Can T-Mac Motivate the New Democratic Majority?


    In both 2008 and 2012, Barack Obama won the presidency and Virginia because he cobbled together a new Democratic majority, one composed of young voters under 40; women, especially single women; Blacks; Hispanics; Asians; Jews…just about everybody except for white men, older married women, and evangelicals.

    I’m both heartened and worried about the emergence of that new majority, one that has the potential to rival the coalition FDR put together, a coalition that put in office political leaders who gave us the social safety net we have today. I’m heartened for the future, but I’m worried about the present, especially about state and local elections and the ability of Democrats to motivate those same voters to come to the polls in every election.

    Key is the fact that Obama voters twice gave him victory. In 2008 many in the GOP rationalized his win as coming from the disgust of voters with George W. Bush, and that may have been somewhat true. However, the 2012 victory was achieved by President Obama running on his own record, in a time of horrible economic hangover from the first financial panic since the Great Depression. That’s proof that Obama and his campaign leadership had the ability to appeal to the emerging Democratic majority I described and to set up the ground game to get out their vote.

    We have a critical election coming up next year in Virginia, one that simply cannot duplicate the disaster that occurred in 2009. Bob McDonnell in moderate drag was bad enough. (Never forget he turned into “Transvaginal Bob.”) Now, Ken Cuccinelli is trying to palm himself off as a mild-mannered middle-of-the-roader. We can’t allow him to succeed. We need candidates in 2013 who can appeal to the new Democratic voters and can motivate them to action. If the Democratic ticket is composed of three white men over the age of 50 who simply come across as the same-old, same-old politicians, what appeal will they have to those up to now, presidential-only voters?  

    The emerging Democratic majority is a diverse one, and some diversity on Democratic tickets could take advantage of that fact. I understand the difficulty of achieving that goal in a state that has elected so few women and minorities to political office. Diversity has been the exception, not the norm in Virginia.  Only one woman ever elected to Congress, only one woman ever elected to statewide office, only one Black statewide officeholder, and the first Hispanic ever elected to the General Assembly in 2012. Having said that, it would be refreshing to me if one of the three people on the Democratic ticket next year was not a white male. I won’t hold my breath.

    If Terry McAuliffe is to be our nominee for governor, he needs to understand just where his potential votes are and tailor his campaign to that inescapable fact. He will not win the majority of the white male vote in Virginia. President Obama didn’t, but Obama found the votes he needed elsewhere. McAuliffe must do the same thing.

    I would also suggest that T-Mac take a page out of the Doug Wilder-Paul Goldman playbook of 1989. Get yourself a pickup truck, Terry. Drive all over the state, stopping for interviews at local newspapers and television stations. Give people a chance to see who you are up close and personal. Talk less to people and listen more. Be brave enough to ask people what they are looking for in a governor and then tailor your campaign to meet their needs. Absolutely do NOT release a 40+-page report on your business plans for the Commonwealth. (I was probably one of the ten or so people who read it last time.) Go to Black churches, Hispanic neighborhoods, college campuses. Introduce yourself to Virginia. You have done that with activist Democrats. Now, comes the hard part – reaching the people.

    I’ll end on a different note. While pundits in the corporate media obsess about who the Republicans will run for president in 2016, I have my Democratic diversity “dream ticket”: Hillary Clinton for President and Julian Castro, mayor of San Antonio, for Vice President. Run, Hillary, run. Run, Julian, run.

    • kindler

      We have representatives of diverse communities starting to rise through the Democratic ranks, like Alfonso Lopez, Charniele Herring, Mark Keam and Walter Tejada (and Chap, who married into the Korean community).  

      Charniele ascending to DPVA leadership is a very positive sign — and an opportunity that we cannot afford to waste.  We need aggressive recruitment programs for members of minority communities, we need to give these folks every opportunity to move upwards in the party and…sorry, but we need some of the old codgers in the party to retire rather than clinging to power until they have one foot in the grave.    

      Dems need to learn to not just focus on the next election but to also think strategically and plan for the long game — this is just one piece of that puzzle.  

    • Elaine in Roanoke

      Back to T-Mac, there is little or no way that a diverse ticket will emerge in 2013. There is no way that Charniele Herring can turn the old fossil that is the DPVA around in time to help 2013. McAuliffe had better find a way to reach out to the people who only come out once every four years in the state, that is if he wants to win.

      About Charniele Herring, I was very pleasantly surprised to get a phone call from her last week, actually asking me how I  thought the party should change and evolve to be more effective. Wow! What a change from Dick “I am the Emperor” Cranwell and Brian “Don’t blame me. I’m a lobbist” Moran. God bless Charniele’s heart, she’s really good, too good for the DPVA, I’m afraid.

    • (although I got his announcement from a friend, not directly from Northam’s campaign, which is very odd…)

      I want to take this opportunity to thank you for your commitment to the Democratic principles that have led us to historic victories in Virginia.  We all have much to be thankful for as we enter the holiday season, but looking back on the last year, it is clear that we also have a great deal of work ahead of us.

      Reflecting on the lessons and consequences of the 2012 legislative session, it is evident that Republican control of the Virginia General Assembly has put our dearest values under attack.  While Virginians desperately needed their representatives to find solutions that would improve education, fix our broken transportation system, and help put people back to work, Republicans used their majority to launch an all-out assault on women, working families, and the LGBT community.

      As I spoke on the floor of the Virginia Senate to defend a most basic right of women – the right to control their own bodies and personal health – I was struck by how far Virginia’s government had strayed from its most fundamental mission of improving the lives of all Virginians. As a doctor, I have learned that I am supposed to heal, not harm; to lift people up, not keep them down.  With these lessons firmly in mind I am proud to announce my candidacy for the Democratic nomination for Lieutenant Governor of Virginia.

      Serving our nation as a Major in the US Army, serving families struggling with tragic illness as a pediatric neurologist, and serving as a voice for my community in the Virginia Senate – service has always been a centerpiece of my life.  Now Virginia stands at a crossroads and voters must decide which path our Commonwealth will follow.  With a deep respect for the values we have fought for, I enter this battle as a humble servant and with the knowledge that none of us can take on this challenge alone.  Because of your service leading our Party, I respectfully seek your counsel and ask for your support in the months to come.

      I look forward to seeing you soon and continuing this important conversation about Virginia’s future.  Please feel free to share your thoughts about how we can work together to promote Democratic values in Virginia.


      Senator Ralph Northam, MD

    • Elaine in Roanoke

      2008: 75% voter turnout; 2009: 40% voter turnout; 2010: 44% voter turnout; 2012: not official yet, but very close to 2008, around 70%. If there is a similar 40% voter turnout in 2013, the people who won’t show up are mainly Democratic voters. That’s our job, and it’s a tough one. Convince those missing presidential-election voters to vote to select the statewide ticket next year. If we do, Cooch loses. If not,……