Home Virginia Politics What I’ll Remember Most About the 2011 Elections

What I’ll Remember Most About the 2011 Elections


At this morning, Virginia Democrats do not hold a single Virginia executive office, they’re a small minority in the House of Delegates, and now they have (barring recount) lost control of the State Senate. Former Arlington County Democratic Committee Chair Peter Rousselot has written a devastating postmortem that I can’t recommend enough and encourage you to read in full if you haven’t already.

As for me, what I’ll remember most about the 2011 election cycle is this ad from House Minority Leader Ward Armstrong trashing just about everything Democrats believe in. The leader of House Democrats – as chosen by his fellow House Democrats – distances himself from President Obama, a woman’s right to choose, reasonable gun safety regulations, and limits on air pollution – all in one ad.

I understand the need to emphasize different issues and rely on different messaging in different parts of the state. But if you try to run away from the leader of your party and everything your party believes in, not only are you hurting your own team, voters don’t buy it. A friend pointed me to this quote from Harry Truman:

I’ve seen it happen time after time. When the Democratic candidate allows himself to be put on the defensive and starts apologizing for the New Deal and the fair Deal, and says he really doesn’t believe in them, he is sure to lose. The people don’t want a phony Democrat. If it’s a choice between a genuine Republican, and a Republican in Democratic clothing, the people will choose the genuine article, every time; that is, they will take a Republican before they will a phony Democrat, and I don’t want any phony Democratic candidates in this campaign.

Just as Harry predicted, Ward Armstrong lost anyway. And just as former Rep. Glenn Nye did last year, Armstrong managed to not just lose, but hurt the party he was supposed to be leading in the process, making Democrats look like a bunch of gutless phonies who’d throw a friend under the bus in a second if a consultant told them it might help their chances of getting re-elected.

  • Teddy Goodson

    Haven’t we heard way too much from those consultants, who are so mired in the Conventional Wisdom of the punditocracy that they cannot disinguish just what a real Democrat stands for—- they come up with crap like “America is center right,” and “you have to run to the right to win elections,” and “labor is worthless, the grassroots are ‘professional leftists’ and know-nothings, whereas only we insiders know best…”

    That’s what Obama’s inside-the-bubble White House team came up with after the 2010 elections, when he went off to Asia on a diplomatic tour and left the consultants behind to figure out what had gone wrong in those 2010 elections. That decision led to endless cave-ins on the deficit negotiations, yet more Republican obstructionism, and Obama’s continuing plummet in the polls. Good advice, consultants. Therefore, ‘Goodbye, consultants’ and ‘hello, Grassroots’ (don’t I wish).  

  • Bumble Bee

    When Ward Armstrong ran away from Obama, our President and the leader of our party, he lost any right to call himself a Democrat and I for one will not miss him. When are we Democrats going to learn to hang together and if we see a tough time coming go down swinging for the values of our party? If we don’t we will have our ass handed to us every time.