novak and Rush Limbaugh -- are more right-wing than the most conservative GOP leadership we've seen in decades. These powerful voices have far more allegiance to right-wing causes than they do to Republican leaders.But commentators from the opposite end of the political spectrum are virtually excluded from national discourse, especially on network TV. Go hunting for the left-wing of American punditry and you're lucky to find even a few loose feathers.You don't see dozens of prominent left-wing talking heads in national media denouncing the moderate policies of Bill Clinton. You don't hear powerful pundit voices who owe far more allegiance to causes of the left -- like workers' rights, consumer rights, civil rights, feminism, ecology -- than to Democratic leaders.Instead, what you get is a lot of apologizing for the President's ideological maneuvers. Sure, the tepid liberals who represent punditry's "left wing" on national TV sometimes wish Clinton weren't so undisciplined or vacillating or sloppy with facts and denials. But they've been almost unanimous in supporting his "New Democrat" politics of hewing to the center and abandoning the old Democrat, old-fashioned New Deal.On TV, proponents of "the left" are selected to be Clinton defenders. George Will pillories Republican leaders for alleged betrayals of conservatism on ABC's "This Week" -- but there's no leftist on that program to attack the President for his betrayal of long-standing Democratic principles. Certainly not longtime Clinton spokesperson George Stephanopoulos.Advocates "from the left" on CNN's "Crossfire" are aggressive defenders of Bill Clinton and the Democratic leadership - but Pat Buchanan gives his loyalty first and foremost to right-wing principles, and uses the show as a platform for his political campaigns against the GOP leadership he deems too moderate.Due to the marginalization of unabashed leftist commentators, TV's lopsided pundit spectrum extends basically from a baby step left of center to a giant step to the right of Gingrich -- the self-styled revolutionary who, lest we forget, pushed the GOP steadily rightward for the last ten years and promoted the most conservative legislative agenda in decades.Given the skewed spectrum of opinion, TV viewers miss out on political insights, while being bombarded with wrong-headed clichs -- such as the myth that Clinton is really a liberal at heart. Many Americans may not know that activist leaders and politicians in the left wing of the Democratic Party have mistrusted Bill Clinton since 1991. Or that they blame the President for undermining (and corpor atizing) the Democratic Party - to the point of handing over even the issue of campaign finance abuse to Republicans.Indeed, many civil rights and labor activists blame Clinton for so disorienting and de-mobilizing the party's base - through unpopular policies like NAFTA - that Clinton paved the way for the Gingrich victory of 1994.These insights won't be heard regularly in national TV discourse until bona fide left-wing commentators are invited to sit alongside right-wing and centrist ones. Till that happens, we'll have to suffer through the absurd spectacle of seeing both Clinton and Gingrich denounced as liberals - when neither one is.