Virginia’s Republicans again have shown that they remember everything but learn nothing.
A week ago in this space, I wrote that we would know after their annual meeting whether Virginia Republicans had the guts to admit they need to change their ways in order to keep pace with a changing Virginia.
They have declined to do so.
There are a few points of evidence to support this claim.
One is a report from my friend Shaun Kenney on the GOP’s meeting at the posh Homestead Resort.
Kenney writes that the party faithful were fed a diet of media-bashing from the assembled Republican members of the state’s congressional delegation. And the crowd ate it up:
[Rep. David] Brat mentioned the Richmond Times-Dispatch by name as a critic, and when the line worked with the crowd, Brat simply kept hammering as the press corps clicked away at their keyboards. The hammers didn’t stop when the microphone was handed to Tom Garrett, who continued to demonstrate in five separate points where Republicans were being failed by the mainstream media and the absolute need of Republicans to push back against the narrative being set by the media writ large.
Bashing the press is an ancient GOP pasttime. It doesn’t really cost them votes with the base, which generally shares the suspicion that the media — and this newspaper in particular — are out to savage, if not utterly destroy, conservatives and Republicans alike.
There is some research, imperfect as it may be, on whether various media outlets skew to one side of the political aisle or the other. The website AllSides pegs The Post as center-left.
A 2014 Pew Research Center study on political polarization and the media found that those who consider themselves “mostly” or “consistently” conservative tend not to trust what this paper prints each day.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the Pew study also found that Post readers also tend toward the more liberal end of the political spectrum, with a ranking close to other outlets such as The Economist, Politico PBS — and further to the left than viewers of MSNBC and CNN.
So, yes, at some level, this newspaper and others around the commonwealth will have a tendency to be a bit more skeptical and critical of the right.
It does not make their coverage wrong.
Nor does beating on these outlets — as cathartic as that may be for some — make for an effective method for righting a political party’s dimming electoral prospects.
That takes a great deal of uncomfortable reflection and effort. It also requires an admission that the enormous problems the GOP faces in this increasingly blue state won’t change so long as Donald Trump looms over the political landscape.
Far easier to simply cast the press as the enemy and cancel the subscription to The Post. Just like Republican gubernatorial nominee Ed Gillespie did.
No doubt, he will be a much happier person away from The Post’s scrutiny.
Those Republicans running in the 2018 mid-term elections probably will think the media are out to get them, too. The sentiment may not always be wrong — there will be stories that could be considered slanted, unfair, or flat-out wrong. And the campaign press will have to answer for any errors of fact.
But will campaigns admit when they shade the truth or simply lie to the public? Don’t hold your breath. Rather, they will attempt to brazen it out, hoping voters don’t notice or don’t care.
And when the media calls out those errors, missteps and fibs, Republicans will blame the media for doing so.
It’s a path that leads not to electoral success, but to smothering ignorance.