Two weeks ago, the Supreme Court delivered a dose of good news/bad news to every partisan in the country. For conservatives, the Supreme Court invalidated a key component of the Voting Rights Act, making it easier for states with a history of voter discrimination to disenfranchise voters. For liberals, the court eliminated a key component of the Defense of Marriage Act, giving legally married same-sex couples access to federal marriage benefits.
But it was the media reaction that handed conservatives yet another chance to kvetch about their so-called “liberal media.”
On Fox News, a host lamented, “What a contrast in coverage!” The conservative Media Research Center argued that “in both instances, CNN permitted the liberal viewpoint to overwhelm its coverage — in favor of the Court rulings on Wednesday [gay marriage], criticizing them on Tuesday [the Voting Rights Act].”
And it’s true! Media coverage of the voting rights decision was muted to hostile, and coverage of the marriage equality decision was euphoric. But it had nothing to do with being “liberal;” any bias was merely in favor of common decency.
Take the Voting Rights Act case, where the Supreme Court invalidated provisions for pre-clearing voting procedure changes in districts and states with a history of voter disenfranchisement — and in so doing invalidated a law that was just reauthorized in 2006, by 98-0 in the Senate and 390-33 in the highly partisan House. Republicans might cheer their newfound ability to block voter participation by those people they view as most hostile, but such sentiments are deeply un-American, and thus frowned upon by the American public. Why would anyone expect media coverage to be euphoric over potential disenfranchisement of millions of citizens?
Conservatives asked a different question about the marriage decision — how dare the media celebrate the right of same-sex married couples to enjoy the same benefits as their opposite-sex counterparts? “[CNN] Anchor Don Lemon showed live footage of a gay ‘kiss-out’ and took viewers inside the Stonewall Inn in New York City, a gay bar, to get the reactions from various patrons,” noted the MRC report. “Correspondent Brian Todd interviewed four different same-sex marriage advocates outside the Supreme Court just before and after the rulings. Dan Simon got the reaction from a happy same-sex marriage supporter in San Francisco.” It seems that all that coverage was supposed to be bad.
The real explanation for the disparity in coverage is simple, and has nothing to do with partisanship. We, as a people, celebrate when people’s rights are expanded. We frown when they are taken away.
So Americans didn’t cheer when conservatives were gifted the ability to more effectively disenfranchise black and Latino voters, just like they wouldn’t cheer if liberals tried to block Southern white males from the polls. It’s undemocratic, and democracy is an American value.
Meanwhile, Americans were too busy celebrating love to give much credence to conservative whining about the marriage decision. After all, love isn’t just a liberal value. It isn’t even simply an American value. It’s a human one, and conservatives might consider embracing it.
Moulitsas is the founder and publisher of Daily Kos.