by Paul Goldman
I see where the usual GOP fanatics are starting to call me “kooky” (for the sin of predicting a November Dem sweep). As Anne Hathaway said in her breakthrough role: “Is that your best pick-up line? Is that all you got?” Jake Gyllenhaal’s comeback a moment later is very funny, but I will let you see the movie.
It all reminds me of the lyric from a Billy Joel song: “You may be right, I may be crazy, but it just might be a lunatic that you’re looking for.” Let’s assume I am “kooky.” That should scare the GOP, since if I were on their ticket this year, I would be the least kooky of them all. Okay, maybe not the least, but surely not the most kooky. Close, but “no cigar,” as my father liked to say.
Indeed, if you know the history of VA politics, it is hardly a surprise that this is another gubernatorial election year and a rabid Republican hack is calling me “kooky.” The only surprise: the term was previously used by the conservative Democratic establishment. When I first got involved in VA politics, there weren’t too many folks with my accent and southern upbringing – southern New York, that is – who were allowed in the “Main House” of VA politics. When I stood up for women, African-Americans and indeed Northern Virginians, there weren’t a lot of people in my forward position, as they say in the military. Warner, Kaine, everyone was happy to let me have the “point,” as the saying goes. In World War II, the life span of a Lieutenant on the front lines was 12 days; less in Vietnam.
Things were such that when I once named an African American as deputy campaign manager, I was told it wasn’t done in Virginia. “He is the right guy for job” I said. They said, “we don’t do things this way in Virginia.” “Now we do,” I responded.
Indeed, I never took the title of campaign manager for Doug Wilder, because I figured a white Jewish guy with my accent had the wrong image. In hindsight, maybe we were kooky to think like that. The people were ready for change. President Obama said what we did inspired him. So maybe we didn’t quite appreciate what was really happening.
That was only a generation ago! So yeah, I am no doubt kooky, strange, whatever, coming to Virginia when Wilder was under attack from left and right, being called a sure loser, a disaster for the ticket. My first act: putting a gun to Dr. Sabato’s and the Dem establishment’s heads and threatening to shoot if they didn’t get their boot off my guy’s neck and give him a fair shot at being nominated. Kooky wasn’t the half of it. And yes; My confrontational approach was widely attacked from the left and the right, Democrat to Republican, editorials from conservative to liberal.
They said there was no need to be kooky. But with Justin Fairfax’s loss, I say this: Kooky as chronicled in the book, “When Hell Froze Over,” isn’t looking so kooky anymore. Wilder got 50% twice statewide, and he scared every other Democratic challenger and their conservative establishment backers to the sidelines. Since then, no African-American, indeed no non-white Virginian running for even a Democratic nomination, has been able to get 50% once, and that doesn’t include all those who decided against running. Wilder’s political strategy dared someone to challenge him in the Democratic party: and none did. Truth be known, we would have not gotten nominated in probably 1985 or 1989 if they had called our bluff.
Donald McEachin did manage to narrowly win a 4-way nomination race: he got less than 40% in the general election. I was Warner’s strategy guy at the time and wondered when Donald was going to put a gun to our heads. He didn’t do it.
So yes: it was monumentally “kooky” to do what we did a generation ago. But it worked. Truth is, we stood on the shoulders of giants. They get the credit. Hopefully we have proven a little worthy of what they did. We could have done better. But we did what we could do.
The 200-proof bottom line: There is good kooky and there is bad kooky. I just got through reading a book on how Hitler could have won WW 2. I enjoy reading strategy books. Truth is, this one not only made sense, apparently his generals saw it back in 1941-42, but Hitler rejected their ideas. Meaning: There is a way for Cuccinelli to win, and for Jackson to win, which would mean Obenshain would win. As Billy Joel pointed out “sometimes you feel like a nut, other times you don’t.” Oops, that was a slogan for one of the Mars Bar.
Advice to GOP (bad) kooks and fanatics: Calling me “kooky” is cool; personally I preferred the epithets from the 1980s, as they had a better historical content. But to paraphrase Anne Hathaway: if that is all you got, then that’s all you got.