The mainstream media have played up the predictable narrative coming out of CPAC’s straw poll: that conservatives are moving towards isolationism, abandoning traditional support for a strong national defense.
It is quite obvious whom that narrative benefits–not just Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), the straw poll winner, but also Democrats, who have seized the advantage over Republicans on foreign policy and want to hold onto it.
None of the mainstream media articles, however, picked up what Breitbart News’ Lee Stranahan documented: that the CPAC straw poll was biased against defense hawks. For whatever reason, Fabrizo McLaughlin decided to make the defense policy options so extreme that even conservatives who support a strong military and a robust foreign policy would have trouble clicking on them. Why that bias was introduced is a mystery.
It’s not that there aren’t divisions over defense issues, but those divisions are not as pronounced as the media–and, yes, some conservatives–would like them to be.
Naturally, the mainstream media eagerly picked up the signal. Here’s Politico’s take:
The straw poll results reflected a divide among conservative activists on a few key issues. Half of respondents said the U.S. should take a step back on foreign policy and let allies fend for themselves. Only one-third favored a more muscular approach to national security. One in five described themselves as on the fence.
Politico’s Emily Schultheis and James Hohmann decline to mention that the questions were blatantly skewed. Instead, they play up the “divide among conservative activists”–just as there is a “divide” on gay marriage, on Chris Christie, on fill-in-the-blank.
There is a real story here, for journalists that want to find it–namely, who were the conservatives interested in playing up this particular divide? It is easier, however, to stick to the script.