There are a lot of muckrakers out there.
But a lot of people don't seem to realize it when they do it, let alone when they see others do it.
Here are some good signs of muckraking.
1. Guilt by Association. Pick someone else's sins/crimes and assign it to your target. (Example: Blame the president for the Fast and Furious gun program, as opposed to the Attorney General. Similarly, blame McCain for Bush's wars, etc.)
2. Treat any bad result = corruption, without any evidence, as opposed to a mistake or even bad luck. Example: Use Solyndra's bankruptcy to assume that someone in the administration was corrupt as opposed to a single person made a bad decision Similarly, assume that Cheney must have helped Halliburton get the sweetheart deals and help them get away with over-billing (but they got caught).
3. Assume correlation = causation. I.E. Unions supported the President Obama and Unions came away owning a majority of Chrysler, after the restructuring. Not to mention the fact that the GOP gets most of it's money from the wealthy and it then supports tax cuts for the wealthy (Note the DNC gets a similar amount of money from the wealthy but ALSO gets cash from the poor, the GOP does not.). Or treat gas prices as being caused by the president. Or treat the economy as if it were under the control of the president. Congress has more power over it than the President does, and even they can just nudge it.
4. Assume facts not in evidence (i.e. calling the health-care bill 'unpopular' - most polls show that with un-biased wording more people like it or think it did not go far enough - but that 'unbiased' wording is hard to get - see #14 below), and taking one example and treating it as common/average when it is in fact very rare.
5. Misrepresenting the opinions and goals of your opponents. I.E. For example, saying x hates blacks or saying gays want to force others to be gay. Using the word "socialist" or "nazi" on someone that does not self-identify as one.
6. Making ridiculous symbolic claims over minor actions, or expanding a small statement to a large one. For example, claiming that Bush tried to sexually assault German Chancellor Angela Merkel when he gave her a massage, or that Obama is 'submissively bowing' or 'apologizing' to other countries. In general any discussion of sexual sins is muckraking unless we are talking about a position that deals with sexual peccadilloes, such as Human Resources. Similarly, taking a statement that says they will raise taxes on a few people and claiming it means everyone.
7. Talking trash about people that praised their opponent - either saying they would change their mind or insulting them. We discuss the candidate, not those that support them.
8. Blaming one person/side for a failure to cooperate. Cooperation takes two.
9. Blaming someone for something that clearly was not their fault - for example accusing Obama of causing the historic financial mess that started before he became elected. No it is NOT good enough to say "he didn't fix it fast enough" after you first imply he created it.
10. Attacking someone for doing something that you (or your allies) insisted they do. Happens more often than you would think, despite the obvious stupidity.
11. Making unsupported comparisons (i.e. apples to oranges)
12. Treating off the cuff statements as 'promises'.
13. Claiming something is a failure based on no/limited evidence. Almost every single politician does this one.
<b>But the biggest and most important sign of muckraking is simple: 14. An insulting tone. </b> Either in voice or in wordage. The difference between "government provided health care" as opposed to "government run healthcare". It is how "push polls" (Karl Rove's the master here) work. It is the difference between asking "Are you pro choice" and "Do you favor killing babies".
Both parties do these dirty tricks during election season. Democrats and republicans running for office do so in their political ads. But there is a party difference. The Republicans do it ALL THE TIME, not just when running. For the past 10 years, it has been easy to find Republicans doing this kind of thing. Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Fox news has made careers/businesses out of doing it. Democrats don't as a matter of course muckrake outside of the election season.
The reason is simple:
The Democrats have staked out the center.
Which leaves the GOP nowhere to stake out except the far right. The only way for the GOP to show they are different from the DNC is to be an extreme conservative. But they know the country is at heart moderate with a slight conservative lean, not a radical conservatism. So they have to portray the moderate democrats as ridiculously left. But that's not the case. How do you lie to the public? You muckrake. All the time.
A great example is health care. A real socialist government provides the health-care - just like England or Canada. They don't allow corporations to provide i - they insist on doing it themselves. Socialists have the government do it, moderates countries require citizens to do it, radical zealots say we don't need to require anything at all. Note some of the far left Democrats wanted government provided healthcare - but they lost that battle to the moderate DEMOCRATS as the GOP refused to deal. The DNC is a house of moderates, which really upsets the GOP.