Anger at Doug Wilder Cost VA Democrats a Golden Opportunity

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    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 This is a debate about a law from a Democratic Governor being repealed by Republicans.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.