Home 2013 races Will Bishop Jackson Still be the LG Nominee in November?

Will Bishop Jackson Still be the LG Nominee in November?

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(Key lines: “He isn’t remotely qualified to be Governor of Virginia. NOT IN THE LEAST. He will be seen as not qualified to be Lt. Governor either, the biggest part of that job being ready to take over as Governor if need be…It is hard to believe a major party could nominate someone who by performance is unqualified to be Lt. Governor. You really have to work hard at finding such a nominee. But the GOP managed to do it.” – promoted by lowkell)

by Paul Goldman

Give it time: But just wait for the eventual reaction to Action Jackson, aka Bishop Jackson, who managed to pull the biggest sting operation since Newman and Redford in winning the Virginia GOP nomination for LG. According to Aristotle it was possible, although perhaps not according to Sir Isaac Newton.

Like I say: Just wait, Bishop Jackson’s nomination will eventually be proof, one way or the other, as to whether Newton’s laws of Motion apply to politics. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

SO FIRST: The Action. On paper, Bishop E. W. Jackson Sr. seems too good to be true in terms of a political resume for the post of Lt. Governor, a job with less responsibility than the president of the 6th grade class at your local elementary school. What a resume it is: A former Marine, Phi Beta Kappa at U Mass in Boston, Harvard Law graduate, Deputy Commissioner of Banks for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Executive Director of a community group in West Milford, law professor at Northeastern Univ., an ordained minister, a Chaplain for the Boston Fire Department, nationally syndicated talk show host, author of the book “Ten Commandments To An Extraordinary Life”, founder of his own ministry, organizer of non-profit groups working to fight gangs and help needy youth, a trustee of the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce, the list is endless.

Bishop Jackson is now the “it guy” of VA GOP conservatism. Ken Cuccinelli is already “old hat” with GOP conservatives. As in BORING! This is clear from the AG’s speech. A younger Cuccinelli would have known how to use the IRS scandal to bring the convention hall to its feet. The IRS scandal is a golden political quip maker for any conservative GOP candidate. But the AG has become, in his own mind, too serious a guy to be anything but serious. His campaign is thus devoid of real energy, just the energy from the past. BORING!

Obenshain, holder of the most storied name in all of VA GOP land, has likewise now been reduced to establishment conservative…BORING BORING!

Enter then, Action Jackson – the Bishop on the edge, the guy who studies law, teaches religion, but is at his best being Charlie Sheen, aka the psychotherapist in the unfunny TV show “Anger Management.” The GOP conservatives are angry: big time angry. The Bishop gets it. They don’t want Tony Soprano’s shrink. They don’t want Billy Crystal, they don’t want Adam Sandler or Jack Nicholson. Forget Oprah, Dr. Phil, Freud and the rest.

The GOP isn’t interested in anger management: that misses the point. The GOP wants anger “channeling”, they want someone to take their anger and use it to bash all those the GOP is angry at. Bishop Jackson figured that out a few years ago. He has been working at figuring out how to channel that anger to his benefit. This is America, he is a free enterprise Bishop.

As someone who enjoys playing the game, I congratulate him. His strategy in recent years has been brilliant. I never thought the GOP would fall for it to the extent they just did yesterday. Bishop Jackson has mastered the art of the illusion: as Houdini pointed out, it is not about what you do, it is about what your audience sees. Politics is mostly perception,  hopefully everyone knows this by now.

But there are different levels of perception, meaning sooner or later, the substance of who you are catches up with the perception you try to create. “The truth crushed to Earth will rise” kind of thing. “He can run but he can’t hide” famously remarked Joe Louis.Action Jackson is a great image, but not the real Bishop Jackson in the end.  

When you run in a convention process, the delegates learn little about your actual record. The nature of the process doesn’t require much explanation of what you did prior to seeking the nomination. Indeed, with an underdog like Bishop Jackson, few delegates gave him a lot of thought until late in the delegate selection process. Moreover, the nature of the process doesn’t really require a candidate to do a lot of debating with opponents, or provide a lot of detail on much of anything. It is an insider process, out of sight of the public and the press for the most part.

When you run in a nomination primary process, the press is required to cover it, and so they naturally have to fill a certain amount of column inches. There tend also to be debates, issuance of position papers, press conferences, and the like. Not exactly an MRI of one’s heart and soul and politics, but at least a candidate has to provide some ideas, some background, some history of performance, and the like of interest at least to those covering the campaign, to the opponents looking for weak spots, and the voters who have to make a choice.

In the modern era, the primary process for LG has produced nominees Chuck Robb, Tim Kaine, John Hager, Leslie Byrne and Jody Wagner. The first two went on to be Governor. Mr. Hager was a former GOP chairman and served in Governor Warner’s cabinet. Ms. Byrne was the state’s first female member of Congress, and Ms. Wagner served in top financial positions to Warner and Governor Kaine. They all had public records and their ability to govern, if called upon to be Governor, was not in doubt.

Whether you agreed with their politics and resumes was not the issue: they all had passed the test to run for LG on their own. BY PREVIOUS PERFORMANCE. The primary process made sure of this. Perception still ruled, but it was tempered to a large degree by actual performance.

By contrast, the convention process – used by the GOP except in 1997 and by the Democrats in 1971 for a special LG election and then between 1981 and 1997 for regularly scheduled elections – has hit a few bumps in the political road when it comes to nominating LGs. In 1971, the delegates to the Dem convention to pick an LG nominee for a special election (incumbent LG “Sarge” Reynolds had died after a struggle with brain cancer) – rejected the clear choice of the rank-and-file voters. They refused to nominate Norfolk Senator Henry E. Howell. In turn, Howell bolted the party, ran as an independent against the Dem and GOP nominee, winning a huge upset although with only 40% of the vote.

In 1977, the GOP convention nominated Virginia Beach Senator Joe Canada, who decided to turn the LG election into a referendum on the Panama Canal! Needless to say, he lost a race that he probably could have won given the GOP landslide win that year for Governor.

In 1981, the GOP nominated a little-known State Senator from the Shenandoah Valley area. It quickly turned out the delegates had not done their homework, as this Senator was soon DOA due to a conflict of interest scandal that would have been exposed in a primary process. He got crushed.

In 1985, the choice of the GOP grassroots was rejected by party leaders who didn’t much like the him. With Democrats having nominated Doug Wilder, the GOP high command figured any Republican who was breathing on election day was a sure winner. So they picked former Democrat turned Republican John Chichester, a Senator from the Fredericksburg area, to be the nominee. He turned out to be a dreadful candidate, losing a 20-point lead in an historic upset.

In 1993, the GOP convention nominated NOVA lawyer Mike Farris, another grassroots conservative favorite with what seemed a good political resume on paper: lawyer, family man, a leader on education issues, a national speaker on conservative causes, the usual thing that tends to wow delegates but not voters. He lost the general election, despite a big GOP landslide that would surely have carried most other potential LG nominees to victory.

All these folks won the LG nomination because perception had not yet caught up their reality. When it did, they all got defeated handily. They were not want they seemed.

Now comes 2013.

Bishop Jackson COULDN’T WIN A PRIMARY NOMINATION FOR LG. As they say in Texas, he is “all hat and no cowboy.” When the public learns of his performance – the videos, speeches, books, pamphlets, how his organizations are run, the finances, the Bishop Jackson, not the myth the VA GOP was so eager to buy they were too negligent to uncover – it will all boil down to one thing. He isn’t remotely qualified to be Governor of Virginia. NOT IN THE LEAST. He will be seen as not qualified to be Lt. Governor either, the biggest part of that job being ready to take over as Governor if need be.

Legally speaking, the GOP has until sometime in September to replace him on the ballot with another nominee for LG. All that being said, Bishop Jackson had the ability to win the nomination in a huge upset. So he can’t be counted out; he is a threat to win in November. But in terms of practical politics: if the VA Democrats lose to this guy, then it will mean a GOP sweep in November, and the necessity for the party leadership to resign in mass, join the Peace Corps, and agree to never to venture into the Commonwealth again. EVER.  

It is hard to believe a major party could nominate someone who by performance is unqualified to be Lt. Governor. You really have to work hard at finding such a nominee. But the GOP managed to do it.

It now seems more inevitable than ever that the issue of same sex marriage is going to be very big in 2013. It is difficult to believe  any major party anywhere in the 50 states will nominate for LG someone as actively opposed to same-sex marriage as Bishop Jackson. Depending on the Supreme Court decision expected next month on marriage issues, Virginia could easily become ground zero in the same-sex marriage debate.

Could Bishop Jackson ride that issue to victory in November? First, he has to be on the ballot. There is a lot the GOP didn’t know about Bishop Jackson. Let’s first see what happens as his proven performance becomes more important than his resume.