The concept of Tragedy of the Commons – in which “individuals acting independently and rationally according to each’s self-interest behave contrary to the best interests of the whole group by depleting some common resource” – goes back at least to the early 1800s, but it remains more valid than ever today, including in Virginia politics. How so? Case in point: last night, I saw the 10th CD Democrats and others on Facebook touting the endorsements by the Washington Post (actually it’s just one guy, Lee Hockstader, who let’s just say has had an…uh, “interesting” history of endorsements in his career, while rarely if ever stepping foot in Virginia or taking time to learn about the candidates, issues, etc.).
For instance, in 2013, Hockstader/”The Post” endorsed a hodgepodge of Republicans (Dave Albo, Jim LeMunyon, Mark Dudenhefer, Tag Greason, etc.) and Democrats (Reed Heddleston, Jerry Foltz, Mary Costello Daniel, etc.), with no apparently logic – internal, external, or any other kind. The endorsements also had highly mixed results, with some winning but a lot also losing (e.g., Mark Dudenhefer, Atif Qarni, Jeremy McPike, Mary Daniel, Jerry Foltz, Reed Heddleston, John Bell). So, bottom line: Lee Hockstader’s/the “Post”‘s endorsements have had a mixed track record both in terms of explictable rationale and also in terms of wins/losses record.
So here’s the “tragedy of the commons” part: when Democrats receive the coveted Post/Hockstader endorsement, they normally tout it breathlessly with words like “honored,” “humbled,” “excited,” etc. Yet in doing that, which as “tragedy of the commons” theory would predict could arguably be in their own self interest (although the Post’s mediocre-at-best track record of picking winners calls that argument into question, big time), they are simultaneously: a) lending legitimacy to said endorsement — implying that it really matters, is important in some way, etc; and b) de facto “dissing” – and ultimately harming – all their fellow Democrats who did NOT receive said endorsement, because by lending legitimacy to the Hockstader/Post endorsements of themselves, it also lends legitimacy to the Hockstader/Post endorsements of Republicans like Dave Albo, Mark Dudenhefer, Tag Greason, etc. The point is, playing this game might make sense for individual Democratic candidates (although that’s dubious based on the Post’s mediocre-at-best track record of choosing winners), but it’s harmful in every other way.
Which brings us to 2015, and another round of Hockstader/Post endorsements – yet another incosistent, seemly illogical (both internally and externally) set that really makes zero sense if you look at them – but which I see is being touted by the Democrats so “honored” to receive them. Last night, for example, I saw a Democratic committee pushing out the latest Hockstader/Post endorsement on its Facebook page, even though that SAME ENDORSEMENT also picked Republicans against two of our candidates — “Tag” Greason over Elizabath Miller; “Danny” Vargas over Jennifer Boysko (!). Also note that Hockstader/the Post also picked Republican Mark Dudenhefer over Democrat Josh King two days ago.
What’s the message being sent out here by the Democratic Party? If it’s that’ voters should place great weight in the Hockstader/Post endorsements of Democrats, then are they arguing voters should also place great weight in the Hockstader/Post endorsements that don’t go our way? If not, why not? Is Lee Hockstader brilliant one minute, then a slobbering idiot the next, then briliant again, then a slobbering idiot again, or what?!? It makes no sense whatsoever logically, and politically I’d argue it’s classic “tragedy of the commons” behavior – PERHAPS benefitting individual Democrats (although even that is highly doubtful) while potentially damaging others. I mean, is there anyone in charge here? Anyone in the Democratic Party with an overall strategy of how to do deal with these endorsements? Or is it simply every man/woman for his/herself? If the latter, that’s a huge mistake, but sadly that’s what I’ve observed over and over and over again for years now. And where’s it gotten us? Other than getting wiped out in the Virginia General Assmebly, that is? Hmmmm.
By the way, this “tragedy of the commons” behavior by Democrats isn’t limited to the Post/Hockstader, as I see it all the time with local, right-wing rags, which are likewise given utterly undesreved legitimacy for their endorsements of individual Democrats. That legitimacy is then turned right around to endorse Republicans. Brilliant move, “Blue Team!” Seriously, though, the question is, when are Democrats going to collectively decide that it just ain’t worth it? Or are we going to keep playing this “tragedy of the commons”/”mug’s game” forever? Right now, sad to say, it seems like the latter. #FAIL