Why we watch how campaigns are waged

  • Russ Walker/PA Post
  • Emily Previti/PA Post

Ed Mahon’s story on Monday about a county GOP organization posting an inflammatory Facebook post about four Democratic congresswomen drew some “what about…” responses from readers. What about, one said, the Pennsylvania Democratic Party’s recent post labeling President Trump a white supremacist? What about, another wrote, then-candidate Barack Obama’s 2008 comments about rural Pa. voters clinging to their guns and bibles? Russ Walker, PA Post executive editor, addresses them below.

‘2020 campaign is on track to be uglier than 2016’

A few readers were not happy with Ed Mahon’s story on Monday.

The “what about…” questions some of them offered are, in my view, a trap aimed at distracting journalists from paying attention to one thing by pointing to the other side’s bad behavior. Faced with a wave of “what about…” examples, a reporter or news organization might choose to stop covering individual events like the one Ed wrote about Monday. And that’s the point: “What about…” is intended to distract and confuse.

Back to Ed’s story. What made it interesting to us here at PA Post is that the meme, which portrayed the four lawmakers as terrorists, was posted to the Facebook page of the Northampton County Republican Party. That’s a true battleground county, where both parties compete fiercely. Obama won it twice; Trump carried it in 2016. The typical narrative about swing counties is that both parties will try to court voters from the other side by avoiding the appearance of overt partisanship.

For one of the county party organizations to spread an ugly meme on social media suggests the 2020 campaign is on track to be uglier than 2016 — and may see both parties focus only on turning out their most loyal voters. Where does that leave voters in the middle?

Another question prompted by the Northampton GOP Facebook post: How is sharing that meme a service to voters who are trying to assess candidates (and parties) based on what policies they would pursue if they were elected? You can’t tell much about the GOP’s policy agenda from looking at that “jihad squad” photo.

The staff at PA Post knows we are heading into a contentious election year. While our focus is on covering policy and how government actions affect Pennsylvania citizens, we’ll also be watching the messages and campaign tactics of both parties. How campaigns are waged can tell us — the voters — a lot about how a candidate or party will govern.

I’d love to hear your thoughts, and get your tips about any political fouls you’re seeing in your community. Write to me at rwalker@papost.org.

Best of the rest

Marc Levy / AP Photo

Republican U.S. Rep. Scott Perry of Pennsylvania speaks during a town hall meeting with a politically divided crowd at the Hummelstown Fire Department station, Tuesday, July 30, 2019, in Hummelstown, Pa.

  • U.S. Rep. Scott Perry, Pa-10, held a town hall in Hummelstown, Dauphin County, last night. It was the four-term lawmaker’s first town hall of 2019. Ed Mahon was there. You can find his recap here.
  • Police charged a 65-year-old Cumberland County man for failing to comply with a protection from abuse order requiring him to turn over his weapons. The charges were filed one week after his estranged wife’s killing, PennLive’s David Wenner reports. Ronald Wert, of North Middleton Township, is a suspect in the murder of Linda Brandt, who obtained the PFA order about a month ago. State law changed in April to mandate that subjects of all final PFA orders relinquish their firearms.
  • Scientists, regulators and other experts will take questions about PFAS from the public later today at a forum at the Park Inn, 5401 Carlisle Pike, Mechanicsburg. Hosted by Navy Support Mechanicsburg, the event runs 4 to 7 p.m.. StateImpact Pennsylvania’s Marie Cusick has the details here. PFAS, for the uninitiated, stands for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, a class of man-made chemicals that are the subject of studies to assess their potential negative effects on human health.
  • Former Pennsylvania attorney general Kathleen Kane is expected to leave jail today, eight months after she began her sentence. The Inquirer‘s Craig R. McCoy has the story.

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