SHERMAN OAKS, CALIF. — I clicked on the TV the other night just in time to hear Dick Morris, former Clinton strategist and current Fox News consultant, cite a poll that claimed 30 percent of Americans are Democrats and 30 percent are Republicans. The remaining 40 percent are independents or something else, he said, and therefore capable of being swayed to vote either way.
Now, I don't have much confidence in polls (or Mr. Morris either), but let's just say for the sake of argument that his percentages are close to accurate. They certainly make it sound as if the presidential contest is completely fair and balanced.
One would assume, with both major political parties seemingly equal, each side need only make its strongest case to voters, come out fighting, and may the best platform win - right?
Wrong. Things are not equal at all. Here's the reason: academia and the mainstream press - two primary sources of information, truth, ideas, and enlightenment for most Americans - seem to overwhelmingly consist of liberal Democrats.
Is this a bad thing? Not if you happen to be a liberal Democrat. For the other 70 percent of us, however, it's - pardon the pun - not right. If the people working within those two fields were 30 percent Democrat, 30 percent Republican, and 40 percent independent, everything would be fine.
But our educators even seem to be made up mostly of liberals, just as liberal entertainers, journalists, and executives seem to predominate in the entertainment and news professions.
Could anyone who has gone through the American educational system during the last 30 years deny that he or she was exposed more to left-of-center ideas and values than to moderate or conservative thinking? Is it any accident that teachers' unions exclusively support liberal Democratic candidates? Just when did it become OK for our schools to teach that homosexuality is "just another life-style option" while deciding that posting the Ten Commandments in the classroom is to be avoided at all costs?
From where I sit, a bit right of center, it feels as though most major newspapers tend to lean to the liberal side, as do the weekly newsmagazines and most TV news. For example, mainstream media freely use the term "the religious right" when referring to conservative clergy, but never designate religious groups on the other side "the religious left." And have you ever heard or read the term "secular left" on TV news or in any of our elite newspapers?
It's true that talk radio is inclined to be mostly conservative, but how many people in our country pick talk radio over mainstream TV or print media?
How in the world did one ideology come to so completely dominate the flow of information to Americans?
There are different theories on this. One is the famous "vast left-wing conspiracy" theory. This holds that left-wing educators and journalists are being grown in test tubes somewhere out in the Nevada desert (which would also explain why so many TV anchors look alike).
I don't believe in anything quite so insidious. My personal theory is simple: People in these industries think it's "hipper" to be a liberal Democrat than to be a conservative Republican. For many people - especially in schools and in show business - it's very important to be thought of as "hip."
It's the same desire that motivates people to get tattooed, chase diet fads, get body parts pierced, speak in insipid clichs like "for the children" and "move on," and grow those little goatee things around their mouths.
There are undoubtedly more pragmatic reasons for the preponderance of liberalism in the academic and media worlds. But I'll leave those for people who really analyze this stuff for a living to explain.
In a perfect world, our schools would be politically impartial institutions of higher learning - teaching truth, ethics, and the American Way right alongside reading, writing, and arithmetic. Students would be encouraged to think for themselves and take responsibility for their own actions. Facts would be given without prejudice or personal opinion, and political correctness would take a back seat to veracity.
In that ideal scenario, the mainstream press would be straightforward fact-finders digging for truth and reporting news without private agenda or social commentary. Then, they'd really be giving people the chance to make up their own minds.
Unfortunately, we still inhabit a world that's not flawless - despite the hairstyles of Dan and Tom and Peter.
While it's possible to obtain balanced news, you have to really work at it, seeking out sometimes elusive conservative publications to offset all those on the left. Most people can't - or won't - take the time to do it. They'll simply click on the TV to get their news. Then wonder why, as they sit in front of the set, the room seems to be spinning and tilting decidedly left.
* Greg Crosby is a southern California freelance writer whose essays have appeared in Newsweek and the Weekly Standard.
(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society