The crowd of Democrats competing for Jim Moran’s House seat is growing faster than a herd of rabbits in spring. Now up to eight, it may well, like the legendary stereo in the movie Spinal Tap, “go to eleven.”
I see this as a good sign. This field is a rainbow of talent, experience and diversity, a remarkable crew to see running in the former cradle of the Confederacy, as described by the Washington Post’s Ben Pershing:
[A] half-dozen elected officials, three African Americans, two Latinos, a talk-show host, an openly gay state senator and a car dealer who last was on a ballot 17 years ago.
Okay, so maybe that sounds like the start of a bad joke that John Whitbeck would tell to warm up a Tea Party crowd. But in a Democratic district like the 8th, it’s a real opportunity to elect a new face with new ideas and experiences to represent NoVA in Congress — an exciting prospect.
I can think of only one thing that could go wrong here — and that’s if the Dems in this very competitive field take the opportunity to tear each other to pieces. Doing so may not cost us this seat in a very Democratic district, but it could create scars that would hurt us in other ways — and perhaps linger.
Virginia Dems conducted our own version of the Hunger Games just four years ago, when Terry McAuliffe and Brian Moran — and their supporters, including some of us bloggers — beat each other up enough to let Creigh Deeds snatch the gubernatorial nomination away from both of them — with enough D blood left on the stage to let Bob McDonnell then beat Deeds by a whopping 17 points.
That’s all water under the bridge now, with McAuliffe in the governor’s mansion, Moran in his cabinet and Deeds in our hearts after his awful family tragedy. But history repeats itself if we fail to learn its lessons. And the lesson of 2009 was clear: we need to remember who we’re in politics to fight — and it ain’t each other.
Back in the days before the Tea Party turned the GOP in a very different direction, Ronald Reagan used to proclaim what was called “The Eleventh Commandment”: “Thou shalt not speak ill of a fellow Republican.” I’d like to see the candidates for Moran’s seat take a similar pledge — to play well in the sandbox with all of their fellow Dems.
To me, this does not mean that any of the candidates need to refrain from pointing out if they have more experience or better policies or a better legislative record or a more progressive platform than their opponents. Everyone’s record is fair game.
Rather, what I see as important is that the candidates treat one another as playing on the same team, and worthy of respect. They can certainly criticize each other to clarify the choice the 8th District has to make, and we on the sidelines can and should do the same — but with sufficient restraint to avoid burning bridges that we will need to have in place once this race is over.
Democrats are on a roll, and we’ve got a great sandbox to play in. So let’s keep it clean — sure, go ahead and throw some punches, just keep ’em all above the belt.