For those of you who are regular Blue Virginia readers, you know that we’re huge fans of State Senator Donald McEachin (D), one of the most progressive and pro-environmental Democrats in Virginia. And no, saying that he’s one of the most progressive and pro-environmental Dems in Virginia is not meant as a backhanded compliment, as McEachin gets top scores on a woman’s right to choose, LGBT equality, the environment, gun safety (in this case, he gets “F”s and “zeroes” from the pro-gun groups, which is exactly what we’d want to see) and organized labor.
Sen. McEachin hasn’t just voted the right way, though; he’s been a leader, both as Democratic Caucus Chair and on a whole host of issues — fighting for the Virginia Alternative Energy & Coastal Protection Act, fighting back against Republican assaults on voting rights, and fighting off Ken Cuccinelli’s assaults on academic freedom. And yes, although many of us have had it with Jim Webb at this point, Donald McEachin played a crucial and much-appreciated role in helping Webb’s “ragtag army” defeat the supposedly unbeatable George Allen in 2006, taking back Democratic control of the US Senate in the process. For all of that, I say “thank you” to Donald McEachin.
Anyway, I had a chance to chat with Sen. McEachin this afternoon about his run for Congress in the newly-reconfigured 4th District. Here are some highlights.
- While redistricting is not a 100% done deal, it’s looking almost certain that the Supreme Court will “decide against Va. Republicans in redistricting fight” in the “packing” of the 3rd CD. McEachin feels very confident about this.
- What are the main priorities for the 4th CD? McEachin says this is a “great district, folks are concerned about gun safety, they’re concerned about the environment…how we take care of our veterans — of course my dad was a veteran — and I’m awfully concerned about how we take care of them once they come home and as they get older.” McEachin added, “all the typical progressive issues resonate in this district.”
- In terms of his focus in Congress, McEachin says environmental protection is “the most critical area we need to work on, moving this country towards alternative energy, making sure that we’re really taking care of this wonderful gift we have that we call earth and pass that on to the next generation…creation care.”
- McEachin says that people in the 4th CD are “very concerned about gun safety…I would guess that’s probably THE #1 issue…but that doesn’t mean they don’t care about civil rights…LGBT rights…the environment, all those things.”
- McEachin said one of the great things about going to Congress will be the ability to “really get down into the weeds of things,” whereas in the part-time Virginia General Assembly, it’s more at the “surface level.”
- On foreign policy, McEachin said his “world is shaped by being an army brat,”that he remembers the fear of his father going to Vietnam, and so “I will be very hesitant to use military force unless American interests are directly implicated.”
- McEachin added that he’s “mighty proud of Tim Kaine and what he’s doing, and I’d like to help out in the House if I could, in trying to get the Congress to go on record for some of this stuff. Because he’s absolutely right, Congress has the best of both worlds — they get to criticize the president on how he conducts [his foreign policy] and they wimp out on voting one way or the other on the use of military force.”
- Overall, McEachin believes that President Obama has done a good job on foreign policy and says he would have been supportive of Obama’s foreign policy if he’d been in Congress.
- One area where McEachin says he differs somewhat from President Obama is on the Trans-Pacific Partnership specifically, and “free trade” generally. In McEachin’s view, “these free trade deals are hurting our country, are hurting the American worker, and that’s because we’re trading with people who don’t necessarily share our values” on the environment, human rights, working conditions, etc. For those reasons, McEachin is “more interested in fair trade, which would take those things into account,” and would work to move our trading partners in that direction.
- I asked McEachin what he thought about his colleague, Sen. Dick Black (far-right R), going to Syria to express his support for the dictator of that country, Bashar Assad. In McEachin’s view, “State Senators have no business injecting themselves into foreign policy; I’ve always thought that Dick Black was a bit odd, and I think this underscores it, the fact that he could go to Syria and support a dictator who has committed genocide against his own people is beyond my imagination.”
- I asked McEachin about the nomination of Donald Trump by the Republicans and how that came about. According to McEachin, this is the “last dying gasp…of that group of people who are losing control of politics…economically, and don’t know how to react to it, don’t know how to get along with the rest of us…[Trump] has channeled that ugliness and that desperation of that particular segment of the population…I’m looking forward to the fall campaign, the person who will probably be my opponent has already embraced Donald Trump, and I think Hillary’s going to do an outstanding job of refuting him, and I think all of us should. I’ve been encouraged by the Republicans I’ve already seen who are rejecting him and saying #ImWithHer.”
- More from McEachin on Trump’s nomination: “I think it’s an awesome opportunity for the country to rise up and say this is what we’re about…we’re not about hatred, we’re not about locking up a whole group of people just because of how they worship god, we’re not about demonizing a whole group of people just because of their national origin…or who they choose to love.”
- I asked McEachin how much responsibility he feels the Republican Party bears for the rise of Trump, including decades of appealing to racists and dividing people. According to McEachin, “it’s all about finding a group to demonize and then blaming all your problems on that group,” and Republicans “have been doing that for years and this is what it comes to.” More broadly, Trump is the “logical extension of where Republicans have been going all these many years,” definitely not an aberration.
- I asked McEachin whether he thought the Democratic Party bore any part of the blame for the rise of Trump, a la the critique of Thomas Frank (and to an extent Bernie Sanders) that Democrats supposedly have moved away from a focus on the working class and towards the “wealthy elite.” McEachin said, “I don’t buy that, the reality is that we represent a whole bunch of working class people…blue-collar people all over the board.” McEachin believes a lot of the dissatisfaction has to do with income inequality and the need to raise wages, that the recovery is still not fully reaching the grassroots. And, McEachin added, he’s very much an “Elizabeth Warren Democrat” economically.
- Finally, McEachin said he’s a faithful reader of Blue Virginia, adding (jokingly, I’m pretty sure), that “when the news isn’t up by 7 am, I’m sort of pissed at you.” I kidded him that I thought he’d be worried about me, not pissed at me, if the daily news clips didn’t show up on schedule. LOL
The bottom line for me, again, is that I’ve supported Donald McEachin strongly since 2007, when he ran against (and defeated) George Allen-endorsing “Democrat” Benjamin Lambert, and I’ll most certainly be supporting this progressive and environmental champion as he runs for Congress this year. Go Donald!