The shad are running and Virginia politicians will swim with them today. Last year Democratic candidates gave the Wakefield Ruritan event a cold shoulder. The event’s organizers made an insincere attempt to dampen the tea party spirit, discouraging stars and bars. This is a charity event, they cried, after all.
This year Virginia’s senior Senator Mark Warner will deliver the keynote and his almost certain Republican opponent will make one of his rare public appearances. It will be informative seeing if Team Warner laid the groundwork for a more civil and less homogeneous atmosphere than this annual carnival for reactionaries nourishes. Earlier this year, they stumbled out of the block when, despite refusing to commit to Democratic events closer in than 60 days, they accepted the Shad Planking appearance well in advance. Maybe, tied to an old playbook, they failed to notice that last year’s Democratic statewide success demonstrated the irrelevance of the event. One would hope that the acceptance came with some assurance that the event would be more civil, sane, and inclusive.
The impact of the “traditional” sign war has diminished considerably since the Kaine and Webb surprises during the past decade. When this became a war of paid “volunteers” it was no longer a genuine indicator of anything more than a campaign bankroll. And if the intent is to make this event relevant, where is the outreach from the Ruritan Club or encouragement from more progressive constituents to draw in displays and support from the Democratic Party, the NAACP, or the LGBT community?
So what will today provide? Boney fish, cold beer, and the themes that Senator Warner will employ to shore up and broaden his own constituency, an impressive coalition of common interests. This could also provide the national bellwether for the Democratic strategy that will be used to counter this year’s onslaught by Republican reactionaries against the Affordable Care Act. There couldn’t be a more promising petri dish.