Put Some Gay In Your Day, Dallas!

Carry Me Back to Old Virginny

As Karl could tell you, I’ve been saying for weeks that Democrats losing the Virginia gubernatorial race this week would boil down to the candidate and the campaign.  Despite the punditry with which those who pay attention to such things have been inundated, I think I was right.

Let’s start with Terry “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach” McAuliffe.  While a robust and honest intellectual argument can be made supporting that position, it’s not the kind of thing a fellow running for office should say on a debate stage. 

Now I don’t know much about Virginia, having only stayed there one night years ago.  Karl and I were forced to spend the night in Marion back in 1983 while on a car trip interrupted by roads that iced over.  We ended up in a motel that would have gotten fewer stars from Michelin than the one operated by Norman Bates.  

The door to our room didn’t close properly, so the chain lock was the only thing that kept it from swinging open.  Snow literally blew in from outside, and the place was freezing.  But Virginia is for lovers, so it was actually pretty fabulous.

The next morning, Karl and I bundled up and headed across the highway to a greasy spoon diner that served the best salt cured ham I’ve ever eaten.  Maybe it was the ambiance of the diner, or how hungry we were, or how perfectly crispy the fatty edges of the meat were, but I will always think of ham when Virginia comes to mind.    

But what I do know is that McAuliffe ended up losing the race with a margin almost identical to the results when Beto O’Rourke lost his Senate race to Ted Cruz.  O’Rourke did amazingly well for a Democrat in Texas; McAuliffe, in technical political terms, blew it.

Since I’m writing this on the day after the day after the election, it’s challenging to offer anything on the subject that even provides a whiff of originality, but I’ll do my best by commenting on the actual observations and responses that I’ve seen.

It didn’t take long for the Democrats to circle the wagons, which is the wise thing to do when a group of folks face a common threat.  What is unwise is that same group of people starting to shoot at each other in the circular firing squad for which Democrats have long held the patent.  

Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia, and one of its former governors, gave almost gymnastic comments about the loss, blaming Democrats who “wanted to be purist about whatever their own particular goals were—left, right, and center—and hold out, dither, and delay, so that hurt Terry in a close race.”  

Kaine, Hillary Clinton’s nondescript running mate in 2016, after placing the responsibility for the results on anything but the candidate and his campaign, was asked directly about the fault of McAuliffe in his defeat.  After discussing why he thought the race was lost, Kaine said, “There’s a million reasons behind any victory or loss, but that’s not productive right now.”  Now there’s a back flip of which even Simone Biles could be proud.

Max Burns, a progressive Democratic strategist writing in The Daily Beast, took the tack that the lesson for Democrats to avoid a “Democratic bloodbath next year” is to “Do what voters say they want.”  That, according to the polling he cites, includes raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans and passing the Biden plan at the full $3.5 trillion.  It is a rather compelling argument, but that ship has probably sailed.  What Democrats can do may end up being a day (or several months) late and a dollar (or a few hundred billion) short.

I’ve long thought our two parties are infected with two very different diseases, which have driven the ebb and flow of politics for as long as I can remember.  Democrats, having power, lose it from their innate complacency, while Republicans lose their power through overreach.

At this point, Democrats have not wielded or earned the power that voters gave them last year.  Republicans, having turned obstruction into an art form under the leadership of Mitch McConnell, sit on the sidelines and allow the Democrats to demonstrate once again that they are usually incapable of getting what the majority of them want done.  One might think these days that the filibuster that is holding up legislation isn’t the Senate rule, but the one that lives within the Democratic party.

And that has literally nothing to do with what happened in Virginia.