The New York Times has a long piece on the political situation in Wisconsin this morning, and in some ways it is reasonably balanced. The reporters note, for example, that the Koch brothers own a factory in Wisconsin that is unionized and that the union and management at the factory seem to have a reasonably productive relationship. It also gives controversial Governor Scott Walker some space to contest the arguments of his detractors.
Even so, it is a journalistic disaster: it tells you everything you need to know except the one thing you really need to know, and it reveals the soft pale underbelly of establishment journalism in America today.
The headline captures the focus of the piece: “Recall Election Tests Strategies For November.” The reporters look at how private and public sector unions on the one side and various conservative organizations on the other are organizing for the election over the petition to recall Governor Scott Walker and at how both sides think the issues and strategies shaping the recall will influence the outcome in November.
The piece does a reasonable job at getting the views of both sides, but no reader of the Times will be surprised to see that it wears its heart on its sleeve. The piece closes with a paean to the hope that labor will beat back the Republican challenge, calculated to warm the hearts of the NYT faithful:
However, labor leaders say the moves have reinvigorated members, prompting a beefing up of political operations. This contributed to the repeal, in a referendum last year, of an Ohio law limiting bargaining rights, has fueled the recall effort in Wisconsin, and, unions hope, will lead to Democratic success in November.
Nearly all of the larger confrontations have taken place in presidential battlegrounds, not only Wisconsin and Ohio, but also states like Florida, Michigan and New Hampshire.
“These state fights are a jump-start to get people engaged,” said Brandon Davis, political director for theService Employees International Union. “We’re confident that if we get turnout to vote in municipal elections, they will also vote our way in national elections.”
Bob Kelley, a retired union carpenter, agreed as he hammered together a partition for a new call center in Madison. “If you’re where somebody throws down a gauntlet and attacks, what are you going to do?” he said, referring to Mr. Walker. “Maybe he did us a favor.”
Perhaps Bob Kelley is right, and Governor Walker did the unions a favor; Via Meadia has suggested that in both Wisconsin and Ohio a more narrowly focused, better thought through, less confrontational approach could have made the necessary reforms with a lot less trouble and polarization.
But somehow the reporters and editors who put together this long story on the implications of the Wisconsin recall for American politics now and in November failed to take note of one tiny little fact: Governor Walker is increasingly favored to win the June recalll.
Intrade, a site where people can in effect bet on political races, shows Walker with a 68.5 percent chance of re-election as of Sunday morning. (By contrast, President Obama has only a 59.7 percent shot at a second term.) Recent polls on the race show Walker ahead, though the race is close and volatile — and the dynamics may change once the Democrats pick a nominee. None of this appears in this article.
Forget accusations of media bias and ideological agendas: this is a collapse of basic news judgment. On this issue at least, readers who rely on the New York Times to tell them what’s happening in the country — don’t know what’s happening in the country. They genuinely don’t know that in Wisconsin this all out mobilization by both sides on a polarizing question is, tentatively and certainly not irreversibly, but noticeably and to a certain degree increasingly… breaking Walker’s way.