(UPDATE: Mark Keam Has a bunch of thoughts on all this at his blog. I think he makes a few good points, but overall, we’re just gonna have to “agree to disagree” (strongly) on this one. – promoted by lowkell)
Over at his Facebook page, Del. Mark Keam (D-Vienna) writes, “Spoke on a bipartisan panel on ‘transparency in government’ at VA Tea Party in Richmond. I’ll write up my thoughts on my website tonight.” To my knowledge, Del. Keam is the only elected Virginia Democrat to attend the Virginia “Tea Party” convention, along with numerous Republican elected officials – Bob McDonnell, Bill Bolling, Ken Cuccinelli, several others. The question is, should a Democratic elected official, or Democratic candidate, be attending a “Tea Party” event?
I checked with a few Democratic activists and long-time Democratic Virginia political operatives, and have their comments after the “flip.” But first, for an “official” view, here’s DPVA Chairman Dickie Cranwell:
State Democratic Party Chairman Richard Cranwell of Vinton said the GOP leaders’ embrace of hard-line tea party activists raises questions about whether they can be consensus-building political leaders.
“What my basic instincts are telling me is that what you’re seeing is the real Bob McDonnell, the real Bill Bolling, the real Ken Cuccinelli and the real George Allen, not the people who run around in campaigns and say, ‘We’re moderates,’ ” Cranwell said.
I strongly agree with Dickie Cranwell about the Republican elected officials. But what about Democratic electeds attending this event? Let’s see what some long-time Virginia Democratic activists and operatives think, after the “fold.”
UPDATE: I received an on-the-record statement from Gerry Connolly for Congress campaign manager James Walkinshaw (bolding added by me for emphasis). I couldn’t agree more.
Democrats attending the Tea Party convention are merely allowing themselves to be used as props to create a false patina of legitimacy for what is in reality a radical right-wing organization dedicated to turning back the clock on progress. Tea Party values are not Northern Virginia values, and moderate Northern Virginia voters do not want to see their leaders associated with it in any way, shape, or form.
UPDATE #2: Former Arlington County Democratic Committee Chair Peter Rousselot stated on the record that he completely agreed with the Connolly campaign’s statement. Rousselot added that the Tea Party does not represent Virginia values anywhere in the state.
UPDATE #3: I received the following statement from the Jeff Barnett for Congress campaign.
I cannot speak to Delegate Keam’s motivations for attending the tea party convention. I can say that he is a strong Democrat and a great public servant. Having spoken to a tea party group myself, I admire any Democratic politician who is willing to stand up for Democratic ideals and values in front of any group of Americans. The tea party platform is wrong for America. We lose ground to the tea party movement when we refuse to engage them instead of standing up for our values.
*”I think it’s not good to appear at the Tea Party events for these reasons exactly — I don’t want anyone to think even for a moment that I would support their platform AND I do believe that doing so would lend legitimacy to them”
*Also, “there really are no votes to be had there.”
*”No good can come from our candidates going where they are so viciously opposed. Note that they won’t go to our events — our One Nation Working Together. The best Dems can get is for them to Tea Party and, of course, some of them including people we know and/or love are going to the increasingly-nasty-to-Dems Jon Stewart Rally…”
*”I know gov transparency is his thing – but seriously, an AFP panel?”
*”The Democratic Party has enough troubles without countenancing traitors within its ranks pandering to the worst elements of the right.”
*”Sell out @@#$@#$!”
*”As a side point on this issue, who the hell could stomach being in a room with these people? Seriously.”
*”Its not worth ‘dialogue’ as he said in his tweet. They aren’t open to our side at all.”
*”I dont think [it makes any sense for Democrats to attend a far-right-wing event], they aren’t going to vote for us ever.”
*”Why did he waste a vital day of campaigning for the democratic ticket to go to Richmond to talk to people who don’t care what he has to say? It’s not worth a day during election season when he could be helping Gerry [Connolly] or Jeff [Barnett].”
*”I’m glad Glenn Nye backed out, though he should have never accepted in the first place.”
*”All depends on motivation. If Nye’s going to kiss their ass, he should just switch parties now (or change his name to Joe Lieberman, whichever’s easier). If Tom’s going to tell them the Tea Party movement is being run by the GOP establishment, I’m all for it.”
*”They automatically discredit Dems for being Dems.”
Also, teacherken tweeted, “hard to understand why you are there…”
Adam Sharp tweeted, “Dialogue? I guess you believe politically active people are rational and reasonable, too. Good luck with that.”
Vivian Paige tweeted, “I was thinking the same thing. @MarkKeam.”
I do not disagree with any of the comments above. I’d just add that, in my view, Del. Keam made a huge mistake here. Del. Keam has stated numerous times that he’s willing to talk to anyone. That’s fine, but so are most Democratic elected officials. Does that mean they all should speak on panels hosted by astroturf front groups for the Koch brothers like Americans for Prosperity? (also, big-time climate change deniers, behind much of the anti-healthcare-reform push, pro-tobacco industry, major funders of the supposedly “grassroots” “Tea Party,” etc., etc.). Sorry, but this is not an honest, serious dialogue in any way, shape or form.
I’d add that it is beyond unwise for a Democratic elected official to lend legitimacy, and give “bipartisan” cover to, a group that is spending millions of dollars to defeat Democrats at the polls in 24 days, and to defeat Democratic legislative initiatives in Congress and in state legislatures across America. I’m extremely disappointed in Del. Keam, who I endorsed for the Democratic nomination in 2007. If I had known then what I know now, I doubt I have done that. Ugh.
P.S. This is what Del. Keam should have been doing yesterday.