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How I Used My Five-Minute Speech As a Call to Battle for All Us Virginia Democrats

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One of the outstanding political events every year in our part of Virginia is the Labor Day banquet conducted by the Democratic Committees of Harrisonburg and Rockingham County.

As the Democratic nominee to challenge Mark Obenshain for the SD-26 seat in the Virginia State Senate, I was one of those invited to address the enthusiastic crowd of Democrats who filled the very large dining room at the Hotel Madison on the James Madison University campus.

As the last of the candidates to speak, I decided to use my apportioned time to serve not just my campaign against Obenshain, but the whole 2019 Democratic effort in Virginia.

So, given that purpose, it occurs to me to share the speech I prepared here with all the good folks here on Blue Virginia.

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Labor Day Speech

We meet here tonight at an extraordinary historical moment in our nation’s history. Our nation is at a dangerous crossroads.

The good news is that – this fall — we Virginia Democrats can make an important contribution to seeing to it that things – in our state, in the whole nation – take the right path.

Two things make this moment extraordinarily dangerous:

First, as House Judiciary Chair Jerry Nadler has said, we are at a “time of testing” — testing whether we will keep our democracy or slide downward toward tyranny.

(Nadler is talking, of course, about the current battle over whether this President will get away with acting like a lawless dictator.)

But that threat is but the most urgent part of a larger picture: To an extent altogether unprecedented in American history, one of America’s two major parties has become morally bankrupt.

From top to bottom. From that lawless President, to the Trump Party in Congress, to the Virginia General Assembly— what we see is all of a piece: today’s Republican Party is consistently making things worse.

The piece of that Party that I’ve taken on is the incumbent Republican state senator from my district, Mark Obenshain.

Obenshain sells himself as a man of “good character,” with “Shenandoah Valley values.” But, as I recently argued in an op/ed published in The Northern Virginia Daily, when we look at someone who holds political office, “good character” must be about a lot more than being a “good family man” and “churchgoer.” What matters is what he does with the power with which the people have entrusted him.

And that’s where the moral bankruptcy of today’s Republican Party comes in. Because what Obenshain does is work in lock-step with his fellow Republicans

  • To deny decent health care coverage to 400,000 Virginians. Hurting people just to gain partisan advantage!
  • To keep the minimum wage as low as possible, and to keep Virginia workers weak? At a time of widening income inequality, taking from those who have less to give still more to those who have the most!
  • To serve the fossil fuel interests on climate change. Boosting their short-term corporate profits, despite the damage to the future our children and grandchildren will have to live in! Does serving the force of greed get more grotesque than that?

To an extraordinary degree, the conduct of the Republicans in our General Assembly – just as with this Trump Presidency and the Trump Party in Congress –can consistently be explained by greed and the lust for power.

“Good character?” I don’t think so.

Fortunately, we Democrats in Virginia have an unusually good opportunity to wrest power away from that morally bankrupt party. In several ways:

1) Obviously, every Republican we can replace with a good Democrat – like replacing Obenshain with me — transfers power from those who make things worse and gives it to those who will try to make things better.

2) But — in this election — we’ve got bigger quarry than just this or that seat: We Democrats are within striking distance of taking the helm of Virginia. (We just need to pick up but two seats in each House to gain control.)

What a wonderful thought: soon after we Democrats take over, we could move Virginia forward

  • By passing sensible measures to reduce gun violence (with Republicans like Obenshain no longer in a position to kill good bills in committee);
  • By passing the ERA (with Republicans like Todd Gilbert no longer able to smother women’s rights);
  • By raising the minimum wage in Virginia, so that hard-working people don’t live in poverty.
  • By taking responsible actions to address the challenge of climate change, to protect our children’s future;

We’ve already got the governorship, and the experts think there’s a very good chance of our winning control of the General Assembly. Let’s work hard between now and November 5 to MAKE SURE that it happens.

3) But our opportunity is even bigger than that. We’ve been cast into an important role on the national stage.

Remember the message we Virginia Democrats sent to America in 2017. Our impressive sweep in those elections announced that America was not going to roll over in the face of this unthinkable Trump Presidency, which smells of corruption and crime from every orifice.

We fortified the Democrats for the bigger battle to come, and sure enough: We got the Blue Tsunami we needed in 2018, gaining back a crucial tool required for the defense of our democracy.

Now we in Virginia are playing the overture for another big election. No, let me restate that: with Trump running for re-election – and our democracy on the line — it’s a huge election.

And with another impressive showing on November 5, we Virginia Democrats can again send a powerful message: “Fear not, America. We Democrats are coming to the rescue!”

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