Home 2019 Elections The Northam/Perriello Contest, and the Longstanding Problem of Liberal Weakness

The Northam/Perriello Contest, and the Longstanding Problem of Liberal Weakness


My piece of last week — “My Concerns About Ralph Northam– And Why on June 13 I’m Voting for Tom Perriello“– elicited a good deal of response. Understandably, these responses included many emphasizing Ralph Northam’s virtues and years of dedicated service.

Nothing in my piece called any of that into question. Though I’m not deeply familiar with Mr. Northam, I am willing to stipulate that he is all that his supporters stepped up to declare.

What those comments did not engage, however, is the one main point of my piece: namely, that Mr. Northam’s conduct at two crucial junctures in our political history makes me doubt that he grasps the nature of the fundamental political battle being waged in America in our times.

Perhaps that lack of engagement with the heart of my argument, by these defenders of Mr. Northam, was a mere political strategy. Perhaps the desire was simply to stand up for their man, and it was judged advantageous to simply ignore the issue that detracts from the case for his being the nominee.

I can understand that rhetorical tactic, though the truth-seeker at the heart of my being doesn’t much like it. But my fear is that it reflects, rather, that same lack of recognition of the political reality of our times that I’m attributing to Mr. Northam.

Here’s how I summarized that political reality back in 2014, when I launched a series called “Press the Battle.”

The Truth of Our National Crisis:

The once-respectable Republican Party has been taken over by a destructive force.

The response from Liberal America to this threat has been woefully weak.

For those who don’t see any big problem on the Liberal/Democratic side that warrants being called “woefully weak,” what are your answers to these questions:

  • How do you explain how it happens that the Democrats have lost so much power — control of both houses of Congress, of the White House, of the Supreme Court, of the great majority of state legislatures and governor’s mansions — to a political Party, despite that Party lying about practically everything?
  • How to explain the Democrats’ losing so much power to a Party, despite that Party having advanced virtually no policies that make the nation better or improve the lot and prospects of average Americans?

If you don’t have any good answers to those questions, shouldn’t that give you pause before you declare what we most need in our nominee for governor?

One paragraph in my earlier piece said:

The evidence of American history since the turn of the millennium suggests to me that being right on the issues is insufficient. Those who are right on the issues but neglect the more profound level of the political fight — destructive vs. constructive, lying vs. truth-telling, caring vs. cruel — have limited success at best. (And meanwhile, our democracy is being dismantled, and our cultural integrity degraded.)

My piece was not written to advance an anti-Northam or a pro-Perriello agenda. My agenda is the same I’ve sought to advance in a couple of thousand other articles I’ve written since the fall of 2004: to direct attention to what we’re up against — the destructive force that has taken over the right — and to what is required of us to prevail in the battle against it.

How are we to turn this battle around if we do not see the battlefield clearly, and don’t read well where the attacking force must be engaged?

One year before the 2016 election, I published a piece here to show the nature of the battle, and to describe how it is that the balance of power between constructive and destructive forces has shifted so adversely in our times. The piece was titled “Cry the Benighted Country: What’s Gone Wrong in America.”

What’s gone wrong in America is not just about the destructive force. It’s about the lack of response from the rest of the body politic.

The election of Ralph Northam to the governorship this November would be good news. At the least, a Governor Northam would be able to block — as Governor McAuliffe has done — the many destructive measures the Republicans would be likely to send him, if they still control the General Assembly.

But the election of Tom Perriello to the governorship this November has at least the chance of being the kind of good news we really need– as Virginians and as Americans. A voice  –from one who better perceives the dark force animating today’s right –that might be able to summon forth the better angels in the nature of our citizenry to join the battle to turn back that force of darkness.


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