(Doug Dobey, Dobey Design, Richmond Virginia)
In the Richmond Times Dispatch on the day after Virginia’s statewide elections resulted in Democrats winning the Governorship and the LT. Governorship outright and deadlocking the race for Attorney General, editorialist Jeff Shapiro opined that Virginia had chosen divided or in his words “splintered” government. Mr. Shapiro knows a lot more about the ins and outs of Virginia governance than I do and at one level it is hard to quibble with the idea that Virginia, which now has a split General Assembly (assuming special elections keep the 20-20 divide in the Senate with marginal control by the Democrats which is not a given), and with Democrats in control of the administration. So I hesitate to take issue with his article on the grounds of my own lesser knowledge, but never-the-less I do have some problems with both his analysis and his choice of language.
Democrats win state-wide elections because there are more Democrats than Republicans voting in Virginia! They are often moderate Democrats sure, but the D’s have won three out of the last four Governor races and taken the last two presidential contests and both Senate seats easily. Frankly, it is only the gerrymandering of districts that keeps 2/3rds of seats in the house Republican, and 8 of 11 Congressional seats in the hands of the GOP. It’s not that there aren’t a lot of Republicans in Virginia, clearly there are, but when the whole state turns out, they lose. It‘s that simple. So don’t tell me Virginians opted for a divided government, they in fact had little choice in the matter and where they could, they voted for a Democrat.
“Terry McAuliffe defeated Ken Cuccinelli for governor on the strength of his bankroll: nearly $35 million, compared with $20 million for the Republican.”
Really? But doesn’t this beg the question of where the GOP money went? Of course McAuliffe out raised the Cooch. It’s what he made his bones on, bundling money for the Clintons, plus he’s very rich himself. For once a Democrat could spend at the levels Republicans routinely spend. Part of the reason of course was also his opponent. Cuccinelli was an extreme, radical conservative with an extreme and demonstrable agenda and that brought out oppositional money like Planned Parenthood’s PAC by the bucket full. What is more interesting is that the GOP outside groups seemed to back out of this race at some point in the late summer, early fall. Where were the Koch brothers, and Tea Party AstroTurf groups like Freedom Works and TPP? Maybe the difference in money can be explained in part by the fact that these groups realized that Cuccinelli was a deeply flawed candidate and they decided not to go too deep into their very deep pockets on this one. This is speculation of course, but the fact that McAuliffe had more money raises as many questions as it answers.
“Much of McAuliffe’s money was spent fanning the hostility of women for Cuccinelli over his stout opposition to abortion.”
Sure, but let’s be clear. This “hostility” didn’t get ginned up by a savvy campaign, it came from a large, grass-roots movement of Virginians (men and women) who were appalled by the concrete actions of Mr. Cuccinelli as a Senator; and as an Attorney General, Cuccinelli earned every drop of the enmity he received through his “stout” support of TRAP and forced ultrasound. I know the people who formed organizations like Cooch Watch. They have no great love for Governor-elect McAuliffe, but they were dead set on keeping the Cooch out of the Governor’s mansion because of the clear threat he posed to women’s rights. Believe me, Mr. McAuliffe doesn’t have enough money to produce the level of passion that this campaign engendered. Mr. Cuccinelli did that himself.
While he managed to rig the GOP convention so he wouldn’t have to run in a primary against Bill Bolling (Who I suspect would have had a much better chance against McAuliffe), Cuccinelli also came away with E. W. Jackson as a running mate. Do I need to elucidate what was wrong with that outcome? O.K. I will, briefly. Many conservative seem to think the road to getting African Americans to consider voting for them is to run African American candidates, and on the surface that makes eminent sense, but because the GOP’s rhetoric and policies have so consistently, abundantly and maliciously targeted African Americans as a group they find it hard to field serious African American candidates. Sure they get some wiggle room at least in their own press bubble regarding the persistent taint of racism that the modern GOP regularly flirts with, but it also results in “not ready for prime time” candidates like Herman Cain or E. W. Jackson. Jackson was an embarrassment for much of the campaign, I doubt he made many inroads into minority communities and he helped solidify the sense that the GOP was running a fringe ticket. The accusation of pernicious racism that dogs the GOP in Virginia and nationwide gets under the skin of lots of Republicans who are not, in fact, racist in any demonstrable way, but throwing out an E.W. Jackson for the second highest office in the Commonwealth doesn’t make you look better, it makes you look superficial, pandering and un-serious about important issues involving minorities. The Party that condemns affirmative action for women and minorities for promoting less qualified candidates on the basis of race is often the Party most guilty of doing just that… see Justice Clarence Thomas, Alberto Gonzales or Harriet Myers for prime examples. How much Jackson hurt Cuccinelli remains to be seen, and it may not have been as important as the knifing of Bill Bolling last spring, but it sure didn’t help.
“Cuccinelli returned to an issue that endeared him to tea party activists and more moderate Republicans: his first-in-the-nation legal challenge in 2010, ultimately unsuccessful, to the Affordable Care Act.”
OK, so this election was a referendum on ACA? If it was then Virginia voted for the ACA because Cuccinelli lost. Shapiro seems to hold out the idea that campaigning against the ACA helped Cuccinelli… does that mean he would have lost by significantly more if this national program had not existed? That had this program not existed Cuccinelli and his plans for Virginia would have been that much more repugnant to voters? Maybe so, but I would counter that Cuccinelli out preformed the polls because the GOP base did what it always does; it got up and voted no matter how bad the candidate. It was easy to tell pollsters that you didn’t care for the Attorney General that wasted millions of state dollars on a quixotic, grandstanding lawsuit, or spent his staff’s time advising private corporations on how best to avoid paying fines and taxes to the state he represents, or hounding scientists at state universities because their research doesn’t comport with what his corporate and religious friends want to believe about climate change…but in the end, they turned out to vote for the red candidate and that happened to be Cuccinelli this cycle… and he still lost. “This race came down to the wire because of Obamacare.” Said Cuccinelli. Again, if I take the Cooch at his word (and I don’t) this means that even with a “winning” issue like repealing affordable healthcare insurance, he couldn’t deliver the goods–golf claps all around.
“Speaker William J. Howell, R-Stafford, affirmed his caucus’ opposition, noting that GOP House candidates, combined, received nearly 25,000 more votes than McAuliffe’s 1 million. “This … is a clear vote against higher taxes, more spending and bigger government,” Howell said in a written statement.” So if Cuccinelli had won… would it have been a clear vote against higher taxes, more spending and bigger government? Probably, so according to Speaker Howell it’s heads the GOP wins and tails the Democrats lose. Sadly, Mr. Shapiro doesn’t call that feat of circular logic out. Instead he gives us the conventional mainstream logic that whenever a Democrat wins an election he needs to immediately begin tacking to the right and compromising. Sure, the House of Delegates will be a dry, hard place for legislation coming out of the Mansion to land, but I resent the idea that it is incumbent on McAuliffe to come hat in hand after winning an election. Again let me point out that this state is changing and that tide will eventually wash over the General Assembly. Maybe Mr. Shapiro should caution Mr. Speaker about intransigence in the face of yet another Democratic victory, but that may simply be too much for the editorial page of the RTD.
Jeff Shapiro knows the GA and the state politics better than I do, no doubt. But I differ with his interpretation and the way he couches it. The way I see it, Virginia rejected radical Tea Party conservatism at the ballot box once again. Democrats retook the Governor’s mansion that they lost four years ago by 17 points and the Obama coalition mostly hung together. For many of us, this was not a vote for the suspect and damaged Mr. McAuliffe; it was a rejection of Ken Cuccinelli and E.W. Jackson and perhaps the stealthier Mark Obenshain. Oh, and Jeff never mentioned Star Scientific or the dirty coattails of the outgoing (maybe sooner than he thinks) Governor who signed the TRAP and Ultrasound bills Cuccinelli and his radical friends introduced.
As a true Progressive I think Mr. McAuliffe and I are not going to see eye to eye on a lot of things, he got my vote because allowing Ken Cuccinelli to be Governor would have been a true disaster. That, to me, is the story of this election but I doubt I’ll see much of that in the mainstream local media.