Mastriano’s one-sided campaign
Republican gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano is in the news for his questionable decision to pose for a 2014 photo dressed in a Confederate army uniform.
The photo, obtained by the Reuters news service, shows Mastriano with other faculty members at the U.S. Army War College’s Department of Military Strategy, Planning and Operations, where he worked at the time.
Reactions were predictable. Democratic candidate for governor Josh Shapiro said Mastriano “wore the uniform of traitors who fought to defend slavery.” Republican defenders said the incident was being overblown by liberal critics who want to erase history.
But there was a third predictable reaction: Mastriano wasn’t talking, at least not to responsible media outlets.
And that’s the most troubling aspect — not only of this particular episode but of Mastriano’s entire campaign. His refusal to engage with any but far-right media is an insult to the residents who rely on non-partisan news sources. It’s also a cowardly way of avoiding accountability.
Mastriano is not alone in this camp. Too many Republican candidates and office-holders limit their press availability to friendly conservative outlets, deigning rarely or not at all to discuss issues with non-partisan news organizations.
This may save them the discomfort of having their talking points challenged, but it's the sign of a politician who is neither confident in their positions nor cognizant of their role as a true public servant.
Mastriano, for example, is running to govern the entire state, not just those sections with conservative majorities. He is asking to serve the interests of the all Pennsylvanians. And yet he deems those who are not adherents of right-wing media beneath communicating with.
“Mastriano has kept his media appearances almost exclusively to right-wing radio and TV shows,” Philadelphia’s WHYY reported in a recent story that also recounted that journalists are required to first email the campaign and be vetted before Mastriano’s staff will consider responding.
And Mastriano doesn’t just refuse to talk with responsible media outlets; he actively prevents them from covering his campaign. That same WHYY story described a recent rally in Pennsburg: “As in all of Mastriano’s events, press who introduced themselves as such in Pennsburg were confined to a pen far from supporters and out of earshot of speeches.”
Even some in the Mastriano camp worry that preaching solely to the choir is no way to broaden the base. It is evidently not a concern shared by the candidate.
Frankly, it’s a downright shady way of campaigning; one that provides little confidence that, despite recent efforts to downplay some of his firebrand ways, Mastriano would be anything but a hyper-partisan presence in the governor’s office.
Even the state Republican apparatus recognized this — initially, anyway. But having failed at derailing his candidacy during the primaries, party leaders are now circling the wagons.
Mastriano’s refusal to broadcast his positions is, in one way, understandable, given those positions include unfounded conspiracy theories, lies about the 2020 election, and plans to overturn the state’s elections procedures and defund public education.
But no candidate aspiring to lead a state should feel speaking to the majority of that state’s citizens is beneath them.
That Mastriano once posed in a Confederate Civil War jacket may not be a campaign-altering issue. But his ongoing refusal to address the story — or any story — with responsible, non-partisan media certainly is.