When it comes to local politics, the Central Virginian’s coverage of elections in Louisa County has improved from years past, going from virtually no coverage of the issues and the candidates, to a collection of factoids little better than what you find in papers like USA Today. And judging from their November 2nd issue, its infotainment that's supposed to give their readers an overview of what’s happening in this county.
A brand of low information reporting which fails to take into account how those local candidates and political stories might also be related to circumstances and influences from well outside of the county. And it's an approach to journalism which is little removed from “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.”
More importantly, despite having been made aware of numerous pieces of information which would add significant context to their local election coverage, they have chosen not to do so. Such unwillingness to examine the larger picture has two important consequences for their readers; it allows them to continue foisting their brand of conservative content on them, and allows the existing status quo locally and regionally to remain unquestioned and unchallenged with virtually no pushback.
Such low information journalism is little more than a collection of micro-aggressions against their readers, one which fails to adequately inform them of the issues, and insults their intelligence. It’s also an approach which blinds them and their readers to the possibility that the very status quo they’re so anxious to preserve, is and continues to shift right under their noses.
Like a frog in water gradually brought to a boil, by the time they realize anything; their decision making process and indeed very ability to comment about those changes has become completely cooked — I mean compromised.
Take for example, their November 2nd story about the amount of money various campaigns had raised and where it was coming from. While accurate in outlining that the state Republican Party gave Duane Adams the “the equivalent of nearly $ 18,000” this factoid pointedly avoided discussing the larger context. That these actions are unprecedented for a local Supervisors election in Louisa County, and that similar actions are happening at the local level all around the Commonwealth.
Or that these actions are part of a well coordinated effort involving, among others; the Republican State Party working with a host of shadowy groups like Americans for Prosperity, and the American Legislative Exchange Council in an effort to maintain their stranglehold on the Commonwealth’s and the nations ability to govern themselves.
Having effectively captured the legislative bodies of many states, including Virginia’s General Assembly, these groups are now extending that same ideologically based control to local jurisdictions through the nation. With the Republican Party working in conjunction with groups like ALEC’s latest spin off, the American City County Exchange.
Dark money groups who are literally pouring rivers of virtually untraceable outside funding intended to change the outcome of local elections for candidates who will do their bidding. Just take a look at what’s happened with the Hanover Board of Supervisors where the AFP backed Tea Party has taken over the counties levers of power, to Henrico County where Republicans are fighting to maintain their slim majority.
Of particular concern for all citizens in Louisa County is what has been happening with School Boards around the country. This 2015 piece from the Washington Post, along with their follow up piece this year about how School Board races in Colorado are funded, is a real eye opener.
And local papers in Colorado are also reporting how AFP is funding many school board races around the state, and how some those school board members they helped get elected were not only able to survive a citizen lead recall, but are running for re-election with their support this year.
This quote from one of these articles sums up what is happening not only in Colorado, but around the country:
“This is really part of a national agenda by special-interest groups like Americans for Prosperity to privatize public education,” said Gurdikian, who has two children in the Jefferson County public schools. “We have a nearly $1 billion budget, and I think a lot of people look at that and want a piece of it. Privatization can work for some things, but not really public education. It really is a common good.”
And it is happening in Fluvanna County, where Tyler Pieron (who unsuccessfully ran for Louisa’s school board in 2015) and Andrew Pullen are running with the backing of the State Party, and Congressman (5th CD) Uncle Tom Garrett, and most notably Shaun Kenney.
Should they manage to parlay this support into victory for these legally mandated non partisan offices it won’t take them long to return Fluvanna County’s educational funding to levels not seen since Shaun Kenney, who served as Supervisor in the Columbia district from 2010 to 2013 helped to eviscerate Fluvanna’s school funding.
For those of you unfamiliar with Mr. Kenney, he is long time political operative who served as the Republican Party of Virginia’s communication director in 2007 when “Enron Ed” Gillespie was the Party’s chair, and later became one of their executive directors after leaving the Fluvanna Board of Supervisors when the late Pat Mullins of Louisa ran the State Party.
He is also the co-founder of the Jeffersoniad Blog Alliance and Red Storm PAC, conducting social media campaigns within Virginia, and presumably in his spare time, runs another blog, devoted to the role of religion and politics in public life. Nor is any coincidence that these two races have sunk to levels of nastiness previously unknown in these parts, where an army of local trolls … I mean supporters, including members of Tom Garrett’s and Dave Brat’s staff who have taken to smearing anyone who questions their clandestine agenda
Should these two succeed in being elected to the Fluvanna School Board, we can only hope that their predictable misdeeds will lead to a grassroots effort similar to what we saw in 2012 in the State of Wisconsin when the people of that state attempted to recall Governor Imperial Walker … I mean Scott Walker. And that the people of Louisa County will remain on guard against something like this happening to their top rated school system.
Which brings us to Duane Adams who is running for the Mineral District Supervisor, who makes no secret of the unparalleled fact that he is being backed by many of the Republican Party's most extreme members; "Enron Ed" Gillespie, Senator Bryce “AFP” Reeves, "Uncle Tom" Garrett, and Dave Brat, and in all likelihood several unnamed and unaccountable outside dark money groups that we will only learn out about well after the election is over.
And it's a level of hands off support which allows Adams to claim with a straight face that "those aren't my words," and "I'm not responsible for what others choose to say," allowing their lies to circulate unchallenged.
A unique form of conservative hypocrisy, that is aided by the CV’s annual ritual of transforming their op-ed section the week before the election from a “rebuttal” page of previous political letters into a Republican show of faith. Actions which help conceal in plain sight their role in promoting Mr. Adams.
Like the sham debate they agreed to “moderate” for the recently resurrected Mineral Industrial Development Corporation, or how they refused to print statements from both the Koren campaign, and the Louisa Democratic Committee, categorically denying Republican Party of Virginia’s claims.
Perhaps expecting their readers to forget that their “interpretation” of the available facts isn’t tainted by their own Chamber of Commerce sensibilities and that they are failing in their duty to report about the real issues driving local elections.
While it’s probably true that many of the CV’s readers would prefer their news in easily digestible chunks of false equivalencies, and prefer to look at the world in ways that won’t challenge their own cultural assumptions, or increase their knowledge of the facts.
The problem with covering local issues like this is that in lieu of any meaningful discussion of the issues and the candidates, such tabloid journalism only serves to reinforce their reader’s already questionable decision making skills, or address the fact that many of them chose to vote strictly along tribal lines, allowing them walk away any responsibility for their own actions.
Although as the deeds of these local officials become more obvious, such hypocrisy will be even harder to ignore in the years to come.
Editor's Note: This is an enhanced version of a letter submitted to Louisa's paper of record, the Central Virginian for their November 9th issue. And for now is only available on-line here.