Far be it from me to offer advice to the loyal opposition in Virginia. Quite frankly, I’d much rather be putting down a populist revolt within my own ranks rather than deal with a overwhelmingly hostile proto-socialist left apt to violence and hungry for power.
…but I digress. This morning’s Huffington Post is positively giddy about chances for the Democrats in Virginia with a myopic and one-sided view on the path to victory:
Democrats hold all five of Virginia’s statewide elected offices ? governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general and two U.S. senators. They also have a near-majority in the state Senate. But right now, they control just 34 of 100 seats in the House of Delegates. Democrats admit that the prospects of retaking the chamber are extremely unlikely in 2017, but they are optimistic about making significant gains.
Short version: the DPVA knows they’re going to lose… but hey, let’s spend a lot of other people’s money trying to get something — anything — to work.
This whole “74 candidates have lined up to run in 47 districts currently held by Republicans” is probably the dumbest idea in modern campaigning. Consider DPVA’s strategy here: they are going to hold as many as 27 primary contests with as many as 47 green candidates in order to contest 47 veteran political outfits with sitting Republican House of Delegates members — each one a precinct captain unto themselves with five-to-six figures to fuel their own victory — in an effort to achieve a goal that by their own admission they cannot and will not achieve?
Let’s make this even more horrible for the Democrats who are sending their little lambs to the political slaughter. At the top of the ticket, Northam and Perriello are about to engage in a multi-million dollar duel to the death while Virginia Republicans are on the verge of consolidating their ticket far earlier than anyone else suspected.
So here’s the chess match: Democrats are trying to recruit green-as-grass activists with little to no experience in fundraising or messaging to get out on the trail and take on multi-year veterans who — rather than stay home — will now spend hundreds of thousands of dollars fighting for political survival against a Gillespie campaign that came within 14,000 votes of knocking off Virginia’s most popular politician in 2014.
Don’t worry — this gets better, folks.
Yet then there’s the core question at the center of any race or mass movement. Why should Virginia elect Democrats?
This is where the Democrats fall flat — and hard. There’s no real reason whatsoever, other than “Blame Bush!” — a mantra that worked well in 2006, but isn’t going to connect in 2017 for one simple reason: 2/3rds of Virginia Republicans repudiated Trump at the polls in the 2016 primary. “Blame Trump!” just doesn’t seem to carry the same currency.
This is where the myopia comes into full play. Nationally, the Democrats are driving a narrative that is pleasing 1/3 of the electorate, but pissing off the other 2/3. Statewide, even though Hillary won the Commonwealth with a comfortable 212,000 vote margin, that was against Donald Trump.
Virginia doesn’t react well to ideologues, and should Perriello nab the nomination? Gillespie will be the one talking to the “honorable middle” in Virginia… Perriello will be driving an ideological train in the hopes of rabble rousing some sort of link between progressive politics and populist concerns. What works for capturing the nomination for the Democrats isn’t going to work so well in the general election.
In short, Virginia Democrats in 2017 have the same problem Virginia Republicans faced in 2013. After a bruising 2012/2016 loss, the Republicans/Democrats are going to select someone from the extreme right/left of their party that will make them feel good for a moment… but then set themselves up to lose horrifically in the general election in a contest where the question isn’t going to be “who can create the most change?” but rather “who can create the most jobs?”
Not granted, redistricting — should it take place in 2017 — will give the Democrats upwards of five seats. Should that happen, it will be a natural tug of demographics… but let’s not pretend that it will be due to any overall strategy of persuasion.
Let’s be honest: “Blame Trump!” just doesn’t have the same ring to it. McAuliffe might be a nice enough man, but as a governor he has been mediocre at best — a gladhander and a diplomat, but not a governor with the agenda and relationships to carry legislation in a Republican-led General Assembly where relationship and trust matter.
Case in point: What do Virginia Democrats stand for today? Killing babies and having the state pay for it? Transgender bathrooms? Sure one might point towards education and transportation, but there aren’t any “big ideas” on how to bring any reform — just throw more money at systems created in the 1970s and 1930s respectively.
To his credit, Perriello probably has the most original thoughts on how to tackle post-secondary education and workforce development… but thematically, the Democrats in the General Assembly are rudderless. As Stewart is painfully learning on the GOP side, national narratives do not necessarily drive statewide narratives.
That makes the effort on the part of the Democrats to recruit folks on the ground to run for House of Delegates seats a dangerously cynical one. Not that folks shouldn’t run for public office if they feel motivated to do so… but it is (1) lucrative for a Democratic political class that is in desperate need of cash after the world collapsed in 2016, (2) shockingly obtuse and cynical on their part, and (3) selling potential candidates a bill of goods on their prospects for victory — much less, what they will be expected to do and what being in the public spotlight actually entails.