Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Centrism Watch

Jessica Benton Cooney writes the following over at Congressional Quarterly:

Supporters of two-term Maine Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican moderate, say she is in a good position to rebuff the serious challenge she is receiving this year from six-term Democratic Rep. Tom Allen...

Collins, like senior Maine Republican Sen. Olympia J. Snowe, fits the mold of the kind of centrist Republican who can still draw strong support from state voters.
The article goes on for 1309 words.

But does it ever justify the use of the "moderate" label? Does it marshal any evidence to support the view that Collins is a "centrist" or that her record is pretty much the same as Sen. Snowe?

Cooney doesn't see the need to. Because everyone just knows that Collins is a different kind of Republican. It's not up for debate--it's just part of the fabric of things.

Of course, a reporter interested in the facts might discover that the case for characterizing Collins as a moderate is exceedingly thin.

Such a journalist would quickly learn that the junior senator has voted for every single one of President Bush's top priorities over the last seven-plus years, even as Snowe has repeatedly crossed Bush.

But digging out these facts would require the boring, difficult work of analysis and research. It would require checking one's preconceptions and letting the chips fall where they may.

And it would require ignoring the posturing and pronouncements and focusing on substance.

I always thought that was what reporters like Cooney were hired to do. But when I started writing about this race, I thought a lot of things that I'm not convinced of anymore.

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