Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Will Dems Take Their Eyes Off The Ball?

Yesterday, former Governor Tim Kaine announced that he would be running for the Senate seat that Jim Webb will be vacating at the end of 2012. Zillions of Virginia Democrats let out a yell of relief and pledged to get Kaine elected. The election to fill Webb’s Senate seat will be held November 6, 2012.

Earlier in the week, President Barack Obama announced that he will be running for reelection. Zillions of Virginia Democrats let out a yell of relief and pledged to get Obama reelected. The election for president will be held November 6, 2012.

It is a fact of Virginia politics that we have elections every year. In even-number years, just like the rest of the country, we elect federal officials—the president, senators and representatives. In odd-number years we elect state officials—the governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general and members of the General Assembly. I don’t know whether it is good or bad that we have elections every year, but it is a fact. That means that the next Election Day in Virginia will be November 8, 2011, a full year before Mr. Obama and Mr. Kaine will be on the ballot (assuming they are on the ballot).

Running for office these days requires lots of money and lots of volunteers. So the new campaigns of Mr. Obama and Mr. Kaine will, in the days and weeks to come, be seeking donations and people to work on their campaigns. I assume that there are probably enough political dollars and political volunteers in Virginia to allow both Mr. Obama and Mr. Kaine to run effective campaigns.

The election that Mr. Obama and Mr. Kaine are concerned about will take place in 2012. However, the launching of their campaigns now will inevitably divert the attention of voters from this year’s state elections. It will also draw away both money and people power from the campaigns of state senators and delegates running for (re)election this year.

Just after the 2008 election, this maven expressed concern about the ability of Democrats to maintain their momentum and win the 2009 state-wide elections. Dems Heading For A Big Fall? I expressed my concern in these words:

“So why is the maven so discouraged when everybody else is so upbeat? For one thing, I am trying to avoid complacency. It is vital that Virginia Democrats not get into the mindset that the Commonwealth will become a permanently blue state by means of some inevitable historical development. That will not happen. Nothing is inevitable. Virginia will become a blue state only if lots of people put in the kind of time and effort they did this year to get Obama and Warner elected.”
I also pointed out that the Republicans were already mobilized and determined to win the 2009 elections. Unfortunately, I was right. For Democrats the 2009 Virginia elections were a disaster.

Because of our losses in both 2009 and 2010 the question for Democrats this year will not be how to turn Virginia permanently blue. Rather the question is how to avoid Virginia becoming a solidly red state with the agendas of McDonnell, Cuccinelli and the Republican majority in the House of Delegates becoming the laws of the Commonwealth. This year it is absolutely essential that Democrats maintain control of the state senate and increase their majority there. It is also essential that we capture seats in the House of Delegates by retiring some of those ultra right wing delegates who tried to impose their Neanderthal philosophies on the rest of us.

I am concerned that it will be very difficult to push Obama and Kaine temporarily to the background and keep our eyes only on this year’s prize. It will be difficult to raise money for local races because donations will be gravitating to the Obama and Kaine campaigns. It will be difficult to get volunteers for the local races because people who want to work for good government will be jumping into the presidential and senate campaigns. It will be very easy to take our eyes off the ball and drop it.

So if you’re really enthused about the Obama and/or Kaine campaigns, you need to curb your enthusiasm for now. We have far more pressing needs. Find yourself a local Democratic senator or delegate and volunteer either your time or money for their campaigns. If you live in either a senate or house district in which the incumbent is a Republican, contact your local Democratic committee to see how you can help with the 2011 campaign. (Click here to find your local committee). If you are concerned that this will hurt the Obama or Kaine campaigns, don’t be. Any work you do for democratic state candidates this year will benefit both Obama and Kaine in 2012. On November 9 of this year switch your efforts to those campaigns.

So, trusted reader, if you are a Democratic or if your political philosophy leans in the direction of those of President Obama and Governor Kaine, get out there and make your maven proud. Electing Democrats this year will make it so much easier to elect Obama and Kaine next year. We cannot afford to drop the ball.

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