Long-suffering conservative readers of mainstream media outlets will be familiar with the “Republicans pounce” trope. Charlie Cooke explained this particular journalistic turn of phrase back in April:
Almost invariably, the press assumes that what the Democrats are doing is normal and that what Republicans are doing is not — even when it is the Democrats who are proposing big changes. Thus it is that when the Democratic party seeks to use the power of the federal government to serve a radical and discredited theory to every child in America, the story is that the . . . Republicans don’t like it.
The “Republicans pounce” mantra also implicitly assumes bad-faith; i.e., that conservatives are only ever voicing objections to left-wing policies because of cynical political opportunism, rather than the genuine belief that such policies are actually bad for America. When the Right does something crazy, the story in the legacy press is that the Right did something crazy. When the Left does something crazy, the story is that the Right is pouncing — or “seizing,” “weaponizing,” “salivating,” and/or any number of other unflattering verbs — on said left-wing craziness as an opportunity to spin it in their political favor.
Glenn Youngkin’s upset win in Virginia — and the GOP’s unusually good night up and down the ballot in elections across the country — has led to the predictable flurry of Republican-pouncing think pieces that too often serve as a substitute for genuine reflection and self-critical introspection on the part of the Left’s narrative-setting institutions. According to the New York Times, “Republicans relentlessly sought to turn schools into the next front in the country’s culture wars,” tapping into “the white grievance politics of the Trump base” through the coded dog whistles of parental rights. “By promising at nearly every campaign stop to ban critical race theory, an advanced academic concept not taught in Virginia schools, Mr. Youngkin resurrected Republican race-baiting tactics in a state that once served as the capital of the Confederacy,” the Times writes.
So it goes. Another headline in the Times announces that “Republicans Seize on Schools as a Wedge Issue to Unite the Party.” The AP tweeted out an article explaining the anti-CRT backlash as “the GOP push to politicize school board races.” It’s good that journalists have begun to notice that teaching radical racialist ideologies in schools and then smearing upset parents as racists is not an especially popular political strategy. Their conclusion, however — that the problem is not with CRT, but with the racism of the voters who object to it — still misses the point.