Anger at Doug Wilder Cost VA Democrats a Golden Opportunity


    by Paul Goldman

    The new Virginia poll, which finds that “Virginia voters, by wide margins, want to retain the state’s landmark one-handgun-a-month law,” underlines a major mistake being made by Virginia Democrats in high places: namely, they are letting their anger – my word – with Doug Wilder cloud their judgment on this issue.

    One-handgun-a-month was a signature achievement of Doug Wilder as Governor. In turn, the failure of Creigh Deeds to support the law led to Wilder not supporting Deeds for Governor, as the Senator had pledged to sign a repeal.

    It turns out Mr. Deeds was way wrong on the issue, according to the voters. And Democrats are also way wrong not to figure out a way to work with Wilder to highlight this issue.

    Which raises a broader question, whether Democrats are being far too timid in their opposition to the GOP now in control of the State Senate. It also raises the question of whether Democrats can afford to go to a convention system, as opposed to having another primary, to select their 2013 statewide candidates.  

    But these latter questions can wait. Let’s focus on the Wilder issue first. The former Governor has been critical of Virginia Democrats, no question. So what?  It is not, or should not be, about him, but rather about issues and getting elected (one would hope). On this issue, the polls say that Wilder has the upper hand with public opinion. As long as I have known him, he has never been reluctant to leverage that type of support to put the hit on opponents.

    Perhaps he would not have been interested this time.  But I doubt it, since Richard Cullen, a former GOP AG, spoke out against eliminating one gun a month. Bottom line: This was a huge missed opportunity in terms of the 2013 chess board. Indeed, it could have helped Tim Kaine in 2012.  

    This isn’t about Doug Wilder, it is about something bigger. This is a debate about a law from a Democratic Governor being repealed by Republicans. What else do you need in politics to make a good fight over the right position?

    Earth to Democrats: You are the minority party in Virginia. Mark Warner can afford to be angry at you if he wants. But the rest of us have to follow different rules.  

    • FreeDem

      There are too many Virginia Democrats who believe this issue is polarizing for the rural constituencies that they think are the majority-makers in the Commonwealth. They’ve forgotten where the majority of Virginians really live, their values, and what they want from the Commonwealth.

    • pontoon

      “There are almost no real rural Democrats left.”  I spent the last hour going through the election results from the 2008 Presidential election.  The Obama/Biden ticket won in Virginia by 234,527 votes.  I then looked at vote totals for only those counties with less than 12,000 votes cast.  Of those 47 counties, 11 voted for the Obama/Biden ticket with another 4 keeping the race close…within 200 votes of the McCain/Palin ticket. Total “non-real” dem votes for Obama/Biden were 144,229…an increase of Democratic voter turnout of almost 20% over the 120,813 Dem votes cast in those same localities in 2004.  That 144,229 figure is more than half of what Obama/Biden won by across the state.

      No, rural Dems don’t have large numbers…that’s why we’re called rural because fewer people live here.  In the 2004 election, Nelson carried the Dem candidates Kerry/Edwards by a measly 4 votes.  In a much more difficult 2008 election Nelson carried the Obama/Biden ticket by 744 votes.

      This didn’t just happen because we were twiddling our thumbs in rural Virginia.  We were knocking doors, phone banking every night, and registering voters just like our urban and suburban counterparts in much more difficult conditions to do so.  We have to drive to canvass.  We don’t just pull up in a neighborhood and start walking from one house to the next.  Perhaps the few “real rural Dems” who are left don’t need to bust our butts anymore because it seems obvious that the work we do is of little value to the rest of the state.