Nov 7, 2022 - Politics

Baker says the center is getting lost

Photo illustration of Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker with lines radiating from him.

Photo Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios. Photo: Erin Clark-Pool/Getty Images

With only a few months left in office, Gov. Charlie Baker is sounding the alarm about media trends he says will drive hyper-partisanship and alienate centrist voters.

Driving the news: Most Americans don't fall in the political extremes that both parties concentrate on, Baker reminded some of the country's future leaders at a Harvard lecture Thursday.

What they're saying: "Rather than dragging more and more voters to the extremes, this behavior from the major parties is having the opposite effect. Many are becoming independents," Baker said.

  • Baker cited polls showing the number of independent voters has climbed in the last several decades.
  • "That's a lot of movement. Tens of millions of voters," Baker said, adding that unenrolled voters in Massachusetts may make up more than 60% of the 2022 electorate.
  • Baker has been at odds with his own party for several years. At the time of his speech, he was still registered in his hometown of Swampscott as a Republican.

Baker themed his thoughts on the media around comments musician David Bowie made to the BBC in 1999 about how the internet would radically change media consumption and become "an alien life form" of its own.

  • Baker said the internet's ability to link like-minded people has led to even more extremism.
  • "Finding people who share your love of gardening is just as easy as finding people who share your love of hate speech," Baker said.
  • Media outlets catering to slim ideological audiences are amplified by social media algorithms that only deliver the kind of news people already want to hear, he added.

This causes legitimate news organizations to become "edgier" to try to compete with ideological outlets, Baker said.

  • "Outrage and misinformation travels further and faster among partisans and advocates on social media than anything that looks like straight news," Baker said.

The speech was organized by three of the Kennedy School's most prominent divisions: the Taubman Center for State and Local Government, the Rappaport Institute for Greater Boston, and the Institute of Politics.

You can watch the Kennedy School's webcast here.


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