Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Stuck in the Cellar? Virginia Dems Part 2

So, what has happened since I wrote my 2006 post? In 2008, Barack Obama, the Democratic candidate, won Virginia’s electoral votes. Obama was the first Democrat to do so in 40 years. Also in 2008, Mark Warner, the Democratic candidate, was elected to the United States Senate, drawing the most votes by any candidate in the history of Virginia. In that same election, Democrat candidates won 6 of Virginia’s 11 congressional seats, gathering 53% of the vote cast in the 11 districts. As I said at the time: “Surely, ‘twas a great victory!”

But, it was clear to me that the 2008 victory carried the seeds of future defeat. Dems Heading For A Big Fall. For one thing, I detected an attitude that 2008 was the last important election and that since Obama had won, there was nothing left to do. That was accompanied by a strong sense of complacency. The other Democrats I spoke to were sure that we would win the governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general races in 2009 and that the only issue was how many seats we would pick up in the House of Delegates. On top of that, I was still concerned that the 2008 election had been won by the candidates’ campaign committees, rather than the party, and that to win in 2009 all new committees, for the new candidates would have to be organized and mobilized. And, unfortunately, for us Virginia Democrats, 2009 was as disastrous a defeat as the 2008 election had been a glorious victory. We lost the contests for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general. Democrats lost 4 seats in the House of Delegates

2010 had another election for members of Congress. And it was another disaster for Democrats. Republican candidates reclaimed the three House seats they lost in 2008. Democratic candidates in the 11 House races in Virginia received less than 42% of the votes cast in all the races. (Compared with the 53% they had received two years before). In total, the 11 Democratic candidates drew less than half the votes that they had drawn two years before.

In 2011, the Democratic tailspin continued. In that election, Democrats lost control of the state Senate and lost an additional 7 seats in the House of Delegates.

And, this past year, 2012, Barack Obama was back at the top of the Democratic ticket. Mr. Obama again won Virginia’s electoral votes. In addition, former governor Tim Kaine, a Democrat, was elected to the United States Senate. However, unlike in 2008, Democrats did not gain any seats in the House of Representatives—Republicans still sit in 8 out of 11 of the Virginia House seats.

So, what are we to conclude from the past five elections? First, when Barack Obama is the candidate, he will win in Virginia. Second, when charismatic Democrats are the candidates for the United States Senate, and they run well-organized campaigns, they will win in Virginia. As for the House of Representatives, with the exception of the temporary spike in 2008, Democrats seem stuck with only 3 seats. At the state level, Democrats are still on a downward trend. We no longer control the state Senate and our seats in the House of Delegates are shrinking rapidly. At the state-wide level, in the last two elections (2005 and 2009) we have lost the governor’s race once and the lieutenant governor’s and attorneys general’s races twice.

And, there is another factor—voter turnout. As I pointed out a few years back, It’s The Turnout, Dummy, Democratic voters seem to drop at a higher rate in elections that they lose from those they win. In that post I pointed out that, although the turnout of all voters dropped considerably from 2008 to 2009, the drop was much more significant among Democratic than among Republican voters. As I said then, “Creigh Deeds’ drop in votes from those voting Democratic in 2008 was about 540,000 more than Bob McDonnell’s drop in votes from those voting Republican in 2008.” If those 540,000 Democratic voters had come out to the polls in 2009, Democrats Creigh Deeds, Jodie Wagner and Steve Shannon would have been elected to the three highest offices in Virginia.

We can see a similar pattern if we compare the votes cast for the 11 congressional seats in 2008, when Democratic candidates picked up three seats, with those cast in 2010, when Democrats lost those three seats. In 2008, about 3.5 million votes were cast in the 11 congressional districts. In 2010, only about 2.2 million votes were cast in those 11 districts, a drop of 1.3 million votes. However, the drop in turnout was not evenly divided between Democratic and Republican voters. From 2008 to 2010, Democratic voters dropped by 940 thousand. However Republican voters dropped by only about 400 thousand. Again, Democratic voter turnout dropped by 540,000 more than Republican, and so went three House seats.

Based on these two examples it appears that Democratic voter turnout drops more significantly in years after presidential elections in which Barack Obama is the Democratic candidate, than does Republican voter turnout. This bodes ill for us Democrats because this is a year after Barack Obama won Virginia’s electoral votes. It also bodes ill for Democrats in the long run because, unless he moves to the Commonwealth and starts his political career all over again, Barack Obama will never again be on the ballot in Virginia.

Now, reader, I hear a lot from my fellow Democrats that this year’s upcoming election will be different. I am told that the most-likely Republican candidate for governor is so extremely right-wing in his philosophy that he cannot be elected in Virginia. I am also told that the General Assembly, in the last two years, has enacted so many anti-woman, anti-gay, anti-immigrant, anti-gun control, anti-other good stuff bills that the voters of Virginia will come forth and “throw the rascals out.”

Fellow Democrats, you better wake up. Unless we can get those half million Obama voters who disappeared in the 2009 and 2010 elections back to the polls in 2013, our next governor will be Ken Cuccinelli. And, as I pointed out in my previous post, barring a sudden explosion of Democratic candidates registering to run between now and June, it is almost impossible that we can throw the Republican rascals out ofn the House of Delegates. I am afraid that on November 5, we will learn that no, Virginia, there is no Santa Clause.

So, what is to be done? Stay tuned to this station for the maven’s suggestions.


Friday, February 22, 2013

Virginia Dems—A Permanent Minority?

“Bad news on the door step.”

No, I am not singing American Pie. Nor am I criticizing the quality of Richmond’s great metropolitan daily, which occupies my door step every morning. What I am talking about is the news that the metropolitan daily has been reporting in the nearly two months that Virginia’s General Assembly has been in session. And while I am talking about bad news, I can think back to similar stories that the Richmond Times-Dispatch brought to my house during the General Assembly session last year at time.

Let’s face it, reader; the Virginia General Assembly is not a hot-bed of progressive thought or action. In fact, I would consider it rather reactionary. Some people might even doubt that members of our legislature are acting rationally. (Establishing a commission to study whether Virginia should issue its own money, in violation of the United States Constitution, is not exactly clear thinking).

Every time our beloved law makers vote for another 18th Century piece of legislation I assure my Facebook friends (yes, I partake of that universal depository of worthless information) that we can fix this at the polls next November. When the Senate or House of Delegates passes a piece of anti-women legislation, I urge all my friends to remember this in November. When the legislation is destructive of public education, I urge all my friends to remember in November. When the Republicans refuse to extend Medicaid coverage, I urge my friends to remember in November. And, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

But now comes the worse news: It is unlikely that any thing will change in November. Virginia has elections every year. This year we will elect a new governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general. In addition, all hundred seats in our House of Delegates will be on the ballot. Now I certainly agree that the Commonwealth will be a lot better off if we manage to elect Democrats to the three state-wide offices. But in order to end the continuous deposit of bad news on my door step, we need to elect a significant number of Democrats to that bastion of Neanderthal thinking, the House of Delegates.

And there lies the rub. If my finger counting is accurate, there are currently 32 Democrats in the House of Delegates. That means that there are 67 Republicans (one delegate runs as an Independent). In order for Democrats to control the House of Delegates, they would have to pick up 19 seats in this November’s election. To even scare Republicans into being somewhat reasonable in the next session of the General Assembly, Democrats would need to pick up maybe 10 seats this November.

We need to look at one more fact. In 2011, the most recent election year for the House of Delegates, the Democratic Party of Virginia only contested 55 of the seats. Let me put it another way: In 2011 there were 45 House of Delegate races in which no Democrat appeared on the ballot. Now, this maven is not super bright, but it seems to me that for the Republicans to have gained a majority in the 2011 elections they only needed to win 6 of the 55 races in which Democrats actually ran. So, there was really no chance for the Democrats to become the majority.

So to all my Facebook friends who I lured into thinking that November would somehow change things in the House of Delegates I offer my sincere apology for deceiving you. Unless something very drastic changes between now and June 11, the date by which a candidate must file (earlier if there are party primaries), there will be a Republican controlled House of Delegates in 2014-15 and I will have to spend another two years with bad news on the doorstep.

So what is the problem here, loyal reader? Isn’t there a Democratic party in Virginia? Well, actually there is. It is called the Democratic Party of Virginia and it has offices here in Richmond, a staff, a website, a telephone number, a Party Plan and even a Platform. The Platform begins with a Statement of Common Purpose, which reads:

The Democratic Party of Virginia is united in its efforts to elect Democratic leaders of character, integrity, ability, vision, and commitment to delivering results for Virginians.”

As best as I can see, there appears no asterisk to this Statement of Common Purpose indicating that the party is only united in its efforts to elect Democratic leaders in 55 of the House of Delegate districts. I ask the question, dear reader, how can a political party hope to become the majority party in a state when it ignores 45% of the seats in one of the state’s legislative chambers? Borrowing from the Bard, something is rotten in the Old Dominion.

For those of you who followed the maven in his more productive years, you know that I talked about the Virginia Dems over six years ago: Let’s Talk about the Democratic Party of VirginiaIn that post, I began by stating: I have to admit that I have no idea what the Democratic Party of Virginia does. In that post, I stated my view that the Democratic Party of Virginia plays little role in the election of candidates. Looking at the then most recent elections, I stated that Jim Webb was not elected to the Senate and Tim Kaine to the governorship by the party. Rather, it was the individual campaign committees set up by those candidates that got them elected. Then, I ended with: Does anybody know what the Democratic Party of Virginia does?

Well, a lot has happened since I wrote that piece. I myself became a candidate and now I am a member of the Richmond City Democratic Committee. I still spend a good part of my time discussing politics, but mostly on Facebook, not on this blog. However, I am still of the opinion that despite its Platform, the Democratic Party of Virginia does not get candidates elected. Yes, since I wrote that piece, two Democratic candidates for President and two Democratic candidates for the United States Senate have carried Virginia. However, in my opinion, it was the individual campaign organizations of those candidates that won those elections, not the party. Also since I wrote that piece, the other party has elected the governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general. It has also captured effective control of the state Senate and expanded its majority in the House of Delegates.

Please do not get me wrong. I am not criticizing the staff and volunteers who work for the Democratic Party of Virginia. I know that they work their collective butts off every election cycle, which means every year. But working hard does not necessarily mean working smart.

 More to follow--