NY Times Laments on Front Page: Democrats Just Too Tough on Themselves

February 5th, 2019 5:23 PM

The front page of Monday’s New York Times featured national political correspondent Jonathan Martin’s “news analysis” on the Democratic meltdown in Virginia, now involving both Gov. Ralph Northam and Lt. Gov Justin Fairfax: “Pushed by Trump, Opponents Try to Set Example – There’s Zero Tolerance for Bad Behavior in Their Ranks.” The online headline was more nauseating: Trump Behaves One Way on Race. Democrats Demand Better From Their Own.”

Martin rather desperately tried to change the subject from damaging stories about a racist Democratic governor into a story about how quickly the Democratic camp tosses their own bad apples, whenever over a sex scandal or (now) a race-based scandal, as in the case of Virginia’s Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam.

Among the many scandalous but beloved Democrats absent from Martin’s recount: Sen. Ted Kennedy, former President Bill Clinton, and KKK wizard Sen. Robert Byrd. More recently, there were assault allegations against Democratic National Committee co-chair Keith Ellison, or the anti-Semitic associations of new Democratic congresswomen Ilhan Omar and Rep. Rashida Tlaib.

Once again, the Times is trying to make us believe, after decades of Democrats celebrating the corrupt Hillary Clinton and sex-scandal plagued two-term hero Bill Clinton, that the party now occupies some moral high ground.

Martin wrote Monday (click “expand”):

The irony was difficult to miss: on the same day that racist images surfaced from Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam’s medical school yearbook page, Senator Cory Booker announced his bid to become the nation’s second black president and entered what is the most diverse campaign field in history.

But the near-simultaneous reminders of the country’s ugly past on race and the prospects for a more inclusive future were not just a matter of happenstance: it reflected the duality of American politics in the Trump era.


If President Trump’s election amounted to an angry rejoinder to America’s first black president, as many on the left believe, Mr. Trump has created a backlash of his own, energizing women and people of color who represent an unmistakable rebuke to his demagogy on race and ethnicity and his misogynistic attacks.

But the president is also reshaping Democratic politics in far-reaching ways: His divisive behavior, and the Republican silence that often meets it, has pushed Democrats to try to set an example by aggressively confronting current and past misconduct in their own ranks, as they did with Mr. Northam, the Virginia leader who has admitted to one racist episode -- wearing blackface at a dance contest -- and has struggled to explain a racist photo and the nickname “coonman” on his yearbook pages.


Mr. Northam discovered the zero-tolerance posture of his party within hours of the picture of a man in blackface and another in Ku Klux Klan robes appearing online.

Martin gave Democrats full credit for their behavior without chiding them for their own previous tolerance for racial intolerance: Sen. Robert Byrd, Democrat and former Klansman, served for half a century in Congress.

Further, Mr. Trump’s willingness to wield race as a political weapon -- portraying undocumented immigrants as murderers, for example -- has also amplified the expectations of what Democratic activists expect from their own candidates.


The backlash against Trump’s hate has created more space and openness about issues of race and gender, at least in circles that are open to having those conversations,” said Gina Hinojosa, a Democratic state representative in Texas.

Martin talked to Democrats who complained the party was just too advanced for the rest of the country.

As demonstrated by Mr. Northam, who admitted to putting shoe polish on his face once for a Michael Jackson-themed party, there are plenty of Democrats who have acted in ways the party cannot tolerate. But what is disheartening to many in the party is that they are seeing uneven gains beyond their ranks.

Sticking to how Democrats react to inter-party scandals, Martin also updated the crazy events out of Virginia, now involving accusations of sexual assault against current Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, who is in the spotlight because of the infanticide support and racism allegations against his boss, Democratic Va. Gov. Ralph Northam. An earlier version of Martin's story led off:

Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax of Virginia issued a statement Monday morning denying an unsubstantiated allegation of sexual assault that a right-wing media site published amid extraordinary political turmoil in the state that has raised the possibility of Mr. Fairfax becoming the next governor.

Were the utterly unsubstantiated allegations against Justice Brett Kavanaugh ever characterized as “unsubstantiated” by Times reporters? A nytimes.com search suggests no (the word crops up among Republicans quoted in defense of Kavanaugh).

“Unsubstantiated” at least doesn’t appear in the print version of Martin's story Tuesday morning. In the same edition, reporters Trip Gabriel and Michael Grynbaum took the focus off the actual scandal and onto the “obscure right-news news site” that broke it: “Obscure News Site Rattles A State’s Political Scene.”