I think this situation is rather more complicated than Julian Sanchez makes out. It’s true that on the whole career incentives point in the direction of ideological orthodoxy rather than trying to snag some slot as a token. Still, within that framework of overall orthodoxy, the incentives are still to be somewhat less orthodox and on-message than your colleagues — stand out as the “reasonable” one and get invited to do panels and stuff. But I’ve never been invited to a Georgetown cocktail party.
Thus, let me say that I don’t think Dan Balz’ suggestion that there should be a double-standard with more scrutiny applied to Barack Obama’s ideas than to John McCain’s is nearly as nutty as Jon Chait and other liberals I’ve read seem to think. After all, we don’t expect the press to give equal time to analysis of Bob Barr’s ideas as they do to John McCain’s. Why not? Well, because Barr is much less likely to become president. Similarly, at this point it’s much more likely that Obama will become president than that McCain will. Is the Obama-McCain gap as big as the Barr-McCain gap? Of course not. So the scrutiny gap shouldn’t be nearly as big, either. But that’s not to say it shouldn’t be there. And, again, at this point everyone agrees that there will be Democratic majorities in the congress which means that Obama is likely to have much more flexibility than McCain would to implement his agenda. This, too, points to somewhat heightened scrutiny of Obama.
The fly in the ointment for my argument is that thus far, as usual, there’s been only a tiny amount of coverage of either candidate’s policy agenda. But that’s the problem. If there was serious coverage of the candidates’ policy proposals than giving 60-65 percent of the space to trying to understand the ins-and-outs of the Obama agenda and only 40-35 percent to trying to understand the McCain agenda would be reasonable enough.