‘TREATING FAR-RIGHT VIEWS AS MAINSTREAM’…. E.J. Dionne Jr. has a very interesting column today that notes the media’s “tilt to the right.”

Yes, you read that correctly: If you doubt that there is a conservative inclination in the media, consider which arguments you hear regularly and which you don’t. When Rush Limbaugh sneezes or Newt Gingrich tweets, their views ricochet from the Internet to cable television and into the traditional media. It is remarkable how successful they are in setting what passes for the news agenda.

The power of the Limbaugh-Gingrich axis means that Obama is regularly cast as somewhere on the far left end of a truncated political spectrum. He’s the guy who nominates a “racist” to the Supreme Court (though Gingrich retreated from the word yesterday), wants to weaken America’s defenses against terrorism and is proposing a massive government takeover of the private economy. […]

Democrats are complicit in building up Gingrich and Limbaugh as the main spokesmen for the Republican Party, since Obama polls so much better than either of them. But the media play an independent role by regularly treating far-right views as mainstream positions and by largely ignoring critiques of Obama that come from elected officials on the left.

Exactly. If far-right voices are characterized as mainstream, it shifts the center of political gravity. For all the talk about media adulation of the president, this dynamic produces “a deep and largely unconscious conservative bias in the media’s discussion of policy. The range of acceptable opinion runs from the moderate left to the far right.”

Single-payer healthcare is considered beyond the realm of reasonable discourse. So is the notion of reducing military spending. The idea of raising taxes to improve the budget outlook is characterized as ridiculous.

At the same time, there is ample media discussion over whether the administration’s fairly centrist economic policies and the president’s moderate instincts can reasonably be described as “socialism.”

Dionne concludes with a very compelling point that bears repeating: “Democrats love to think that Limbaugh and Gingrich are weakening the conservative side. But guess what? By dragging the media to the right, Rush and Newt are winning.”

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.