From around the progressive blogosphere, I am seeing remarkably little bitterness, as everybody clamors to publicly declare their support for the newly minted Democratic ticket. The losing candidates were gracious in concession, quickly climbing on board to endorse the winners. It looks like we are determined not to blow the election in November because of hurt feelings and disappointments. That, by the way, is true grace under fire. Thank you to those who didn’t quite make it this time. Your graciousness will be remembered when we win.
As to why Creigh and Jody won, I have some thoughts. The first is that voters, overwhelmingly, and from all regions of Virginia, soundly rejected an agenda that was “too liberal.” As somebody whose banner declares that I have been “proudly liberal since 2005,” that does not upset me. The reason is that I am also a great fan of incrementalism. I never expected to convince the majority of voters to agree with me one hundred percent. I am happy just to further the discussion and win a little bit more acceptance for liberal ideas each time and to slowly push the center back to its real center. For too long, the most hard right elements of the Republican Party have been defining that center and moving it ever rightward. There is now a true left, right, and center in Virginia.
My second reason for not being upset is that I believe that sometimes - ok, lots of times - voters are smarter than bloggers. That doesn’t mean I always agree with the majority because I don’t. But lots of times, the wisdom of the masses does turn out to be more intelligent than that of the ideologues. This is one of those times.
While watching TV this morning, I was struck by some of the exit interviews, where people in Northern Virginia were saying that they were looking for the candidate who would run well across all of Virginia. Democratic voters were making pragmatic decisions in these races. Time and again, they went with the centrist.
The Republicans lost no time, in their reaction, in trying to paint Deeds and Wagner as radical leftists. It won’t stick to them precisely because the real progressives were out there and people already got to evaluate their positions. The primary did exactly its job; it strengthened the winners’ positions.
The Republicans did not trust real voters to choose their candidates because they also know that most Virginians are no more hard right than they are hard left. Virginia voters have shown time and again that they are pragmatic centrists. But the ideologues of their party couldn’t risk losing control or having to compromise their precious conservative principles. And that speaks volumes.
They have been a roadblock in the General Assembly for precisely that reason. They can’t even get along with their own moderates, let alone with any Democrat. For them, it’s impossible to reach across an aisle, even to fellow Republicans, let alone to Democrats in the General Assembly. Their ideas are radical and out of step. And every time they criticize moderates like Creigh Deeds or Jody Wagner, they will make more people more aware of that inconvenient fact.
How will the Democrats run against “sunny” Bob McDonnell, Bill Bolling, and Ken Cuccinelli and win in November? By staying positive, and responding to false charges and negative attacks calmly and with the facts. The fact is Virginia has consistently been named one of the best places to do business. Compared to our neighboring states, our economy has been resilient in very tough economic times - an economic meltdown caused by Republican policies at the national level. This is still Bush’s recession because Obama has only been in office for five months and everybody except the most hard right ideologues realizes he inherited this mess from his predecessor. In fact, even the current budget is Bush’s because it was enacted in October 2008, long before the election. Even the bailouts began under Bush’s watch, orchestrated by Henry Paulson.
Furthermore, the Democrats are not socialists, and the Republican penchant for toxic and inaccurate labeling will hurt them because that too will make them look like extremists. The current economic situation is dire. It can be compared to a person having a sudden and severe heart attack and his doctor stepping in to perform emergency open-heart surgery on him.
Of course, if the patient hadn’t been a hundred pounds overweight; eaten a constant diet of junk food; and persisted in smoking and drinking, he wouldn’t have needed such extreme measures. In fact, the doctor tried to get him to change his habits, lose some weight, and adapt a healthier lifestyle. But the patient persisted until a sudden, severe heart attack landed him in the ER. So, the doctor had to perform radical surgery to save his life.
That’s the situation with our economy. Nobody really believes the government should step in and interfere with businesses, bail out failed banks or auto companies, etc. But we are in a dire situation, where not one or two businesses, but an entire economy, was having a major heart attack and needed radical intervention. We are all scared about the eventual outcome, but doing nothing was simply not an option.
Meanwhile, in a situation where our economic meltdown has taken down half the major international economies, not to mention wrecked other state economies, Virginia remains in decent shape, relatively speaking, due to the hard work of Mark Kaine, Tim Kaine, and Jody Wagner, who had a major share of responsibility for our financial health. And we know Creigh Deeds will govern in that tradition. What does Bob McDonnell have as a legacy? The failed Republican policies of Jim Gilmore, the last GOP governor, who nearly destroyed the commonwealth’s AAA bond rating. In fact, it could be argued that Gilmore’s extreme anti-tax ideology, which nearly wrecked Virginia’s economy, was a harbinger of the GOP economic failure on a national level. Republican ideas have been tried time and again and have failed every time.
Those are the facts that Democrats will run on in November. And the Democrats will win because facts are stubborn things. As stubborn as a rock. In fact, many a Republican ship has foundered on the rock of solid evidence. And those facts will carry us through to victory in November!