WashPost: Democrats Never Careen to the 'Far Left,' They Can Only Become 'More Populist'

On Sunday, The Washington Post reported on its front page “Democratic Party feeling heat from a revived left.” They rarely acknowledge the Democrats have an ideological base, and almost never use the word “liberal” to describe it.

Reporter Zachary Goldfarb did use the word “liberal” routinely, but when you want to push something really leftist, you aren’t getting extreme, you are growing more “populist.” The more leftist you get, the more you appeal to the people? There were no extreme labels for the left, but Obama’s allegedly been embracing “conservative thinking.” The Post easily finds a “far right” in the Republican Party, as in these recent examples from the news staff:  

Paul Kane, November 10:

The Republican establishment went into last week's off-year elections believing that the tea party insurrectionists who have ripped apart the GOP in recent years would suffer enough damage to force them into some kind of retreat. But no one thinks that happened....Those results convinced some establishment Republicans that they need to confront the GOP's conservative base more aggressively, both as a way to protect the candidacies of mainstream conservatives and to deflect damaging policy proposals that have limited appeal beyond far-right conservatives from advancing in Washington.

Krissah Thompson in Ann Coulter feature, October 30:

Far-right conservatives are threatening the party's established leaders with primary challenges; Coulter argues against battling incumbent Republicans in moderate states.

Sean Sullivan on The Fix, October 28:

Santorum caters to the far-right wing of the Iowa GOP caucusgoers. So does Cruz.

But Goldfarb suggested a “more populist” voice is emerging to the left of Obama and “more centrist” Hillary Clinton from Sen. Elizabeth Warren:

As Obama struggles to achieve his second-term domestic agenda, a more liberal and populist voice is emerging within a Democratic Party already looking ahead to the next presidential election. The push from the left represents both a critique of Obama’s tenure and a clear challenge to Hillary Rodham Clinton, the party’s presumptive presidential front-runner, who carries a more centrist banner....

Many liberals also argue that it was these same Clinton advisers — disciples of former Treasury secretary Robert Rubin — who led Obama away from a more populist agenda, embracing conservative thinking on the virtue of spending reductions and entitlement cuts.

Obama hasn't embraced "conservative thinking" on much of anything, and his fiscal record doesn't exactly show spending reductions. To the Post, a “more populist” agenda is pushing ever more spending on Social Security benefits, not less:

Liberals say Social Security is one example of how Democrats are likely to face sustained pressure in coming months to move in a more populist direction on a host of issues.

“The first Obama administration was focused too much on saving the banks and Wall Street,” said Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), a liberal who is retiring after four decades in Congress. “There’s going to be a big populist push on whoever’s running for office to espouse these kinds of progressive policies.”


While the Post almost daily argues that the Tea Party is toxic to Republican electability, only paragraph 12 briefly acknowledged the Democrats might be seen as going too far: “But the push from the left carries political risks for Democrats, who could be accused of being reckless about the national debt or insensitive to the demands of business and economic growth. What’s more, many Americans are uncomfortable with the notion of the government redistributing income far beyond what happens today in order to accomplish basic elements of the populist agenda.”

The word “socialist” came up – but only when Sen. Bernie Sanders applies it to himself. Sanders “said he might run for president if no liberal he considers adequate steps up. Although his chances would be slim at best, he could serve as an agitator who pulled other candidates to the left — or as a potential spoiler if his campaign got off the ground.”

“I don’t wake up every morning saying, ‘Oh my goodness, I really want to be president,’ ” Sanders, who calls himself a democratic socialist, said in an interview. “But somebody’s got to be out there, and if nobody is, I’ll do it.”

PS: Way back in 1991, I studied the wing labels in The Washington Post during the year 1990:

Post reporters used "right-wing" 394 times, but "left-wing" only 87 times, a ratio of about 9 to 2. When analysts studied "extreme" variants of these terms (such as "far right" and "extreme left"), Post reporters referred to the right 106 times, the left only 24.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis