Some Pittsburgh Democrats expressed anger after a large paper’s left-leaning editorial board backed the Republican candidate supported by President Donald Trump in the special election for the state’s 18th Congressional District, which will happen Tuesday.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette editorial board’s explanation for its support of Rick Saccone over Democratic candidate Conor Lamb helped generate the left-wing rebuke.
It wasn’t the citation of Saccone’s superior legislating experience that angered some readers. It was the explicit expression that electing Lamb could catalyze a so-called “Democratic wave.”
“If Mr. Lamb, 33, wins, it could well be the start of a Democratic wave. The prospect of a Democratic House may please partisans, but it might be bad for the country,” the board wrote. “The Democrats in the House have only one agenda item at the moment, and it isn’t health care or jobs. It is impeachment. Regardless of whether one likes this president or his policies, one must ask what the consequence for the country will be if we dive into so great a distraction.”
The Washington Post reported that neither candidate has openly discussed impeachment proceedings.
Although the race has little significance, as one legislator will not change the partisan composition of the House, it is being followed as a potential harbinger for the midterms later this year. The special election holds particular significance because Trump easily won the district during the presidential election, but Lamb leads polls on the eve of voting day.
At least one outraged reader posted that he would cancel his subscription to the paper due to the endorsement. But many who disagreed expressed more moderate opposition on social media. Some Republicans promoted the editorial.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette ed page defended Trump when he disparaged “sh*thole” countries, so maybe its opinion’s worth about as much as I paid for it. https://t.co/8yngzSl1EH— Greg Greene (@ggreeneva) March 12, 2018
I just unfollowed @PittsburghPG due to their endorsement of Saccone. Bye. Bye. Gone.— ChrisTheBarMan (@ChrisTheBarMan) March 12, 2018
.@PittsburghPG You've become completely out of touch with your readership if you can endorse Saccone. Deleted your app from my phone. You've lost me and my husband.— Kathie Hollingshead (@kathie15201) March 12, 2018
@PittsburghPG Is what tRump says true? Have you just endorsed Saccone? You should be ashamed of yourselves. I love Pittsburgh, but you are playing to the darkest angels in its citizenry. Pathetic.— GratefulJerseyJoe (@jmf3322) March 12, 2018
The anger expressed by some readers and the tone of the editorial hint at the country’s political polarization. Endorsing a candidate through detailed and thoughtful policy analysis may provoke dissent, but it at least attempts democratic engagement which improves political discourse. But fear of a so-called “Democratic wave” seems like a fundamentally anti-democratic means of approaching governing that reinforces senseless partisanship.
This election will likely yield notable political insights. News readers should especially focus on the accuracy of the polls. In the 2016 presidential election, many polls performed abysmally, prompting scrutiny of the methods used to generate predictions. Pennsylvania’s special election serves as a test run for both the national political mood and the reliability of data projections.