Alex Massie

Journalism 101 | 20 September 2007

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Paul Krugman complains that the scale of Democratic triumphs is deliberately under-played by the American media. Conspiracy!

In fact, it’s quite strange how the magnitude of the Democratic victory has been downplayed. After the 1994 election, the cover of Time showed a charging elephant, and the headline read “GOP stampede.” Indeed, the GOP had won an impressive victory: in House races, Republicans had a 7 percentage point lead in the two-party vote.

In 2006, Time’s cover was much more subdued; two overlapping circles, and the headline “The center is the new place to be.” You might assume that this was because the Democrats barely eked out a victory. In fact, Democrats had an 8.5 percentage point lead, substantially bigger than the GOP win in 1994. Also, the new Democratic majority in the House isn’t just larger than any the Republicans achieved over their 12-year reign; it’s much more solidly progressive than their pre-1994 majority.

Ezra Klein agrees, adding that this is a "favored hobbyhorse" of his. Matt Yglesias thinks liberals should be thankful Time didn't scream "THE LIBERALS ARE COMING!" last November. All of which is all well and good. But it misses the point completely. The Republican victory in 1994 was a much bigger story than the Democratic takeover in 2006. Heck, the GOP had not controlled the House of Representatives since 1954. No wonder their victory had a seismic impact upon the political chatterati. New stuff! New people in charge! Strange people! Of course that's going to be treated as a major, major story.

A Democratic victory, no matter how sweeping it might be, cannot hope to have quite the same impact since it returns power to the party that's held it for, what, 60 of the last 75 years (approximately). Returns to the norm are never as exciting as deviations from it.

Occam's Razor and all that, you know.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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