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Apologies to Matt Stoller. You Were Right About Mark Warner; I Should Have Listened.

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Back in September 2007, after gearing up (and then quickly shutting down) a presidential campaign, former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner opted instead to run for U.S. Senate following Senator John Warner’s retirement announcement. At the time, most Virginia Democrats (myself included) loved Mark Warner and were excited about his candidacy, in large part because we figured he was a shoo-in to win the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by John Warner.

In addition, Mark Warner had generally been a strong governor from a progressive perspective, for example vetoing repeal of Virginia’s estate tax and signing an executive order (albeit when he was on the way out the door, in December 2005) protecting gays from discrimination in state hiring. So, when people like me saw national progressive blogger Matt Stoller attacking Mark Warner for his “disgusting Lieberman-esque [campaign announcement]” video,” as well as for being a “centrist, not a partisan,” we were offended. In response, I went after Stoller, writing what is in hindsight a cringe-inducingly rah-rah post defending Mark Warner’s honor. Barf.

Well, now, seven years later, I’m read to come groveling to Matt Stoller with profuse apologies. Let me state it as bluntly as possible. Matt, you were right and I was an idiot: Mark Warner turned out to be everything you were worried he’d be, and worse. A few examples.

*Today’s disgraceful vote for the Keystone XL Canadian tar sands export pipeline, which is utterly inexcusable any way you want to look at it.

*Warner’s long history of pandering to coal, including his appalling speech to a coal “astroturf” rally on the Mall, at which he declared (among other idiocies), “we outta have this driven by the market not by government policy.” My god, as if the government hasn’t been subsidizing coal and letting that industry get away with murder for decades now?!?

*Warner’s constant “dissing” of his progressive and environmentalist “base,” something you’d never see a Republican do to his or her “base,” yet which Warner appears to take glee in doing as a key part of his “schtick” as a “radical centrist” (whatever the heck THAT means).

*Warner’s miserable Progressive Punch rating — #47 out of 100 in the Senate, less progressive than all other Democrats other than conservadems Joe Manchin, Mary Landrieu (on her way out the door), Mark Pryor (ditto), Kay Hagan (ditto), Claire McCaskill, Joe Donnelly and Tom Carper.

*Warner’s obsessive focus on the debt, rather than on job creation, infrastructure investment, and income inequality.

*Warner’s incessant false equivalencies, “both sides” nonsense, Republican “framing,” all of which are very damaging to the Democratic “brand.”

*Warner’s blind obedience to the NRA. As teacherken wrote in April 2013: “Mark Warner voted against the assault weapons ban. Mark Warner voted against limiting the size of magazines…It matters not to me whether Mark Warner believes the baloney of the gun lobby or merely lacks the guts to stand up for what is right.  What is right is to stop the slaughter. If you are unwilling to step up to that, I am unwilling to offer you my support, my money or my vote.”

Now, in fairness, Warner DID vote for the Affordable Care Act. But, of course there’s always a caveat with this guy. In this case, not only did Warner oppose a public option, but he did so for the wildly false reason that “it could prove a budget-buster.” In fact, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, “Creating a public option that all Americans could choose would save $68 billion through 2020.” That’s right, SAVE $68 billion, yet the guy who is obsessed with the budget deficit opposed it anyway? It makes no sense whatsoever, just as Warner’s support for Keystone XL – a project that would create the whopping total of fifty (50) permanent jobs, none of which would be in Virginia, while encouraging development of the environment-destroying Canadian tar sands. Brilliant.

Bottom line: If Tom Perriello, Bobby Scott, or any other serious, strong progressive chooses to primary Mark Warner in 6 years, I will support that person wholeheartedly. I also, of course, would never support Warner for President or Vice President. It’s not as if Warner’s “radical centrism” b.s. guarantees him reelection anymore anyway, as Ed Gillespie’s near upset victory a few weeks ago demonstrated. So why put up with Warner’s Republican Lite garbage anymore? I just wish I had realized this back in 2007, instead of attacking Matt Stoller for hitting the nail on the head. Live and learn, I guess.

  • brown before green

    I didn’t give to Warner ’14.  I would give to many D’s who’d oppose him.

  • ir003436

    Agree with everything you said.

    We’re stuck with Senator 1% for six years and there’s always the chance he won’t run then.  If so, he should be primaried and sent packing.

    In my phone call to his offices (Richmond and DC) today, I told his staff I will not vote for him if he votes for the pipeline; told them he needs to stop trying to be Republican Lite, man up, and act like a Democrat.

  • hrprogressive

    To start laying the groundwork for a challenger to him is right now.

    At this point, what would be the real, tactical difference between 6 years of Mark Warner (D[oofus]-VA) or Ed Gillespie (R-VA)?

    Warner’s support of KXL is mind-boggling if looked at through any lens other than the one where Mark Warner does whatever Mark Warner wants to because F#^$% the rest of you, look at me, fake “centrism” that “stupid” (heh) voters eat up because they’re stupid (heh).

    I refuse to vote for Mark Warner again. 2020 will be a Presidential year, and Virginia deserves someone better than him.

  • Warner was dealt a very harsh lesson two weeks ago. He can no longer rely on the voters of SW Virginia to deliver for him like they did in 2001 and 2008. He needs to do more to cater to the base that’s in Northern Virginia, because that’s where his winning margin lies.

    But now he has been re-elected and while I absolutely cannot defend his vote in favor of the Keystone XL pipeline, he has six more years to show that he deserves our support. Again, I’m not defending the Keystone vote, but if Warner’s learned anything from this election, it’s that he needs to align himself to a more progressive tune. Yesterday’s vote was not a good start, but we’ll have to wait and see what happens over his second term.

    Also, I really think you’re going to have a tough time finding anyone reputable who would actually challenge Mark Warner in a Democratic primary. Warner has too much establishment support and capital behind him and, let’s face it, this is just something that Democrats don’t really do well.  

  • Mutatis Mutantis

    Senator Warner trapped himself with that goof-ball gang of six or was it gang of eight “we got it right, everyone else is wrong” rhetoric when he first entered the senate. Where was he in the 2014 election? Apparently awol, steering his ship to calm waters where issues don’t matter. My support is not worth three words from his mouth but I’m never again offering three words of my own in support of him.