Twelve Days of Christmas for Virginia Democrats: Day Six, The Ghost of Christmas Present

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

by FreeDem

We are now halfway through this twelve part series looking at the challenges, obstacles, and future possibilities of Virginia Democrats. If you've missed past diaries, follow these links: Day One, Competitive DistrictsDay Two, Turnout ProblemsDay Three, Past Mistakes. Day Four, Downstate Democrats. Day Five, Unchallenged Incumbents. At the end of the diary there is a poll to vote in, please show your support by voting!On the sixth day of Christmas, the Commonwealth of Virginia gave to me...Come in and know me better!
Of course, if day three was the Ghost of Christmas Past, day six is the Ghost of Christmas Present! Virginia Democrats may be depressed with the first part of this series, but this holiday season, they have a lot to be thankful for. In honor of this being New Year's Eve, we'll be looking at reasons to look forward to 2014.
First, good girls and boys of all ages across Virginia have opened up their invitations to an inauguration featuring three Democratic officials. Combined with Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, the party has demonstrated that the far right is no longer welcome in statewide elections in the Commonwealth.
In 2014, Mark Warner will be up for reelection and Virginia Republicans are desperate to find a warm body with a pulse to run against him. Earlier this year, Warner's approval ratings were above 50% and he was leading all challengers by double digits. Right now, with concerns over the implementation of Obamacare, his numbers may be softer, but this will be temporary as the health care roll out improves in 2014. I question what Republican will be foolish enough to run; Warner will march onward to reelection. Even with a strong challenger, only delusional Tea Partiers believe Warner is truly vulnerable.
FreeDem :: Twelve Days of Christmas for Virginia Democrats: Day Six, The Ghost of Christmas Present
Here's one prediction for 2014. Although he will win, Warner will look back on his 2008 win and wonder why he couldn't break 60% again. Make no mistake; the presidential hopeful is preparing a significant campaign in order to run up his margins. But as he has been forced to take stances on national Democratic issues, including health care, Warner's once messianic status in some parts of rural Virginia has a little tarnish. This will bring his total under 60%.Also, stay tuned for a return of Sarvis. His big donor supporters wanted to secure ballot access in Virginia for the Libertarian Party. They fell short in 2013 but have another shot in 2014. The likely Republican nominee will have no chance at winning and won't be an impressive candidate, giving an opening to Sarvis to pick off dissatisfied Republican. Also watch for efforts to target Democratic voters by selling Sarvis as a protest vote and a way to express support for a more liberal agenda on gay marriage or marijuana than what Warner currently supports for.
In an early Christmas surprise, long-time Republican Congressman Frank Wolf announced his retirement next year. Democrats have rallied behind Fairfax Supervisor John Foust, while Republicans are looking at candidacies by Delegate Barbara Comstock, State Senator Dick Black, and some guy who's lost twice before, Keith Fimian. Earlier, there were hopes that there would be a wide-open Republican primary, featuring everyone from Tim Hugo to Artur Davis. That's not going to happen, but the Comstock-Black feud could be good to watch.
While Black is clearly the crazier of the two, Democrats shouldn't count their chickens before they hatch if he is the GOP nominee. Black's 13th state senate district is a marginal district; Romney and Allen only won with 51% of the vote. Black knows how to win by mobilizing the socially conservative base; the lower turnout of a midterm means he could win if there's just a little bit of a pro-GOP breeze nationally. Foust will have a hard fought campaign, one that we'll be following closely this year.
Can Virginia Democrats pick up other congressional seats? Doubtful. The national party is going to target Rigell, again, but they'll come up short unless there's a strong Democratic swing. Don't expect any surprises in the 2014 elections in Virginia, but here's a final prediction, not for 2014, but 2018 and beyond. Watch Randy Forbes for a potential retirement in the next few cycles.
As a senior Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, Randy Forbes has attracted attention recently for his push to have the NRCC deny support for the party's gay congressional candidates. Was this an attempt by Forbes to rally support for his desire to be Chairman of Armed Services, or a hit job leaked by his opponents? In either case, it will be very ironic if one of the gay Republicans, Carl DeMaio, manages to win and then goes on to serve on the Armed Services Committee with Forbes (very plausible for a San Diego area representative).
If Buck McKeon retires, and the Armed Services Chairmanship passes to Texan Mac Thornberry instead of Forbes, it will be at least six years before Forbes has another shot at the gavel. Facing a long wait until 2020, will Forbes stay in the House instead of cashing in and becoming a lobbyist?
If the 4th district opens up, is there even a Democratic bench to provide a strong challenger? Delegate Roslyn Tyler? Evandra Thompson, who lost to Delegate Rosalyn Dance in the Democratic primary earlier this year, might be an interesting choice if she can find a way to put more public experience under her belt. What can we do to build this bench now?
Given the important role that Virginia has played in electing Barack Obama, twice, and our bench of nationally recognized leaders (Warner and Kaine), we should also be ready for the chance that one of them will join the next Democratic Administration. I'm actually starting to upgrade Warner's chances for the presidential if Hillary doesn't run, but that's still unlikely and that hypothetical is for after 2014. But if not as VP (doubtful), Kaine could still make a good cabinet pick. What would Governor McAuliffe do if facing a vacancy? Would he try to avoid a bitter Herring-Northam primary? Or look elsewhere for an appointment? Vote below!

For Anyone Still Under the Bizarre Delusion the Media is "Liberal"...

Monday, December 30, 2013

...check out the following graph and post by Steven Benen. The bottom line is that Republicans absolutely dominate the Sunday talk shows - "In all, 10 of the top 13 are Republicans, as are six of the top seven." And even among the Democrats, notice that one of them - Joe Manchin of West Virginia - is THE most conservative Democrat in the Senate? Also note that Newt Gingrich, "who hasn't served in public office since resigning in disgrace 15 years ago, was tied for third place with Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), one of only a few Democrats to make the cut." In sum, it isn't just that the media's not "liberal," it's that it's wildly biased to the right. But don't expect Republicans to believe that, as they live in an alternate universe where empirical evidence is irrelevant (for yet another example, see Republicans' belief in evolution plummets, poll reveals - and no, this isn't an Onion parody!).

Twelve Days of Christmas for Virginia Democrats: Day Five, Unchallenged Incumbents

by FreeDem

This is the fifth part of a twelve part series looking at the challenges, obstacles, and future possibilities of Virginia Democrats. Here are the previous diaries: Day One, Competitive DistrictsDay Two, Turnout ProblemsDay Three, Past Mistakes. Day Four, Downstate Democrats. To show that you've read this diary and support the project, please vote in the poll at the end. Thank you!On the fifth day of Christmas, the Commonwealth of Virginia gave to me ...
Incumbents who are so safe in their seats they don't remember the last time they had to actually campaign. Could they even fundraise if they tried? Do they know anything about targeting, polling, and tools like Votebuilder or Catalyst?
In 2013, 41 incumbent Delegates were not even challenged by another candidate, either by the other major party or by a minor party candidate. One more was able to win their first election without any challenge at all, walking right into office. That may seem sad, but it's an improvement over 2011, when 59 incumbents were unchallenged in their newly drawn districts. That's similar to elections in 2003, 2005, and 2007, where over 60 delegates on average, almost two-thirds of the chamber, were unchallenged. In the ten years from 2003 to 2013, well over half of all delegate races were unchallenged.
FreeDem :: Twelve Days of Christmas for Virginia Democrats: Day Five, Unchallenged Incumbents
What are some of the worse offenses of democracy? Roxann Robinson in the 27th hasn't seen an election since winning a special election in 2010. In fact, the 27th hasn't seen a contested general election in a long time. Previous Republican Delegate Sam Nixon had held the district uncontested since winning it in a special election in 1994. Elsewhere, Republican Tommy Wright hasn't been challenged in over ten years, since 2001. The biggest winner of this do-nothing political system? Riley Ingram, who hasn't been challenged since 1995!When the 27th became open during a special election in 2010, the Democratic Party ignored the district and instead devoted resources to a more Republican district in Harrisonburg. At the time, the 27th was a district where Barack Obama had won. Focusing more on candidate than district, Ward Armstrong and his advisers decided to spend $60,000 in the more Republican district where they liked the candidate. In 2010, Ben Tribbett wrote on the 27th:

"This is a seat that is more Democratic than the 26th, would be tougher to tear up in redistricting, and is exactly the kind of area Democrats need to win to take back the House.  Instead, we are not even competing.  Which tells you all you need to know about where Democrats are in the House of Delegates right now and how their immediate future looks."
That was in 2010, do you think things have changed since then?
We need to find ways to contest every district, especially every competitive district. We aren't there right now, but we're getting a lot better.. However, many of these candidates in long-shot races are going to be running bare bone campaigns with little outside support. They need to live off the land, getting the resources they can from the local community. That's not going to be easy.
Incumbents who aren't even challenged aren't the only problem; some districts are so safe that a challenger gets next to no attention from the incumbent. If an incumbent Democrat doesn't have to campaign, why do we expect them to know how to help challengers?
Can we learn any lessons from the Democratic challengers in 2013?
O'Quinn and McGrady in Southwest Virginia ran better than McAuliffe, but not enough to be competitive. An assortment of other Democrats running in more conservative areas ran slightly ahead, including Cathcart, Harris, Cyphert, and Daniel. None were in districts that could ever be competitive without a blue moon, and then some. Only Qarni kept his race against Bob Marshall close in a competitive district, almost pulling off an upset when few gave him a chance.
Why are our Democratic challengers doing worse than the top of the ticket in the most competitive districts, while long-shot challengers seem to shift more voters?
I can understand why coal-country Democrats like O'Quinn and McGrady may have been more popular than McAulliffe. But what explains the better performance of Cathcart in Roanoke County, Harris and Daniel in the exurbs of Northern Virginia, and Cyphert around Lynchburg? Daniel received attention and support because of the controversy surrounding LaRock's campaign. Cyphert and Qarni were running against the most outspoken of social theocrats in Richmond. Is that all that explains it? Why did all of our challengers, with the exception of Qarni, wilt under the pressures of a competitive campaign?
The logical explanation is that in these overwhelmingly Republican seats, the incumbent hardly has to campaign, and so the more intrepid underdog can pick off a few crossover votes. But in marginal districts, the challenge to the incumbent Republican awakens a sleeping giant. The response from the GOP campaign apparatus smacks aside the challenger, ensuring enough crossover support from Democratic voters to protect themselves. However, not every Democratic challenger in the long-shot races ran better than McAuliffe. In many other Republican districts, the Democratic challenger ran behind the top of the ticket. There's probably more to this story, but when will the party step up to analyze this tale?

Ranking My 11 Years as a Progressive Political Blogger from Best to Worst

Sunday, December 29, 2013

I first got heavily involved in progressive political blogging in 2003, with the Draft Wesley Clark movement (I attended my first Clark "Meetup" at Stetsons in DC on July 7). I can't believe it, but that's nearly 11 (ELEVEN!) freakin' years ago. Am I crazy to still be doing this? OK, don't answer that - thanks! :) Anyway, given that it's just about the end of 2013, I thought it might be fun to rank my nearly 11 years of political blogging in order of "best" to "worst," taking into account how much fun I had in a particular year, how successful that year was, and other intangibles. Of course, the list has to kick off with...#1. 2006: In early January, we (Josh Chernila, Lee Diamond, Corey Hernandez, Mary Detwiler, myself and a few others) fired up the "Draft James Webb" website and movement, kicking off what was undoubtedly the most wild, crazy, exhilarating, fun year I've ever had in politics. In addition to being involved in a unique movement  comprised of thousands of citizen activists, we also managed to a) persuade Jim Webb to run for U.S. Senate; b) get him on the ballot; c) help him win the Democratic primary against "establishment" pick Harris Miller, despite being outspent heavily; d) combine a "ragtag army" and the formal campaign (on which I served as netroots coordinator) to defeat the supposedly unbeatable (by the so-called "experts") incumbent Senator George Allen; and e) in the process help Democrats win back a majority in the U.S. Senate. As if all that's not good enough, Democrats also took back the U.S. House of Representatives that year (although, sadly, we had no pickups in Virginia, with Phil Kellam in the 2nd CD falling just short). I met a ton of people that year, made some great friends, and also left my federal government job (smart? crazy? both?). Wow, what a year!
#2. 2005: Starting the blog "Raising Kaine" was my first real attempt at my own political blog. It also was my first serious dive into the politics of Virginia, despite having lived here since the late 1980s. All in all, it was a fascinating experience, as a website I had no idea if anyone would read became a well-read group blog. I met and/or talked on the phone with a ton of people that year, including many of the Democratic candidates; attended my first state "JJ Dinner;" and made a bunch of new friends (e.g., folks like Brian Patton, who became the Raising Kaine PAC treasurer). And, as we all know, Tim Kaine defeated Jerry Kilgore to become Governor of Virginia. On the down side, Creigh Deeds barely lost to Bob McDonnell for Attorney General (and almost certainly would have won if there had been a real recount), and Leslie Byrne lost by just 1 percentage point to Bill Bolling for Lt. Governor. Imagine if those races had turned out differently? Still, it was a great year.
#3. 2008: I was running not one but three blogs that year -- "RK" (formerly known as Raising Kaine) and "Farewell Frank" (Frank Wolf, that is) in Virginia; and Badlands Blue in South Dakota. The latter effort was the brainchild mostly of former Jim Webb senior strategist Steve Jarding, who in 2007-2008 was Sen. Tim Johnson's campaign manager and who hired me to run a blog to defend Johnson against whatever attacks were launched against him. In the end, Johnson was reelected. As for Virginia, that was the year Barack Obama became the first Democrat since LBJ to carry Virginia. It was also the year we picked up 3 House of Representatives seats - Tom Perriello in the 5th CD, Glenn Nye in the 2nd CD, and Gerry Connolly in the 11th CD. As if all that wasn't good enough, that was also the year we elected Mark Warner to the U.S. Senate. Among other highlights of 2008 for me were getting to go on the Warner campaign kickoff "fly-around"; seeing RK reach its highest readership ever (e.g., around 200,000 visits in October 2008); becoming friends with Tom Perriello and helping him win his long-shot election against incumbent Rep. Virgil Goode; helping reelect Tim Johnson and getting to travel to South Dakota; hosting Obama volunteers in our house; and lots more. Finally, the book I co-authored with Nate Wilcox, Netroots Rising, was published, and Nate and I got to talk about the book on the radio; at Stanford, Berkeley, Vanderbilt, and UVA; etc. Come to think of it, maybe I should have made 2008 my "best" year as a political blogger (also one of the best years of my life, actually)? One downside: Judy Feder lost badly to faux-"moderate" Frank Wolf. Sigh...
lowkell :: Ranking My 11 Years as a Progressive Political Blogger from Best to Worst
#4. 2003: I didn't have my own blog that year, but I'm counting it because I posted a lot about politics on Daily Kos and other venues. The main topic? The Draft Wesley Clark movement, which was definitely one of the most fun experiences I've ever had in politics...for a few months, anyway. After the "draft" ended, it became super frustrating, as the "professionals" decided to pretty much ditch the grassroots. But prior to that, it was awesome, including lots of friendships made, some of which continue to this day.#5. 2013: This wasn't the most inspirational campaign, but the bottom line is that we swept the three statewide offices. I also had the privilege of consulting to Mark Herring, who won a tougher-than-expected primary over Justin Fairfax, and then went on to narrowly defeat Mark Obenshain for AG after a recount. Blue Virginia did very well this year in terms of traffic, as we approach 3 million visits since the blog was founded in 2009. I also attended events with Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. The main disappointment of 2013? The House of Delegates, where numerous top Democrats were hoping to pick up as many as 10 seats, just a week or two before the election. In the end, we netted just one seat, which of course was incredibly disappointing. Again, I'd urge the "powers that be" to do a thorough "after-action" assessment to figure out what went wrong and to fix it for 2015.
#6. 2012: Not a super-exciting year for me personally, and not nearly as fun as 2008 politically, but still a fairly successful year for Virginia Democrats, as Tim Kaine was elected to the U.S. Senate and Barack Obama once again carried Virginia in the presidential election. Of course, it's was fun to be able to participate not once but twice in driving a stake through George Allen's political career. Unfortunately, we weren't able to win back any U.S. House of Representatives races, so that definitely lowers this one in the rankings.
#7. 2007: Not a bad year, overall, as Virginia Democrats took back the State Senate, flipping it from 23-17 Republican to 21-19 Democratic. We also picked up 4 House of Delegates seats, which sounds good but was actually a disappointment, as pre-election predictions by top Democrats like Tim Kaine had us expecting as many as 15 House seats (and 7-9 Senate seats). On a personal note, I spent a significant amount of time this year co-authoring the bookNetroots Rising with nate Wilcox. That was a great experience, no doubt about it.
#8. 2004: A maddeningly frustrating year, in which the worst president in U.S. history, the guy who stole the White House in 2000 (with an assist by the Supreme Court), was actually reelected despite the increasing quagmire in Iraq and many other problems. My intense frustration after November 2004 led directly to my decision to "think globally/act locally" by starting up "Raising Kaine" (and generally getting involved in trying to elect Democrats in my own state). So at least something positive came out of that "annus horribilis," as they say in Rome...
#9. 2011: The first election after the 2010 census and redistricting was no fun at all. As if losing two Senate seats (and control of the Senate, despite pro-Democratic gerrymandering) wasn't bad enough, we also got our butts handed to us in the House of Delegates, falling from 39 to 32 Democrats. We also had an extremely nasty/godawful primary between Barbara Favola and Jaime Areizaga-Soto. Definitely not a fun year in any way.
#10. 2010: Not quite as bad as 2009, but not good either. I mean, any year when a superb Representative like Tom Perriello is defeated by an utter loser/stuffed shirt like Robert Hurt can't be good. Throw in the loss of Rep. Rick Boucher (to the climate-science-denying wacko Morgan Griffith) and the defeat of Rep. Glenn Nye by Scott Rigell, and there's really nothing good to say about 2010. Miserable.
#11. 2009: Just a godawful year in every way; do we even have to talk about it? In brief, we got wiped out in the Tea Party madness, resulting in the loss of great Democrats in the House of Delegates, not to mention the election of far-right-wing extremist Ken Cuccinelli as Attorney General, etc, etc. Plus, the Democratic primary between Terry McAuliffe, Brian Moran and Creigh Deeds was one of the most unpleasant experiences most of us who were involved in it have ever experienced. Good riddance 2009, may you forever rot in hell.

Twelve Days of Christmas for Virginia Democrats: Day Four, Silenced Downstate Democrats

by FreeDem

This is the fourth part of a twelve part series looking at the challenges, obstacles, and future possibilities of Virginia Democrats.Day one focused on challenges facing Virginia Democrats in competitive districts, day two focused on problems with turnout. Onday three, we were visited by the Ghost of Christmas Past to teach us the lessons of past campaign mistakes. Thank you for reading, please make sure you vote on the poll at the end!On the fourth day of Christmas, the Commonwealth of Virginia gave to me...A Republican gerrymandering that has silenced Democratic voters downstate at the House of Delegates!
Wait, another post on gerrymandering? Lame!
Hold on, hear me out, this is about an aspect of Republican gerrymandering that has gone more unnoticed. As we know from day one, the Republican gerrymander isn't the only problem facing Virginia Democrats in the House of Delegates. But the gerrymandering's impact has negatively influenced Democratic recruits for higher office outside of Northern Virginia.
FreeDem :: Twelve Days of Christmas for Virginia Democrats: Day Four, Silenced Downstate Democrats
Before the redistricting, there were 38 delegate districts where Obama had received over 55% of the vote in 2008. I use this threshold because we saw how important it was in determining safe Democratic seats. After redistricting this was slashed down to 33 seats.Republicans created one new 55% Obama district by moving the 2nd from Southwest Virginia to Northern Virginia. But the district's Democratic voters were largely minority voters in Prince William and less likely to turnout in off-year elections. Though Democrats won it in 2013, it will be a difficult district to hold until demographics catch up. But if Futrell can hang on in 2015 I think he could be set for the rest of the decade.
Although they modified some districts, such as making Rust's district a few points more Republican (which was crucial in keeping him in office this year), the big changes were the six over 55% seats where they significantly reduced Democratic performance, including five in Northern Virginia: the 51st (Anderson), the 42nd (Albo), the 31st (Lingamfelter), the 50th (Miller), and the 67th (LeMunyon).
In all of these, a 57 to 58% Obama district was brought down to 52% or 53%. That may not seem like a big difference, but look at how narrowly Republicans pulled out wins in 2013, a higher turnout electorate than what they'll face going into 2015. This gets many incumbents to at least 2017, if not beyond, when another Republican gerrymandering may save them again. A smaller tweak was needed in the 32nd (Greason), which was just under 55% Obama to begin with but was brought down closer to 53% by redistricting.
And finally, as part of the unappreciated theme of the Republican redistricting, Paula Miller's district in Hampton Roads was moved to an under 55% Obama district (in 2008) in Northern Virginia. Ramadan won the seat by 51 votes in 2011 and then 195 votes in 2013. Not only did Democrats lose a stronger Democratic seat, they lost the voice of a non-Northern Virginia Democrat to demonstrate the regional diversity of our party. Demographic trends have made it a more Democratic district, Obama was over 55% in 2012; Ramadan's days are numbered. But who can fill in and replace Paula Miller as a voice in Hampton Roads?
With changes to the 12th around Blacksburg, the 14th around Danville, the 21st and 83rd in Virginia Beach, the 27th in Chesterfield, the 58th and 59th in Central Virginia, the 64th in Southside, and the 23rd in Lynchburg (and those are just some of the obvious examples!), the most competitive seats in Virginia outside of Northern Virginia were moved further away from Virginia Democrats.
The difficulties in recruiting downstate Democrats for the House of Delegates spreads to higher offices. Wagner and McWaters could be vulnerable in Virginia Beach, but the Republican gerrymandering prevents local up and coming Democrats from getting a foothold. Could we find a strong challenger to Bill Stanley if we had more competitive districts around Danville and Martinsville?
The number of Obama-won delegate seats dropped from 50 to 47. In 9 more he was over 48% in 2008 under the old lines, but this was reduced to just 5 in the new lines. While many seats in Northern Virginia remained competitive, downstate saw larger changes. Virginia Beach in particular was hit hard, denying Democrats the chance of having a stronger farm team for running for higher office in the State Senate, Congress, or statewide. The 58th and 59th, two districts in Central Virginia that include portions of Albemarle, were made safely Republican. As a result, Republicans have prevented a local politician from developing a strong reputation and posing a risk to Robert Hurt in the 5th District.
Democrats saw the pool of competitive seats shrink from 59 to 52 after redistricting. The route to a majority in the House of Delegates is still there, but it's narrower and depends a lot more on competitive seats that Democrats have struggled to win. The net five-seat reduction in safe Democratic seats is a primary reason that the House Democrats have hit rock bottom. But fewer competitive seats downstate also reduces the farm team of good candidates for other elected offices, painting our party into a corner in Northern Virginia.
It's hard to say how independent redistricting could improve Democratic fortunes in the House of Delegates, but based on two proposals put forward during redistricting (one from a college team from the University of Richmond, the other from George Mason University), those maps would have created around 36 to 33 safe Democratic districts. The number of Obama won seats would have been around 45 seats, and over 48% in 53 to 58. Overall nonpartisan redistricting would produce small, marginal improvements over Republican gerrymandering for Democrats. The biggest impact would be a few more safe Democratic seats, and a larger playing field of potentially competitive seats, especially outside of Northern Virginia. As we've seen, Democrats still struggle in these competitive seats, so independent redistricting wouldn't cure all problems. But by giving downstate communities more of a choice in our two-party system, wouldn't the benefits exceed anything Democrats themselves gain?  

NY Times Benghazi Investigation: More Evidence that Frank Wolf's Completely Off the Deep End

Saturday, December 28, 2013

As I'm sure everyone's well aware, often times politicians say things that they don't really believe. In recent weeks, we've had a prime example of that with the announced retirement of Rep. Frank Wolf (R-10th, VA), and the praise heaped upon him by Democrats and Republicans alike. For instance, Senator Kaine praised Wolf has having "exemplified the best in public service," while Gov. Bob McDonnell claimed that Wolf has "sought out common ground...has worked across the aisle...has represented the people of this Commonwealth with distinction and with grace."Common ground? Working across the aisle? The "best in public service?" Really? Well, actually...not so much. First off, if you look at Wolf's voting record, he ranks a dismal 390th out of 433 in terms of "progressive score vs. district tilt." In other words, Wolf has been one of the most right-wing members, relative to his district (the 10th CD is a "purple," swing district) in Congress. How far-right is this guy? Well, Wolf's lifetime 7.19% progressive score on "crucial votes" places him further to the right than some of the most extreme members of Congress (e.g., rabid Paul Broun of GeorgiaDana Rohrabacher of California) and on just slightly less right wing than this maniac. It shouldn't come as a surprise, then, that Wolf has earned horrendous ratings on women's reproductive health and freedom (e.g., ZEROES by NARAL and Planned Parenthood; 100% rating by the National Right to Life Committee); on civil liberties (e.g., ZEROES by the American Civil Liberties Union); on LGBT equality (e.g., a string of ZERO ratings by groups like PFLAG and the Human Rights Campaign; and a 100% rating by the Christian Coalition); the environment (e.g., a pathetic 17% from the League of Conservation Voters in 2012). For good measure, Wolf also received a 100% rating from the fossil fuel/far-right-wing-funded Competitive Enterprise Institute, which pushes climate science denial and opposes almost any government regulation - for health, safety, whatever).
So much for Frank Wolf being in any way, shape, or form a representative who has sought out "common ground" or has "worked across the aisle." In fact, behind his generally quiet, reserved demeanor, the guy's about as far right/wingnutty as they come.
But it's not just that Wolf holds hard-right positions on almost all the issues. It's also that he's a big-time conspiracy theorist and a corrosive, negative force in Congress. Exhibit A has been Wolf's obsession with the 2012 tragedy at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. For instance, Wolf has called for a select committee to  "get to the truth once and for all so we can find out what happened" in Benghazi. In that statement, note that Wolf referenced Fox "News" in his assertion that "the direct ties to the Al Qaeda senior leadership undercut early characterizations by the Obama administration that the attackers in Benghazi were isolated 'extremists' - not Al Qaeda terrorists - with no organizational structure or affiliation.'" Wolf also referenced the completely discredited 60 Minutes piece by Lara Logan, which according to Wolf "confirmed what Wolf had detailed on the House floor this past July: 'a quick reaction force from the CIA Annex ignored orders to wait and raced to the compound, at time running and shooting their way through the streets just to get there.'"
Well guess what? You guessed it: Frank Wolf was wildly, outrageously wrong on basically everything he was hysterically raving about regarding Benghazi. Just today, in fact, the New York Times is out with the results of a months-long investigation into the Benghazi consulate attack. What the Times found was, in sum, that almost none of what Wolf and other Republicans have been ranting about is true. To the contrary:

Twelve Days of Christmas for Virginia Democrats: Day Three, The Ghost of Christmas Past

by FreeDem

This is the third part of a twelve part series looking at the challenges, obstacles, and future possibilities of Virginia Democrats. Day one focused on challenges facing Virginia Democrats in competitive districts, Day two focused on problems with turnout. Thank you for reading, make sure you vote on the poll at the end!On the third day of Christmas, the Commonwealth of Virginia gave to me...FLASH!
Hark! I am the Ghost of Christmas Past! I represent poor choices, mistakes, and questionable judgment. Let us travel first to 2009, the year in which eight Democratic incumbents were defeated during a landslide Republican election. Listen to my warnings!
In 2009, the Democratic Caucus spent almost $100,000 assisting Democrat Carole Pratt's campaign in the 6th District, an overwhelmingly Republican district where Bush had won over 60% of the vote in 2004 and where Anne Crockett-Stark had knocked off Democrat Benny Keister in 2005. In 2008, Obama managed just under 38% of the vote, 1% ahead of Kerry's 2004 performance. Yet the House Democratic Caucus led by Matt Mansell decided to prioritize this race where his mother was running ...
The result? Pratt received less than 35% of the vote. And elsewhere, incumbent Democrats dropped left and right, for a total of eight defeated incumbents, including some by the narrowest of margins: Mathieson by 14 votes, Valentine by 209, Nichols by 269, and Vanderhye by 422.
FreeDem :: Twelve Days of Christmas for Virginia Democrats: Day Three, The Ghost of Christmas Past
Let's travel now to 2011, when long time Delegate Watkins Abbitt retired and opened up the 59th District. Connie Brennan ran against Republican Matt Fariss, who had a questionable legal record.There was blood in the water, but unfortunately the district had been heavily gerrymandered. Brennan's base in Nelson was split in half, while more conservative Campbell County was added to the district. Under the old lines, Obama tied McCain almost 50%-50%, but he lost under the new lines with only 41% of the vote. A pretty impressive work of gerrymandering, kudos GOP!
As a result, Fariss still won with 53% of the vote, which was behind Republican performance but not enough to keep him out of office. A good lesson on just how difficult it is to change the dynamics of a race, even with a questionable candidate.
Have Virginia Democrats learned the lessons of these campaigns? Decide for yourself.
In 2013, the party again highlighted a challenger in the 6th District. Party insiders widely believed that Democrat Jonathan McGrady was going to defeat Republican Jeff Campbell for the open seat. The House Caucus's select pollster (they won't allow top-tier candidates to use any other pollster) had McGrady up by double digits in early October.
The 6th District is heavily Republican. Obama received 34% of the vote in 2008 and 31% in 2012. It would have been a significant coup if McGrady had pulled off an upset, so much so that leading by double digits should have been a very questionable poll result.
The result? McGrady won less than 37% of the vote.
I don't know the true details of what went wrong with the polling; the establishment has circled the wagons and won't discuss how they blew this one. I've been told that the excuse is that the polling firm incorrectly weighed party identification in the poll. But if that were truly the case, the poll should also have produced bizarre results in the top of the ticket, either showing McAuliffe winning or competitive with Cuccinelli. Such a result would have been a significant outlier compared to other polling at the time and should have triggered a re-polling by the firm, but that didn't happen. This is inexcusable for a professional political polling firm; they were allowed to do so by the House Caucus and its outgoing director, Jody Murphy.
Also in 2013, long time incumbent Republican Joe May was defeated in his primary by conservative Tea Partier Dave LaRock. Democrats had hopes for their candidate, Mary Daniel, to win against the out of touch LaRock. He may have been out of touch with mainstream Virginia, but LaRock's conservatism did not alienate the Republican base in the district. The 33rd was a district where Obama received less than 42% of the vote, the district trending more Republican in 2012 than in 2008. It would have been a significant gamble to bet that just being an outspoken and offensive Tea Partier could cost LaRock the race in this heavily Republican district. But it's a gamble the House Democrats took, devoting resources into the long-shot race instead of focusing on low-hanging fruit elsewhere.
Daniel won 43%, LaRock down to "only" 54%, with a third party candidate grabbing 3% of the vote.
Boysko of course lost by 32 votes after a recount, Bell lost by 195 votes, McPike lost by 234, Murphy lost by 431, Qarni lost by 498, Farinholt lost by 537, Miller lost by 634, and Harder lost by 892.
As I leave you to ponder these lessons from the past, consider this future possibility. Republican State Senator Emmett Hanger is being targeted by the far right over Medicaid expansion. Hanger is no stranger to primary challenges, having won in 2007 against a proto-Tea Party revolt over his vote for Warner's tax increases. Could Hanger be knocked off by the Tea Partiers in 2015?
If they do, should Democrats devote resources trying to win the district? Could an extreme Tea Partier put the district in play?
The State Senate majority depends on Phil Puckett. Democrats need to challenge more competitive districts as an insurance policy. Hanger represents a district where Obama received just 36% of the vote in 2008 and 35% in 2012. It is a district that Mark Warner, with his landslide win against the incompetent Jim Gilmore, won only 51% of the vote. If Warner himself, walking on water, can only barely win the district in the best political climate for Democrats in decades, what are the odds of another Democrat coming close?

Former RPV Chair Enraged by RNC Happy Kwanzaa Tweet

Friday, December 27, 2013

Ah, Jeff Frederick, remember him? Yep, this guy was  a Republican member of the Virginia House of Delegates from 2004 to 2010. Frederick also was chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia, until he was ousted in 2009 for reasons that are still not totally clear (although it certainly seems that this had elements of "Tea Party" vs. "establishment" to it).Anyway, Frederick is baaack, this time livid that the Republican National Committee (RNC) had the audacity to wish people "Happy Kwanzaa." Admittedly, I find it surprising the RNC would do that, since they're usually all about "War on Christmas" faux outrage, including their principled stance of NOT recognizing others who celebrate non-Christmas holidays this time of year. So it's hilarious to see former RPV chair (and former RNC member) Jeff Frederick going off on the RNC for celebrating a "made up holiday" (after first mocking the RNC, then being accused of racism by a Democrat, who Frederick claims is being a "tool of the hysterical left" - lol). Of course, the fact is that ALL holidays are "made up" by humans, pretty much by definition (e.g., we're humans, we're the ones who come up with culture, religion, custom, whatever).
As for Kwanzaa, it was created in 1966 "as the first specifically African-American holiday, with the name deriving "from the Swahili phrase matunda ya kwanza, meaning 'first fruits of the harvest.'" What on earth is wrong with that is beyond me, but apparently it set off the former chair of the Virginia Republican Party. From the responses on Twitter, it looks like it set off a bunch of other right-wingnuts as well (e.g., one wrote, "@GOP Kwanza. R U kidding? It was started by a communist convicted felon who beat and tortured women."). Yikes.
P.S. See the photo of Jeff Frederick on the far right (appropriately enough), celebrating something or other -- apparently NOT Kwanzaa or Festivus, though! LOL

Twelve Days of Christmas for Virginia Democrats: Day Two, Turnout Problems

by FreeDem

(This is the second part of a twelve part series looking at the challenges, obstacles, and future possibilities of Virginia Democrats. Check out day one. Please join in by commenting below your thoughts on some of the topics raised in the diary, and please vote in the poll at the end on which rematch you'd like to see in 2015!)On the second day of Christmas, the Commonwealth of Virginia gave to me ...
A system of odd-year elections, shared mainly by Southern outliers and hotbeds of two-party democracy (hah!) like Mississippi and Louisiana that depresses voter turnout from high profile elections in even-years.
In 1948, the great American political scientist V.O. Key wrote that Virginia was a "political museum piece . . . more akin to England about the time of the Reform Bill of 1832 than to any other American state."
Have we changed much since then?
FreeDem :: Twelve Days of Christmas for Virginia Democrats: Day Two, Turnout Problems
Virginia now has something resembling a two-party democracy. Based on the last two Presidential elections, the last two Senate elections, and the Democratic sweep of all of the statewide offices in 2013, you might mistake Virginia for a blue state even!But the system of odd-year elections for state offices distorts turnout, particularly in the growing minority population in Northern Virginia.
Looking back, there are now two completely different gubernatorial races to compare to the last two presidential elections. There were vastly different campaigns in 2009 and 2013, waged by two very different candidates. Although the toxic political environment of 2009 (among other problems) saw Deeds crushed across the commonwealth, a careful analysis can sort out pockets of stronger than expected support (Deeds Country?). But that's not the focus of this diary.
Instead, I'm interested in areas where both Deeds and McAuliffe did worse than expected. We can explain an area (like Southwest Virginia) where Deeds did better but McAuliffe did worse. On election night in 2013, some may remember that votes were coming in much weaker than expected for the Democrats in Danville and a few other Southside areas. Although at first this gave reason to worry, it instead ended the night as a localized phenomenon explained by difficulties in voter turnout in the poorer, more African-American precincts of Southside Virginia. Some Virginia politicos may also remember that it was poor turnout in Danville that ended State Senator Roscoe Reynolds's reelection night in 2011.
In 2009, Deeds ran statewide roughly 11 points behind Obama's average performance and was close to this expected performance in most delegate districts. But in the 13th District represented by Bob Marshall, Deeds was 5.61% behind his expected performance. Four years later, while winning statewide with a coalition that closely resembled Obama's winning formula, McAuliffe ran 4.73% behind his expected performance in the 13th district as well. The 13th is the poster child for a district where a growing minority population has turned a seat blue in high turnout years, but hasn't caught up (yet) in lower turnout years.
Another seat to look at is the 2nd, where Futrell was elected by just 223 votes. In 2009, Deeds ran 5.49% behind his expected performance, an indication of turnout problems very similar to the 13th. In 2013, McAuliffe ran 3.37% behind. This is a 58% Obama district, strongly Democratic in high turnout years, but more conservative if turnout doesn't occur in the right Democratic-leaning communities.
In fact, all of Deeds's worst performing districts had minority-heavy areas in Prince William County: 52nd (Torian), 50th (Miller), 13th (Marshall), and 2nd (Futrell). Even with McAuliffe's win, Prince William was a problem for turnout in the campaign. McAuliffe's worst performing districts were more diverse, ranging from the 16th outside of Danville (the open seat that elected Adams), to the 13th, and the 22nd (Byron), 30th (Scott), 19th (Austin), 2nd (Futrell), and 14th (Danny Marshall). If there is a theme, it's that problems with Prince William turnout continue, and we also see problems in Danville and Southside. Deeds did not do as poorly in Danville and Southside, probably because he was running better with Southside whites and able to compensate for lower black turnout.
Is there a trend to where both McAuliffe and Deeds both do worse? Here's what I've found. We've talked about the 13th and 2nd in Prince William, and also the 50th. Another cluster is in the exurbs of Stafford and Spotsylvania: 54th (Orrock), 88th (Cole), and 28th (Howell), and the neighboring 30th (Scott) in Culpeper and Orange. Is there a deeper trend in these Northern Virginia exurbs? (Comment below if you have thoughts!)
Finally, a red flag in this special election season, the 100th left vacant by soon-to-be State Senator Lewis. In both gubernatorial elections, Deeds and McAuliffe underperformed on the Eastern Shore. Is this just because it was an overlooked region for field offices and GOTV? It could be a bad omen if Republicans win the seat in the special election, our future candidates in statewide office won't have enough coattails to knock off the Republican in future years.
Elsewhere, the 2nd will be a tough seat to hold in 2015. And with lower turnout, the ever-elusive quest to defeat Bob Marshall may be better for 2017 than 2015.
Between the Republican gerrymander, odd-year elections, and problems connecting with swing voters in competitive districts, Virginia Democrats may wish they had gotten a lump of coal for Christmas instead.
Is there a silver lining? Well, there are some areas where local, Virginia Democrats do better than expected, even if they are as different as Deeds and McAuliffe. It's hard to believe, but even McAuliffe ran slightly better than expected in some of the coal parts of Southwest Virginia. But these districts are so overwhelmingly Republican that minor improvement is meaningless.
Other affluent, liberal districts in Arlington, Alexandria, and Fairfax don't have the variance in turnout that we see in Prince William. These are among the safest seats out there for Democrats. Personal antics are more likely to end careers than electoral defeats. Congratulations Delegate Krupicka!
Among competitive seats, there's only one where the population is affluent and well-educated enough so that we don't see a dropoff in Democratic performance in gubernatorial years: Comstock's 34th district. It also had a high crossover of Romney-Kaine voters. So where's the autopsy on what's gone wrong in this districts two elections in a row? (Comment below with your thoughts!)

Twelve Days of Christmas for Virginia Democrats: Day One, A Gerrymander!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

by FreeDem

Don't forget to take the poll at the end on your least favorite part of the Republican gerrymander!On the first day of Christmas, the Commonwealth of Virginia gave to me ...
A Republican gerrymander in the House of Delegates that is the excuse for everything that goes wrong?
It may seem as exciting as a lump of coal, but the Republican gerrymander in the House of Delegates gets a lot of attention from thankful Virginia Democrats. Why? Because these district lines have become the perfect excuse for the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad performance of House Democrats in 2013.
Manage to pick up only one seat, on net, in the House of Delegates? No worries, blame the Republican gerrymander!
A total of 14 Barack Obama-won delegate districts still held by Republicans, and 16 won by Tim Kaine? Mumble mumble, gerrymandering ...
Terry McAuliffe won 11 delegate districts held by Republican Delegates, and Mark Herring still won 9, but .. Look over there, it's a gerrymander! Run for your lives!
FreeDem :: Twelve Days of Christmas for Virginia Democrats: Day One, A Gerrymander!
I am not a fan of the use of the gerrymander as a crutch, but in the spirit of Christmas I will concede that it is a contributing factor to the difficulties of House Democrats. It's true, the lines have been drawn to frustrate and isolate Virginia Democrats.But a comparison with their peers in the State Senate also shows deeper concerns for Virginia Democrats.
Over in the State Senate, with a Democratic gerrymander, there are 19 state senate districts held by Democrats won by Barack Obama in 2012 (pending two special election, good luck!). There are two more marginally Obama districts held by Republicans (7th, Wagner; and 10th, Watkins), and another one won by Tim Kaine (17th, Reeves).
But there's a Democratic cliff after the 21st (Edwards). In the 21st and all other Democratic held state senate districts, Barack Obama received over 54% of the vote in 2012. The next most Democratic district, the 10th, was only 50.41% for Obama. Watch out below, that's a steep drop!
Senate Democrats had no way of knowing how the 2012 election would end up, so we should look at 2008. They drew a slate of 19 districts where Obama won over 55% of the vote (he declined slightly in the Roanoke-based 21st in 2012). They then had a handful of marginal districts (10th, Watkins; 17th, Reeves; 13th, Black; 20th, Stanley; and 7th, Wagner). But there's a big gap between the 55%+ districts and the competitive ones.
You'd think if you're going to gerrymander a chamber, you'd at least ensure that you'd be able to get to a majority (21 seats) or split control (20 seats) with more solidly Democratic seats. Democrats tried with their first map (drawing a safely Democratic 8th District in the Richmond area, and a more competitive 7th in Virginia Beach), but that got shot down as too partisan by Governor Bob McDonnell. Hah! That map probably would have created 21 safely Democratic seats, plus any upside from keeping around Puckett, Houck, and Reynolds. If only that has passed. But remember this Democratic cliff in the State Senate during 2015, it's a big concern if Puckett retires or is defeated ...
Over in the House of Delegates, Republican drew a gerrymander that packed Democrats into 55%+ Obama districts (notice how both parties agree that it takes a 55% Obama seat to be a safely Democratic seat). There are only two Republican delegates representing districts that are this Democratic in 2012: Rust (86th) and Ramadan (87th). These are also the only two Republican held districts where McAuliffe won over 55% of the vote. All other "Obama" Republican districts occupy the same stretch of plurality to under 55% performance, the same hostile terrain that Senate Democrats have struggled with.
Our two pickups in the House of Delegates, Futrell in the 2nd and Mason in the 93rd, are both districts where Obama won over 55% of the vote. A very strong Democratic turnout put McAuliffe over 55% in the 93rd, and Mason was able to hold on despite running behind the top of the ticket. The 2nd district in Prince William is a good district for Democrats to analyze for the future. McAuliffe won just over 50%, but the turnout was high enough for Futrell to win with a very strong campaign focused on Democratic voters. How was Futrell able to hang on and win while other Democratic candidates fell short?
What's the difference between House Democrats and Senate Democrats? The former have been screwed in redistricting, but both have failed to find ways to win in less than overwhelmingly Democratic districts. Right now, Republicans in the General Assembly simply outcompete and outperform their Democratic opponents among the narrow sliver of swing voters in most competitive districts. So enjoy that gerrymander this Christmas season, it helps hide deeper problems facing Virginia Democrats in both branches of the General Assembly!
Here's a resolution for the New Year, let's work on improving Democratic campaigns in competitive districts. Remember this the next time someone talks about "Obama" or "Kaine" districts. Also remember it within the context of the Republican-held districts that Terry McAuliffe won. The Democratic Delegates are clustered in the over 55% McAuliffe districts, with two exceptions: Futrell in the 2nd, and the soon-to-be-vacant 100th district in the Eastern Shore. In the 100th, McAuliffe won with less than 50% of the vote, and Obenshain defeated Herring. Democrats have struggled in these sorts of districts,the current approach to campaigning won't win this seat back if Republicans take it in the special election. It may be a rough January ...

Reviewing My (Non-)Predictions for 2013: How Did I Do?

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

As opposed to December 2011, when I made a bunch of predictions for 2012 (most of which turned out to be correct or partly right/partly wrong), I decided not to push my luck. Instead, last December, I postedVirginia Politics 2013: A Dozen Things to Keep an Eye On. So let's close the loop: how did these dozen things end up working out?1."The marquee political race of 2013 will be, by far and away, the Virginia gubernatorial race between Terry McAuliffe and Ken Cuccinelli. The things to watch here are whether Bill Bolling throws his hat in the ring as an independent, whether Cuccinelli even bothers to try and reposition himself towards the "center" (good luck with THAT one!), and how strong a campaign McAuliffe runs, given that he's mostly been a behind-the-scenes guy and a businessman, not a politician, for his entire adult life. The other thing to watch out for is whether either 'side' seems particularly energized as 2013 proceeds; e.g., will there be a 'wave' for either the 'blue' or 'red' teams in 2013? Right now, I simply have no idea."
Yes, the marquee race was between T-Mac and Cooch. No, Bill Bolling didn't throw his hat in the ring. No, Cooch didn't even bother trying to re-position himself to the "center." Yes, McAuliffe ran a strong campaign, far stronger than Cooch's. And no, there was no "wave" for either "red" or "blue" teams in 2013.
2. "The Republican battles for LG and AG should be fascinating, as a bunch of mostly right wingnuts battles it out for the support of a tiny percentage of Virginia Republicans at a convention that skews hard right. The question is not whether this will get crazy and (right-wing) extreme, but more HOW crazy and (right-wing) extreme it will get. Personally, I'm rooting for these people making themselves completely unelectable in the general, a la Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock. Let's hope..."
Yep, that's pretty much what happened, as the Virginia GOP convention went off the deep end, nominating the most extreme ticket in Virginia (U.S.?) history - Ken Kookinelli, raving theocrat E.W. Jackson, and Mark "Criminalize Miscarriages" Obenshain. Yes, these were the Virginia equivalents of Akin and Mourdock. And yes, the results were the same - Republicans lost, Democrats won. Hey Virginia Republicans: please don't ever change; we Democrats love you just the way you are! :)
lowkell :: Reviewing My (Non-)Predictions for 2013: How Did I Do?
3. On the Democratic side, it looks like the only interesting primary - and yes, it's a primary, not a convention - will be for LG, between Sen. Ralph Northam and former Kaine and Obama technology guru Aneesh Chopra. How will this race play out? Will it be focused on: a) ideological differences of any kind; b) electability arguments; c) appeals to different geographical regions of the state; or d) other? How much will endorsements matter in this race (Northam seems to have an early edge on this front)?  What about money (Chopra seems to have a big, early edge there)? Will this race stay civil, or will it get rough as often happens in intra-party contests? Stay tuned."
Actually, it turned out that there were TWO interesting primaries on the Democratic side, with never-heard-of-him-before/newcomer Justin Fairfax  coming out of nowhere to give State Senator Mark Herring a serious run for his money (Fairfax lost by a slim, 51.7%-48.3% margin). Where did THAT come from? As for the LG race, Aneesh Chopra sprinted out to an early lead in terms of money and organization, yet ended up losing to Ralph Northam 54.2%-45.8%. I'm still not totally sure how that one happened, exactly, although no question Northam's bio is impressive, and no question that Chopra had no real "base" or name ID. It will be interesting to see if Chopra (or Fairfax, for that matter) decides to run again in the future.4. "Will Bolling reconcile in any way with Cuccinelli, or will their mutual antipathy only deepen in 2013? If the latter occurs, which I tend to believe is more likely, will Bolling go so far as to endorse McAuliffe or to run himself? How much clout does Bolling have, anyway, given that most Virginians don't even know who he is? I guess we'll find out in coming months."
Bolling and Cuccinelli hated each other a year ago, and they hated each other throughout 2013 as well. Although Bolling didn't endorse McAuliffe, it seems that he did what he (and his top political advisor, Boyd Marcus) could behind the scenes to help T-Mac and get revenge on crazy Cooch. How much impact did any of this have? Impossible to quantify, but I can't believe it didn't hurt Cooch at all.
5. "Will the the 2013 Virginia General Assembly session accomplish anything, such as serious movement on the transportation funding front, or will it devolve into another ALEC-style push for hard-right-wing legislation on women's reproductive rights, "guns, god, and gays" (to paraphrase Howard Dean), immigration, letting corporations run amok (even worse than they already can in Virginia), etc? Will Bill Howell keep his caucus focused, or will he let it spin out of control, with the Sideshow Bobs of the world dominating news coverage (and hurting Ken Kookinelli in the process)? This should be fascinating."
Yes, it did accomplish a major transportation bill. I'm not saying it was a particularly GOOD transportation bill, but it was significant, no question. The 2013 session was also significant for Senate Republicans staging a coup, basically: while Sen. Henry Marsh (D) was at President Obama's inauguration, they rammed through a "surprise rewrite of the 2011 redistricting plan that erases a Democratic seat in western Virginia and creates a sixth majority black district that would be located between Petersburg and Danville." Outrageous stuff. As for the House of Delegates, Speaker Bill Howell basically kept things on track, with not too much crazy stuff this past year (it's all relative, of course). As for hurting Cuccinelli, he did it to himself by trying to sabotage the bipartisan transportation deal. Not surprisingly, the McAuliffe campaign hammered him on that relentlessly, and it also was a part of the rationale for groups like Fairfax Chamber of Commerce to endorse McAuliffe over Cooch. Remind me again, who was arguing that Cuccinelli was such a clever, effective politician? So much for that.
6. "Will Virginia Democrats run strong candidates in at LEAST all the 'Obama districts' currently held by Republicans? My understanding is that there are 18 of those. In theory, that means if we won all of them (highly unlikely, of course) we'd go from 32 seats in the House of Delegates to a 50/50 tie. But first and foremost, this depends on recruiting strong candidates, funding them generously, and making sure we turn out the
'Obama voters' from 2012."

I'd say Democrats did an overall good job on the recruiting front. The problem is, it STILL didn't work -- although it came very close. Just a week or two before the election, I was hearing that Dems could pick up a net of 10 or even 14 House of Delegates seats. In the end, we netted just 1 seat, with several others losing by tiny margins. Maddeningly frustrating.
7. "How will DPVA function under new leadership? Other than the new DPVA Chair Charniele Herring, who will that new leadership be exactly? So far, I haven't heard any movement on finding a new Executive Director, for instance. How long will this process drag on into 2013 (hopefully not long), and will DPVA be stronger in the end?
DPVA was basically a wholly-owned subsidiary of the McAuliffe campaign in 2013, so the real question is how it performs in 2014, 2015, etc. All in all, I'd say that DPVA did well in 2013, competently performing the role(s) it was tasked to perform.
8. "How involved will Democratic heavy hitters Mark Warner, Tim Kaine, and Jim Webb be in the 2013 campaign? Will Warner and Kaine be mostly focused on national issues, or will they campaign hard for Terry McAuliffe and the rest of the Democratic ticket? Will Webb focus on writing books, traveling, making movies, fun stuff like that, or will he stay active in Virginia politics on behalf of Democratic candidates? Got me."
Warner and Kaine were team players with the McAuliffe campaign - sending out fundraising emails, appearing at rallies, etc. As for Jim Webb? He completely disappeared, didn't hear a peep from him (or see any effort on his part to help the Virginia Democratic ticket) in 2013. The thing is, even if Webb doesn't like politics (which he doesn't), and even if he wasn't a fan of Terry McAuliffe (which I heard repeatedly that he wasn't), he should have been doing what he could for Ralph Northam, Mark Herring, and the House of Delegates candidates. Very, very disappointing.
9. "Will there be regional referenda on raising gas taxes to pay for transportation improvements in Virginia? If so will they fare any better than the ones that went down in flames in 2002?"
Nope. Nada.
10. "To what extent will national economic and political events impact Virginia's 2013 elections?  For many years now, Virginia has voted opposite for governor from the party controlling the White House, but will this hold in 2013 if the economy's doing well, Obama's popular, and there's no right-wing movement like the Tea Party of 2009-2010?"
I'd argue that the government shutdown helped boost Terry McAuliffe early to mid October, while the disastrous launch of energized Cuccinelli supporters in late October/early November. Probably a "wash" overall. As for President Obama's not-so-scintillating approval numbers, they didn't seem to hurt McAuliffe much, if at all. So much for the theory that Virginia always votes the opposite party of whoever's in the White House.
11. "Given the unpopularity of the Republican Party nationally, will Ken Cuccinelli be able to bring in anyone from outside Virginia to help him, or will all of them - Santorum, Boehner, McConnell, whoever - be net negatives for him?"
The Republican Party got even LESS popular in 2013, yet Cuccinelli brought in wingnut after wingnut to fire up his base (in what was, after all, a base election year). Sure, Dems pounded him for these lunatics, which may have helped fire up our base, but meanwhile those folks helped fire up his base as well. Another "wash?"
12. "On the Democratic side, will Barack Obama be a major participant in helping Terry McAuliffe, and if so how much will it help rev up the Obama coalition to come out and vote for T-Mac? Oh, and let's not forget former President Bill Clinton; will he merely camp out in Virginia, or will he formally relocate so that he can campaign 24/7 for his friend T-Mac? ;) Just kidding on the relocating, but I do wonder how much of the super-popular Bill Clinton we'll be seeing in 2013, and how much that will boost McAuliffe and the rest of the Democratic ticket."
Other than a last-minute rally by Obama for T-Mac, he really wasn't a participant. Bill Clinton, on the other hand, was here for nearly a week at the end of the campaign, helping to fire up Democrats to get out and vote. Both Bill and Hillary Clinton also helped T-Mac raise ungodly amounts of money. Plus, Hillary Clinton did a public rally for T-Mac in Falls Church (which I attended). How much all of that boosted T-Mac is hard to say, but it certainly didn't seem to help the Democratic House of Delegates candidates. Perhaps it helped boost Mark Herring over Mark Obenshain by fewer than 1,000 votes? We'll never know, but it's certainly possible.

What Should It Mean to Be a "Progressive" in Today's America?

In a recent Facebook thread, I was asked the question, "Lowell, what do you think makes a progressive dem?" My immediate response was basically that this was a question that would require a long answer to do it justice. Now, I feel that I'm ready to provide a somewhat longer, more fleshed-out answer (although FAR from complete - please add additions, corrections, etc. in the comments section) to this important question (although note that I'm tweaking the question a bit to "what should it mean to be a 'progressive' in today's America?").First off, let me be clear that by "progressive" I don't mean a synonym or code word for "liberal." Not that there's anything wrong with the word "liberal" or its values, but I've always considered my political beliefs to be more in the mold of the Progressive Era of the early 20th century, obviously updated to the present day. What follows is what I believe it should mean to be an early-21st-century progressive, compared to what it meant to be an early 20th century Progressive (note: in the interest of length, I'm going to skip the parts of Progressivism, like Prohibition and some weird ideas about immigration, which most definitely should NOT be part of progressivism in 21st century America).
1. Good Government/Anti-Corruption. To me, this one's obvious: government should be effectively, transparent, and not subject to corruption of any kind. On the latter, that doesn't just mean making it illegal for someone to offer an elected official a freezer full of cash. It also means making sure that nobody who stands to make money off of government policies should be in a position to influence the government through campaign contributions or whatever. We also need to shut the "revolving door" between government and industry, or at least slow it down to a crawl. And government needs to reform itself so that it attracts the best and the brightest, so that there are incentives for people to work effectively, and so that taxpayer money is never wasted. That's just for starters; there are many more items needed to make good, clean, effective government a reality. As the great Progressive Teddy Roosevelt said, quoting from the 1912 Progressive platform, "to dissolve the unholy alliance between corrupt business and corrupt politics is the first task of the statesmanship of the day..... This country belongs to the people. Its resources, its business, its laws, its institutions, should be utilized, maintained, or altered in whatever manner will best promote the general interest." And as the 1912 Progressive Party ("Bull Moose") platform stated, "We pledge our party to legislation that will compel strict limitation on all campaign contributions and expenditures, and detailed publicity of both before as well as after primaries and elections."
2. Education as Essential to Meritocracy. Having a system of top-notch, affordable education (at all levels) is about having a system in America which rewards merit, as opposed to connections, family wealth, or other non-value-added attributes. Ensuring that everyone in this country has access to affordable, top-notch education (that should start young, with universal pre-K, and continue throughout life, so that people can get retrained for other careers) is a necessary, although not sufficient, component of having a meritocracy. Without it, we're going to see the continuation of a nasty trend which has the U.S. falling behind many other countries in terms of the potential for social mobility (e.g., if you're born poor, you can become middle class or wealthy). That's not an acceptable situation.
2a. Meritocracy means no discrimination of any kind. This one should go without saying, but I noticed a comment which asked that it be spelled out explicitly. So let me do so: being a progressive means no discrimination of any kind against anyone due to their race, religion, ethnic background, sexual orientiation, gender, or anything else intrinsic to them as a human being. Againk, this one should go without saying for a bunch of reasons, among which are that it's not possible to have a meritocracy when there's discrimination. It's also just plain wrong to discriminate.
lowkell :: What Should It Mean to Be a "Progressive" in Today's America?
3. Checking corporate power and greed, as well as the excesses of capitalism. While Teddy Roosevelt certainly believed that strong corporations were good for America, he also believed that "corporate behavior must be watched to ensure that corporate greed did not get out of hand (trust-busting and federal regulation of business)." It's basically the same thing today, when corporations are arguably more powerful than ever, and in which taxpayer-funded corporate welfare has run amok (examples: corn ethanol, coal, oil, sugar, meat, a gazillion others). In no way, shape or form should corporate crony capitalism be acceptable in America, nor should corporations be allowed to gain the type of power they've got today. Among many other items on the "to do" list, we need to make sure that corporations pay their fair share of taxes (which many don't now), that corporations don't get to dump their pollution (or social costs) onto the society as a whole without paying to clean them up, that they aren't allowed to dominate our political process (bye bye Citizens United!), that they don't get "too big to fail," etc, etc.Another point on corporations is that, as Teddy Roosevelt stated, "[g]reat corporations exist only because they are created and safeguarded by our institutions; and it is therefore our right and our duty to see that they work in harmony with these institutions." This gets at Elizabeth Warren's superb speechin which she talked about how "there is nobody in this country who got rich on his own," that they did it in a system (of roads, educated workers, police and firefighters, the military, etc.) we all paid for. This also gets at the idiotic "debate" we had in the 2012 campaign over Barack Obama's mangled/out-of-context "you didn't build that" quote. In fact, as Warren said more eloquently, as much as corporate honchos like to pat themselves on the back for doing everything on their own, in some sort of Ayn Rand autarkic fantasy world, when in fact they couldn't have "built that" in countries without the preconditions we have here (rule of law, respect for property rights, all the factors Warren mentioned, etc, etc.). And finally, NO, CORPORATIONS ARE NOT PEOPLE (yet again, I refer you to Elizabeth Warren.
Now, a few relevant Teddy Roosevelt quotes: "In the interest of the public, the Government should have the right to inspect and examine the workings of the great corporations engaged in interstate business. Publicity is the only sure remedy which we can now invoke;" "in the interest of the whole people, the Nation should, without interfering with the power of the States in the matter itself, also assume power of supervision and regulation over all corporations doing an interstate business;" and "We are not hostile to [corporations], we are merely determined that they shall be so handled as to subserve the public good. We draw the line against misconduct, not against wealth."
4. Democracy, the Right to Vote: To the extent possible, we need to have an informed, engaged citizenry involved in our political process. That means never infringing on people's right to vote, whether because they used to be a felon (but served their time/paid their debt to society), or because a particular political party (with an "R" at the start of its name) decides to invent fictional/non-existent "voter fraud" as a justification to make it harder (or impossible) for people (particularly those who tend to vote for the other party, the one with a "D" at the beginning of its name) to vote. As for direct Democracy, it gets trickier. I strongly support the Progressives' call for direct primaries and the direct election of US Senators, but I have mixed feelings about initiatives, referenda, recalls and the like. I've seen how that system has worked in California, and I'm not impressed. But perhaps that's not a fair test, as it's not coupled with serious campaign finance reform. Perhaps if we did that, then citizen initiatives and referenda could be debated on their merits, not on which well-heeled interests dump the most money into the campaign.
Now, a few relevant quotes. First, from the  1912 Progressive Party ("Bull Moose") platform: "This country belongs to the people who inhabit it. Its resources, its business, its institutions and its laws should be utilized, maintained or altered in whatever manner will best promote the general interest. It is time to set the public welfare in the first place." Now, from Teddy Roosevelt: "Our country-this great republic-means nothing unless it means the triumph of a real democracy, the triumph of popular government, and, in the long run, of an economic system under which each man shall be guaranteed the opportunity to show the best that there is in him;" and "Our whole experiment is meaningless unless we are to make this a democracy in the fullest sense of the word, in the broadest as well as the highest and deepest signi´Čücance of the word. It must be made a democracy economically, as well as politically."
5. Progressive taxation: A progressive tax code is a core concept of progressivism, that the wealthiest Americans should pay a proportionally higher share of their income in taxes, since they (by far) reap the most benefits from the system. Also, progressive taxation gets back to the issue of "meritocracy." In this context, I'd add a few Teddy Roosevelt's quotes with which I strongly agree: "I believe in a graduated income tax on big fortunes, and in another tax which is far more easily collected and far more effective - a graduated inheritance tax on big fortunes, properly safeguarded against evasion and increasing rapidly in amount with the size of the estate;" "No advantage comes either to the country as a whole or to the individuals inheriting the money by permitting the transmission in their entirety of the enormous fortunes which would be affected by such a tax; and as an incident to its function of revenue raising, such a tax would help to preserve a measurable equality of opportunity for the people of the generations growing to manhood;" and (on meritocracy) "The failure in public and in private life thus to treat each man on his own merits, the recognition of this government as being either for the poor as such or for the rich as such, would prove fatal to our Republic, as such failure and such recognition have always proved fatal in the past to other republics."
6. Conservation/Environmental Protection: This gets at the concept of "market failure," and in the fundamental progressive idea that markets are powerful, but not perfect by any means. In the case of environmental destruction, it's often a case of clear, even egregious, market failure. For instance, if companies can charge lower prices to consumers simply because they do not have to pay for their pollution or other damage to the environment (e.g., over-exploitation of natural resources), then it's clear that the market system has failed in that case. That's a major argument for why we need government, to correct such market failure. In the case of climate change, for instance, the clear market failure has to do with not putting a serious price (or any price) on greenhouse gas pollutants. It also has to do with (wildly) tilting the playing field in favor of carbon-based fuels and against non-carbon-based fuels. None of that makes any rational sense, but this gets back to the good government issue; in this case, the government has been "captured" by powerful, vested fossil fuel interests who want to extract every last penny of profit from the earth, even if it trashes the entire planet.
I'd add a few Teddy Roosevelt quotes here. "neither man nor nation can prosper unless, in dealing with the present, thought is steadily taken for the future"; "The nation behaves well if it treats the natural resources as assets which it must turn over to the next generation increased, and not impaired, in value;" "There can be no greater issue than that of conservation in this country;" "I recognize the right and duty of this generation to develop and use the natural resources of our land; but I do not recognize the right to waste them, or to rob, by wasteful use, the generations that come after us;" "natural resources must be used for the benefit of all our people, and not monopolized for the benefit of the few;" and "Conservation is a great moral issue, for it involves the patriotic duty of insuring the safety and continuance of the nation. Let me add that the health and vitality of our people are at least as well worth conserving as their forests, waters, lands, and minerals, and in this great work the national government must bear a most important part." And from the 1912 Progressive Party platform: "The natural resources of the Nation must be promptly developed and generously used to supply the people's needs, but we cannot safely allow them to be wasted, exploited, monopolized or controlled against the general good. "
7. Government as a force for social and economic justice: This gets at "market failure" and excesses of capitalism again. As the 1912 Progressive Party ("Bull Moose") platform explained, "The supreme duty of the Nation is the conservation of human resources through an enlightened measure of social and industrial justice." This includes laws aimed at preventing "industrial accidents, occupational diseases, overwork, involuntary unemployment, and other injurious effects incident to modern industry." It also involves such things as "minimum safety and health standards for the various occupations," "the exercise of the public authority of State and Nation, including the Federal control over inter-State commerce and the taxing power, to maintain such standards," and "protection of home life against the hazards of sickness, irregular employment and old age through the adoption of a system of social insurance adapted to American use." In all of this, clearly, government is not some evil force, as modern-day conservatives seem to see it, or "the problem" as Ronald Reagan put it, but a crucial check on business and protector of workers (aka, 99% of us).
8. Fighting for progress on all fronts. This is an admittedly catch-all category, but I think it's important, as the first root of the word "progressive" is, after all, "progress." That means all the items mentioned above, but more broadly fighting to achieve the highest ideals laid out in our founding documents. It means that over time, rights (and obligations that go with those rights, of course) are expanded (to ALL people, regardless of race, ethnicity, sexuality, religion, etc.), not contracted. It means that we become a more prosperous country, but also a healthier, better educated, more secure (e.g., in our old age), more equal (in terms of opportunity, not necessarily in terms of outcome), more inclusive, more enlightened, more environmentally sustainable nation. We also need to be good citizens of this planet, which doesn't mean that we won't be strong or that we shouldn't defend our interests, but it DOES mean that we work with other countries wherever possible, help build strong international institutions, and work to build a world that reflects our (progressive) values.
Again, that's just a start at what it should mean to be a 21st century progressive. Whether or not today's Democratic Party is progressive, I'll leave to another discussion (or you can talk about it in the comments section). But clearly, today's Republican Party is anti-progressive on almost every level. Which is kind of pathetic, given that Teddy Roosevelt was - before he became in independent - a Republican. But then again, so was Abraham Lincoln, and he'd be horrified at what the formerly "Grand" Old Party has become as well.

Top 12 Most Popular Blue Virginia Posts of 2013

Monday, December 23, 2013

Courtesy of Google Analytics, here are the top 13 Blue Virginia blog posts, in terms of visits, for 2013. The major themes: Cuccinelli, Kookinelli, the Cooch, extreme Virginia Republicans, and did I mention E.W. Jackson? Enjoy!1. BREAKING: While Dems Distracted by Inauguration, Virginia Senate GOP Stages a Coup: Nope, you don't get any more slimy, sneaky, underhanded, etc. than this.
2. BREAKING: Cuccinelli Says Transportation Bill, Medicaid Expansion Unconstitutional: "According to our fine Attorney General (and his office), the two main accomplishments of the 2013 Virginia General Assembly are not constitutional."
3. Videos: THIS Is the Lunatic Virginia Teapublicans Just Nominated for Lt. Governor!: As we all found out, E.W. Jackson isn't just Tea Party, he's...well, watch the videos! My god.
4. Former RPV Chair Kate Obenshain: Planned Parenthood "Barbarians;" Colleges "Indoctrination Camps": In this clip, Obenshain calls Planned Parenthood "barbarians" who are "promoting a barbaric philosophy." She also claims that everythying on college campuses is "oriented towards promoting the billion dollar abortion's not about the right of women to control their bodies, it's about the right of Planned Parenthood to make billions and billions." She concludes that "our college campuses are indoctrination camps for the abortion industry...that's what it is."
5. ExxonMobil Really REALLY Doesn't Want People to Know How Much It Hates Your Children>: Per Meteor Blades at Daily Kos, the anti-democratic (small "d") thugs at ExxonMobil really REALLY don't like being criticized for destroying our planet while raking in record profits in the history of said planet.
lowkell :: Top 12 Most Popular Blue Virginia Posts of 2013
6. Live Blogging the Virginia Republican Freak, Convention: Turned out to be bizarrely addictive, I guess in the same sense that circus freak shows can be entertaining.
7. One Photo Sums Up Almost Everything Wrong with Ken Cuccinelli: Ken Kookinelli stands proud with crazy-a@@ extremist you-know-what Rand Paul "on Syria." Syria? What does Ken Cuccinelli know about Syria, and what on earth did Syria have to do with the Virginia governor's race? I mean, I've heard of trying to "nationalize" a state race, but INTERnationalize it? LOL
8. Mark Herring Statement On Taking The Majority Of Votes On Election Day: And then he had to take the majority of votes again...and again, before FINALLY being declared the AG-elect. What a race!
9. The Dog that Refuses to Bark: A Stunning Clue about the Problem with American Media : Andy Schmookler asks the question, "What does it mean that the media would shun the authors of a book that points to the obvious devolution of the Republican Party into something extreme, something that breaks the usual mold for a major American Party?"
10. New CNU Poll: McAuliffe Has 9-point lead over Cuccinelli; Northam, Herring Also Lead: And guess what? That's right, it turned out that CNU was correct on the winners, but far off on the margin of victory for McAuliffe. Like most of the other polls.
11. Virginia Primary Election Results Live Blog: One of my favorite things to do is live blog election results. Yeah, I'm a total political junkie, I admit it. Is there a 12-step program to help people like me? LOL
12. Jen Rubin's Top Ten Quotes About Ken Cuccinelli's Extremism: If even right-wing hack Jennifer Rubin can figure out that Ken Cuccinelli's an extremist nutjob, you'd think the rest of Virginia's voters could figure it out too. Yet somehow, 1,013,354 of our fellow Virginians weren't able to do that. Scary.P.S. I'm sure my live blog of Election Day 2013 would have been very high on this list, except for one problem: Blue Virginia's hosting company (Soapblox) couldn't keep up with the traffic, despite being repeatedly warned that it would be heavy on election night. Definitely one of my most frustrating moments as a blogger...