If at First You Don’t Succeed…


    As a voting member of the DPVA central committee (no, I do not feel I am part of a commie “politburo”) and a strong supporter of Peter Russelot for the next chair of the party, I was quite surprised by the virulence of some of the comments made on the live feed of the committee that Blue Virginia provided. Look, I knew when I got into a car at 4:30 a.m. for a four+ hour drive to get from southwest Virginia to Newport News that our efforts for Peter were going to fail. I am sure that Peter knew that as well. However, I don’t believe in quitting before a game is played out. Nor do I believe in quitting now because I didn’t get my way yesterday. I’d rather stand my ground, knowing that there will be another chance to win on another day, that some day I will prevail.

    The fact that we had vigorous, contested elections at the last two state central committee meetings – one for first vice chair and then for chair of the party – is a giant step forward for the DPVA, which, like every other political group I have ever been involved with, is an “insider’s game.” Both of the “outsider” candidates in those contests can be proud of forcing new ideas to the forefront of party deliberations, of proving to the insiders that there are other ways to do political business, that those of us who believe that aren’t going to go away.

    Proof? Peter Rousselot insisted that state Democrats needed to have candidates to contest every seat in the 2011 legislative elections. That forced Brian Moran to go on record, saying in a letter to all committee members, “We need to recruit and support candidates in every jurisdiction and district. No Republican goes unchallenged and every open seat has a Democratic candidate running.” Would he have put a commitment like that in writing without a strong challenge from Peter? Of course not.

    The support for Brian Moran was not centered in just one area of the state. I had felt all along that the more rural parts of Virginia would be fertile ground to garner votes for Peter, especially since both candidates were from NOVA and would split those votes. I was dead wrong. It was obvious to me long before I went to the meeting that the fact that Mark Warner had suggested Brian Moran for chair carried enormous, insurmountable weight with most committee members.

    Sure, I may joke around and call Sen. Warner “Saint Mark, the apostle of Va politics,” but he is – without a doubt – the most popular and the most influential Democrat I can remember, certainly since the demise of the old Byrd machine. As I talked to people from my district and other parts of the state before the meeting, it was clear to me his endorsement had sealed the deal for Brian Moran.

    I would strongly encourage those people who insisted that they were going to “drop out and tune out” because of yesterday’s result to listen instead to some very wise words also contained in the comments:

    “We need both [grassroots and party organization], and we each excise the other at our greater peril.  Although I would have liked to have seen a different result…I am hopeful that the simple act of change of leadership at the top will bring with it a period of new ideas. I wish Brian Moran the very best of luck, because if he does his job well, the benefits for those of us in the trenches will be rewarding as well. (And vice versa, I might add!)” – GretchenLaskas

    Once, a long time ago (1968), liberal and progressive Democrats made a fatal decision to get angry at the “party hacks” who controlled things and who shut out the wishes of the grassroots. Hubert Humphrey, the champion of liberals and the Democratic candidate for president, had – in the opinion of some – sold out his supporters by endorsing the war in Vietnam. So, they sat on their hands and refused to vote. Result? We got eight years of Richard Nixon. Indeed, “excise the other at our greater peril.”

    By the way, the auction that so incensed some people raised funds for the DPVA Women’s Caucus, a portion of which will go to help Ginger Mumpower capture Morgan Griffith’s open seat and keep yet another right-wing ideologue out of the House of Delegates.  

    • SterlingNorth

      Nixon resigned in 1974. I think Ford was different enough to merit not being Nixon.

    • It’s an issue of how the grassroots relates to the party establishment. That’s not a new issue, in fact it’s an age-old issue, and it will continue to be an issue as long as their are “establishments” and “grassroots”.  That’s just the way it is, nothing’s gonna change that, but at times relations will be better and at times they will be worse. We appear currently to be entering a “much worse” phase at the national and possibly state level.  C’est la vie?

    • but not in the middle of voting for a new chair, while the thing’s being live streamed to whoever wants to watch. Tacky, tacky, tacky.

    • VADEM

      know how much time Moran intends to spend per day or per week or month being the new chair?

      Elaine- thank you for your continued good work and service on behalf of us.

    • VADEM

      I feeling he was elected WITHOUT a firm time committment especially with the huge challenges we face shortly? And just where is the main DPVA office? Richmond? So if he lives in No. Va. he’d have to commute to Richmond–how often? And he needs to do a ton of traveling also. Seems he will be a busy guy. Lobbying, DPVA, traveling, keeping track of staff……….

    • Out of the comments (and some e-mails and verbal comments from other Dems who don’t post on blogs) I think what most concerned me is the idea that the grassroots don’t need the institutional support from the party.  Personally, and this is my opinion, I think that is as short sighted as the party claiming it doesn’t really need the grassroots (an unfortunately position which too many have and which I have always fought, and continue to fight.)

      I’ve always identified with the grassroots.  In the past few years, I’ve become more active and visible within the party infrastructure, and I’ve learned a lot from doing so.  When both are doing well, we win.  When both fail, we get clobbered.  Sometimes we can win with only one or the other, but we’re hobbled by the lack of skills, strengths and possibilities the other brings.

      Continue to fight for reform from within and from without?  Absolutely.  But let’s not forget that we’re on the same side, and 95% of the time, we all want the same things.

    • I’m not so sure.  The Dem structure has always been amorphous and rarely top down.  It’s one of the reasons we sometimes lack the discipline of Republicans, but it has some tremendous strengths as well.

    • leedynamo

      I agree with Gretchen’s ideas, but those notions never seem to be realized.  In the post-2000 period there was an upsurge in grassroots activity.  It paralleled the success of Mark Warner, but we largely worked independent of him.  By the way, he is a LOUSY Senator  End of Story.  I look to Sherrod Brown, Mari Cantwell, Jeff Merkley, Tom Udall et al for leadership.  Mark only cares about Mark.  HOWEVER, HE WAS A GOOD GOVERNOR AND I WOULD SUPPORT HIM RUNNING FOR GOVERNOR.  He should be primaried if he runs for re-election to the Senate.

      MY MAIN QUESTION of the day is

      HOW LONG??????????

      How long

      for the Four Virginias?

      If we don’t do the organizing, competing all over the state will be self-defeating and only prove the point that we have to “manage our resources.”

      DPVA exists for some reason but I do not know what that reason is.  I have gotten up at 5AM on enough election days, done enough canvassing (although I admit not this year), tried to salvage the Establishment’s screw ups, etc.

      I say STRIKE or start a Party in VA called the Grassroots Democratic Party.

    • VADEM

      I always say, I’m not part of any organized party I’m a democrat.

      The reason the rethugs have eaten Obama for lunch is because they are all on the same page, stand together and are completely united–at least in public. Unlike the dems who are all over the map in public.

      And that’s why we’re in this big cluster—- in DC.

      So yes, we need a leader. Not to micro manage anyone but the go to guy for policy, media ie the final word and most especially to call out the rethugs every time they lie.

    • Tom

      Personally, I was hoping that the Latino Caucus proposal would have been tabled for further review because one or more of the Democratic Latino Organization of Va. (DLOV) actively encouraged Latinos in PWC to NOT vote in the 11th CD race that Connolly barely won. I spoke by phone with one of their officers and she shocked me confirming that was the case. She did say they did NOT ask the Latinos to vote for Fimian, but with such a small Latino turnout basically “by direction” from their caucus leadership they very nearly caused Fimian to win. That is NOT anything that the DPVA should be willing to tolerate – when a proposed new caucus group is openly and publicly working hard against the GOTV vote within that group’s main constituency. I believe the party plan (by-laws) should be amended to specifically prohibit any caucus that actively works against the party GOTV efforts.

      How in the world can any Outreach effort for Latinos be effective if their own caucus openly and very publicly works against our Congressional candidate’s re-election campaign ?

      I will be working directly with the Latino community in PWC to secure their votes in 2011 for PWC BOCS chair, but certainly not through the official party structure since they have never shown any real interest in Latino Outreach, and certainly no interest in recruiting Latinos for official party structure offices. My BOCS chair candidate preference and I will be reaching out directly to Latino leader not a part of the DLOV leadership nor the new DPVA Latino caucus if it was approved.

      Comments ?


    • gene magruder

      just want to correct Elaine on her use of outsider in regards to the vice-chair of organization election. By the standards she laid out in her post both candidates were outsiders of the DPVA. Gaylene Kanoyton was the chair of Hampton and susan mariner was the chair of Virginia Beach. Neither had been on the scene that long and neither were insiders. So an outsider won that race regardless of which one someone supported. Elaine i am glad you came to Newport News and hope you enjoyed your stay. I am still trying to figure out the insider /outsider deal. If you mean connected to the mighty politicians versus grassroot activist I understand.  

    • kindler

      If you’re lucky, you get two steps forward and only one step back.

      We forget how far we’ve come.  I remember when I started volunteering for Kerry in Fairfax County in 2004 and the party, at the County level, was pretty exclusively run and staffed by older white women — nothing wrong with that demographic, except that it’s limited by itself.  

      Webb in ’06 was a candidate of the blogosphere — with which we first beat the establishment candidate and then George Allen himself.  

      Obama, regardless of his failings and all the bashing he gets from the left, is still arguably the most progressive president we’ve had since Johnson 40 years ago.  

      Yes, the grassroots still has not elected a leader of the DPVA, but we are advancing, with veterans of the Webb and Obama campaigns, the 50 state strategy organizers, the blogosphere and groups like Brigades advancing through the leadership in places like Fairfax County and Hampton Roads.  

      Elaine’s got exactly the right perspective here.  If you believe in fighting the good fight, then just keep fighting it, don’t get discouraged because of setbacks — because setbacks never really end.  Be a happy warrior — it’s more effective and a helluva lot more fun!

      • NotJohnSMosby

        was it was a bunch of $50 items that, in any NoVA fundraiser, would have been left to the silent auction part.  Doing a live auction to sell a week’s rental on a house in the Bahamas or Caps season tickets or something, that would have been different since you’re talking thousands of dollars.  Having the chair of a state party hawking a picnic basket for $25 is 1) a tremendous waste of time and opportunity and 2) pretty embarrassing that the chair of the state party would be the one to do it.