Home Virginia Politics I Have NOT Left (and Will Not Leave) the Virginia Democratic Party…

I Have NOT Left (and Will Not Leave) the Virginia Democratic Party…


The title of this diary is in response to a post by Hokie Guru, entitled, “I’ve left the Virginia Democratic Party…”  I agree with a number of the points made in Hokie Guru’s diary and disagree with others. Really, though, the individual points are not nearly as important as the overall issue here: that many people undoubtedly are seeing these same problems, that many – the question is how many, exactly – are getting frustrated/angry/disgusted, and that some (again, how many?) are choosing to abandon, or scale back their involvement with, the Virginia Democratic Party.  To the extent that this is happening, it’s likely that most people are doing it quietly, without writing a blog post or making a public fuss about it. But that doesn’t make it any less real.

Evidence of this phenomenon? Recall that Creigh Deeds received about 200,000 fewer votes in 2009 than either Mark Warner in 2001 or Tim Kaine in 2005. Deeds’ problem wasn’t just Obama ’08 voters who didn’t come back in ’09, it was established Democratic off-year voters (ones who voted for Warner and Kaine) who didn’t show up at all, because they were not given any good reason to do so.

Anyway, with that brief intro, here are the main problems with the Virginia Democratic Party, as I see them, and also why I’m NOT leaving this party no matter what.

1. Nothing I’ve seen in the past few months has changed my mind that the election of Brian Moran as chair of the Democratic Party of Virginia was a HUGE mistake. As I wrote to a Virginia Democratic friend of mine this morning:

Meanwhile, when was the last time we heard a peep from DPVA? Are they on permanent vacation? Seriously, what’s going on over there?  Where’s the 24/7, sustained narrative FOR Dems and AGAINST Republicans we should be getting? I mean, I’ll receive a sporadic press release, maybe an average of 1 ever couple weeks or so, but that’s about it. Nothing that would come anywhere close to cohering into a powerful, political narrative….What I’m seriously wondering is WHY is this the case?!? Incompetence?  Lack of resources?  Other?

The response:

This Chairman has neither the time nor the inclination to do anything other than part-time, sporadic sparring on issues. In addition, he lacks the intellectual ability to understand, develop, or implement a sustained narrative. Finally, every single one of his buddies/patrons – Warner, Saslaw, Armstrong, etc. – completely disagree that it is the DPVA Chair’s role to develop or have such a sustained narrative.

That about sums it up right there. Complete narrative/messaging FAIL.

Just as bad — potentially disastrous, actually – is this: when was the last time you heard about any recruiting successes by DPVA for the crucial General Assembly elections being held this year? I mean, I see notices for Republican candidates all the time, but I haven’t seen one for a Democratic candidate in ages. What the heck is THAT all about? Didn’t Brian Moran pledge to recruit a candidate in every district? Are we even close to achieving that? If not, why not? (Could it have something to do with the fact that Brian Moran has a busy, full-time “day job”? We won’t even get into how unethical and awful that “day job” is, lobbying and flacking for the scumbag for-profit “education” industry. Ugh.)

2. Many of the top Democratic Party “leaders” in this state continue to be insular, arrogant, top down, out of touch, scornful of progressive activists (grassroots, netroots, whatever), pro-corporate to a large extent, cozy with lobbyists, and lukewarm at best on energy/enviro issues. I could list numerous examples, such as events like this one, or Dick Saslaw’s infamous car title lending bill (see here for more), or the many awful (e.g., anti-environmental, anti-progressive in every other way) bills pushed for and/or supported by DINO/conservadem “leader” Ward Armstrong in the House of Delegates. There’s also Dick Saslaw and Company’s heavy-handed efforts to make redistricting all about protecting the incumbents they like, punishing the ones they don’t like, and ensuring they get the pliable people they want into any vacant seats (see the 31st Senate District for the classic case). It’s truly abysmal; why would any normal person watching this garbage get excited about Virginia Democrats? Yeah, they don’t like the Teapublicans, but what does the Blue Team have to offer exactly?!?

3. There are numerous systemic, structural, ideological, and other issues within the Democratic Party of Virginia that go way beyond a failed gubernatorial campaign or particular personalities. What I worry about far more than Deeds’ loss in 2009 is that, since then, there’s been no serious effort to understand what happened, other than a fairly comprehensive, grassroots “After Action Report” written by yours truly — and totally ignored by the “powers that be,” in their undoubtedly infinite wisdom. There’s also been no real accountability for those who presided over or participated in the debacle; no heads rolled; people were rewarded and applauded for their failings; incompetence was promoted; etc. What kind of message does THAT send?

Given all this discontent, the question then arises, why am I NOT planning to leave the Virginia Democratic Party? First off, just from a technical point of view, given that we don’t register by party in Virginia, and given that there are no other membership criteria, there’s really no way for me to “leave” the Democratic Party even if I wanted to do so.

More substantively, although I obviously have strong issues with the DPVA and many of our party’s “leaders,” I’m very happy with the work being done by my local party here in Arlington. I’m also impressed by the work being done by other local parties, and by the many strong and dedicated Democrats from Bristol to Virginia Beach to Richmond to Staunton…

Most importantly, I’ve been a loyal, committed Democrat for nearly 30 years now. Yes, I’m frustrated, exasperated, and even angry with my party in many ways, but the key words in there are “my party.” Actually, make that “OUR party,” because whatever screwed-up leadership and betrayal of progressive principles we’ve got right now in Virginia, the powerful progressive ideals and values of the Democratic Party are stronger than those folks and will live on long after they’re gone and forgotten.

Today, with so many problems – economic, environmental, social, political – facing our great nation, how can we give up on the only political party that offers any serious hope for bettering our lives and America’s future? How can we abandon the only party that at least generally works to protect the environment, put our country on the right course for the future, protect civil rights and civil liberties, defend a woman’s right to control her own body, base policy in science and empirical information, and not “take us back” to the 1800s or the Robber Baron era or whatever? Answer: we can’t abandon that party, no matter how disgusted we get with it, as long as the only serious alternative is a Republican Party that’s gone off the far-right-wing deep end in recent years. Thats simply not acceptable.

The bottom line is this: the Democratic Party of Virginia is not Brian Moran’s party or Dick Saslaw’s party or Ward Armstrong’s party. It is our party — all of us. They don’t own it; we do! Which is why there’s absolutely no reason that we – real progressives, people who believe in fighting for the people versus the powerful, etc. – should be the ones who feel compelled to leave our party. Instead, here’s a better idea: how about we all encourage the ones who are screwing things up and betraying our values to leave the Democratic Party of Virginia? That makes a lot more sense to me.

  • totallynext

    When you are in the minority it is the Party Chair that is the anti voice…  Howeve, there is a balancing act with split houses…

    That is why Howard dean was so powerful he was able to be the anti party in power voice…

    In all fairness to Brian he is working at understanding the different parts of the state from an organization level and the challenges that different county committees have…   He comes from a strong hold in nova and is trying to get out there and work with the diverse state party…

    We can bitch and moan in NOVA, but when you talk to chairs in the republican strongholds you really have to know they are some of the most dedicated Dems out there….working against all odds.

  • Elaine in Roanoke

    I, for one, have seen some positive changes since Dick Cranwell left the chair he had been warming for years. In the past few weeks, the DPVA has teamed with OFA to provide regional training in grassroots organizing all over the state. Hundreds of people have been trained.

    If I remember correctly, Brian Moran held a breakfast fundraiser in NoVa recently that raised more than $200,000. He has also been working with congressional district party chairs to get state party assistance to all parts of the state.

    These moves aren’t a great deal, but they are a start. As for a coherent messaging apparatus from the state party, well that just might be the subject of a post by me soon. When you point out that elected party members are “insular, arrogant, top down, out of touch, scornful of progressive activists (grassroots, netroots, whatever), pro-corporate to a large extent, cozy with lobbyists, and lukewarm at best on energy/enviro issues,” that is absolutely true – and the result of the way we finance our elections and incumbents’ lust to stay in office for a lifetime.

    The corporate-dominated political system is very easy for Republicans. Their party philosophy is exactly that of the corporate elite. You are right on target in saying that it’s not up to progressives to bail on the party. The Democratic Party is our party. People who bail on the party, instead of fighting to change it, are doing exactly what the GOPers want…emasculating the opposition so that they don’t have to put forth effort to do so.    

  • I’m a Dem.  Live in NOVA.  I know issues.  I don’t mind jabbing the opposition to cut into messaging.  I can’t stand corporate sellouts.  I many elected officials get lazy once in their position.  I’m not sure Moran earned the leadership role.  Not sure legacy is a good thing in politics.  

    Plus.  I can out fish anyone in any one of those Republican strongholds.  Give me a rod, real and my tackle and I can hands down catch more bass than anyone.  I might be a NOVA resident but I’ve got Midwestern heartland outdoorsman roots.

    Right now, Bob McDonnell is getting a free pass.  He’s mistepping all over the place.  You would think VA Dems would be all over him like flies on shit but not a peep.  


  • pontoon

    don’t we need to work from the inside out?  I’ve not been involved in statewide politics for very long.  I’ve worked locally and in the 5th district.  It does seem to me that the establishment of the party lacks a vision for the future.  I don’t know how one goes about getting on the Congressional District Committees or on the Central Committee, but if we want progressive views heard and recognized within the DPVa,  should we not try to become a part of those committees?

  • KathyinBlacksburg

    I agree with the response from your friend (and with you –to a point). TRegarding your friend’s comment, I think the problem is precisely that Mark Warner, Brain Moran and the DPVA think the Democratic Party is not about issues.  And you are right, at least theoretically, that we should not give up.  You are also right that it is OUR party.  But here’s the thing:

    The party leaders don’t think so.  They think they can power broke whomever and we are to hand over our time and money.  (Hell, no we wont go.)  In Brian’s case, he doesn’t even pay lip service to Democratic principles any more, but rather lives his day life/job working for industries who are undoing the lives of the Middle class and the poor.  

    But since it is OUR party we are here to say to them: “damn straight it is about issues.”    They think they own the party and own us.  But they do not, though they own too many.  If for one election cycle we used our electoral muscle, we could demand that it is and should be and will be ALL about issues.  I isn’t just  a choice of sticking with a derailed train or not.  There is also the choice to get it back on track.

    And since it is about issues, we should demand an end to the public insults our own party so-called leaders heap on “progressives” mainly because we care about the issues. The hate and contempt is palpable.  We do what we do BECAUSE of issues, not because of them.  And that is true even when we personally like some of them.  They (Incl. Warner) are not so damned great that we should sell our souls to support them, even though they would rather support the likes of Saxby Chambliss and Tom Coburn than the people who got them into office and the rest of the citizens in the real, real America, who didn’t necessarily vote for them, but need their jobs back, their pension protected or their Social Security free from robbery-by-neoliberal-warfare, now turned against the people of these United States.  Instead he supports C-Streeters and bring-on-the-Rapture-ites/so-let’s-start-more-wars-head-cases.   It is time for the DPVA to get off the pot.  Are they with the people or not?  And if they are not, then to hell with them.  Their wishes notwithstanding, the DPVA is not a cult, based on the demand that we robotically support whomever and whatever it foists upon us.

    The fact is too that in the age of corporate “personhood” our money and effort mean little–unless we can unpack the contemptuous HAVA, which is designed to peel away legitimate voters in one slick, devious effort after another.  Fundamentally, we would be better off supporting only those who seriously have demonstrated an understanding of the essentialness of election reform…something Mark Warner cares not one fig about, mostly because the status quo gave us his great self.  

    Democrats should no longer be just the workhorses for party chieftains, with no say in who runs or who gets the institutional support.  (How fast can you say, they will hand us a convention each and every year from now on.  And if they don’t the GOP will say, “the state cannot afford it.  No primary for you.”

    I have not given up.  But I am closer than I have ever been.  Right now the Democratic Party needs to prove to us that it is still deserving of our support.  They are hanging by a thread.  And polls notwithstanding, they had better not take the people for granted this time. Yes, it is our party, but we’d better get it back from rich corporatists or we really are finished.  And time is running out.

  • kindler

    The truth is that, in a two party system, leaving your party amounts to little more than quitting.

    The great thing in the Internet Era is that we have so many more options to contribute and have influence, like blogging and grassroots groups like the Brigades.  And we can pick and choose which candidates we give our full support to. It’s not an all or nothing proposition nor should it be.  

  • hokieguru

    lol, yes, it appears Lowell took the Hokie Guru to political school 🙂  And unfollowed him in the process on Twitter… hope I didn’t tweet too much smh lol.

    Chances are likely that I remain in the fold (after all, one sleeps on their thoughts and realizes that most reasonable people have no choice but to stay Democrat given the state of the Virginia GOP ala McDonnell – Cooch – Allen), but you all can see my frustrations with the current Virginia Democratic leadership… Lowell captured that much better than my rant could.

  • Mike1987

    I don’t care about DPVA. Don’t know anyone who does. like before I will volunteer for my Congressman and state reps, to the best i can send in donations, donate to moveon and to hell with DNC. Hell, I was in Richmond not too long ago supporting unions. That was a kick

    I see nothing coming from Democratic establishments in a time of “plenty” lunatics. There is no overall Democratic message, National or State.

    Though the republicans seem to hate undigested and free human souls, at least they can focus their hatespeech whereas we Democrats talk and chat and in the end, get taken. I won’t leave the DPVA or DNC, I never joined as there is nothing there, nothing at all. It’s an empty room.

    And no I won’t run for office but I do support those that do (just not all).