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Should Progressives Support Glenn Nye’s Reelection?


Should progressives support Rep. Glenn Nye’s reelection in the 2nd Congressional District of Virginia? That’s a question I’ve been thinking a lot about the past few months. Before I begin, let me just be clear that I’m not a Glenn Nye fan. At all. Having said that, however, I’m completely not a fan of Republican nominee and used car salesman Scott Rigell. No thanks. Finally, as far as I can determine, independent Kenny Golden is a non-factor in this race. So, in the end it comes down to three realistic options for progressives: 1) actively oppose Glenn Nye’s reelection, but without any reasonable alternative to vote for; 2) neither actively support nor actively oppose Nye, just sit on our hands and let god sort it all out (as the saying goes); or 3) hold our noses, suck it up, take one for the team (add your own cliche here), and do what we can for Nye despite the fact that he’s been utterly abysmal from a progressive point of view.

With that, here are the main arguments I’ve heard other people make, and which I’ve come up with myself, for and against progressives supporting Glenn Nye’s reelection.


1. If we don’t reelect Glenn Nye, we’ll be stuck with Scott Rigell indefinitely/forever, the Democratic Party in the 2nd CD will be in ruins, famine and pestilence will descend upon the area.  Well, you get the picture!

2. Scott Rigell is basically Ken Cuccinelli in a district that is the home of Pat Robertson and Regent University, has the most military people in the country, has zero Democrats on the 11 member Virginia Beach city council, where progressives should be grateful to have ANY Democrats at all, even a Glenn Nye “Democrat.”  

3. Control of Congress could hinge on this race, and we certainly don’t want Speaker BONE-r and Majority Leader Can’tor!

4. The chance to replace Nye was last spring, but nobody primaried him for the Democratic nomination. At this point, it sucks but we’re stuck with the guy.

5. Nye’s not ideal, but he does vote with the Democrats 82.7% of the time. On the other hand, 82.7% makes Nye the 6th “worst” Democrat in the House in terms of party loyalty, so maybe that’s actually a reason for progressives not to support Nye.


1. See point #5 above.

2. Also, see Progressive Punch, which has Nye as the 4th worst Democrat in the House of Representatives in terms of his progressive “score.” That, of course, includes votes and positions against almost everything we care about, including health reform, clean energy and climate legislation, and now the Bush tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires. Blech.

3. Nye’s horrible progressive score looks even worse when you consider the fact that his district is a swing district (Kaine won it, Obama won it, Warner won it). The three Democrats ranking below Nye in terms of their progressive score are all in “Strong Rep” districts. So Nye has no excuse, at least no good one, for his anti-progressive voting record. In sum, Nye is the worst Democrat in the House of Representatives in terms of his progressive score relative to his district’s partisan lean. Double blech.

4. Nye didn’t just vote the wrong way, now he’s running a campaign that actively attacks Democratic and progressive ideals, leadership, and legislation (e.g., health care, cap and trade, the economic recovery package). In doing so, he’s harming the long-term Democratic “brand,” as well as undercutting Democrats like Tom Perriello who took courageous votes to help move this country forward. That’s not acceptable.

5. If progressives let Nye get away with voting and running a campaign the way he has, and if he wins, the lesson to be learned will be that moving “right” and dissing/ignoring progressives works. That’s not acceptable either.

So, those are the main arguments I’ve been hearing. For a few more thoughts, see after the “fold.”

First, regarding the argument that if Rigell wins he’ll be in there forever and Democrats will be devastated, the counterargument is as follows. In 2012, Barack Obama most likely will win reelection as president, probably winning the 2nd CD of Virginia in the process. On the same ballot, Jim Webb very likely will win the 2nd CD (over “Sideshow Bob” Marshall or “Felix Macacawitz”) as well. In that scenario, the only way Scott Rigell wins reelection is if a few percentage points worth of Obama/Webb voters split their tickets and vote for Rigell. That’s hard to believe, especially given my understanding that no Republican Congressional candidate has outperformed their statewide ticket in the history of the 2nd CD.

Second, as far as the fear that the race in Virginia’s 2nd CD will determine control of Congress, the mathematical probability of exactly that happening is extremely slim. It would require exactly 38 net Republican pickups in other districts and a loss by Nye in the 2nd CD to flip the House to Republican control. That’s almost certainly not going to happen. Plus, even if it does, how stable would Democratic control of the House be? Would any “Blue Dogs” flip to the Republican Party? Who knows, but it’s barely even worth talking about this entire scenario, the chances of it actually happening are so miniscule.

Third, there are much better odds on Nye serving for many years, taking many key votes that are very very close, and Nye continuing to the “wrong” way. By re-electing Nye after what we know now, are we giving him a deciding vote for repealing (or defunding) health care reform, for blocking action on clean energy and climate legislation, for giving huge tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires, for future wars, for putting all the onus of balancing the budget on the “discretionary” spending side of the equation?

Fourth, right now in our country, Republicans face intense pressure from their right flanks politically. Democrats also face intense pressure, but it’s not from their left. In fact, it’s hard to even find much of a left in this country, certainly no progressive populist movement to match the Tea Party’s energy and enthusiasm (albeit misguided). Without that energy and that pressure, what’s to prevent Democrats like Webb and Warner from drifting (or even racing) to their political right on issues ranging from the environment to health care to entitlements to…the list is endless? If progressives support Nye’s reelection, isn’t that a clear signal to the Webbs and Warners of the world that they can do whatever they want, with impunity?

Anyway, what do you think? What did I leave out?  Do you believe that progressives should support Glenn Nye for reelection this year or not? Discuss. 🙂

UPDATE: One more point I forgot to mention — if progressives don’t support Glenn Nye, then why should they support someone like Rick Boucher? In Boucher’s case, one can argue that he’s in a “leaning Republican”/”red” district (where, if Boucher loses or retires, it is highly likely to be held by Republicans for many years to come), that his lifetime Progressive Punch score (78.73) is far higher than Nye’s (62.47), that he voted for some key legislation (e.g., clean energy and climate legislation) this past year, that he votes with his party 96.4% of the time, etc.  Not that progressives are going to be super-enthusiastic about Boucher, most likely, but should they actually oppose him? I’d argue “clearly no.”


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