Among the many drawbacks of nationalizing politics is this: it is exhausting.
Voters in Virginia today will choose their next governor, either Republican Glenn Youngkin or Democrat Terry McAuliffe. But it’s not just a Virginia story – the national political media has been consumed in recent weeks by every little development in the race. We got extensive coverage of the reading controversy Toni Morrison in high schools across the state, stories of how race might be affected by congress dick on President Biden’s agenda, arguments over how much the former president Donald trump questions in the countryside, and the controversy over a stupid anti-Youngkin stunt succeeded by the Lincoln Project. Apart from everything Senator Joe Manchin says today, this is the greatest story in politics.
If I lived in Virginia, I would be more than informed enough to vote in today’s election. But I don’t live in Virginia. You probably don’t either. So why should non-Virginians care so much about the election of this state?
I suspect we shouldn’t, and probably wouldn’t – at least not at this point reflected in the media coverage – if it weren’t for the fact that much of our political media is concentrated in Washington, DC, which makes the Virginia run a backyard story for so many reporters who cover it. A similar dynamic exists in New York City, where media coverage of the June mayoral primary election won by Eric Adams drew an inordinate number of thoughts in seemingly non-New York media outlets on What This All Ways. Compare this treatment to Boston, another large city on the east coast that is elect a mayor today, but has not received roughly the same level of national review.
But the political media have also become obsessed in recent years with analyzing every race or special election out of year for its national implications, for what they say about Trump or Biden or the Democrats or Republicans or crime or other. (Hey, I’m guilty too.) That means the national electoral cycle never really ends, or even slows down. And this can distort the meaning of these campaigns, which are often based on local and parish concerns like Youngkin’s vow to end the grocery tax.
There is a tendency these days to dismiss the old adage that “all politics is local”. Maybe it is. But in the end, the Virginia election will necessarily mean more to Virginia voters than the rest of us, and that’s okay. The rest of us don’t have to worry about it that much.