“Congratulations”

Right about now, with the Democrats poised to take control of both houses of Congress, it sure would be nice to own stock in a paper shredder manufacturer.

Sadly, that’s not the case, but there are other satisfactions at hand.

In Thursday’s paper, the Richmond Times-Dispatch calls on George Allen not to pursue a recount barring any major changes in results from the post-election canvas; with 95% of that canvas done at this point, Webb is indeed on pace to win by about 8,000 votes.

Apparently suspecting as much, the RTD spends the rest of its editorial treating Senator-Elect Webb as a fait accomplit. Much of the editorial consists of a scathing critique of some of Allen’s tactics, along with the claim that the vote was not about “issues” but about a gut reaction to Iraq. (Along the way the editorial board can’t resist taking a shot at “sleep-inducing lectures that try to pass off partisan boilerplate as scholarship,” not to be confused, of course, with partisan boilerplate that tries to pass itself of as insightful editorial writing.)

But the editorial almost approaches graciousness in noting that Webb is an independent spirit in the Jacksonian tradition. Fair enough. It’s also fair to say that the median Virginia voter doesn’t want, just as the RTD says, a clone of a Howard Dean or John Kerry–and that Webb is no such clone.

But if Webb really is not a Dean or Kerry, why did the paper spill so much ink before Election Day trying to draw just that equation?

Pre-election day RTD: Don’t vote for Webb, he’s like Dean and Kerry and Hillary, and he’s against the President. (Here’s Ross Mackzenie’s column saying pretty much exactly that, in case you’ve forgotten.)

Post-election day RTD: Well, Webb won, but at least he’s not like Dean or Kerry.

Pre-election day RTD: “Allen’s opponent in this race, echoing Democrats everywhere, has cast Allen’s (and Warner’s) backing of the president as sufficient reason for Allen’s defeat.” (October 22) Translation: Party identification tells us pretty much all we need to know about a candidate, and Webb should be shunned because he’s like Democrats everywhere.

Post-election day RTD: “Candidates run as Republicans and Democrats; citizens elect individuals to govern.” Translation: our party lost, but voters vote for the man, not the party.

The RTD’s post-facto analysis of Webb is in much the same spirit as David Brooks’s recent column on the Senator-elect. But there’s a key difference between Brooks’s analysis and that of the RTD editorialists: Brooks published his piece before the election (on Sunday in The New York Times).

The RTD, in contrast, never made an effort in its editorials to inform readers that Webb is an independent-minded Democrat with an interesting worldview that is populist but not necessarily liberal.

Describing Webb that way might have made the Senator-elect sound more appealing to some of the RTD’s readers, and possibly even cost the RTD’s endorsee Allen a few votes.

It also would have leant the newspaper’s editorial page a measure of credibility and intellectual integrity that proved sorely lacking this election season.

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Published in: on November 9, 2006 at 5:42 am  Leave a Comment  

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