Reprinted with permission from PressRun
After triumphant election cycles in 2018 and 2020, Democrats suffered stinging setbacks on Tuesday when they lost the Virginia's governor's race, and barely held on to win the same contest in New Jersey, a state Joe Biden won by 16 points last year.
Democrats have been down this rocky road before. In November, 2009, just one year after Barack Obama's landslide victory, Democrats lost both the Virginia and New Jersey governor's races. But that didn't end the Obama presidency. The following year he signed Obamacare into law and in 2012 he won re-election with relative ease.
One thing that has clearly changed since then though, is the caterwauling political press, which is treating Tuesday's two-race results like a political earthquake that has all but destroyed Biden's four-year term. Rushing to use every conceivable, hysterical adjective to describe a three point-loss in Virginia as the equivalent of the Democratic Party's permanent demise, the press has eagerly lost all perspective and seems to relish the assignment of burying Biden. (WashingtonPost.com Wednesday night posted no less than 15 articles and columns about the Democratic loss.)
"Why Democrats Should Start Panicking About 2022" was a typically frenetic CNN headline. Or the networks' claim that Tuesday's two regional votes proved that Democrats had "misjudged the nation's mood." It's funny because when Republicans lost the White House last year by 7 million votes, lost Arizona, Georgia, and the U.S. Senate, I don't recall lots of pearl-clutching media commentary about how the GOP had "misjudged the nation's mood."
Compare that to how CNN calmly and rationally, in this dispatch, treated GOP wins in Virginia and New Jersey in November 2009. Back then, Republicans were hoping the wins would "fuel a national resurgence," while Democrats downplayed the larger significance. That was it. There was no manufactured drama, no elaborate story arc, about how the Obama presidency was doomed to the trash heap of history.
The other enormous hurdle that's been erected since 2009 is that the Republican Party and the larger conservative movement now successfully traffic in uncontrollable lies, misinformation, and deranged conspiracies as part of their daily diet. They do it through a billion-dollar media machine that doubles as the propaganda arm of the GOP. And the press has shown little interest in confronting the trend.
"One of the strategic advantages that Republicans have is they're able to feed their base propaganda and misinformation directly through their news outlets," David Turner, senior strategist at the Democratic Governors Association, told the Washington Post's Greg Sargent. "The Democratic Party needs to figure out ways to more actively court its base voters on a regular basis."
The monumental challenge facing Democrats is how to counter a party and a movement that lies about everything, and a press corps that's not willing to try to stop it. Or worse, a press corps that gladly helps spread the lies during a heated campaign season. The media's critical race theory charade during the Virginia campaign was a perfect, and chilling, example. Republican Glenn Youngkin built his entire campaign around a pledge to ban CRT from Commonwealth schools, even though it's not taught in Commonwealth schools. Instead of relentlessly detailing that lie, the campaign press toasted Younkgin for his savvy, race-baiting strategy.
That's when the press wasn't turning a blind eye to the Youngkin campaign ad that blamed Democrat Terry McAuliffe for "covering up rape and sexual assault in our schools," at a time when McAuliffe held no public office in Virginia. Beltway journalists also couldn't have cared less about Youngkin's claim that he wasn't sure if humans were responsible for climate change, and never treated that quip as a damaging "gaffe."
For weeks, it was clear the press viewed the Virginia race as a way to confirm its preferred narrative about a stumbling White House — that storyline determined coverage in all kinds of ways.
Here's one small example. On Monday morning, the Dow Jones for the first time in history passed the 36,000 mark, as the stock market continues a robust one-year expansion. In fact, the Dow is up 10,000 points since Biden was elected. Typically, the press pays close attention to historic gains like that, and often uses the Dow to judge the strength of the economy and particularly uses it for political analysis to grade sitting presidents. But on Monday, the history-making 36,000 marker was not mentioned once on cable news, according to TVeyes. Nor was it mentioned on the network evening newscasts Monday night. (When the Dow closed above 36,000 on Tuesday, CNN referenced it three times the following day.)
Was it a coincidence that the milestone was ignored by the media at the same time they remain so committed to the storyline of a floundering Biden presidency, and that he's spent the last three months dogged by "crises"? It's certainly possible. There's also likely a connection between the fact that Biden's public approval for handling the economy is declining at a time when the press ignores his economic accomplishments.
Democrats are facing a mountain of challenges, including two intransigent senators who are blocking a legislative agenda that 99 percent of elected Democrats want passed and signed into law. They're battling a GOP that long ago walked away from governing, and they're facing off against an openly antagonistic press corps.