After triumphant election cycles in 2018 and 2020, Democrats suffered stinging setbacks on Tuesday when they lost 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.”