Did the "Liberal Media" Get the 2004 Election
January 26, 2005
By Gene C. Gerard
the days and weeks immediately following the election last year,
the media pronounced gloom and doom for the Democratic Party and
its constituents, such as gay rights advocates.
Journalists and media outlets of the left and the right, including
The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, and
Newsweek, among most others, announced that the Democrats
were down and out, and that the evangelical Christians and the Republicans
were the rising power.
They divided the country into red states and blue states, and offered
up glossy maps to show that most states were red and therefore Republican
The New York Times, in a special news analysis, announced
that "President Bush's re-election is the clearest confirmation
yet that America is a center-right country." Newsweek was
even bolder, reporting not only that the "GOP may be the majority
party for the foreseeable future," but that "red-state Democrats
are a diminishing breed."
The media even succeeded in encouraging the venerable Democratic
strategist James Carville to say, in an interview only forty-eight
hours after the election, "We are an opposition party and not a
particularly effective one. The Democratic Party died Tuesday."
Now that two months have passed, the dust has settled, and the
election has finally been concluded (Washington's gubernatorial
election was not decided until December 30), perhaps it would be
worthwhile to look at a few of those red states. Did the media get
it wrong, or at least exaggerate a bit? Were the Democrats and their
values trounced in the election?
Arkansas was one of those red states on election day. Bush
won the state by a healthy nine percent margin. Yet the state re-elected
Democrat Blanche Lincoln to the Senate by a 12 percent margin, and
of the four House seats up for grabs, Democratic incumbents won
three, and by an average margin of 24 percent.
And while the state voted against same-sex marriage, last month
the Arkansas courts ruled that a state regulation banning gays from
being foster parents was unconstitutional. Pulaski County Circuit
Judge Timothy Fox ruled that a 1999 ban by a state agency had nothing
to do with protecting the health and welfare of children, but was
an attempt to regulate "public morality," which is beyond the agency's
Judge Fox also found that the children of gay parents are as well-adjusted
as any other children. Red, you say?
In Colorado, Bush won by a comfortable five percent margin.
Yet the state preferred Ken Salazar, a Democrat, over his Republican
Senate opponent, Pete Coors, by four percent. And of the seven House
elections, Democrats won three, and one was not even the incumbent,
John Salazar, Ken's brother.
Montana is presumably the most red of the Western states.
Bush handily won there by 20 percent. But a Democratic, Catholic
rancher, Brian Schweitzer, won the election for governor, the first
time a Democrat has in 20 years. In the state legislature, the Democrats
picked up seats, giving them control for the first time since 1977.
And on the ballot initiative to legalize the medicinal use of marijuana,
62 percent voted in favor.
Although the state voted to ban same-sex marriage, last month Montana's
Supreme Court ruled that the state's public universities must provide
health insurance benefits to gay employee's partners.
Writing the majority opinion for the court, Justice James C. Nelson
noted that "sadly, many politicians and 'we the people' rarely pass
up an opportunity to bash and condemn gays and lesbians, despite
the fact that these citizens are our neighbors and serve their communities
in the same manner as heterosexuals." That doesn't sound very red.
Although North Carolina, another so-called red state, voted
for Bush by a 12 percent margin, the state also re-elected Democratic
Governor Mike Easley by a 12 percent edge over his Republican opponent.
And while they preferred Republican Richard Burr for the Senate
by five percent instead of former Clinton Chief of Staff Erskine
Bowles, of the state's thirteen House seats, Democrats won six.
Bush won North Dakota by a 27 percent margin. Yet the state
re-elected Byron Dorgan, a Democrat, to the Senate by an even greater
margin, 36 percent. And the state's only House seat was won by the
Democratic incumbent by 20 percent. It would seem as if the Democrats
did pretty well for a red state.
In Texas, surely the most red of the Southern states, given
that it is Bush's home turf, things were not as bad as one might
have expected for the Democrats. While Bush won by 23 percent, the
Democrats won a third of the House seats. Of those, two were by
non-incumbents, no small feat in and of itself, given that the state's
legislature gerrymandered the Congressional districts such that
Democrats were at a huge disadvantage.
Even Bush's own district in Waco went to a Democrat. And in Dallas
County, the residents elected a female, Hispanic, openly-gay Democrat,
Lupe Valdez, as sheriff.
West Virginia, where Bush won by 13 percent and the Republicans
maintained control of the state legislature, the Secretary of State,
Democrat Joe Manchin, won the governor's election by 29 percent.
Of the state's three House seats, Democratic incumbents won two,
by 36 and 30 percent margins. And while neither of the state's Senators
were up for re-election, it is worth noting that both are Democrats.
In retrospect, it does seem as if the media's announcement of
the fall of the Democratic Party was overstated. While John Kerry
did not win the presidency on behalf of the Democrats, they didn't
really do as poorly as was reported.
It's true, they lost four Senate seats and a small handful of seats
in the House of Representatives. But they maintained the balance
of power in many states, and even gained control in others.
Given that, why would the media - which as conservatives are fond
of saying is left-leaning, if not liberal - report otherwise? Perhaps
the media just isn't that liberal after all...