Anyone who watched the Republican debate on CNN could not have helped notice how the questions went down the line, from Mitt Romney to John McCain, and then skipped over Ron Paul. This happened on several occasions. Eventually, the other candidate on the stage, Mike Huckabee, got so disgusted that he spoke up in protest, wondering why the “spigot” of questions had been turned off for him, too. “I didn’t come here to umpire a ballgame between these two,” Huckabee said, referring to Romney and McCain. “I came here to get a chance to swing at a few myself.” Huckabee wasn’t whining; he was telling the truth about how the media try to rig the process.
It all goes to show that these “debates” are media productions that have little to do with an actual examination of differences between the candidates. In effect, the media are trying to pick the candidates and narrow down the race. While few people, relatively speaking, actually watch the debates on the cable channels, the exchanges which are manufactured by the nature of the questions that are addressed to certain candidates get picked up by many other media outlets, leading to a public perception that the “frontrunners” being quoted are the only “serious” ones left in the race.
This media bias can only lead to more of a backlash against the media from supporters of other candidates. Indeed, some Ron Paul supporters are carrying banners and signs at his campaign rallies blasting the media. When Fox excluded him from its debate, a website was created to protest the exclusion and one Paul supporter responded, “Bye, Bye Fox. WE are the media now.” I can testify to some truth in that statement, having been a guest on an Internet radio show hosted by a Ron Paul supporter named Indy, who lives in Japan, and which took calls from around the world. I was invited on to talk about media bias against the candidate. There are several other Internet radio shows exclusively devoted to his candidacy.
Paul’s opposition to the Iraq War might have made him too “liberal” for the Fox News Channel (FNC) debate. One can understand but not defend this exclusion. FNC should have the freedom to do what it wants, even if it is being unfair and unbalanced in this case. But what accounts for the hostility to Paul from liberal outlets like CNN and MSNBC? Perhaps they do not like the more conservative aspects of his message, such as his opposition to the United Nations and higher taxes and more federal spending. Paul puts a wrench in their plans to ask questions that push the candidates in a more liberal direction.
Paul, for example, doesn’t favor more federal spending on education, he favors less. In fact, he sticks to the old Ronald Reagan platform of abolishing the federal Department of Education. A recent National Taxpayers Union study finds that, of the Republican candidates left in the presidential race, Paul is the only one whose proposals amount to an overall federal spending cut (of $150 billion). This position is not popular with the liberal media.
Paul is also unabashedly pro-life and spoke at the recent March for Life in Washington, D.C. Ron Paul for President banners were very visible at the event and I didn’t see any for any other candidate except Fred Thompson, who has since dropped out. Of course, the media are overwhelmingly pro-abortion and, if they ever bring up the subject during a debate, would not want Ron Paul, a medical doctor, talking about how he has delivered 4,000 babies and how the unborn are innocent human lives deserving of protection.
Raising money is one sign that a campaign is generating energy and enthusiasm. Another is having people actually show up at your events. Here, Ron Paul is also doing well. Around the country, even on college campuses, he is drawing good crowds. On the campuses, a Florida International mock primary election poll of students found Ron Paul winning among Republicans, getting 27 percent to 23 percent for McCain, while a local paper reports that at the University of Pittsburgh the most active candidate organization on campus has been Paul’s. These are not isolated cases.
In the Iowa caucuses, where Paul got 10 percent overall, he received 20 percent of the vote of 17-24 year-olds. In New Hampshire, where he got eight percent overall, he got 19 percent of the young voters. In Michigan, he got six percent overall but 19 percent of young voters. In Nevada, where he got 14 percent of the vote, he got 19 percent of the young vote. There is a pattern developing here.
The media can try to ignore or muzzle Ron Paul and the Republican Party can do so as well. But in a little-noticed speech on January 18, Mississippi Republican Governor Haley Barbour, a former chairman of the Republican National Committee, admitted that the Republican Party was too “top-down” and has to become a “bottom-up” party again. By those at the “bottom,” he is presumably referring to actual people and voters, the so-called “grass-roots.”
Whatever they may think of his views on this or that issue, Ron Paul’s success can be traced to the grass-roots. Mike Huckabee, who has emphasized moral purpose and values, is another grassroots phenomenon. He came from virtually nowhere to win the Iowa caucuses. While his fund-raising has not been as successful as Paul’s, he says that each quarter of his fundraising has outperformed the previous one. On Monday, black conservatives concerned about the country’s cultural collapse are holding a press conference in Washington, D.C. to urge Huckabee to stay in the race to the end.
One of them, black conservative activist Star Parker, says, “Inside-the-beltway Republicans have lost touch with the increasing seriousness with which heartland conservatives relate to the traditional values agenda.” Don Scoggins, a veteran GOP activist and president of Republicans for Black Empowerment, says that “regardless of his bank account,” they will keep fighting for Huckabee.
One has money, and the other may run out of money eventually. They are not the current front-runners. But it looks like Ron Paul and Mike Huckabee are in the race to stay because of their grassroots support. By trying to ignore or marginalize these serious and important candidates, the media demonstrate their bias and elitism.
The result of this media malpractice will be growing public awareness that our democratic form of government is increasingly at risk because the people are being denied important information about the candidates and the issues.
Cliff Kincaid is the Editor of Accuracy in Media, and can be contacted at email@example.com.