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.