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Is Spanberger’s Care Not to Offend Trump Supporters a Good Choice?


An Exchange Between Andy Schmookler and Right-wing Radio Host John Fredericks

A piece appeared on Blue Virginia lately, by Lowell Feld, with the title, “Right-Wing Host Mischaracterizes Rep. Spanberger’s Words Re: Trump Being a Racist.”

Besides the misrepresentation by Fredericks, which seems pretty well demonstrated, the piece shows pretty clearly that Spanberger was being very careful in her answer to the question in ways that suggest that she’s very concerned about offending Republicans in her district.

What her care and concern suggest is that she thinks that such care is necessary if she’s going to be able to keep her seat in Congress for VA-07, which has been a pretty Republican District (having been the one represented by Cantor who got shockingly unseated from his right by a wing-nut, Brat).

I posted a comment on that thread, which read:

I’ve got a question about congresswoman Spanberger.

Most of what I know about Ms. Spanberger I’ve learned here on Blue Virginia. The account here today of what she said on the radio, in answer to the question of whether Trump is a racist, reinforces the impression I’ve gleaned that Rep. Spanberger consistently goes out of her way — much more than the other women who flipped red seats blue here in Virginia last time out — to avoid speaking and acting in ways that might offend Republican voters in her district.

It would seem from her conduct that Ms. Spanberger has judged that she’s got to sound purple at the most in order to keep her seat. I realize that the 7th District (formerly Cantor’s, formerly Brat’s) is a more challenging one to keep blue. So I don’t know that her judgment is wrong.

But I’m certainly not convinced she’s right. (I lean toward agreeing with Lowell’s implicit opinion when he says, “does anyone really think that Trump supporters are going to vote for Spanberger in November 2020 because she didn’t quite call him a racist on right-wing talk radio?”)

So my question is: Is Spanberger acting on sound political judgment in the great care she’s taking to avoid doing and saying things like what other Democrats do and say?

The next day, to my surprise, there was a comment not from some regular reader of Blue Virginia but from John Fredericks, the radio host who I imagine found the piece and my comment because the piece was about him. Fredericks wrote:

Rep. Spanberger has the guts-and the courage-to speak with all voters in her district, not just those who are self-styled progressives. She refuses to disenfranchise those who may not agree with her. President Trump will likely carry the 7th CD by 3-4 points in 2020, so she has to run +4 over the Dem Pres. nominee in her district.
Either way, talking to all voters is a good thing. Our discussions include a wide range of domestic, international and policy issues, along with politics. Bravo to Spanberger-who won’t be intimidated.

That in turn elicited this response from me:

Peeling away your various interpretive introjections of dubious validity — e.g. whether what we’re looking at here manifests “guts” and “courage” — you seem to be saying that being careful not to offend Trump voters is a wise political strategy for a Democrat in the 7th District who is putting a high priority in keeping her seat in Congress.

That certainly could be right. Spanberger behaves as if she agrees.

I wonder if Luria and Wexton, where they in her position in VA-07, would make the same assessment and same decision. I suspect that I would not– that I would try indeed to talk to “all voters in [the] district,” not just to my supporters. But I would try to do so in a way that helped move the ball for the good side in this political battle which is as close to good vs. evil as we’ve been in America.

Given, Mr. Fredericks, your place in the ongoing political battle in America, and given my very different perception and allegiance, it’s no surprise that we would feel differently about Spanberge’s way of talking about the question, “Do you think President Trump is a racist.”

The answer to that question is not really in doubt, and it is deeply disturbing, given that Trump is not only a racist but is actively working to encourage racism — and racially motivated hate-crimes — as a core part of his political strategy.

If Spanberger rightly believes she can’t help her Republican constituents to see that — which is part of the need for them to see so much else about what they are supporting — speaking plainly to them the truth that needs to be heard in some politically skillful way that might get past the resistance – then maybe it’s a good strategy to save her powder for other battles in which her having the seat helps advance what she believes in.

But when we are in a time of “testing,” as House Judiciary Chair Jerry Nadler rightly said a few months ago, “whether we can keep a republic, or whether this republic is destined to change into a different, more tyrannical form of government,” if I had Spanberger’s seat, I would feel compelled to apply such powers as I had to helping us pass THAT TEST, even at the risk of its exacting a political cost down the road.


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