A Dark Decade for Virginia Democrats?

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    My first diary here at Blue Virginia. Long time lurker, short term commenter, and finally pulling together a few thoughts from the discussion of Warner’s long term plans and the future of the Democratic Party of Virginia.

    It is beginning to look like the high tide of Virginia Democrats came late in the “lost decade” from 2000 to 2010. Sadly, I think the next decade will be a lost one for Virginia Democrats. The back-to-back-to-back-to-back election victories of 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2008 are going to become a distant memory. There are big problems facing us and we have to figure out what can be done to turn this boat around!

    Think ahead to the likely course of the next decade.

    2011: We have elections for the General Assembly in the fall but I’m hearing little about candidate recruitment on our side. Redistricting is still up in the air but it’s difficult to avoid being pessimistic. I’ve read scenarios involving a deal that helps us keep the State Senate or a gridlock that puts the lines into the hands of judges. Either way we’d be losing ground in the House while being lucky to hold our own in the Senate.

    2012: I don’t want to get distracted with a discussion of the Senate race, but I think everyone understands the risks of defeat here. On top of that the new lines will probably restrain any attempts to target the 5th, 2nd, or other districts in the House races.

    2013: It could be Cooch or it could be Bolling, but either candidate would be a disaster for Virginia. It’s also important to note the difficulty that recent Virginia Democrats have had in running as a slate and picking up the LG and AG when winning the Governor’s race. This, combined with the one term limit, is constantly undermining our prospects long term.

    2014: Mark Warner is finding it difficult to keep his numbers up in a polarized political environment. That’s why he’s sticking his head down and focusing on the deficit. But how will Warner defend the results of his work? It’s impossible to imagine a plan that doesn’t utilize cuts to entitlement and either a tax increase or a cut to tax expenditures. That’s setting up Warner for political backlash. He’ll be all on his own in 2014 with a big bully’s eye on him.

    2015: Even if Republicans are safer after redistricting, there might be hopes that demographic trends will turn more seats marginal by the middle of the next decade. Is this the earliest we could see Democrats start to bounce back? Or could this be when the State Senate finally falls from our grasps?

    2016: If demographics start to weaken the gerrymandering, the presidential election of 2016 could be a good year to look at the House races again. Assuming the Democratic nominee is someone who would run well in Virginia. It’s hard to see a route to the White House for Democrats that doesn’t include making a play in Virginia.

    2017: Can you even begin to try to imagine the potential candidates for Governor in 2017? From this point on the elections are harder to discuss. But the key point is that the earliest it looks like we start turning the corner is 2015, with the General Assembly, and then 2016, with the House races, and finally 2017, with Governor. And taking back one Senate seat in 2018?

    Is there anything that we can do now to avoid disaster in 2011 through 2015? Or do we just have to settle to wait patiently?

    Looking back at the lessons from 2005 to 2008, I’d say we need a more robust and broad focus on Northern Virginia. Not just Arlington/Alexandria/Fairfax, but a more inclusive emphasis on the growing suburbs all the way out to counties we don’t think of as often like Spotsylvania (which is actually little more than a bedroom community for a bunch of commuters). That’s how Kaine and Webb won statewide earlier in the decade, with a strong performance in the suburbs. But can we do that without talking about boring issues like land use or dangerous issues like transportation (and how to fund it!)? We also need greater outreach to the growing minority communities in Northern Virginia and elsewhere.

    Those are my suggestions, what are yours?