Among the many extreme Republican candidates backed by Democrat dollars, Doug Mastriano stands out head and shoulders above the rest of the crowd. The campaign manager of his future opponent for the governorship of Pennsylvania, state Attorney general Josh Shapiro, spent hundreds of thousands of donated dollars on attack ads targeting Mastriano’s opponents — more than twice the total expenditures of Mastriano’s own campaign — in order to select what Democratic strategists believe will be an easily defeated opponent.
It’s a dangerous game, the same one that got Trump elected in 2016: The profiles of extremists are elevated by mass infusions of Democrat money, and mainstream news media supports the effort — understandably, but foolishly — by then exposing the extremist views of those who were set up for failure.
The down sides of the effort should be apparent even to the meanest intellect: Leaving aside that it might backfire and get the extremist candidate elected, it also will certainly harm the chances of any moderates involved in the race (by design), which makes any subsequent Congressional negotiations that much more difficult. What is perhaps worst of all, however, is that it advertises extremist views, providing them with a platform and apparent legitimacy they might otherwise never command.
Today, Mastriano is the target of the first in what promises to become a long line of damaging revelations, each of which may well backfire on the opposing campaign that is (probably) releasing them. This one is particularly dangerous for them.
The photo heading this article is one released by the Army War College in response to a FOIA request by Reuters. It is a faculty portrait of the instructors at a Pennsylvania historical warfare facility from 2014. Col. Mastriano is at the far left, in the uniform of a Confederate infantryman from the Civil War. Other historical uniforms represented include those of the US Army from the Second World War through Vietnam, a caricature Cold War spy, and what on first glance appears to be a Voltigeur with flintlock, resplendent in scarlet and green.
The Reuters story concentrates on the presumably offensive nature of a serving American soldier in Confederate uniform, and indeed, once informed that there was something at which they might be offended, offense was indeed expressed by Mastriano’s political opponents. However, Reuters somehow neglects to mention the nature of Col. Mastriano’s occupation at the time save in passing, as though it were somehow inappropriate for instructors at the War College to display military history in order to further its study. Mention is made of the battlefield at Gettysburg, but not of the thousands of re-enactors who assemble there annually — also in uniform — to commemorate the momentous event.
Aside from the tone of the article, there is nothing particularly untoward about publishing this particular photograph; indeed, once presented with a tip (doubtless what happened here), a news outlet has a very real duty to follow it up. However, Reuters failed in that they neglected to present enough information to frame things in an appropriate context. This opens them to charges of partisanship and decreases the public’s trust in the entire fifth estate even more than the usual.
More damaging, however, is the immediate result: Intelligent, thoughtful centrists may well object to the news release and its motivations without, perhaps, ever acknowledging the fairly serious flaws Mastriano brings to the table as a potential governor. The net result of this may well be a well-deserved counter-reaction against the cynical politics practiced by the Shapiro campaign that leads undecideds to back a candidate who, when all is said and done, is quite a bit further to the right than John Birch.
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For more context on the DNC’s campaign to elect Trump, read this:
To learn more about Col. Doug Mastriano, we recommend his Wikipedia entry: