*Left Turn*, by Tim Groseclose, is a kind of alien artifact because there is not a single hint of rancor, hostility or disrespect toward those with whom he, assuredly, politically disagrees. Instead, this book is a refreshment for the intellect.
At the outset, Dr. Groseclose declares his political disposition: he is a conservative. However, his private views are rendered irrelevant by his research effort of many years. Most of his colleagues are left of center, yet they all share a devotion to scientific accuracy and good faith.
As a political scientist and economist, Dr. Groseclose's academic accomplishments are impressive. His research is data-driven, brought to life by mathematics, and has been critically- and well-received by his peers.
His book outlines his research. Specifically, Dr. Groseclose explains how he arrives at a numeric value identifying an individual's or organization's position in the political spectrum. Remarkably, 1. the author is able to establish this identification over a range of time; not merely a point in time; and, 2. his research yields an absolute value of political identification, and not a relative one (e.g, Fox News relative to MSNBC). The implications and effects of these discoveries are then addressed by the author.
The organizations given scrutiny, unsurprisingly, comprise news media sources--both print and electronic. It will no doubt be irritating to liberals that Dr. Groseclose's research shows most media to be slanted to the left. And, of course, some conservatives will find validation in the author's conclusion, while judging it as ridiculously obvious. Such reactions would miss the point, I think, because what Dr. Groseclose has provided us, is a precise and objective tool for measuring the political bias of our news sources--whether they be left or right.
The reader becomes an observer of Dr. Groseclose's reflections, inquiries, doubts and research breakthroughs--virtually without recourse to mathematics, all by way of standard English. Along the way too, there are some startling, empirically based conclusions by the author which might nonplus conservatives and liberals.
In addition to identifying sources, the Notes section of the book is valuable because many entries amplify points in the main narrative, again using plain English. If the reader is interested in more detail, he can turn to the author's web site for companion papers which should be available by the time you read this.
Although the author writes extremely well, two points of fault deserve mention. I hope that I'm not being unduly harsh here:
1. Dr. Groseclose's use of indefinite pronouns (he, she) is inconsistent and distracting. His usage is an obvious political construct; it is clear that he, or his editor, succumbed to the pressure of feminist triviality. If memory serves, this particular form of anti-grammar originally struck the academic world hard during the mid-80s. It's a form of grammatical schizophrenia--underlain by the best of intentions, of course.
2. The final ten percent or so of the book is in need of an editor's touch. The writing in this part is a little clumsy and somewhat confusing. Nevertheless, with slight perseverance, the reader will be amply rewarded.
Please bear in mind that I read an advance copy. The released copy will no doubt be enjoyably refined.
During my reading, many questions occurred to me, which only increased my admiration for Dr. Groseclose's wonderful contribution to our understanding of political bias. I marvel at his analyses, insights and civility; his work may well become a new standard. I think that most readers of *Left Turn* will be similarly affected, and have a great deal of intellectual fun too.