I’m sure there are more than three lessons from the possible Ken Cuccinelli nomination to the Virginia Supreme Court, but here are three big ones in my view.
- First and foremost, elections have consequences. Huge ones, in the case of the (possible) Ken Cuccinelli nomination. Specifically, I’m talking about Virginia Senate Democrats’ failure in 2015 to pick up one (or more) State Senate seats and to take back control of that chamber. We could go through all the twists and turns in Democrats’ failure to take back the Senate, but key milestones certainly include: a) Senate Democrats – Dick Saslaw et al – drawing their preferred Senate lines in the 2011 redistricting, yet still managing to go from a 22-18 advantage to a 20-20 tie (broken by Republican LG Bill Bolling) in November 2011, in part due to a major screwup by Saslaw et al. in drawing the lines for Sen. Edd Houck’s district (I could also get into poor resource allocation by Saslaw et al in that cycles and other cycles, but I’ll spare you for now); b) the unforgiveable treachery of Phil Puckett, whose sudden resignation from the State Senate in June 2014 through control back to the Republicans (killing Medicaid expansion and ultimately leading to the possible Cooch Supreme Court nomination, among other adverse consequences); and c) the 2015 failure to take back the State Senate, referenced above, which was most certainly a doable thing…but we didn’t do it.
- Voting in non-presidential elections matters. A lot. This is not a new or original point in any way, but it bears repeating over and over again: Democratic voters need to stop thinking that their civic duty extends only to voting in presidential election years, then going back to sleep for mid-term elections and particularly odd-year state elections, as we have here in Virginia. Over and over again, we’ve seen this pattern, in which Democratic turnout drops proportionally more than Republican turnout. This pattern, in turn, means that Virginia becomes essentially three states politically speaking — a “blue”-leaning state in presidential years, a “purple” state in gubernatorial and Congressional-only election years, and a “reddish” state in the non-gubernatorial “odd” election year (e.g., 2015). This situation urgently needs to change, because until it does, we’re going to suffer from the results of Republican misrule: terrible legislation on the environment, energy, economics, transportation, education, health care, women’s reproductive freedom, LGBT equality, gun violence prevention, ethics, you name it. Oh yeah, and Supreme Court nominations. Ugh. Oh, and that doesn’t just mean Democratic voters turning out, it also means Democratic “leadership” working to build a strong “farm team” of strong candidates to run; of Democratic “leadership” putting forward candidates who actually INSPIRE the Democratic “base” to turn out and vote (unlike conservadem picks like the Dan Geckers of the world); of Democratic “leadership” in investing in Democratic infrastructure of all kinds at the state and local levels, which they’ve neglected for years around the country — with disastrous results!
- Republicans are ruthless. Republicans play this game to win, even if it means kicking an eminently-qualified, highly-respected justice off the Virginia Supreme Court for absolutely no defensible reason and replacing her with one of the people LEAST suitable to serve as a justice. That is, unless you are a big fan of far-right-wing judicial activism, of the Clarence Thomas/Antonin Scalia variety. I’d further point out the looong list of reasons provided by DPVA and Progress Virginia, among others, as to why Cuccinelli isn’t suitable for this job (see the comments section of this post for their opposition research dump) — “Cuccinelli’s Record on the Violence Against Women Act Make him Unfit for the Bench;” “Cuccinelli the Conspiracy Theorist: Tin Foil Hats Don’t Match Judge Robes;” “Ken Cuccinelli’s Crusade Against Climate Change Science;” “Senator McEachin Decries Nomination of Ken Cuccinelli to the Virginia Supreme Court; His Judgment and Ethics are Disqualifying;” “Cuccinelli’s Record on LGBT Issues Makes Him Unfit for the Bench;” “Cuccinelli’s Multiple Conflict of Interest Scandals Make him Unfit for the Bench;” “Cuccinelli’s Record on Women’s Health Makes Him Unfit for the Bench;” “Virginia Senate GOP Finds World Least Qualified Judicial Candidate.” But here’s the thing; Republicans are ruthless and they either DO NOT CARE about any of the things mentioned above (or they agree with Cooch on them) and/or they DO care but believe power and political retribution is far more important. So what’s the lesson for Virginia Democrats here? Mostly, see #1 and #2 — we need to vote in droves and win elections in this state — but also, if Republicans are going to “play the game” as a blood sport with no rules, Democrats may very well have to do the same. No matter what, Democrats need to “play the game” as effectively, or more so, than Republicans have been doing. And so far, I’m not seeing that.